Last week, I wrote about how the “All I Want is You” single was the first time I ever bought a U2 single, and how much I loved the first B-side, U2’s cover of “Unchained Melody.” Well, of course, as a kid, I played the single for my mom…she agreed with me that the cover of “Unchained Melody” was exceptionally great, but when the next track came on, U2’s cover of “Everlasting Love,” I remember she said that it was “not their best effort.” For many years, I agreed with her about that, and I rarely listened to the single past the “Unchained Melody” cover. Recently, though, I’ve begun to rethink things. It is true that “Everlasting Love” is less spectacular than the former cover–it is much simpler, and a more straightforward rock song, with very little beyond the four primary colors of that genre. Even the guitar, which in “Unchained Melody” is strange and experimental sounding, almost hard to recognize as a guitar at all, here, in “Everlasting Love” is a pure, uncomplicated acoustic performance. The star of the show is really Bono’s exhorting vocal, and the melody of the song itself. By playing it simply in an old school rock style, U2 allow the strengths of the song to shine through. Those strengths include a beautiful melody, room for the singer to stretch his legs in the chorus, and some lovely lyrics.
Those lyrics tell a somewhat familiar tale in pop-rock–one lover does another wrong, and has come back begging for forgiveness. What makes this song unique is the length that the one who has returned is willing to go to, submitting here a marriage proposal–“Need you by my side, girl you’ll be my bride, you’ll never be denied everlasting love.” As I stated above, though, the thing that makes this performance truly special, and a worthy follow-up to “Unchained Melody,” is Bono’s vocal. If you pressed me, I’d probably be forced to admit that my favorite period for Bono’s voice was the Rattle and Hum era, and this song showcases why I feel that why. Bono’s voice absolutely soars here, taking the listener far away from their daily troubles. His voice practically bleeds with pathos and yearning, and it is all but impossible to be unaffected when listening. There’s that catch in Bono’s voice that is recognizable all around the world, there’s the aforementioned emotion, but there’s also a very slight rasp that comes out only when Bono is really pushing himself, and he does that here to great effect.
“Everlasting Love” has never been performed live by U2, and as I think about it, that really makes a sort of sense. It’s not an original song, it isn’t a cover that U2 is well known for, and no one, whether hardcore or casual fan, is dying to hear it from the band. I’d much prefer that U2 continue along the path that they’ve chosen for this current tour–playing a combination of new songs and more obscure album cuts that have been neglected in the past.