Song of the Day #1,398: ‘Red Hill Mining Town’ – U2

Best Albums of the 80s – #7
The Joshua Tree – U2 (1987)

Here’s the second album I purchased on CD after receiving my first CD player (a boombox style contraption that I think I might still have sitting around somewhere).

I had fallen in love with The Joshua Tree on vinyl during my sophomore year of high school, playing it endlessly in my bedroom while reading and playing video games (I wasn’t a very exciting child).

The Joshua Tree was my first U2 album and it’s still their best. It’s the perfect encapsulation of Bono’s dramatic vocals and The Edge’s shimmering guitar sound. In a sense (and not necessarily a bad sense), U2 increasingly became a parody of itself on future albums. But on this one they were entirely in the moment, hitting every note perfectly.

Conceived as Bono’s love letter (and sometime hate letter) to America, The Joshua Tree was one of my earliest exposures — Bob Dylan aside — to rock music as literature. This was a lyric sheet worth studying, and it sounded great to boot. That might be the best legacy I can attribute to it — it made me a more attentive and curious music fan.

And I have to say, this baby holds up 25 years later. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard a better opening track than ‘Where the Streets Have No Name.’ Or a more mesmerizing closer than ‘Mothers of the Disappeared.’ The stuff in-between ain’t half bad, either.

From father to son
The blood runs thin
Oooh….see faces frozen still
Against the wind
The seam is split
The coal face cracked
The lines are long
There’s no going back
Through hands of steel
And heart of stone
Our labour day
Has come and gone

Yeah, you leave me holding on
In Red Hill Town
See lights go down

I’m hangin’ on
You’re all that’s left to hold on to
I’m still waiting
I’m hangin’ on
You’re all that’s left to hold on to

The glass is cut
The bottle run dry
Our love runs cold
In the caverns of the night
We’re wounded by fear
Injured in doubt
I can lose myself
You I can’t live without

Yeah, you keep me holding on
In Red Hill Town
See the lights go down on
I’m hanging on
You’re all that’s left to hold on to
I’m still waiting
Hanging on
You’re all that’s left to hold on to
On to…

We’ll scorch the earth
Set fire to the sky
We stoop so low
To reach so high
A link is lost
The chain undone
We wait all day
For night to come
And it comes
Like a hunter child

I’m hanging on
You’re all that’s left to hold on to
I’m still waiting
I’m hanging on
You’re all that’s left to hold on to

Love
Slowly stripped away
Love
Has seen its better day

Hanging on
Lights go out on Red Hill
Lights go down on Red Hill
Lights go down on Red Hill Town

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2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,398: ‘Red Hill Mining Town’ – U2

  1. Dana says:

    As has now been well-recorded on this blog, I’m just not a fan of U2. As I listen to today’s song, it occurs to me that part of the reason is that I find an emotional disconnect with the music. The lack of emotion is not to be confused with lack of passion, because, lord knows, Bono sings (and frankly over-sings) with gushing passion. Still, the songs just don’t move me in any way.

    Sorry, just don’t get why they are so celebrated, and I suppose I never will.

  2. Clay says:

    No need to apologize. As a card-carrying member of the Joni Mitchell dis-appreciation society, I know what it’s like to be outside the critical and fan consensus. I say embrace it!

    I disagree (obviously) about the emotional disconnect. I find U2’s best music very emotional. I do agree that not all of their music fits that bill, but this album certainly does.

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