Continuing our series on Joshua Tree related songs that might make the set-list on the upcoming Joshua Tree Tour 2017, today we’re taking a look at a song that I’d have to classify as a long shot – but that’s mostly because parts of it are definitely going to be played in another form. I’m talking, of course, about the song “Desert of Our Love”, a song that U2 were working on during the Joshua Tree sessions, some of the drums from which would eventually become part of one of U2’s most beloved and recognizable songs – “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”.
Without a doubt, the best thing about “Desert of Our Love” is the rhythm section, which incorporates a funky, complex drum track laid down by Larry, and a groovy bass lick from Adam. This combined rhythmic attack is the only backing that Bono sings over for the first part of the song, and the duo’s contribution is felt strongly throughout the entire recording. One of my favorite things about U2’s music, and I’m sure I’ve written about this before, is the way the two instruments that are often merely background in other bands’ music, the drums, and especially the bass, are frequently given such an important part to play in U2’s songs. Take a band like AC/DC, where the bassist often simply follows the guitar, and has even admitted to playing the same thing in several different songs, then compare that to U2, where the bass is not only unique in each song, but where the bottom end often plays a strong melodic role, and we find that Adam’s skillful playing and Larry’s strong sense of musicality shine through and are a large part of what makes U2’s music so unique.
A lot of the lyrics to “Desert of Our Love” veer into what fans call “Bongolese”, a made-up language of nonsense and gibberish that Bono frequently uses when he’s working on the cadence and rhyme structure of a new song. It’s amazing, then, that there’s still emotion and feeling imparted by the song, through not only the music but also the melody that Bono sings and the passion that his soulful voice brings to his vocalizations. I once heard that Bono often writes lyrics after the music of a song has been completed, because he feels that writing lyrics that fit the music helps to maintain the emotional integrity of the piece. “Desert of Our Love” is a good example of that, because the sentiment shines through in spite of the fact that most of what Bono is singing doesn’t mean anything. The feeling that does get expressed is one of desolation and loneliness, but contentment. I think that these emotions would later be expressed more fully in songs like “Trip Through Your Wires” and “In God’s Country”, songs that also have strong references to the desert.
“Desert of Our Love” has never been performed live, and if I’m being honest, I’d be very surprised if it ever is. Still, how cool would it be if U2 performed a live medley, combining “Desert of Our Love” with “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”? I would lose my mind if that ever happened, and I’d imagine that I’m not alone in U2 fandom for that.