With Valentine’s Day this week, I thought that it would be appropriate to cover one of the love songs from U2’s latest album. I chose the bonus track “The Book of Your Heart,” which is only available on the deluxe edition of Songs of Experience. As I said, it is a love song, but it is not a flowery, saccharine one (not that U2’s love songs ever are). Instead, the song takes a mature look at the mechanics that make a romantic relationship work. Love can be an overpowering emotion, but love is also hard work, and it is definitely a decision that lovers have to make if they want their relationship to succeed.
The song starts out with a throbbing, hypnotic keyboard riff that sounds very modern and interesting. Bono’s vocal joins this sound, and here we find out favorite singer crooning in a lower register that he doesn’t use very often. It is quite compelling, and this sober, subdued sound lends credence to the idea that this is no throw-away piece of romantic fluff. After Bono has completed the first verse, which includes some stunningly beautiful melodies, the rest of the band kick in for the chorus. It isn’t until the last chorus and the short stanzas that follow it that Bono really lets loose with his voice, and that juxtaposition in his vocal makes the last ninety seconds or so of this song quite powerful. Edge plays a beautiful guitar solo as Adam and Larry hammer out a powerful rhythm — Larry is really smashing the cymbals here — then Bono soars into the last two stanzas that conclude the song. It is all quite compelling.
“The Book of Your Heart” has some of my favorite lyrics on an album that I consider to have excellent, thought-provoking lyrics throughout. Perhaps the most cogent of these comes near the end of the song — “Love is what we choose to do.” After the initial rush of intense feeling ebbs, we have to choose to remain in love with our partners. It isn’t always easy, but I believe that Bono has found it to be worthwhile, just as I have. Another set of lyrics that I enjoy comes in the first verse. “Right at the start, you put this into words — how you think we should proceed.” I can totally imagine Bono’s “landlady,” Ali, expressing how she envisioned their relationship proceeding. For some reason, I always imagine Ali as being the more pragmatic in that couple, while I think of Bono as more impulsive and hot-blooded, and so perhaps my ideas about this song are influenced by that assumption, but it is a fun image to hold in my mind.
I’m really not sure what the future will hold for this song. If it does get performed live, I expect that it will only be once or twice — much like the very occasional performances of “Lucifer’s Hands” and “The Crystal Ballroom,” the duo of which received a total of five performances on the Innocence + Experience Tour. I would love to hear the song performed on a regular basis, but I fear that it simply isn’t to be. At least, if the band plays the song even once, it is sure to be recorded so that we can all enjoy it for ever and ever.