U2101 – Fez/Being Born

I often think about how different No Line On the Horizon could have been had U2 stuck to their original plans. Apparently, the album, before it was released, was quite different– remember, producer Daniel Lanois said at one point that the album was as much of a departure from How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb as Achtung Baby was from what had come before that record. Considering the location of recording, along with a few bits that slipped through the cracks and made it into the final release, I believe it. I think that No Line On the Horizon, as it was conceived, was to be quite the adventurous record, melding some Eastern ideas and sounds with what we are used to in the West as more traditional rock/pop. It seems that the boys in U2 felt some trepidation about the whole affair, so the Eastern elements were scaled back and what resulted was an album that many fans and the band itself seem to be disappointed with. The one song that no one seemed to have anything negative to say about was “Fez/Being Born,” which some listeners described as riskier and more daring than the rest of the record turned out to be. Personally, it does remind me a bit of something off of Zooropa, which is probably U2’s most experimental record, but there is a sheen over the song…a sound to the guitar that I can’t quite put my finger on that sets the song apart. It seems that the working title of the track was “Chromium Chords,” which I believe describes the song quite nicely.
“Fez/Being Born” is really two tracks in one, as you might guess from the conjoined title. The first part, presumably titled “Fez” (for the city where much of the album was conceived and recorded) is a sonic collage that features, among other sounds, a repeat of Bono’s “Let me in the sound” chant from “Get On Your Boots.” In fact, at one point, before the tour that followed this album was officially announced, I thought that the tour was going to be called the Let Me in the Sound Tour because I read somewhere online that the tour was to be named after an idea or a lyric that appeared several times on the album, and that concept seemed to me to be the most obvious and fitting choice.
The second part of the track, which I imagine is titled “Being Born,” is where things get really interesting. There is a fantastic driving rhythm that always makes me think of a car speeding down a lonely highway, eating up the miles as it hurtles toward who-knows-where. This feeling fits the lyric, which seems to be all about setting out on a life-changing journey, one that there is likely no coming back from. Bono sums this concept up with a particularly poignant line, “Headfirst, then foot, then heart set sail.” Pure poetry, that.
“Fez/Being Born has never been performed live, and I suspect that the reason might simply be that the song is a little on the complicated side. Still, if the boys could pull off “Zooropa,” which sounds equally complicated to me, then I suspect that they could play “Fez/Being Born.” Personally, I’d love for them to perform this song live. What do you think?

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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.