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October 26, 2006


so i neglected to bring this up in class because i wanted you to have more time to talk about everything... but caitlin and i both think of the "jesus 'round her neck" phrase in "vertigo" as one more facet of the spinning world image. you described it as an emblem of peace in a mixed-up world, but is it possible that this image of christ used as decoration, is an image of him taken the wrong way, just like everything else that is chaotic in the song's world? just food for thought...

and also, the library event went great! my friends lauren bagato and jenn enns-rempel made commitments to take the class if you ever offered it again - and they said to me that the presentation was really moving. i was chatting with them last night, and u2 came up in conversation (and especially casual lyric references!) at least five times... you got them hooked!

Tim, and who ever else wants to think about this. Have any of you heard anyone give an explination for the beginning of this song. Unos dos tres catorce? Other than Bono saying there might have been too much drink involved? Maybe this has been talked about but I have just missed it but I think this is pretty cool.

Shortly after the song was released I was thinking about it one day. Knowing they use scripture and verse at times for things I went through the NT looking at the 3:14 in every book. I didn't have to go far to find this. Look at Ephesians 3:14 in the NAS "For this reason I bow my knees before the Father," I just found that interesting with one of the main lines (if not the very main line) "Your love is teaching me how to kneel."

Maybe this has already been discussed. I just haven't heard it.

Hi Kent - Here's a series of explanations floating around for 1,2,3,14:

-some drink involved (Bono)
-sequence of U2 albums produced by Lillywhite
-1st testament, 2nd book, 3rd chapter, 14th verse which is the giving of the name Yahweh, I AM, thus giving the first, central, and last song on the album a reference to that verse.
-a "turn it up to 11" kind of idea (Bruce Springsteen at their RNRHOF induction)
-and probably others

Hi Jessica-
When I first heard Vertigo I immediately gave the line the kind of meaning you suggest (I even published it as a contribution to a "fans react to Vertigo the day it comes out" rush piece on @U2) -- I thought either that it referred to a cheapening / commercialization of the Cross as a fashion statement, or that it was an image for feeling very vulnerable and unsteady in the face of temptation (if you read the sentence straight through, you can hear it as focusing on how the girl "has Jesus... swinging to the music" - that's what I said in the article, thought I thought the word was "swaying" since there were no official lyrics yet).

I was really surprised to hear Bono give what seemed a much more pious reading of the line in an interview awhile later, saying that he was thinking of being in a club and focusing his gaze on the cross around someone's neck as a symbol of salvation and something to cling to. I still like my reading better! ;-)

Okay Beth, I don't usually get this way, but I'm a little freaked by your last comment on "uno, dos...." Just yesterday I read the Exodus 3:14 passage with students in class as a way to introduce the "Yahweh" idea with connection to "All Because of You" and "Yahweh." I hadn't heard the explanation you provide, but it makes perfect sense. As I present theological reflections on U2 I'm really trying to stay away from the Nostradamus type projections, but it seems the "rabbit hole" gets deeper (at least for me) all the time!

Jessica, my response to your question about "Vertigo" is similar to Beth's. At one point U2.com had sound bytes posted from the band members about the songs on HTDAAB. Bono stated that the image of Jesus was meant to be grounding/anchoring in a confusing tumultuous world. It was the only thing that made sense in this virtual club called Vertigo. It seems it is meant to be a vision of hope.

I'm not positive I agree with the Genesis 3:14 theory, but it does fit awfully well. Do you know much about JS Bach? I wrote my undergrad thesis on his setting of the Passion narrative from St. Matthew. He was fascinated by Biblical numerology, and would work it into his pieces in the most amazing ways -- not just verse references, but doctrines, and things like 10 of something meaning the 10 commandments. It's all done in a way you would never notice from the music until you started consciously looking and saying "what theological symbolism could there be in this number?" I'm certainly not saying U2 are doing anything remotely like that (tho I suspect the Edge would be more than capable), but they're certainly the only band for whom it's ever occurred to me to make an analogy with Bach here!

thanks for responding to my musings, guys... and i wonder if there's something to be said for taking the image both ways. maybe the only consolation we can have in the chaos of the club is found in things OF the club, cheap and commercialized though they might be. jesus can be hard to find sometimes amid the turbulence of the world around.

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