Someone explain Unknown Caller to me - U2 Feedback

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Old 02-21-2009, 11:24 PM   #1
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Someone explain Unknown Caller to me

I'm a really lyrics-focused guy when I listen to music. So it really bothers me when I can't figure out the meaning behind a song. I can't even begin to interpret Unknown Caller. It sounds like this should be a deep song, one that reflects on your inner self... or something. But I'm not getting it. I can see it as a story about getting a call from some "Unknown Caller," but that just seems a little too shallow to me.

And what really bugs me is all that technical jargon! It's tough trying to get emotionally sucked into a song when I get the "nerd vibe" from a bunch of, well, old people :P And then they try and make it sound soulful or something with all the "oh oh oh oh's." The way they sing this makes me think of some geek cult worshipping their Macs or whatever. Its really just comical to me... and very disturbing.

So this is a popular song here on Interference - someone enlighten me.


Sunshine, sunshine
Sunshine, sunshine

Oh, oh
Oh, oh

I was lost between the midnight and the dawning
In a place of no consequence or company
3:33 when the numbers fell off the clock face
Speed dialimg with no signal at all

Go, shout it out, rise up
Oh, oh
Escape yourself, and gravity
Hear me, cease to speak that I may speak
Shush now
Oh, oh
Force quit and move to trash

I was right there at the top of the bottom
On the edge of the known universe where I wanted to be
I had driven to the scene of the accident
And I sat there waiting for me

Restart and re-boot yourself
You´re free to go
Oh, oh
Shout for joy if you get the chance
Password, you entder here, right now

Oh, oh
You know your name so punch it in
Hear me, cease to speak that I may speak
Shush now
Oh, oh
They don´t move or say a thing
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Old 02-22-2009, 11:59 AM   #2
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I read on here somewhere else that it's God talking to a man thinking about killing himself and he is at the scene of his suicide waiting for himself to show up ....the courage to go through with it...but then he hears God talking to him...giving him a pep talk so to speak...
I just thought of something too...

If THE FLY was a phone call from hell then this is GOD answering the same character on his cell phone?

Pretty cool huh? I like that.
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Old 02-22-2009, 01:22 PM   #3
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3:33 falls off the clockface is a reference to the bible quote that was referenced on ATYCLB cover which Bono refers to as God's phone number.

I think the point with the techno jargon is that God speaks to us in many ways and technology is not the enemy of spirituality. If you read "Bono in Conversation" you get a really good feel for the way Bono uses words and metaphor. You will recognize many of Bono's lyrics past and future in those conversations. The best way to understand Bono's lyrics is to get a feel for how he thinks and between this book and many many interviews you can do that.

Whether the character is suicidal or just having a near death experience is not really clear to me but what does seem clear is that he is being given a chance to return and advice to really live his life.

"Restart and re-boot yourself
You´re free to go
Oh, oh
Shout for joy if you get the chance
Password, you entder here, right now "

This part especially seems to be instructions on turning his life around.

Dana
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Old 02-22-2009, 03:08 PM   #4
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It's the concept of someone receiving random text messages with no idea what they're talking about.

The concept is stupid, thus the lyrics are too.
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Old 02-22-2009, 03:36 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by phillyfan26 View Post
It's the concept of someone receiving random text messages with no idea what they're talking about.

The concept is stupid, thus the lyrics are too.


Unknown Caller is U2's best song, and I agree more or less with the "messages from God telling you your life can get better" idea.
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Old 02-22-2009, 03:47 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by phillyfan26 View Post
It's the concept of someone receiving random text messages with no idea what they're talking about.

The concept is stupid, thus the lyrics are too.
No they are not. It's an unusual, but interesting concept.
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Old 02-22-2009, 04:50 PM   #7
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this is my take from another thread:

This is my take on this line, and song in general.

When I'm listening to the song I'm hearing a man telling his story (Bono solo) about how he is on the bottom and he sees no end and no way out. Furthermore he is even thinking about suicide or something similar (waiting for himself at the scene of the accident, being at the bottom where he wants to be etc.) He is even trying to call God but there is no signal and than God starts to talk to him through SMS or computer lines/chat..
He tells him to get up, to gather strength and with that line "force quit. and move to trash", he is telling him to forget the hole that he is in, to leave it behind, to start anew...to "force quit" his depression, to fight it of...

and than at the end he says "don't move or say a thing" and than we hear instrumental and solo. First that hymn from "My Savior's Love" which to me symbolizes that he accepted his love or something like that, and than he is blessed with Edges solo

That's my take on this song, and it is definitely the best song on the album for me
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Old 02-22-2009, 06:16 PM   #8
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It would be one thing if it was all messages that were, you know, of a theme of re-considering the direction of your life. But then it gets completely devalued by stuff like "Force quit and move to trash" and "Password you enter here."
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Old 02-23-2009, 07:29 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by phillyfan26 View Post
It would be one thing if it was all messages that were, you know, of a theme of re-considering the direction of your life. But then it gets completely devalued by stuff like "Force quit and move to trash" and "Password you enter here."
Sorry, dude, take a metaphor/poetry pill.

"Force quit and move to trash" ---- a Mac reference for ending a frozen program, then moving to the trash/recycle bin. Basically, end the massive slump that your life is in.

"Password 'you,' enter here" ---- The password, or the key to starting again on the right track is in fact "you" yourself. Find that, trust in that, believe in that, 'enter' it in, and start anew.


I thought that the meaning of the song was pretty obvious from the get-go, especially with the lyric "Reboot yourself"---that's pretty much the theme of the song and the whole album.
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Old 02-23-2009, 04:20 PM   #10
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Trust me, I understand the point, and I understand those lines. I just don't like the references to technology, and I think they contrast with the rest of the lyrics of the song.
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Old 02-23-2009, 05:01 PM   #11
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Trust me, I understand the point, and I understand those lines. I just don't like the references to technology, and I think they contrast with the rest of the lyrics of the song.
See my explanation of the lyrics in the Goal is Soul forum for one perspective. I find the technology metaphor to be very poetic and beautiful.
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Old 02-23-2009, 08:26 PM   #12
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Maybe I'm way off, but to me the song seems more directly like the struggle of a (song)writer trying to tap into his inspiration. Of course that lends well to a more general struggle to find higher meaning and new purpose in life. Writer's block, yep.

Bono has often said in interviews that he believes the songs are divine gifts and are written through him.

The scene of the accident is probably the creative place he goes when he's desperate - the bottom of a bottle perhaps.

Makes sense of the tech references and the frustration of sitting at your laptop at all hours of the night and the words that normally flow just aren't coming.
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Old 02-23-2009, 09:37 PM   #13
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Sunshine, sunshine
Sunshine, sunshine

Oh, oh
Oh, oh

I was lost between the midnight and the dawning
In a place of no consequence or company
3:33 when the numbers fell off the clock face
Speed dialimg with no signal at all

Go, shout it out, rise up
Oh, oh
Escape yourself, and gravity
Hear me, cease to speak that I may speak
Shush now
Oh, oh
Force quit and move to trash

I was right there at the top of the bottom
On the edge of the known universe where I wanted to be
I had driven to the scene of the accident
And I sat there waiting for me

Restart and re-boot yourself
You´re free to go
Oh, oh
Shout for joy if you get the chance
Password, you entder here, right now

Oh, oh
You know your name so punch it in
Hear me, cease to speak that I may speak
Shush now
Oh, oh
They don´t move or say a thing

My understanding of the song, based on what the band said themselves and my own ideas goes like this:

The story begins in the following day with those sunshines and the "morning" melody with those birds.
The transition is a flashback where we go to the night before. The man suffers an accident, probably car crash at 3:33 AM. He tries to call the police (speed dialing).
He doesn't get any signal, instead, his phone starts to talk to him. Maybe it's something like a near death experience. Then it's revealed that the man was going to kill himself when he tells that he was expecting for him in the scene of the accident and that he was someone at the top of the bottom. The phone keeps telling him what to do.
The rest is really open to interpretation, maybe the "caller" was God telling the man what he was supposed to do. And maybe that ending means that the man redeemed himself by dialing for help instead of letting himself die: "You're free to go"
Then the man wakes the next morning (The "sunshines") That is open to interpretation: maybe everything was a dream, maybe it really happened.



Oh, forgot one thing... I've heard somewhere that Jesus died at 3 pm on Friday, April 3, 33 AD, but I doubt that has any meaning here.
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Old 02-23-2009, 10:28 PM   #14
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Three thirty-three:


“Call to me, and I will answer you; I will tell you things great beyond reach of your knowledge.” Jeremiah 33:3

That's why 333 is referred to as "God's phone number," something that Bono's said in the past.
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Old 02-23-2009, 10:35 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Utoo View Post
Three thirty-three:


“Call to me, and I will answer you; I will tell you things great beyond reach of your knowledge.” Jeremiah 33:3

That's why 333 is referred to as "God's phone number," something that Bono's said in the past.
You beat me to it...I was just going to post that.

I love that connection, and that makes it pretty obvious that Bono is referring to that verse..but he also makes it obscure enough to make you wonder if that is really what he saying? Figuring out U2 lyrics should be an Olympic sport.
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Old 02-23-2009, 11:02 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Utoo View Post
Three thirty-three:


“Call to me, and I will answer you; I will tell you things great beyond reach of your knowledge.” Jeremiah 33:3

That's why 333 is referred to as "God's phone number," something that Bono's said in the past.
Oh, I completely forgot about that.
Thanks!
Yeah, that's a nice evidence that God is the unknown caller.
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Old 02-24-2009, 05:21 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by .:MrMacPhisto:. View Post
My understanding of the song, based on what the band said themselves and my own ideas goes like this:

The story begins in the following day with those sunshines and the "morning" melody with those birds.
The transition is a flashback where we go to the night before. The man suffers an accident, probably car crash at 3:33 AM. He tries to call the police (speed dialing).
He doesn't get any signal, instead, his phone starts to talk to him. Maybe it's something like a near death experience. Then it's revealed that the man was going to kill himself when he tells that he was expecting for him in the scene of the accident and that he was someone at the top of the bottom. The phone keeps telling him what to do.
The rest is really open to interpretation, maybe the "caller" was God telling the man what he was supposed to do. And maybe that ending means that the man redeemed himself by dialing for help instead of letting himself die: "You're free to go"
Then the man wakes the next morning (The "sunshines") That is open to interpretation: maybe everything was a dream, maybe it really happened.
Really good interpretation, you've impressed me.
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Old 02-24-2009, 05:46 AM   #18
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wink

i like the idea of the sunshine bit being where the story begins (i.e. the following day). in fact makes a lot of sense.

The computer metaphors i think may be pointing towards the fact that the man (who may or may not be suicidely but certainly sounds very lonely) is looking for someone to talk to (chat rooms? etc), but what he needs/ wants is physical companionship (phoning people but no signal etc). this is where God calls him and tells him to stop feeling sorry for himself and re-connect with the wider physical world (reboot yourself & yes i am aware that i've "compressed" that but time contraints are, like taste, "the enemy of art" ). the full circle is sunshine sunshine where the chap walks outside into the world full of hope and life. Presumely he can now start singing Beautiful Day (which is perhaps a prequel). Sorry don't have time to elaborate further and also still working it out in my head.

Just a thought.
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Old 02-24-2009, 05:55 AM   #19
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Presumely he can now start singing Beautiful Day (which is perhaps a prequel).
whoops meant to say "to which perhaps this is a prequel, i.e. Unknown Caller to Beautiful Day"
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Old 02-24-2009, 08:36 AM   #20
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.:MrMacPhisto:. I've been listening to the song for a while and I have a question for you (I think you would like this kind of things, if not, ignore it):

Why do you think the man has survived? Couldn't it be that he walked to the light and saw the sunshine?

I have thought about it after listening to Moment of Surrender and the Unknown Caller as if they were a thematic unity, What do you think?

(This is also open to anyone who wants to contribute, thanks)
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