All I Want Is You

U2’s last single of the 1980s, and indeed their last song, effectively. Their choice for ending an era (and the band sort-of knew an ending of sorts was coming) is an interesting one – it’s a simple, no-complications love song. Well, I say no complications – they’re there if you want them. From the cradle to the grave, for example, evokes words of the Beveridge Report, suggesting a metaphor of love being the ultimate welfare. There’s otherwise a standard theme of love transcending materialism (You say you’ll give me…). Some may say that the song depicts a love that’s obsessive and demanding – I’m don’t quite buy this angle, given Bono’s comment in U2byU2 that he occasionally sings this song to Ali.

Which leads to the music. At six and a half minutes, this is a song dominated more by musical content than lyrical in any event, particularly given that most of the last half is instrumental anyway. There’s also the general feel of it – there’s a general and gradual crescendo, starting with plain acoustic guitar, adding vocals followed by electric guitar, and with around a minute elapsed the rhythm section has come in, not dramatically upping the volume, but adding to the depth. By the second chorus it’s reached a moderate volume, and by the end of the vocals (You/All I want is you) it’s actually ascended to something quite loud and detailed. There’s also the build of pitch along with it, starting at a low D and then reaching up through (along with F#m) A and D chords of several octaves. The peak is at the 21st fret, which is pretty much as high as can be climbed, having started pretty much at open strings. A squeal of feedback pretty much indicates the guitar’s main exit, with the occasional notes afterward. Then a good minute and a half of pure strings bring the whole shebang back down again, as if the band themselves aren’t capable of it. The strings also have the task of bringing the song down pitch-wise, as violins glissando gradually downward whilst cellos effectively mark that home region and drift along within it. With one last held note that dies away, the song is over. And so is U2’s 1980s.

It’s fair to say that by having a simple love song, that wasn’t made to avantgarde in its arrangement, U2 effectively left the 80s on a high, although like much of Rattle and Hum, this is a song hard to call U2’s best simply because it doesn’t push for innovation, flair, drama or complexity, and as such appeals more to emotions than intellect. There’s not necessarily anything intrinsically wrong in that, but it does mean that the song doesn’t always reward multiple plays. Nonetheless, it does appeal emotionally very well – amongst Rattle and Hum, a classic.

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~ by 4trak on September 5, 2008.

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