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With or Without You
Song

With or Without You

U2
Album:
The Joshua Tree

Song Meaning and Background of With Our Without You by U2


“With or Without You” — Bono insisted it was “about how I feel in U2 at times: exposed.” It would turn out to be U2’s first Number One hit in the USA.


"With or Without You" is a song by Irish rock band U2 and is from their fifth studio album, The Joshua Tree, and was released as the album's lead single in 1987.


The song was the group's most successful single at the time, becoming their first number-one hit in both the United States and Canada.


The song originated from a demo recorded in late 1985 that the group continued to work on throughout The Joshua Tree sessions. A song about troubled love, the track's lyrics were inspired by Bono's conflicting feelings about the lives he led as a musician and domestic man.


In late 1985, U2 convened at a house that drummer Larry Mullen Jr. bought to review material the group had written during The Unforgettable Fire Tour. During this time, a rough demo of "With or Without You" was written, with lead vocalist Bono composing the song's chord sequence.


The band continued to work on the song at STS Studios, creating many permutations of the track, but not making any progress. Guitarist the Edge considered the song at that point to be "awful. According to Clayton, these early versions of the song sounded too sentimental and "very traditional because the chords just went round and round and round".


The sessions for The Joshua Tree started in earnest in 1986, and U2 were recording at the Georgian mansion Danesmoate House in Dublin.


The group attempted to take the song in a different direction, although Bono was reluctant. Under the direction of co-producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, the Edge pursued more ambient guitar playing, Clayton turned up the volume on his bass, and Mullen experimented with an electronically enhanced drum kit.


Bono and his friend Gavin Friday continued to work on the song after Lanois and Eno declined to do so.


Bono credits Friday with rescuing the song and rearranging it, believing it could be a hit. Eno added a keyboard arpeggio.


The song's fate was still in doubt when the Edge was sent a prototype of the Infinite Guitar by Canadian musician Michael Brook, with whom he had collaborated for the Captive soundtrack.


Listening to the backing track to "With or Without You" in the control room, Bono and Friday heard the sustained effect that the Edge was creating with the Infinite Guitar in the other room.


The combination of the two playing simultaneously caught their attention. According to Lanois, "I said, 'That sounded pretty cool,' so we listened back and I said, 'Jesus, it's better than I thought.'" The Edge immediately recorded an Infinite Guitar part in two takes. The band considers the song's recording to be one of the album sessions' breakthrough moments, as it was recorded amid concerns that they had run out of ideas.


Bono wrote the lyrics during his first night visiting the Côte d'Azur in 1986, while struggling to reconcile his responsibilities as both a married man and a musician. While writing the lyrics, he realised that neither facet of his life defined him, but rather the tension between the two did. He explained that the final lyric is about torment and how repressing desires only makes them stronger.


The lyrics describe a troubled relationship between two lovers, although the lyrics have been interpreted in religious contexts. In 1987, Bono explained that "And you give yourself away" lyric refers to how he sometimes feels exposed being in U2, and that his openness, both to the public and music press, can do damage to the group.


According to Bono, the song was heavily influenced by Scott Walker's album Climate of Hunter.


Lyrics of With Our Without You by U2


See the stone set in your eyes

See the thorn twist in your side

I'll wait for you

Sleight of hand and twist of fate

On a bed of nails she makes me wait

And I wait without you

 

With or without you

With or without you

 

Through the storm, we reach the shore

You give it all but I want more

And I'm waiting for you

 

With or without you

With or without you, ah-ah

I can't live with or without you

 

And you give yourself away

And you give yourself away

And you give, and you give

And you give yourself away

 

My hands are tied, my body bruised

She got me with nothing to win

And nothing left to lose

 

And you give yourself away

And you give yourself away

And you give, and you give

And you give yourself away

 

With or without you

With or without you, ohh

I can't live with or without you

 

With or without you

With or without you, ohh

I can't live with or without you

With or without you

Release Date

1987

Songwriter/s

U2

Producer/s

Daniel Lanois, Brian Eno

Label/s

Island

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