How U2’s The Joshua Tree Changed My Life

The sky split open and God poured out.

U2- The Joshua Tree (1987)

One of the earliest memories of my life with regards to music came back in the late 1990’s or early 2000's. I remember sitting in the back seat of the car sandwiched between my two elder brothers on a typical traditional long journey out of town. I remembered the advent of the Sony Walkman which allowed both of my brothers to switch out the family chatter for the sounds of the universe, while I glared out of the window at the countryside with nothing but my thoughts and my unease at being trapped in the back seat with no distractions whatsoever.

Little did I know, soon after, something would happen that would change the way I lived thereon after. My father slipped in a shiny black CD into the radio player eloquently and that is when the real journey began. There was a good 5 second pause, and I thought to myself, this is just going to be something that I would have to put up with and forget by the time I get out of my car and it would be nothing that would be even be mildly enjoyable. I was wrong. Soon after, is when I started to travel not to different city, but rather to a different dimension.

The first song was a fitting ode to the circumstances I found myself in. There was a dark sound that engulfed the speakers, as if there was a forest fire we were floating through and all our windows were open. There was no fire, and the windows weren't open. Soon after, there was a seamless intelligent noise that started to blare out in the form of a repetitive, yet beautiful sound which touched quite literally danced off my skin. A new world for me was born. The voice danced through the car screaming ‘I want to run, I want to hide, I wanna tear down the walls, that hold me inside’. I became confused momentarily and i thought to myself what was going on, I couldn't fathom the nature of all this sound all at the same time, I did not know how to react or what to to do as i felt everything at the same time. The mellow guitar, the searing vocals signally the rebellious nature of the few, all up until I heard ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’ — that is when I knew for a fact, that on that day, wherever that car went, I would be alright with it. I would go wherever, if it meant that the sound went with me, because it was that moment i truly felt what it meant to be alive and to have existed in the first place.

Little did I know, this was all a start to something special, something that would change how i would see everything around me, how I would react to people who are in my life, and who would become a part of my life. How my feelings would evolve to the simplest of things that i would encounter down the line. The objective was set, it was time for action. I heard another intro to life, and then all I heard was bass and a beat that started to shake my soul back and forth. I wanted to get out of seat, I wanted to get out of the car, I wanted to get out of the world and really become something I was not — something new, something different. I wanted to climb mountains, I wanted to run through the fields, I wanted to scale, all the walls. Only to be left alone and never to be bothered again. It was something seminal, that was to be with me for the rest of time, and it was certainly not the only thing that would remain.

The element of perfect synchronisation was an absolute certainty by now. I had no idea what to expect next, but what I do remember, is that I was ready for it. Soon after, it arrived. What started as just a couple of sticks hitting the deck of the drum set and felt ordinary, changed into an anthem of survival as the bass line shook the windows and the interior. I could not believe that this was real, but that changed when the words whispered in a deep tone into my heart ‘See the stone set in your eyes, see the thorns twist in your side’. By then, I already had a flash of the heartbreak I would suffer for the rest of my life, but I knew that I would be able to take it. I knew it would not be pleasant, but I found that if I could learn to love it, that is all that mattered. What followed were by far the most beautiful words composed I have heard a soul say till this day and summed up what I would learn onto my later teen and early twenties, ‘My hands are tired, my body bruised, shes got me with nothing to win, and nothing left to lose’. By now, if it was not apparent that the music took me away, I can safely proclaim that ‘I gave myself away’. Pain is never pleasant, but it doesn’t need to be if you can learn to love it. That is what I learn that day.

What started as a typical family trip in the harsh scorching heat, turned out to be a lesson for the ages. What followed was 50 minutes and 11 seconds worth of gold plated silk that weaved into my soul like a jackhammer. It was essential and critical for me and my soul to listen to those sounds during my formative years as it taught me what to look for in the life, and how to look for it. It taught me to never settle for anything just for the sake of it, it showed me that there is a higher plane of existence, and what I must do to reach it and most importantly it allowed me to live with my demons without letting them get rid of me. It stays with me to this day. It is embarrassing to expect and want so much from music itself, except sometimes, it happens. It happened for me on that day. The sky split open and God poured out. He has remained with me to this day, and will do so forever after.

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