One of my favorite radio appearances by U2 in the last decade or so was the short set that they played for Zane Lowe’s nightly show on BBC Radio 1. The band played four songs from the yet-to-be-released How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb and then closed the set with a dynamite performance of “Beautiful Day”. One particular moment of this show that I enjoy listening to is Bono’s introduction to “Miracle Drug”, wherein he explains how the band took inspiration from Irish writer Christopher Nolan when writing the song.
Apparently, Nolan was deprived of oxygen for some time at birth, and was consequently rendered quadriplegic. A pill was discovered that allowed Nolan to move a muscle in his neck and to use a pointer attached to his head to type. It seems that Nolan had been stock-piling prose and poetry in his head and he was now able to get his writings out onto paper. A collection of Nolan’s writings called Dam-burst of Dreams was published when Nolan was just 15. Bono talked about the faith that Nolan’s mother had that he was alive and thinking in his prison of a body, and the fact that she would read and talk to the boy despite the fact that he was unable to give any sign that he was aware other than eye movements. This story of a mother’s love must have been especially moving to Bono, who lost his mother when he was so young. I think that another influence on the song “Miracle Drug” was the illness of Edge’s daughter, Sian, when she had a frightening brush with Leukemia. I believe that Edge’s experiences with the medical community directly inspired him to sing the song’s lines “Beneath the noise, below the din, I hear your voice, it’s whispering. In science and in medicine I was a stranger, you took me in” near the song’s conclusion. Thankfully, Sian has recovered and is now living cancer-free.
“Miracle Drug” was performed at a majority of the shows on U2’s Vertigo Tour, where it was preceded by a lengthy spoken introduction by Bono, in which he praised doctors and nurses. Many concert attendees complained about the song’s introduction, calling it “boring”, and so I wasn’t surprised when the song was dropped from setlists in November of 2005 and was absent entirely from the tour’s final two legs. Many U2 fans believed that the song would never be played live again, but U2 surprised us by playing the song twice early in the Innocence + Experience Tour. The plan seems to have been to alternate a new arrangement of the song with performances of “City of Blinding Lights” but the band were must have been dissatisfied with the song because, as stated above, it only appeared twice before being dropped permanently. Whether the song will ever be revived again seems doubtful to me, but stranger things have happened. Even if the song is never played again, I’ll always have the Zane Lowe show to listen to, and I’m grateful for that.