I’ve been spending a good deal of time over the last two weeks absorbing the second disc of Songs of Innocence. Aside from the acoustic session, which is fantastic, another star of the show is the alternate versions of two songs from the first disc, “The Troubles” and “Sleep Like a Baby Tonight, the latter of which is our focus for this week.
It took me a while to “get” the original version of “Sleep Like a Baby…”, but once I did I began to admire the subtlety of the indictment it contains, from the mundane start to evil’s day that’s detailed in the first verse to the more overt plea for transparency in the later portions of the song. When I heard the second version of the song, the first thing that occurred to me was that that version’s lyrics were directed to the victim while the original’s words were for the victimizer. Now, I like to think of the two songs as distinct but equally important halves of one whole.
Musically, I am fascinated by the differences and similarities between the two versions. There’s a common darkness that befits the subject matter, but the alternative version feels slightly more uplifting and hopeful with the opening chimes and other added sound effects throughout. One piece of the music that really stands out to me is Edge’s abrasive guitar. It reminds me of the well-documented conversation from 1986 when Bono told the guitarist to put the war through his amplifier and what resulted was “Bullet the Blue Sky.” In the same way, “Sleep Like a Baby Tonight” represents the war against the thefts of innocence that thousands have been casualties of.
All in all, “Sleep Like a Baby Tonight” is just one more jewel on an album that’s rife with them, and while I doubt that it’ll have the staying power of “Every Breaking Wave”, for instance, it’s an important and rich song with a valuable lesson to teach us.
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