U2101 – I Fall Down

For those of you looking to make summer travel plans, I have a recommendation for you. Cincinnati, Ohio is a great town, with tons of wonderful restaurants, attractions, restaurants, events, and, yes, restaurants. I grew up in the Queen City of the mid-west and I still miss it terribly. Unfortunately, U2 has only visited Cincy one time, way back in 1981. That visit was notable, however, for the fact that U2 debuted a new song  at that concert, a song titled “I Fall Down.” This was just about six months before the song would be released to the world at large as track two of October, U2’s second LP. Although no recording of “I Fall Down’s” debut has surfaced, there are a handful of other recordings of the song from early 1981, and it seems pretty clear that the song as it was performed in Cincinnati was, in some ways, fairly different from what became the official version of the song. To start with, there was no piano in the song as it was originally performed, and the drums were much heavier…more prominent and punkier. Some of the lyrics were also quite different, and Bono’s vocal was also more aggressive. The whole package was significantly less polished and poppy when compared to the studio version.

I may have lost some of you as soon as you saw what song I was covering today…the whole October album has a bad rep, one that is entirely undeserved, as far as I am concerned. Songs like “Gloria,” “I Fall Down,” “Scarlet,” and “Rejoice” are all standouts from what is consistently named as U2’s worst album. In many ways, October takes the work that U2 did with Boy and moves it in a direction that would more closely fit in with the majority of U2’s output. That is to say, pop-rock. I know, I know…pop is a dirty word, but I think that U2 is a great example of just what that genre can accomplish if the songwriters actually have something worthwhile to say, and “I Fall Down” is a great example of that. Bono has introduced “I Fall Down” by talking about how we all fail but truly great people get back up again. Perhaps it is telling that the original title of the song was “When I Fall Down,” a title that speaks to the inevitability of failure. Think about the early days of U2, and how many opportunities they had to give up. Because they persisted, though, we have all been gifted forty years of the greatest music that has ever been recorded or performed live. I think that we can all learn something from that example.

The early arrangement of “I Fall Down” stayed around through each of the song’s appearances on the Boy Tour…fifteen, in total. By the time the October tour rolled around later that same year, the song had morphed into its more familiar arrangement, and all subsequent performances were in that style. Depending on what U2 does next, I think that a revival of “I Fall Down” is in order. In fact, I believe that it’s time to give some love to the trio of albums that U2 seems to have disowned…October, Pop, and No Line on the Horizon. The US Leg of the eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE Tour, with “Gloria” and “Staring at the Sun” was a great start, so let’s see some more obscure cuts from that trio of albums next time out. I honestly believe that the material is strong enough to interest even casual fans, and hardcore fans would welcome the fact that something rare was getting some exposure. Let me know what you think of my ideas in the comment section below, and thanks for reading.

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Ever since I realized as a kid, while poring over the liner notes of the Bob Marley - Songs of Freedom boxed set, that writing about music was a viable career choice, one of my greatest desires has been to write about U2. The band has been a major part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I'm thrilled to have this opportunity to contribute a little something to the fantastic online community that's been built around the band.

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