With just over a month until Songs of Experience’s predicted release date, as we are awaiting confirmation of that date and a few other details, I’m still excited about “You’re the Best Thing About Me.” The first single from U2’s forthcoming album has sustained me through all the weeks of wondering about Songs of Experience. If this (along with “The Blackout” and “The Little Things That Give You Away”) is an accurate taste of what we can expect from Songs of Experience, then the new album is going to be one of U2’s best. I’ve been listening to some of the alternate versions of “You’re the Best Thing About Me” almost as much as I have to the original version, and that’s got me thinking about B-sides. Surely, if this song had been released as a traditional single, with B-sides, these alternate versions would have been those additional tracks on the single. So, in honor of B-sides, I thought that today I’d cover another one of my favorite B-sides that U2 has ever released – “Are You Gonna Wait Forever.”
It’s true that unique B-sides are often a poor indicator of what the actual album that they’re taken from is going to sound like. More often than not, these songs are on the single not because they weren’t good enough to make the album in question, but because they didn’t fit in with that album or its theme. Oddly enough, though, “Are You Gonna Wait Forever”, from the “Vertigo” single that preceded 2004’s How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, actually gave us some good insight into what we could expect from that album. I maintain that How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb was U2’s most straightforward rock album since War, and as such, “Are You Gonna Wait Forever”, with it’s basic drums-bass-guitar-vocals formula was a good omen of what would be on the album. Every U2 album has a unique flavor, a sound or a style or a color that is distinctive among the band’s catalog, and the thing that set How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb apart was the sound of songs like “Vertigo”, “All Because of You”, and “Love and Peace or Else” – that is, an uncomplicated, unadorned rock sound. “Are You Gonna Wait Forever” fits right in with those other songs, with its distinctive riffing from Edge and Adam and Larry’s patented driving, solid rhythm.
The premise of the song is also fairly simple, and it is summed up by the song’s title. The song is also closely tied in with Bono’s activism, I believe. The idea is this: are you going to seize the day, are you going to take today to make a positive change in the world, or are you going to wait until a tomorrow that may never come? I can easily picture Bono thinking thoughts like these to motivate himself to take action on days when he’d rather stay in bed or be with his family.
“Are You Gonna Wait Forever” has never been performed live, and I think that’s a real shame. This up-tempo rocker would surely have audiences grooving even if they weren’t hardcore U2 fans. I guess that’s the problem with having so many hits, though – there are certain songs that people expect to hear, and it’s hard enough to fit all of those song into a two hour concert without adding virtually unknown songs to further complicate matters. Still, if U2 ever undertake a tour where the songs are chosen by request, I’ll be front and center with my vote for “Are You Gonna Wait Forever”.