Much like “Mothers of the Disappeared” always gets played whenever U2 is in Argentina, another song that always gets played when the geography is right is “Spanish Eyes”, which usually makes an appearance when the band is in – yep, you guessed it – Spain. This past week, which saw the band playing a four-night stint in Barcelona, was no exception, as the song in question finally made an appearance at the fourth and final night, just yesterday as I write this. This occasion marked only the seventeenth performance of the song since it made its debut (in Spain, naturally) in July of 1987. Oddly enough, “Spanish Eyes” was performed several more times on the Joshua Tree Tour, in cities as decidedly un-Spanish as Munich, Germany and Austin, Texas. Since the end of that tour, however, the song has been played only four times, and each of those four performances came in Spain.
One thing that I suppose it’s important to discuss when this song is on the platter is the question of what exactly are “Spanish eyes”? I didn’t know until the band headed into Spain last week and I googled it in preparation for this article, so I figure that maybe some of you readers might be similarly in the dark. According to the internet, the expression “Spanish eyes” simply refers to large brown eyes, such as one might gaze into on a moonlit night in Barcelona, or like those that Bono sees when he looks adoringly at his beloved wife, Ali. That’s who the song was written for, after all. “Spanish Eyes” contains one of U2’s most straightforward lyrics, and leaves little to no room for misinterpretation or personalization. The song is clearly a love song from Bono to his spouse, but unlike a lot of unabashed love songs, which often turn out sappy and slow, this one is a rollicking rock ‘n’ roll tune with a forceful, exuberant vocal from the lead singer.
“Spanish Eyes” has an unorthodox arrangement, with only two sections that could be called choruses, and the real hook of the song coming in the verses, with Bono’s call of “way-hey-hey!” preceding several lines of each verse. It’s that line that gets picked up and repeated by live audiences when the song is performed live. The real meat, of course, is to be found in other lyrics in between the “way-hey-hey”‘s. I particularly love Bono’s admission that he needs his wife more than she needs him, and the line in the chorus “I cross the world for green and gold, but it’s those Spanish eyes that get me home”. Here, Bono is stating that although his job might take him to various corners of the globe, it’s his wife’s beauty that brings him home again once the money is made. That’s something that any of us who have to leave home daily to go out and earn a living can relate to.
I’d be surprised if “Spanish Eyes” gets played again on this tour now that the band has left Spain, but once a tour is still pretty good for a song that started its life as a B-side. Somehow that makes those rare performances seem all that much more special, which seems only fitting for a simple, straightforward love song, especially when its as simple as “Spanish Eyes”.
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