2017 was, as I’m sure you know the anniversaries of a couple of U2 albums–The Joshua Tree, celebrating thirty years, and Pop, which was released twenty years ago last year. We spent a good deal of time commemorating both releases, both here in these articles of mine and elsewhere (including a little tour that you might have heard something about). It only seems fair, in light of all of those celebrations, to recognize that this year marks thirty years since the release of the first U2 album I ever bought, Rattle and Hum. It’s true that Rattle and Hum didn’t enjoy the critical acclaim of its predecessor, and the band often seems to want to make believe that the album was never released, but it is still worth remembering that it contains some absolutely essential U2 classics–songs like “Desire,” “Hawkmoon 269,” and today’s topic, “God Part 2.”
Contrary to Yoko Ono’s apparent belief, “God Part 2” isn’t a cover of my favorite John Lennon song, but it is a sequel. If you’re not in the know, Lennon’s song “God” is a piano driven piece that includes a list of all of the things that Lennon didn’t believe in, such as God, The Beatles, Hitler, and so on. His song ends with the with the proclamation “I just believe in me; Yoko and Me. That’s reality.” Taking a cue from Lennon, Bono wrote the lyrics to “God Part 2” as a list of several things that he doesn’t believe in, but each stanza ends with the thought that, much like Lennon, one of Bono’s personal heroes, the singer does believe in love. The song is a little bit political, a little bit spiritual, and a little bit revolutionary, but it all comes together as a kind of sermon that preaches about the dangers of the flesh and the rewards of Biblical charity (AKA love).
The music to U2’s track couldn’t be more different from the Lennon song that inspired it. Where Lennon’s piano is quiet, thoughtful and a little melancholy, “God Part 2” is rockin’ and rollin’, with loud distorted guitars, frantic, pounding drums and a heavy bass line that serves as the backbone of the song, especially during the more subdued verses. Bono’s voice is in fine form on this track, with one of his best, most strident vocals ever accompanying the more frenzied instrumental sections.
“God Part 2 has only ever been performed on the Lovetown Tour, but I think that its high time U2 brought this high-energy song back into their setlist. I’m not sure exactly where it would fit in–that depends on the rest of the show, but it seems to me that U2 often wants a dynamic ball of fire to open the encores with, and “God Part 2 ” would be perfect in that spot. I guess that it remains to be seen, but if the band really wants to surprise some people with a long-neglected gem from their back catalog, “God Part 2” would be the perfect place to start. Then again, I’m still waiting for “Acrobat,” so what do I know?