November 12, 2016

When U2 Confronted the Legacy of the Wall

Update:  Cool new article just posted on 25th anniversary of Achtung Baby and U2 coming to Berlin (and see my  take below).

One of U2’s most popular and, I’d say, greatest songs remains “One.” When it was released, shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, it was widely viewed, thanks to the celebrated (but quickly pulled) video below, as referring, at least partly, to reconciliation in Germany, although other interpretations have always existed, such as a response to the band’s near crack-up and the AIDS crisis. One recalls that it exploded from an album titled Achtung, Baby, still their finest. In any event, the video was shot in Berlin, and includes scenes of the Wall and Trabants, the East German junkmobile, before closing at Hitler’s infamous Olympia Stadium, which I have now visited twice–for a soccer match and a Springsteen concert.  One of the heroes of my new The Tunnels book (see cover and click at upper right of this pate), who dug an escape cavern under the Berlin Wall, recently told me he’d seen this video for the first time and felt “goosebumps.”

Marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Wall, U2 performed “One” at the Brandenburg Gate (you can find it on You Tube). Here’s the classic video.