U2 VidWorks – Night and Day

Today we are talking about the promotional video for U2’s cover of Cole Porter’s “Night and Day.” This video is interesting for several reasons, the first of which is that it was the first song to incorporate some electronic elements, and therefore to break with the more traditional rock music that U2 had been doing up to this point. It is also the band’s first collaboration with German film director Wim Wenders. He directed this video and would go on to work with the band many more times. I really have mixed feelings about this video. It is painfully obvious when watching that the members of U2 were still struggling with trying to find ways to keep the band relevant in the 90s and beyond. Indeed, there are moments in this video that make me cringe outright because it seems like the guys in the band have no idea what they are supposed to be doing. It feels like the members of U2 were dealing with what their individual roles should be in the new decade, or if there should even be a U2 any longer. Additionally, the clothes that the band members are wearing in this video, their hairstyles, and other sartorial elements appear particularly dated and out of place when shown alongside what was then the extreme modernity of the music. Truly, U2 was a band in flux at this point, and as awkward as it is to watch at times, “Night and Day” serves as a valuable record of four men caught between trying to move forward and trying to hold on desperately to what had always worked before. Thankfully, they found a way to update their sound, fashions, and image, because if they hadn’t, it is very likely that there would be no U2 today.
There is also the infamous scene where Bono cuts his thumb on a razor blade. When this video was first aired on television back in 1990 as part of an AIDS awareness campaign, the video for “Night and Day” included a quick shot of Bono cutting his thumb and blood coming out of the cut. That particular edit of the video has never been shown again and is very, very rare. All of the copies of this video that one might find nowadays online are edited to excise the blood, and the whole thing bothers me a little bit. Now, I’m not sure if this was Bono’s idea of if the director asked him to do it, but it is definitely a little gauche and unsophisticated to cut oneself on camera. There are other ways to demonstrate passion and intense feelings. Even more than that, though, it bothers me that no trace of the original video can be found today…its almost as if someone was ashamed of the scene and had it removed from existence altogether. Honestly, the thumb-cutting is a little uncultured, but it isn’t really that shocking or outlandish by today’s standards, and I think that it is time that the original, unedited video be re-released. As an artistic choice, I don’t like the bloody thumb, but it doesn’t offend me. What offends me is that the original statement as it was filmed is now unavailable. If the blood bothers viewers, then they can always fall back on the edited version. Anyway, that’s how I feel about it, and it is likely that not being able to see the original unedited version has soured me a little bit on the video on the whole. Please feel free to comment below and let me know how you feel about this video.

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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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