I Will Follow

As the first track on the first album of U2’s career, this is effectively U2’s opening statement. Fair to say, then, that it’s an impressive effort, sounding portentous and meaningful from the off. It has thus become a minor classic of U2’s discography, noted by the fact that it was the only official inclusion in the band’s first Best Of (“October” wasn’t on the tracklisting) amongst the first two albums, and by the fact that it’s the band’s most performed song live – up to the end of the Vertigo tour, 761 performances (not counting pre-1980 shows, the setlists of which are uncertain) that run consistently through the band’s career, including ZooTV and PopMart.

Musically, it’s easy to see why. There’s a hurried tempo, a gallop to the drum fills and a consistent run to the opening guitar riff, a sheer amount of drive that could never have been emulated in quite the same way on HTDAAB. Interestingly, the intro features that riff in solo, the drums crashing in seconds later, and a titular shout, with the bass being the last element. The bass dominates the bridge, however, a crude construction that betrays the band’s low budget at this stage – the effects here are a rolling bottle and a spinning bicycle wheel, whilst the only other non-rock component are the bells chiming through the rest of the song. By Boy‘s standards, though, this is positively opulent, but even so, it’s this that exposes “I Will Follow” as an early song. Edge’s delay also sounds somewhat less unearthly, its analogue setup making it an ambiguous thing that isn’t quite the chime that later songs have and not quite a basic reverb either.

Lyrically, the song suggests a religious devotion, although the band have always denied it in this case (there’s enough of that on October anyway, although Boy is remarkably secular – possibly the most irreligious U2 album going), instead stating that the song is about agape, in particular the unconditional love from a mother to her child. Yes, this is the first of a long line of mother-related songs in the U2 discography (following with “Tomorrow”, leading up to “Lemon” and resulting in the barnstorming “Mofo”), a lineage started early on to rival the depression/suicide theme and the heroin songs. To say that it’s lyrically rough round the edges (Your eyes make a circle/I see you when I go in there – excuse me?) is an understatement, but it gets by on pure enthusiasm and passion; after the aforementioned lines Bono seems to virtually seize up with sheer fixation on the subject at hand. One of the very best songs on Boy, then, and close to, if not actually a classic.

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~ by 4trak on September 7, 2008.

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