Woody Harrelson Talks Pop
Original Story by Aaron J. Sams (2020-10-13)
Last night SiriusXM aired a real treat for fans of the album Pop. They had an hour long special, the first of two, which looks at the album song by song. The program is a conversation between The Edge and Woody Harrelson, an American actor who has been nominated for numerous Academy Awards and Golden Globe Awards, and who also featured in U2’s video for “Song for Someone” in 2015.
The Edge has been organizing guests to program an hour of songs each Friday as a Guest DJ. He approached Harrelson to contribute his own favourite songs and while he liked the Guest DJ idea, Harrelson suggested all his songs would come from Pop so why not have a conversation about his favourite U2 album. The Edge explains that he feels that Pop didn’t get the recognition that it deserves, and jumped at the change to discuss it. He claims that Woody listing it as a favourite shows that Woody is intelligent and wise.
Approached Woody Harrelson to appear on the radio station as a Guest DJ. He liked the Guest DJ idea, but he suggested he and The Edge do a conversation about his favourite U2 album. One of the albums that didn’t get the recognition it deserved. Shows that Woody is intelligent and wise.
This is a two part special and the broadcast features Woody talking about the songs, and asking Edge questions about the songs. They then play each song. The first episode covers the songs “Discotheque” through to “Last Night on Earth”.
Woody explains that he went crazy for Pop when it was released. And that he liked that it was a big departure for U2.
The Edge said as a band, U2 survive by finding a new idea, a discovery, which will then shape an album. Pop was inspired by music coming out of the UK, and the band wanted to explore using sampling as a creative tool. He talked about how some of the greatest music such as Big Band and R&B had all been created to allow people to dance, and U2 felt they hadn’t yet made people dance, and Pop was an attempt to get the band out of their own comfort zone.
Harrelson reveals that when he was performing on stage in plays, he had a ritual involving the album. He would always play Pop to get amped up before hitting the stage, and that he dances through the first three songs on the album to get himself ready.
The Edge said that the band realized partway through making Pop that they would need to abandon what U2 had sounded like before, and the most organic part of the band, Adam, Larry and The Edge playing together was being challenged. All had to step up and move into a new form of making music. The band took ideas, ran with them, challenged themselves, but pulled it back an made it their own.
Do You Feel Loved
The Edge talks about how this song came about. He talks about how producers Howie B and Steve Osbourne inspired the band to branch into new areas they hadn’t tried before. They met Howie B in London and the band fell in love with him, saying that he’s a person that music loves. Howie was in the booth spinning records while U2 were playing including a song by Naked Funk. He encouraged the band to keep working, riffing over the tune that he was playing. The song became “Do You Feel Loved”.
Woody Harrelson reveals that “Mofo” is his favourite song on the album, and that it’s one of the most danceable songs he’s ever heard, and is one of his favourite songs overall. But he wants to know if the band got pressure to not call the song “Mofo.”
The Edge relates that in the early demos of the song it was “mother fucking” in the lyrics and that the band felt that maybe it was too obvious and made the change to “mother sucking.” They felt it delivered the sentiment, without all the headaches, but questions a bit whether or not it should have been kept in the raw form. He said they did get a few calls from ‘head office’ about it. He also tells a story about starting out and a radio promoter telling them that they should change “bloody” in “Sunday Bloody Sunday” to something else. The band stuck by their first choice in that case.
The Edge says the band got closer to pure club music on “Mofo” than they had before, and they were happy with that as long as the personality of U2 came through. Edge describes the guitar, calling it a 747 sound. He turned everything to full, where everything was about to explode because of so much gain, just before it dissolves into feedback. He said it sounded like a jet engine at full rev.
Edge and Woody also talk about Bono’s lyrics and how his instincts are to reach for contrasts, with vulnerable ideas expressed in a tough kick ass song. That it breaks the braggadocio of the tune with vulnerability.
If God Will Send His Angels
There isn’t much discussion about this song. Woody does speak about the themes of God and Jesus throughout the album, and The Edge explains the band has the freedom to go in a lot of places that other artists cannot. Although he had started out going to Presbyterian church, none of the band had stuck with the organized religious upbringing that they had, and that they were now a product of a personal search, which brought the band to a unique angle on spirituality, God and Jesus and everything else.
Staring at the Sun
The Edge explains to Harrelson that the song started out acoustic, but he had found some unique guitar sounds that he was excited to bring to the band. The Edge feels that his job is to inspire the others with new things. “Staring at the Sun” started as a more traditional song, with The Edge thinking of the Kinks, but by the time it was finished it sounds like U2. The lyric was put together, and the song came together quickly and early on in the recording process for Pop.
Last Night on Earth
The final song played on this episode, is “Last Night on Earth.” The Edge explains that it is the most straight up rock and roll song on the album, and the core of the song is Larry, Adam and The Edge in one room together, which makes it a contrast to “Mofo” which saw them challenging that structure. The Edge felt this song gave the album “real depth.”
There was no mention of when the second episode featuring the songs from the back half of the album would be played. Once announced we will pass that information along.