“4th of July” is one of those songs from The Unforgettable Fire that I feel would have been better as a B-side. Honestly, it’s not that I dislike the song, although it isn’t my favorite, I often wonder what The Unforgettable Fire would have been like if it had contained one more “real” song instead of this instrumental. The funny thing is that a different version of “4th of July” was used as a B-side when U2 included a slightly longer version on the single for “Pride (In the Name of Love).” There was also a third, even longer version that saw release on the 1995 gold remastered version of The Unforgettable Fire that was prepared by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, who was also responsible for remasters of War and The Joshua Tree. These were completely separate and different from the later remasters that were done by the band itself, which saw release in the late ’00s.
“4th of July” is a slow, brooding instrumental track that gradually builds but never quite reaches what I would consider a climax. It doesn’t go much of anywhere at all, really. It is pretty enough, I suppose, but it lacks the dynamic and melodic features that make most U2 songs such treasures. The most notable feature of the song is the persistent bass riff that drives things forward. In addition to that bass, the song mostly consists of lots of strumming and keyboards, and little else. If I were pressed, I might confess that I sometimes skip this track when I am listening to The Unforgettable Fire, just to get to the good stuff that comes after this track…namely, “Bad”, the greatest song ever recorded. There is probably something to be said for the fact that “4th of July” comes right in the middle of the album, so I imagine that it is supposed to serve as a kind of palate cleanser in between the two halves of the record. Thinking about it now, it seems pretty clear that the track is meant to be an intermission, not a stand-alone song. I guess that I can live with that.
“4th of July” has never been performed as a live track, but it did manage to make its presence felt at the concerts of the Unforgettable Fire Tour, where it was used as an introduction before the band took the stage. I feel that the song worked well in this capacity, getting concert-goers “in the mood” with something from the band that they had come to see. Honestly, this is probably the only way that the song could have been used that made any sense…it is much too slow to be of interest as a live track, but it was perfect as a signal to those who were familiar with the Unforgettable Fire album that the concert was about to start. It also served as a nice juxtaposition, allowing the band to open the concerts with some high-energy number that would seem all the more interesting when compared to the music that came before it. I would be curious to hear from you readers…does anyone have a different opinion of “4th of July”? Is it a favorite of anyones? Make sure to comment below and let me know, and thanks for reading.