Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Silver and Gold by U2

In the 1980’s I discovered one of my favorite bands of all time, U2. I got into them before they got real big, and I remember buying the ground-breaking Joshua Tree album and its follow up, Rattle & Hum, which consisted of new studio songs and live cuts from the Joshua Tree album. I remember how exhilarating U2’s music sounded to my 27 year old ears.
One of the songs that capture my imagination was "Silver and Gold," written in support of the Artists United Against Apartheid project, which protested the South African apartheid. The lyrics speak of the history of oppression Africans have gone through, from the slave trade to Apartheid in South Africa. The song was originally featured on the project's 1985 album, Sun City, performed by Bono with Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood of The Rolling Stones. It was re-recorded by U2 for the single while the band returned to Dublin during in May 1987 during a break between the first and second legs of The Joshua Tree Tour. The song was described by Musician as "tough and raw, with Bono in husky and confident voice, underpinned by a sinuous bass line, and with The Edge demonstrating his newfound prowess in blues-based guitar. “Silver and Gold" was played live on The Joshua Tree Tour several times, one performance of which was featured on the band's 1988 album and rockumentary, Rattle and Hum. Both the studio recording and the Sun City versions were later featured on the bonus disc of the 20th anniversary edition of The Joshua Tree. The studio version was also included on the limited edition B-sides bonus disk of the band's first compilation album, The Best of 1980 - 1990.
At the end live version of the song on the Rattle & Hum LP and movie, Bono gives a small sermon about Apartheid:
“Yep, silver and gold. This song was written in a hotel room in New York City 'round the time a friend of ours, Little Steven, was putting together a record of artists against apartheid. This is a song written about a man in a shanty town outside of Johannesburg. A man who's sick and tired of looking down the barrel of white South Africa. A man who is at the point where he is ready to take up arms against his oppressor. A man who has lost faith in the peacemakers of the west while they argue and while they fail to support a man like bishop Tutu and his request for economic sanctions against South Africa. Am I buggin' you? I don't mean to bug ya. Okay Edge, play the blues!”

Lyrics to Silver and Gold:
In the shit house a shotgun
Praying hands hold me down
Only the hunter was hunted
In this tin can town
Tin can town

No stars in the black night
Looks like the sky fell down
No sun in the daylight
Looks like it's chained to the ground
Chained to the ground
The warden said:
"The exit is sold.
If you want a way out,
Silver and gold."

Broken back to the ceiling
Broken nose to the floor
I scream at the silence, it's crawling
It crawls under the door
There's a rope around my neck
And there's a trigger in your gun
Jesus say something
I am someone, I am someone
I am someone

Captain and kings
In the ships hold
They came to collect
Silver and gold
Silver and gold

Seen the coming and the going
Seen them captains and the kings
See them navy blue uniforms
See them bright and shiny things
Bright shiny things

The temperature is rising
The fever white hot
Mister, I ain't got nothing
But it's more than you got

Chains no longer bind me
Not the shackles at my feet
Outside are the prisoners
Inside the free
Set them free
Set them free

A prize fighter in a corner is told
Hit where it hurts
Silver and gold
Silver and gold

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