1001 Songs Challenge,  1980s,  Music

1001 Songs Challenge #688: With or Without You (1987)

On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenge of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.

My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.

I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.

So long as I post every day (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be… legendary!


U2 – With or Without You (1987)

With or Without You

” With or Without You” is a song by Irish rock band U2. It is the third track on their fifth studio album, The Joshua Tree (1987), and was released as the album’s lead single on 16 March 1987.


Lyrics (via Genius)
Learn more about this song (via Genius)


It’s the end of 1987 for us, dear reader. We’re leaving Australia today and making our way back to Europe and to the Republic of Ireland. Formed in Dublin in 1976, U2 would steadily become, arguably, the biggest Irish rock band in history. They established themselves as serious players in the early 1980s but when we join the group in 1987 they are about to truly hit the big time. Their fifth album, The Joshua Tree, would be the catalyst for world domination. From here, 1001 Songs have gone with the track With or Without You

With or Without You is concerned with relationships and all the intricacies that come with them. The chorus itself implies an impasse with the narrator suggesting that they occupy a void between two extremes, not being able to live with a person, but not being able to live without them either. How does one reconcile such conflicting emotions? The song is also said to be U2 singer, Bono’s, commentary on his personal life and his life as a rock star, the juxtaposition of the two entities and how the two correlate. It’s a sensitive and fragile piece, brimming with emotion and heartache.

U2 were at their best in the 1980s and into the start of the 1990s. They are still capable of churning out great songs but this is the golden age for me with Pride, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For and With or Without You being among their great masterpieces. It’s hard not to be intoxicated by With or Without You, the gentle intro, the bassline, the way the song takes its time and finally towards the end Bono really goes for it with the vocals. Easily one of U2’s best songs.


Favourite songs so far:

The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)

Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)

The Doors – The End (1967)

The Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)

Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975)

Meat Loaf – Bat Out of Hell (1977)

Queen – Don’t Stop Me Now (1978)

Ultravox – Vienna (1980)

The Smiths – How Soon Is Now? (1984)

U2 – With or Without You (1987)

My name is Dave and I live in Yorkshire in the north of England and have been here all my life. I hope you enjoy your visit to All is Ephemeral.

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