• Ari Patrinos

Pride, In the Name of Love: U2’s Rattle & Hum Turns 32

Rattle and Hum. That’s U2’s answer to ‘Shake, Rattle, & Roll’. Bono is the Irish Elvis. The Christian messenger of Rock & Roll for Generation X.

Or is he the Christian John Lennon? Bono takes up the Peace cause from Lennon, but his interpretation is different. He Christianizes Lennon and liberates his English soul from Purgatory. U2 grants John Lennon an indulgence for his heresy. You can see this in the film’s opening, a cover of The Beatles’ Helter Skelter, with guitar riffs courtesy of The Edge: ‘It’s a song Charles Manson stole from The Beatles, and we’re stealing it back.’ Those are Bono’s words that open the concert film.

U2 is reclaiming John Lennon’s legacy, the legacy of the Beatles, and making it their own. But these are Irish Beatles, so they Christianize Helter Skelter. Now it contains an implicit message of Redemption. The legacy of John Lennon and The Beatles must not be linked to Charles Manson. The Beatles must be saved. John Lennon’s English soul must be saved.

Rattle and Hum was more than just a concert film. More than just a live double LP. It was a Bono’s political manifesto: Irish Christian liberation. Bono is an Irish mutt himself, half-Catholic & half-Protestant. The Troubles in Northern Ireland are not just political for him. It’s personal. It’s an existential issue. World politics in the fall of 1988 are all here in this concert film: The Cold War. The Troubles in Northern Ireland. South African Apartheid. And of course, Martin Luther King, Jr, Pride: In the Name of Love. Bono’s dedication to MLK is so powerful that he publicly disowns the radical and violent politics of Northern Irish liberation, and the hate it spreads:

Fuck the Revolution!

Those are Bono’s words. Just like John Lennon on the White Album, talking about the Black Power movement in his song, Revolution. In the manner of John Lennon, Bono sets his doctrine of Revolution to Rock & Roll music, and Bono’s doctrine is relevant for the state of American politics today, just like John Lennon’s original:

You say want a Revolution,

We all want to change to the world.

You tell me that its evolution,

We all want to change the world.

But when you talk about destruction,

Don’t you know that you can count me out...

You say you got a real solution,

We'd all love to see the plan…

You ask me for a contribution…

But if you want money for people with minds that hate,

All I can tell you brother is you have to wait…

You say you'll change the constitution,

We all want to change your head.

You tell me it's the institution,

You better free you mind instead.

But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao,

You ain't going to make it with anyone anyhow.

There have been many interpretations of Martin Luther King over the years, but in my opinion, Bono understands what MLK represents as well as anybody living: Pride: In The Name of Love. The Bono of Rattle and Hum is Elvis, John Lennon, Van Morrison, and MLK all wrapped into one. He is the new great Rock & Roll idol, and he takes this role as seriously as anyone ever has. Young Bono is on a mission.

Rattle and Hum was misunderstood when it was released. U2 was so far ahead of their time, that people missed the message. This was The Joshua Tree, the biggest Rock & Roll album of its time, applied and made political. Joshua Tree was U2’s answer to the Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers. They brought in a new producer, Brian Eno, to create a new Rock & Roll sound. They added a little ambience, Music for Airports. Just like The Beatles, they want to bring high-brow art concepts and popularize them with Rock & Roll. Rattle & Hum is The Magical Mystery Tour and The White Album all rolled up into one.

U2 make their pilgrimage to America: a Harlem Christian Church, a Memphis Blues Studio, and to BB King, who finds young Bono wise beyond his years. This is all part of U2’s journey to find the spiritual source of MLK in black American music. The spiritual power of Joshua Tree & Rattle & Hum should not be underestimated, and neither should its significance for today’s American politics.

The press tends to focus on the political stands that people take, but is less interested in the nuances of the reasons that they take them. The reasons for Bono’s stand against South African Apartheid in 1988 are as important as the stand itself. For him, Bishop Desmond Tutu represents a South African MLK reincarnated, but with a Cardinal’s hat. At the same time, he denounces Northern Ireland’s Revolution, because he sees it as too rooted in hate & violence. He wants a Northern Irish MLK to lead his people to Freedom, not an Irish version of Black Power.

The Black Lives Matter movement should not be mistaken as a continuation of MLK’s legacy. It is too wrapped up in the destruction, ‘minds that hate’, obsessions with ‘institutional racism’, and hero-worship of bad leadership models that John Lennon warned against. Bono incorporated MLK and applied this message to the Troubles in Northern Ireland. I say today, with Pride & In The Name of Love, and the spirit of Bono and the late John Lennon:

Fuck the Black Revolution! Not like this.

Il Trovatore (Aristarchus Patrinos) ; ~900 words ; October 4, 2020

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