Bono’s new book, Surrender, is a memoir in forty reflections, each taking its name from a different U2 song.
Ah, yes: the “catorce” song.
Let me kick this reflection off by getting something out of the way: You ungrateful pieces of shit.
You just couldn’t let me have one, huh? Bono’s not allowed to make mistakes, I guess.
It’s funny—no, really, it is—you can sing, “Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief / All kill their inspiration and sing about their grief,” a thousand times, and nobody bats an eye.
But the second you sing, “Uno, dos, tres, catorce”? Forget it. You’re the catorce guy.
I’ve got a question for all you snarky little shits.
What do you think the Spanish-language offerings in Dublin, circa 1971, were like? Do you reckon they were robust? Well. They weren’t. And Y Tu Mamá También didn’t exist yet. So don’t pull that card.
Want to hear my theory?
You people wouldn’t know a good thing if it ran you over with a truck. After 9/11, what was playing on every radio station in the country to help you tune out the news cycle? To help you feel something resembling hope? Yep. It was “Beautiful Day.” If 9/11 was your sensitivity to light, “Beautiful Day” was your pair of Armani prescription sunglasses. It shielded you from all that you could not bear to face. You put it in your graduation montages and your Fourth of July fireworks shows. You got a lot of mileage out of “Beautiful Day.”
Fast forward. It’s a few years later. New album. New lead single.
I don’t know what I was expecting. A hero’s welcome? Maybe! Maybe I did.
And that’s on me. That’s on ol’ Bonbon. Mea culpa. Whatever. Next song.
In case you’re wondering, though, I don’t do it anymore. When we play “Vertigo” live, I mean. I don’t say “catorce.”
I don’t replace it with “cuatro,” either.
I could. I know how to. But I refuse.
It would make you feel so big if I changed the lyric to “cuatro,” wouldn’t it? It would make you feel like you had some kind of sick power over me. Like your sad little life means anything next to the high that I experience every night as I stride into an entirely sold-out stadium with thousands of people chanting my name (which I made up), singing along to words I wrote (but not “catorce,” not anymore), with my best friend, who also got to make up his name, by my side.
But in time, I’ve come to realize something. I don’t have to sing “cuatro” just because you made me feel small. Roslyn (my therapist’s name is Roslyn) says I don’t owe you anything.
Anyway. Next one. For real this time.
City of Blinding Lights
Big tune. Fun song where you can just crank the volume and belt it. This one never fails to get the crowd going. It’s bright, anthemic, and absolutely free of blunders in a foreign language.
Because, apparently, that’s what matters.
It doesn’t matter if the biggest band in the world, who honestly could’ve sold out a long time ago, put their heart and soul into a record.
One wrong word. That’s what you choose to remember. And honestly, I pity you.
Look. I know “catorce” means fourteen. And not just now. l knew it on the day we recorded. I got a little swept up and made a mistake. It can happen to anyone. Literally anyone. You’re not exempt just because you haven’t been to Davos or met the Dalai Lama. On every pedestal of life, high or low, you rest on a brittle column of “catorce.” I pray that when yours falls out from under you, you handle it half as well as I did.
I’m doing fine now, though.
That’s pretty much all I have to say on the subject. This is my last word on the song “Vertigo” and its count-off, which I guess failed to be the Rosetta Stone of pop music or whatever the fuck you guys were expecting.
Get Out of Your Own Way
The Dalai Lama loves “Vertigo.” He says the count-off is refreshing and more about a feeling than any strict meaning. It’s a rock song. He gets it.