OK, it’s confession time. I’ve always thought that the song “Last Night on Earth”, from the album Pop was a very poor choice for a single. It’s not that I don’t like the song…while it isn’t my favorite by any stretch, I don’t think that it’s a bad song, per se. I just don’t feel that the song had enough of that quality that radio hits often have, whether you call it charisma, poppiness, accessibility, or something else entirely. “Discotheque” has it in spades, which is why that song was a great choice for the album’s first single. “Staring at the Sun” has a couple of great hooks, and some felt (although chart placement tells us this wasn’t a widely held belief) that it was an even better radio song than “Discotheque”. Even the single that followed “Last Night on Earth”, “Please”, with all its approachable, sorrowful yearning, had something that made it a good choice for a single, and many people laud “Please” as the best song on Pop. “Last Night on Earth”, though…I never got the choice to release that song to radio, even in its re-recorded single version.
Maybe part of the problem is that I never understood what the song was trying to say. The verses seem to be all about living life to the fullest, embracing the whole world with arms thrown wide open, then the chorus seemingly contradicts that. Where the verses are about “grabbing it”, the chorus just repeats, over and over, “You’ve gotta give it away”. Give what away? Maybe you’ve “gotta give away” your inhibitions. Maybe it’s your religion. That kind of fits, as the second verse proclaims that “She’s not waiting on a savior to come”, and the live performances on the Pop*Mart Tour all started with a little monologue from Bono that described his own search for God and how the world, instead, offered him religion. Yeah, that makes a kind of sense to me, and it definitely fits in with the themes explored throughout the rest of the Pop album.
Speaking of the live performances on the Pop*Mart Tour, I really feel that “Last Night on Earth” really came alive when performed in front of an audience. I think that the expression of the song’s message was aided immeasurably by the aforementioned monologue that Bono would give at the start of the song. Also, Edge, Larry and Adam seemed to really enjoy playing the song – it’s a good, solid, rock song with important contributions from each member of the band, so it’s not hard to see why they would have a good time with it. The final aspect of the live performances that really grabbed me, and probably my favorite part of the song, was the extended jam that the band launched into at the song’s end. This portion of the song gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. Unfortunately, although “Last Night on Earth” was played at each and every one of the stops that the Pop*Mart Tour made, the song hasn’t been played live since then. Maybe in 2022 the band will revisit Pop for the album’s twenty-fifth anniversary and the song will be resurrected. Until then, we’ll have to content ourselves with the Mexico City DVD that features “Last Night on Earth” along with many of the song’s album-mates, all of which seem to have been forgotten by the band.