Since the announcement of U2’s Joshua Tree Tour 2017, I’ve been making an attempt to write these articles about songs that are related to The Joshua Tree, even if they didn’t make the final album. One such song is the topic of this week’s article, a B-side from the “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” single, “Deep in the Heart”.
As a B-side, “Deep in the Heart” is somewhat obscure, as are most of the songs I’ve been writing about lately, but that certainly doesn’t mean that it’s not worth a listen. In fact, there’s a good bit of meat in this song’s lyrics, and I am of the opinion that a closer look is long overdue.
I believe this song to be another ode to Bono’s wife, Alison (Stewart) Hewson, to whom Bono had been married for nearly, but not quite, five years when this song was released. I get the impression listening to the song that the lyrics could have been written about the first night that Bono and Ali spent together, or possibly a romantic getaway that the couple made to a little cabin in a wooded area. The beginning of the song sounds as if Bono is trying to reassure Ali about something. Bono then gives a brief description of his beloved, as seen through a lover’s eyes – “Thirty years old (Ali would have actually been about twenty-six at this time, but that doesn’t fit with the cadence of the verse), sweet as a rose, every petal of her wafer thin” before going on to sing about how love can affect a person. I have always thought that the “wafer thin” line is an allusion to the way Ali might have allowed herself to be vulnerable for Bono, and I find this idea to be quite romantic, particularly as everything I’ve ever read or heard about Ali indicates that she’s a tough, independent woman. The second verse seems to be describing the environment that Bono and Ali shared, again, perhaps a small cabin in the woods – “Door is closed behind me now. The window is sealed to shut out the light. Green as the leaves and the cure of the nettle sting” is how Bono describes it. Another thought is that the “Green as the leaves” line could be a reference to their at-the-time newfound love. Finally, there’s a lyric in the third verse that Bono would return to in later songs – “You can’t return to the place you never left”, which would later appear nearly verbatim in “Cedarwood Road”.
In many ways, “Deep in the Heart” is the stereotypical U2 song circa 1987, and it could be said that I love this song for all the same reasons that I love U2. There’s a wonderfully melodic bass riff that ties the whole thing together, some stellar, musical drumming that keeps rhythm while also contributing to the flow of the song, lots of abstract guitar work – a hallmark of mid-eighties U2 – and a passionate vocal delivery from the front-man whose main muse is once again his adored wife. The above factors could be used to describe quite a few U2 songs from this era, from “With or Without You” to “Bullet the Blue Sky”, and maybe this song’s similarities to those other more famous (and popular) pieces of work is one reason that U2 has never performed “Deep in the Heart” live. The upcoming Joshua Tree 2017 Tour is probably the best chance that the band will ever have to perform “Deep in the Heart” live, if they so desire, but I’d still be somewhat surprised to hear the song this summer.