I wanna run, I want to hide
I wanna tear down the walls
That hold me inside
I wanna reach out
And touch the flame
Where the streets have no name
Where the streets have no name | The Joshua Tree, 1987
2017. Somewhere © Veronica Lisi
The Joshua Tree debuts with Where The Streets Have No Name, an atypical song due to its strong will of deconstruction. The piece wants to be a spiritual tabula rasa in order to bring man back to his visceral stage, deeply detached from the modern social fabric.
U2 begin their journey into the American roots, starting from their being Irish, European, pilgrims in an inhospitable and unknown land. We are not in front of a journey of discovery, where the characters are on their way to something known, but the Irish band’s journey is closer to what the writer Robert M. Pirsig described in 1974, in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, where departure coincides with the absence of certainty, where the journey itself is a continuous discovery of what we are, of what we are not or are not aware of.
Pirsig, in his book, is looking for Fedro, his primitive ego; U2 cross the United States to look for their being American, what Irish migrants handed down through generations. To do so, they traveled through paths traced by ancestors, places where past and present interweave in a mystical and fascinating dance.
The inhospitable desert encloses, in its large spaces, the essence of the people, an oxymoron that confirms the deep American contradictions in which U2 clash violently along their path. Bono & Co.’s journey is not only a spiritual journey, but also a journey of freedom to remove all the “inner walls” and to return, or return, to the origins of being.
Where The Streets Have No Name is the inner purification, the abatement of mental superstructures, the revelation and fear, the faith before entering a sacred place in search for the spiritual fire enclosed in the soul of human beings.
To go into this kind of existential limbo, the band is led by their music masters, also pilgrims before the band, and in particular by Jim Morrison who wrote the song “Break On Through To The Other Side)” with The Doors in 1976, in which we find the footsteps which the band followed:
“You know the day destroys the night/ Night divides the day/ Tried to run/Tried to hide/ Break on through to the other side”, an exhortation to push beyond our inner barriers, to open the “doors of perception” and to see through the walls that we carry inside.
Since 1987, thirty years have passed. U2 have grown since as twenty-year olds, they ventured into that journey of uncertain contours. But just as they did then, new generations today feel the need to return to the origins of the human spirit through a desert to escape from the walls of social division and isolation. Even today, more than yesterday. We need to touch the flame, following the traces of those pilgrims through the desert: “I’ll show you a place / high on a desert plain / Where the streets have no name”
It’s all I can do.