U2101 – Gloria

“Gloria” was a big surprise at two of the Chicago shows a couple of weeks ago, and I missed writing about it last week, so since nothing really exciting happened this last week, we’ll cover it today.

“Gloria” is the lead-off track from what is probably U2’s least beloved LP, October, which was released in the fourth quarter of 1981.  Despite its lack of popularity, “Gloria” is a good example of the kind of thing that U2 were doing in their early days – anthemic rock with lots of guitar and a strong rhythm. It might seem like a given that a rock band would feature “lots of guitar” but most of U2’s recordings are actually the opposite of that – Edge doesn’t actually play a whole lot. Frequently, in fact, the melody is supplied by the bass and/or the vocals, while the Edge plays what could almost be considered a rhythm guitar part, as opposed to a lead guitar part. The early years, although still featuring the rhythm section prominently, also contained more guitar than we would become used to in a U2 song, though, giving their early music a different texture from that of their later work. “Gloria” is a perfect example of their output at the time, containing a big guitar riff right up front.


Lyrically, the song is very spiritual, concerned with the singer’s search for a stronger relationship with his God. Very obvious in the lyrics are two of the driving forces behind the October album – the infamously missing lyrics and the the band’s struggle to balance their religions with their desire to be in a rock band. The somewhat simplistic lyrics in the first two verses show the difficult time Bono had writing lyrics on the spot after losing his briefcase of prepared words, while parts of the song clearly showcase the doubts that the band were experiencing at the time about their chosen professions. The Latin at the end of the song (my favorite part of the track) was supposedly inspired by records of Gregorian Chants which were favorites of U2’s then-manager Paul McGuinness.


“Gloria” was a staple at U2’s live shows through the 1980’s, up through the end of the decade when it was supplanted in favor of newer material from the ZooTV Tour onward. The song enjoyed a slight resurgence on the Vertigo Tour in 2005, receiving nineteen airings, Sadly, though, that was the last time the song was played before U2’s recent stand in Chicago. I doubt that “Gloria” will ever again feature prominently in U2’s live sets but it should continue to pop up sporadically as long as the band continue to play.

The following two tabs change content below.


Ever since I realized as a kid, while poring over the liner notes of the Bob Marley - Songs of Freedom boxed set, that writing about music was a viable career choice, one of my greatest desires has been to write about U2. The band has been a major part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I'm thrilled to have this opportunity to contribute a little something to the fantastic online community that's been built around the band.

Latest posts by broadsword (see all)

Leave a Reply