"Driving to Midnight Mass, Dublin, Christmas Eve" (1984)

Demo Song

Background Information

“Driving to Midnight Mass, Dublin, Christmas Eve” is a poem read by Bono, while music from two b-sides, “New Year’s Day (U.S. Remix)” and “Endless Deep” play in the background. The poem that Bono reads is by John F. Deane, titled “Driving to Midnight Mass, Dublin, Christmas Eve”. The song has become a long time favorite among U2 fans, and the song is usually posted to message boards and websites each year at Christmas Eve.

The song was recorded by DJ Bill Cochran, while he was working at WXRT-FM in Chicago, IL. Cochran was putting together a program called “The Holiday Extravaganza” and his idea was to approach artists to read different holiday messages which would then be set to music. Bono agreed to do the piece for WXRT, but with one condition, he asked that Cochran had to come up with what was read. It was Cochran that found Deane’s poem and gave it to Bono to read.

Bono was recorded in a hotel room in Chicago prior to a show in December 1984. The music was edited in later. And the song first aired during the Christmas season of 1984.

The poem is read as follows:

Five-thousand million years ago, this earth lay heaving in a mass of rocks and fire
Wasting, burdened with its emptiness
Tonight, when arthropods and worms and sponges have given way to dinosaurs
And dinosaurs to working, wandering apes
Homo erectus have given way to sapiens, and he to
Homo sapiens sapiens (alias Paddy Mack)

Look down on Dublin from the hills around
And lights could be a million Christmas trees
Still firs standing, while in the sky a glow as if of dawn
This day a light shall shine on us
The Lord is born within our city

Look along to the river toward O’Connell Bridge
The lights, the neon signs, all stream on water like breathed-on strips of tinsel
All is still…

Eleven-thirty, pubs begin to empty
Men stop to argue, sway and say the name of Jesus
For those who have known darkness
Who have now seen a wonderous light
Those who have dwelt on unlit streets
To them the light has come

Tonight, few cars go by
The blocks of flats with windowed-plastic trees
And fairy lights stand, watching for a miracle
Here are no dells where fairies might appear

Out from the dark an ambulance comes speeding
Sickly blue lights search in siren-still
The mystery of the night ticks slowly on
It will pass and leave memories of friends and small, half-welcomed things

In Him was life
In Him, life was the light of man
For neither prehistoric swans nor trilobites, the mesozoic birds
Neanderthal, nor modern man had ever dreamt or seen what was our God

The shops are gay with lights and bright things
All save funeral homes, they dare not advertise their presence
As midnight peels and organs start to play
Two cars meet headlong in a haze of drink
The crash flicks into silence
Pain crawls like a slime through blood and into limbs
God is revealed, a baby naked, crying in a crib

In the church porches and out along the grounds
Teenagers laugh and swear, smoking, watching girls
So, once more, Christmas trails away
Its meaning moves back into the mist and the march of time

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