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Old 06-15-2003, 02:18 PM   #1
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Analysis: Images in U2: Mr. MacPhisto, Angel or Devil? *

[SIMG]http://bonovox.interference.com/analysis/macpthumb.jpg[/SIMG]
By Kimberly "hippy" Egolf
June 2003




Good v. Evil: a universal battle that has plagued mankind since the beginning of time. U2's songs have always been especially preoccupied with the question of these two opposing forces in the world. Myriad songs on their albums, especially The Joshua Tree and Rattle and Hum make specific references to "angels" and "devils" (see "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," "Bullet the Blue Sky," "Trip Through Your Wires," "Angel of Harlem," and "God Part II").

But perhaps the ultimate expression of this burning question came out in that gold-lamé suited, horn-wearing devil: Mr. MacPhisto. This illustrious character was born while the band was creating the Zooropa album and planning the European leg of their Zoo TV tour. Mr. MacPhisto was to be the European equivalent of the Mirrorball Man - a character that Bono called "the devil." The Mirrorball Man, part television evangelist, part used car salesman, part game show host, had crossed the US, preaching the gospel of Zoo TV. While preparing for the next phase of the tour, the band decided that the Mirrorball Man just wouldn't jell and make an impact with the European audiences.

So began the evolution of U2's most controversial character to date. Mr. MacPhisto raised eyebrows and infuriated people, all in the name of rock and roll. Some considered him to be the most monstrous devil; others found him pathetic, yet quite loveable. Was Mr. MacPhisto an angel or a devil?



There's no question that MacPhisto began life as a devil. Bono himself has stated that fact on numerous occasions, and also called MacPhisto "the last rock star," who would then go on about the glories of rock and roll long after rock and roll has died. In the era of grunge and hip-hop, MacPhisto was a ridiculous character who had knocked back a few too many martinis, smoked a few too many cigarettes, and seen too much of the dark underbelly of life. He was extremely jaded, but still captivated by, and in love with the rock and roll lifestyle.



At the beginning of the European leg of the tour, MacPhisto would strut out onstage singing "Desire.” In an old, worn out voice, described by author Bill Flanagan as sounding like "an aging British music hall entertainer," MacPhisto belts out the song. When he comes to the line "for love or money" he loses all control and begins to chant "money, money, money." It sounds as if, had he less composure, he would jump about onstage doing a primitive looking dance to the god of money, which he worships.

Though the well-worn cliché tells us that money doesn't buy happiness, MacPhisto is going to try anyway. For the majority of the European leg of Zoo TV, MacPhisto was introduced each night singing "Daddy's Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car." The song has various meanings depending on what context it's in, but in this one, the meaning was pretty clear: MacPhisto ("Daddy") promises to pay for everything you've done wrong. The only catch is that you have to surrender to him. You have to buy what he's selling: that decadent rock and roll to which you'll lose everything. Like Mephistopheles bargained with Faust, MacPhisto bargains with us, seeing how far we'll go in pursuit of the things he's convinced us that we need - like money, fame, and power. MacPhisto was the ultimate Screwtape, who showed us just how a devil could tempt and taunt.



But a curious thing happened each evening after the fun of the first couple of songs: MacPhisto would turn to the crowd, throw off his horns, and shout "Off with the horns, on with the show!" With his cosmetically applied whiteface melting off with sweat and the horns gone, MacPhisto began to seem less tempting and more pathetic. Instead of the ultimate rock star and glamorous devil, he began to look and sound tired. When he sang Elvis Presley’s "Can't Help Falling in Love" at the end of each concert, his voice cracked. As Bono says in U2 At the End of the World, "When he [MacPhisto] goes into falsetto on 'Can't Help Falling in Love,' it's the little boy inside the corrupt man breaking through for a moment."



After all the glitz and razzle-dazzle, this small and infinitely fragile voice emanates from a grown man (or devil), jarring the senses and reminding us that even this jaded, gold-plated devil isn't a simple creature. He revels in the trappings of rock-stardom, but he also knows how ridiculous those things really are. MacPhisto seems to straddle that border between good and evil, angel and devil. And perhaps he is a comment on that struggle: no one character or person can be ultimately good or evil. There's a little of each side in all of us. After all, isn't that what makes people (and devils) fascinating?
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Old 06-15-2003, 04:43 PM   #2
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hippy, this one might be your best yet. A fascinating read.
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Old 06-15-2003, 04:54 PM   #3
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oooooooooooo yayay another Hippy article brilliant absolutely brilliant
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Old 06-15-2003, 05:31 PM   #4
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He's a man who can sing like an angel and dance like the devil. Very good article, well written!
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Old 06-15-2003, 05:45 PM   #5
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very good, excellent and I enjoyed much read it
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Old 06-15-2003, 10:47 PM   #6
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:blush:

Wow... thanks everyone I'm humbled that you even find my ramblings worth reading lol Thank you again... it really means a lot.
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Old 06-25-2003, 08:34 AM   #7
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"Mr. MacPhisto was to be the European equivalent of the Mirrorball Man - a character that Bono called "the devil."

Oh, really? Huh. I didn't know that.

This article's making Macphisto more interesting to me. Bono sure knows how to create these alter-egos.

I liked this. Very interesting.

And I liked the explanation of "Daddy's Gonna Pay...". Never thought of the song as being about that before.

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Old 06-26-2003, 11:14 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by Moonlit_Angel
"Mr. MacPhisto was to be the European equivalent of the Mirrorball Man - a character that Bono called "the devil."

Oh, really? Huh. I didn't know that.
I didn't know it either until I started reading U2 At the End of the World as research for this piece... check out around pages 228-229... it's the story of the evolution of MacPhisto... VERY interesting


Quote:
This article's making Macphisto more interesting to me. Bono sure knows how to create these alter-egos.
I'm glad I got others interested That was my goal
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Old 06-27-2003, 12:49 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by hippy
I didn't know it either until I started reading U2 At the End of the World as research for this piece... check out around pages 228-229... it's the story of the evolution of MacPhisto... VERY interesting
I'll remember to do that-I just ordered that book online recently, and am waiting for it to get here, so once it does I'll look that up.

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I'm glad I got others interested That was my goal
Well, you achieved it. .

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Old 06-30-2003, 02:46 PM   #10
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actually.. the devil IS a fallen angel...then MacPhisto is a fallen image of The Fly...
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Old 07-08-2003, 01:08 PM   #11
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Hippy This one is amazing!!!

I love Mr MacPhisto, I think he's fantastic and I soooo very much enjoyed reading that!!!

I think you should have a medal.
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Old 07-15-2003, 09:27 PM   #12
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You have a gift hippy. Very good reading, thanks.
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Old 10-16-2004, 07:53 PM   #13
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Was MacPhisto in the HMTMKMKM video or was it just a similar character?
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Old 10-26-2004, 06:36 AM   #14
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"The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts, of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn." Luther

"The devil . . . the prowde spirite . . . cannot endure to be mocked" Thomas Moore

Both of these quotes are found at the beginning of the Screwtape Letters. I think these give us a little clue into where Macphisto came from. It is easy to see that there are more than a few links between C.S. Lewis and U2.
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Old 11-11-2004, 03:31 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by LemonMacPhisto
Was MacPhisto in the HMTMKMKM video or was it just a similar character?

Yep! That was him. An animated version, of course.
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