What is the definition of a good song? Does it make you move? Does it move you? Does it lift your spirits when the chips are down? Or, maybe it establishes a deeper, more intimate connection with you to such a degree that it resonates across the breadth of your life?
November 2001. I had heard U2 before, but they were random songs that were played on MTV and Channel V back in the day. I wasn’t interested in their music a lot, however, this junior from Patna asked me to give them another chance and played “Where the streets have no name” on his Walkman. This was the first time I got to hear the famous Edge delayed guitar effect. And, things changed forever. I started saving money, to buy as many U2 cassettes as I could manage. I purchased “The Joshua Tree”, “The Unforgettable Fire” and their compilation “The best of 1980-1990” just for starters. All for the love of the delayed guitar, playing note after note with a delicious aftertaste.
My love for U2 started rubbing off on my younger brother too. In a household full of music, both of us would spend a lot of time sitting down together and listening to them. Time went on, I moved to Delhi. Venky, a Kumar Sanu fan from Mumbai, became one of my closest friends and then went on to become my flatmate. As is the thing with friends who live together, we exchanged a lot of things including music. I introduced him to U2, and he developed a liking for it, so much so that when he purchased his first iPod he uploaded U2 songs on it. Time moved on, Venky came to Mumbai and I was working in Chennai, and one day he bought a touch phone. I still remember his message.” Listening to ‘my’ U2 collection.”
Somewhere in the middle of 2019, I got a call from Venky and he gave me the news that U2 was performing in India, Tickets were bought and on the 15th of December, the concert happened. Listening to “Where the streets have no name” that day is an emotional high point of my life. And the feeling was heightened because it was in the presence of two people who kept the song alive through the years. It was almost like the fructification of a lifetime of devotion.
Around a week later, I was driving back from Jamshedpur to Ranchi, cutting across rural Jharkhand. To keep myself occupied I started listening to U2 and after a few songs “ Where the streets have no name” started playing. My mind was taken to the indelible events from a few days back, as to how the universe seemed to have stopped in the beauty of the night. I set the song on loop, and then suddenly realized that the true meaning of the song had escaped me all this while. Here I was, in clean, unspoilt countrysides not marred by “development” and was listening to these lines;
“I want to feel sunlight on my face
I see that dust cloud disappear without a trace
I wanna take shelter from the poison rain
Where the streets have no name,”
And it was almost as if the song had a connection to the place I called home. I stopped my car in front of a small highway “hotel” and grabbed some aloo chops and sat there, taking in the serenity of my surroundings. I have always maintained that I don’t feel as strong a connection with any other place, the way I feel for Ranchi and its adjoining areas. Creation seems to work in strange ways. Here I was, in a very remote part of the country where the streets definitely didn’t have names, feeling the lovely sunlight amidst the biting winter ( it gets very cold there). The song, which had made me forever captivated by U2 and their beloved guitar in 2001 was attaining a deeper, more moving significance altogether. The lyrics have been interpreted in a variety of ways, but at that point in time, it stood for the utopian idea of peace of mind which can only come at a place where you belong. That coupled with the echoing chords which have been played in my thoughts over a billion times was a sense of high which could only be called spiritual.
I would like you to come and experience this with me, As the masters themselves have put in the song;
“Oh when I go there
I go there with you
It’s all I can do”