Classic Album Track: Until The End of the World* - U2 Feedback

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Old 07-05-2004, 08:11 AM   #1
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Classic Album Track: Until The End of the World*

By Gregory McGuire

This week’s classic album track is fan favourite “Until the End of the World,” from the 1991 album “Achtung Baby.” Along with “The Unforgettable Fire's” “Bad,” this song is one of two firm fan favourites that incredibly were never released as singles.

The distorted opening few seconds of the song fit in with “Achtung Baby” era U2 perfectly. “Without giving too much away, it’s a mix of both vocals and guitar,” Bono once mused during an online interview. He then quickly followed up, “Edge can make anything come out of his guitar.” During the opening sequence of this song live, Bono often proclaims, “Jesus, this is Judas!” tying with the lyrical meaning of the song. Then Adam’s bass and a rhythmic drum beat from Larry combine for a maximum impact, followed by an explosive rock riff from the Edge. Blistering flashing strobe lights in the live setting add greatly to the effect.

The main lyrical theme of this song revolves around the betrayals and indiscretions that the members of U2 were dealing with at the time. Around the time of the “Achtung Baby” sessions at Hansa Studios, Berlin, Larry had become increasingly worried that with the bands increased use of drum loops and new technologies, he would soon become obsolete altogether. On one particular morning he was left lounging around an East German hotel, bored waiting for the rest of the band, who had made an early start in heading out to Hansa without telling him, to return. He had to phone Dublin just to get the number for the studio in order to make contact. Indeed betrayal was rife on the drummer's mind throughout the sessions and, along with other rifts and tensions being felt within the band, has emerged as an underlying feeling in both this song and the "Achtung Baby" album in general.

“Until the End of the World,” like “Stay (Faraway, So Close!),” written for film director Wim Wenders. Around the time of its writing, Bono had been reading Brendan Kennelly’s “Book of Judas” and Judas Iscariot became the lyrical key to the song. An imaginary illicit encounter takes place and sex is high up on the agenda. There are references to both prostitution and oral sex (“Surrounding me, going down on me; spilling over the brim”) but the key scene takes place in the Garden of Gethsemane, portraying the indescribable bond between Jesus and his betrayer (“I was in the garden playing the tart, I kissed your lips and broke your heart…”). When performed live the song ends with a bullfight between Bono and Edge. On the face if it, the fight has represented good versus evil, Jesus versus Judas perhaps, but it is subliminally deeper then that. It concludes when Bono, who throughout the song speaks from the point of view of Judas, collapses to the ground and desperately claws and shrieks at the Edge’s guitar to deafening wails.

The song has featured on set lists for all three of U2’s major tours since 1991. Since being first performed on the opening night of the ZooTV tour in Florida on February 29, 1992, it has been played live a whopping 363 times; undoubtedly no coincidence that it has since become U2 manager Paul McGuinness’ all-time favourite live U2 song. It would be a major surprise to most fans if “Until the End of the World” weren’t on regular rotation for U2’s upcoming tour.

With its widely interpreted lyrical content and impact as a downright good rock song, it is likely that “Until the End of the World” will be cherished by U2 fans well into the future on the same level as other well-known classics from the band's wide repertoire. I suppose the only shame is that it didn’t make a single so the rest of the world would know how good it was too.

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Old 07-05-2004, 09:06 AM   #2
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Great article!

Just to correct a small typo though, the song has been performed live 363 times (and not 263 as stated in the article).

For the rest, it's great!

C ya!


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Old 07-05-2004, 09:50 AM   #3
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Thanks Martijn! All corrected!!
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Old 07-05-2004, 03:37 PM   #4
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This is a beautifully-written article on a wonderful song. My second-favorite U2 song of all time, after "One."
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Old 07-07-2004, 12:45 AM   #5
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cool. im not the only one who picked up on the oral sex part
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Old 07-16-2004, 12:28 AM   #6
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It was a good article. But I can't help but feel that we as U2 fans seem to read into everything they do just a bit too much ie. the bullfight between Bono and Edge. Not complaining just my 2 cents.

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Old 01-07-2005, 03:46 AM   #7
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I also like the reference in the song to the last supper,

We broke the bread, drank the wine, everybody having a good time, except you, you were acting like the end of the world.

I guess this could refer to both Jesus and Judas.

Jesus knew his time was nearly up.

Judas knew he'd already betrayed Jusas.

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