This week, we’re covering another early gem from the “world’s biggest band,” U2, in the song “Twilight,” which was first released as the B-side on U2’s second single, Another Day, and then saw the light of day once again, with significantly different lyrics, on the Boy album. I really appreciate that U2 took the time and the care to re-record this song, because the second of the two releases is much more accomplished, and is therefore the one that we will be focusing on today. That said, I don’t want to ignore the first version entirely, so let me just say that if you take the Boy version, slow it down a tad, add in a weird, part rapped, part sung section toward the end of the song and make the whole thing generally less polished and professional, you’ve got the original version. It isn’t what I would call “bad,” and it is a good example of what U2 were up to in the early eighties, but the album version is so much better.
I’ve always wondered about the lyrics to the album version–are they really about what they seem to be about? The lines in the second stanza of the first verse about an old man wanting to walk the singer home…perhaps my mind is twisted, but it has always seemed to me that Bono is singing about potentially becoming the victim of abuse, That could go with the theme of the song…”in the shadow, boy meets man,” but I tend to think that the rest of the song is all about a young man coming to grips with his own sexuality, and feeling a bit ashamed of it or himself. But then we have the second verse, “I’m running in the rain, I’m caught in a late night play. It’s all, it’s everything, I’m soaking through the skin.” This could be about trying to escape from a predator in the rain late at night, or it could just be a convenient collection of rhyming words that add to the tension and drama of the song, and not really about anything. So, I have to confess that I am torn about the meaning of this song. I am fairly sure that the bit about a youngster facing up to their own sexuality is in there, but I’m not sure if that is the only intended layer or if there is a darker undertone as well.
“Twilight” was a not-uncommon feature in early setlists, up through and including those of the War Tour, but like a lot of these early songs, it hasn’t appeared since then. I wouldn’t mind hearing “Twilight” live once again, but it is not at the top of my list of songs that I’d like the band to revisit. Perhaps that is because “Twilight” starts out with the singer still in the realm of “boy,” before he loses that innocence and moves on to become a “man.” It isn’t where the band members are right now, so it would lack that crucial element of truth. However, if one ignores the lyrics, “Twilight” is a heck of a rock and roll song, one where the whole band really shines, so maybe if Bono found himself up to re-writing the lyrics once more, it could really be a show-stopper.