Tuesday, October 16, 2012

"We Get to Carry Each Other"

It's a bit foolish to think that there's a single verse of a single song in the history of music that could be a person's Favorite Verse Ever. Then again, of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, you wouldn't think Ilsa could pick Rick's Cafe, right?

My Favorite Verse Ever isn't necessarily The Best Verse Ever, although it's damn near perfect in my book:

Well it's too late
Tonight
to drag the past out
Into the light.
We're one
but we're not the same
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other
One

Doesn't seem like much, does it? My favorite verse ever is a scant 30 words. It's barely enough to make two haiku. (Haikus? Haikee? Haikea?)

If you don't recognize it, this is the second half of the second verse from "One" by U2, which merits consideration as one of the best-written pop songs of the last quarter-century, maybe ever. For such a simple-seeming song, the interpretations of its meaning vary wildly. Some say it's about the band on the verge of a breakup, or about the possible breakup of Bono's marriage, or about the schizophrenic nature of Germany before and after its reunification. Doesn't matter, really, does it? I'm partial to it being about "all of the above." Whatever the specific inspiration, the song is ultimately about dichotomy.

The first verse transitions into an exploration of "one":

(You say)
One love
One life
When it's one need
In the night

The second verse mirrors the first with a brilliantly subtle exploration of "two" (numerology used for emphasis):

(Well it's)
2 late
2 night
2 drag the past out
in 2 the light

This isn't intended to be a Prince allusion. Although the man of paisley and purple deserves props, this song's structure and particularly this verse feels e.e. cummings-esque.

The use of "two" in each of the lines without directly referencing the number, and following it with "We're one / but we're not the same" is perfect. It doesn't try too hard. It's not overtly or excessively cute or clever. It doesn't demand attention. Four lines and four dichotomies: now & later, night & day, past & present, light & dark. Two... two... two... two... we're one...

Throw in a few good Biblical references. Throw in the brilliant "is that a reference to sex?" line of "Well we hurt each other / then we do it again." The entire song floors me, to be honest, but it all revolves around those twos of verse two.

Marriage, civil war, presidential elections, reunions. If you've loved, if you've felt simultaneously a part of something and completely isolated...

We're not the same
We get to
Carry each other


Do you have a favorite verse ever?

5 comments:

cinderkeys said...

Dunno about a favorite verse. A bunch of favorite lines.

I guess they can't revoke your soul for trying ----The Grateful Dead

I helped her out of a jam, I guess, but I used a little too much force ----Bob Dylan

Hard-pressed to think of anything recent. Hmm.

Incidentally, I recently wrote a song called "One." I tried to think of a different name (difficult, because "One" was perfect for it), not wanting to copy U2. Then I remembered that Three Dog Night had put out a big hit called "One" long before U2 existed, and I went ahead and used it.

Daisy said...

Rick Springfield, mixed tapes, movies about misfit teens and early 90s U2. Are y'all trying to make me relive my youth or just make me feel old?

goofytakemyhand said...

Stay alive inside,
don't be a stranger
Keep a line open to
the folks back home
Don't run and hide
when everything changes
Walk between the raindrops
dry as a bone

James McMurtry

Billy said...

@cinder - Ain't no harm done by one more song called "One." It takes one to know one, right?

@daisy - We're now at the age where no one has to make us feel old. We're at the age where someone has to exert effort to make us feel young.

@goofy - Excellent choice! Thanks for adding it so that I can rest assured that someone took my question seriously!

troutking said...

Here's one that's always meant a lot to me:


Good and bad, I define these terms
Quite clear, no doubt, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

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