"Stir My Soul" (2000)
“Stir My Soul” was a song developed for 2000’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind. In August 2000, a Rolling Stone Magazine article by Chris Heath spoke about this song:
Bono sits on a sofa in the center of U2’s Dublin recording studio — a laptop on his knees, a microphone in one hand — listening to a vocal he has just sung. The song is called, for this moment, anyhow, “Stir My Soul.” As it exists at around a quarter past six on a Friday evening in May, it is delicate and beautiful, driven by a hypnotic piano motif, over which Bono murmurs a mixture of words and melody before launching into a chorus largely consisting of the phrase “stir my soul” repeated over and over. The other three members of U2 sit scattered around the studio, with producer Daniel Lanois. (Co-producer Brian Eno prefers to contribute in short, sharp bursts; lately he’s been coming in one week per month.)
U2 have an idea that “Stir My Soul” will be the song the band needs to open its new album, in the works for two years and scheduled for release this fall. “Some sort of opening gambit,” Bono explains. “Sometimes you dream one up, and sometimes you find one on the floor.” The Edge says that they’ve probably touched on a hundred different songs making this album. At the back of the studio is a white marker board that details the progress of the nineteen strongest contenders. According to the board, none of them are finished. This evening I will see just a little of the random, inspired, quick-changing process by which just one of them evolves.
A year ago, Bono says, this song was called “Jubilee,” and he had it all worked out. It leaped off from the Old Testament concept of a jubilee year. “The Jews had this idea that every seven days you had the Sabbath day, the day not to work,” he says. “Every seven years you let the land lie fallow, and seven times seven — forty-nine years — you had a year of jubilee, where the people who are indebted, you had to let go of their debts. Captives, slaves, had to be set free. It was a time of grace. Beautiful idea, really.”
U2 marked it as a song they should get back to, but when they replayed it a few days ago, all that jubilee thinking was cast aside. Bono wrote an entirely new lyric. He sings me the opening lines — “Speak to me of the supernatural things/I will listen if you can tell me why the songbird sings” — and shows me a printout of the rest from his computer, almost as if he wants to prove that the new U2 album is not being delayed simply because the singer has failed to complete his homework. But even that version is history now. “Beautiful tune, beautiful melody,” he says, “but it wasn’t what we wanted it to be. We were looking for more of an invocation.”
So two days ago, the song now known as “Stir My Soul” mutated once more. “We changed all the chords and increased the tempo by ten b.p.m.,” says the Edge. Bono explains it like this: “Quincy Jones said to me once, ‘You’re waiting for God to walk through the room, or else it’s just craft.’ The way you write music is at once humdrum — there’s a fridge in the corner with apples and a bottle of milk, and there’s a fax machine — and at the same time you’re waiting for a miracle, or else it’s just the sum of the parts. And yesterday we got this great gift of this melody, and that’s what we have now.” Of course, the new melody didn’t work with the old chorus, and so Bono has come up with a new one. “This Dusty Springfield one,” as he refers to it. (“I’m man enough to say I’ve been very influenced by her,” he adds. “We’ve a similar register in places — since our first album, I’ve felt a little bit of her.”)
But they’re still not happy. They now worry that the chorus is too commonplace. The Edge tries to add some guitar.
“I like that,” encourages Bono. “It’s dizzier.” Bono worries about a part of the song at the end of the chorus where it stops and regathers itself. “It’s a little professional when it stops,” he says to Lanois. “We might have to mess it up a bit.”
Bono picks up the microphone and sings some heavenly “oh-whoa-oh-whoa’s” onto the track, the conversation around him barely pausing. It is remarkable watching with what speed and with what little reverence U2 race to change, amend and evolve a song.
Right now, however, they break for dinner, which a cook prepares for them upstairs and which they all eat together around a table.
In 2006, when U2 published the book U2 by U2, the book provided a glimpse into some working titles and demo tracks. One of the images shown was from a white board developed during the recording sessions for All That You Can’t Leave Behind. On that white board we see a number of tracks listed including, “Love Is…Perfecto,” “Jubilee” and directly below it “Stir My Soul,” “Good Morning,” “Levitate,” and “Sometimes.” A final song is wiped out from the board but it can be determined that it said “Love Will…”
It is likely that the song “Jubilee” became a song called “Stir My Soul” based on how these appear on the board.
Related Demo Titles
- Jubilee (2000)