U2’s 1997 album Pop has the unfortunate distinction of being one of those albums that doesn’t get a lot of love. I’m not necessarily even talking about love from the fans, either. Although there was a great outcry of public hate from U2 fandom when the album was initially released, nowadays it is nearly as fondly remembered as anything else that the band released during their experimental period of the 1990’s. What I’m talking about here is love from the band itself. U2 seem perfectly content to pretend that Pop was never released. Songs from the album haven’t been performed live in over a decade. Next year is Pop’s twentieth anniversary, and there are no plans for a remastered/updated release celebrating that date like there were for Achtung Baby or The Joshua Tree. It seems that U2 listened to their critics in this case and decided that Pop just isn’t any good. This is a real shame, because Pop has its share of great U2 songs, like “Please”, “Discotheque” (U2’s last top ten hit in the U.S.) and the topic of today’s article, “Gone”.
Despite the techno and electronica influences found on Pop, “Gone” is surprisingly guitar driven. It is, in fact, one of U2’s most rockin’ songs, right behind “The Fly” and slightly ahead of “All Because of You”. With a high-pitched, over-driven guitar intro followed by a delightfully bouncy bass part and Larry’s typically straightforward, driving drums and dramatically crashing cymbals the song is fast paced and energetic. The power of “Gone” lies in the song’s simplicity and the emotional oomph provided by the performers, rather than any tricks or gimmicks. The final bridge and chorus, especially, feature some sensational and stirring singing from Bono accompanied by wailing guitar. Also of note is some fine falsetto singing in the song’s coda, with Bono demonstrating the range that made his our favorite voice.
About 16 years ago now, I knew a couple of U2 fans who were immigrants into the United States from India. I recall one day we got to talking about Pop” and one of those men told me about how the song “Gone” had special significance to them because of the lyrics in the second verse that state “You wanted to get somewhere so badly, you had to lose yourself along the way. You change your name but that’s okay… it’s necessary, and what you leave behind you don’t miss anyway.” To them, this echoed their experience of leaving the land of their birth and moving to America. I had never thought much before about the lyrics to “Gone” but that left an impression on me. I love how U2’s lyrics are open to interpretation, and how the same words can mean something so different to different people. To me, the lyrics to “Gone” are all about living with the simple things in life, not just getting by, but learning to excel on the things that we often take for granted, like the beauty of a sunrise or the emotional solace that can be found in a healthy relationship.
“Gone” is one of the few songs from Pop to be played live following the end of the Pop*Mart Tour in 1998. “Gone” made semi-regular appearances on 2001’s Elevation Tour, showing up at slightly less than half of that tour’s shows. Of particular note is a performance that was captured for the Elevation 2001: Live from Boston DVD. This version (like many of the Elevation Tour performances) features an extended guitar solo as the song’s outro, and showcases particularly energetic performances from Edge and Larry, as the two play off of each other in an exciting climax. I’m thrilled that this performance was preserved on an official release, and it is one of my favorite go-to recordings in all of U2’s catalog. It never fails to get me pumped up.