Gray Headed Coneflower


I am not so bold to claim that this post in and of itself is anywhere near fantastic. Instead, I use that word in a title because yesterday I was confronted with the fact that I’ve been using it entirely too often when I speak. I had an idea of creating short podcast episodes about my favorite songs. I am wont to offer a small anecdote in connection to songs I like, so I figured that I could just improvise the content of an introduction to any of my favorites.

I vastly overestimated how well I could fill a couple minutes of air time. I used the word fantastic no less than four times in two minutes and 27 seconds, and I lost count of how often I made the umm sound. I have a newfound respect for anyone who can spontaneously fill airtime on radio or TV. There’s nothing natural about it.

I am devoting my first “Favorite Songs” mini-episode to “The Unforgettable Fire” by U2, and this post is my script.

I neglected “The Unforgettable Fire” for the first 32 years I owned the album of the same name. I bought it with my allowance money way back in 1987, when I was finishing up junior high in a cloud of Aqua Net. Back then, I just didn’t have the patience for the title track with its slow, ambient beginning. I actually had the album cover hanging in my high school locker. Anton Corbijn’s red-filtered black and white photo on the album cover proved to be deeply influential in my love of photography. The daily sight of that image slowly taught me that photos can leave deep impressions, and I took up photography with a small hope that I could one day create images that lingered deep in the viewer’s memory.

I didn’t love the single “The Unforgettable Fire” until I stumbled upon it in my Facebook feed a couple years ago. There was a retrospective clip of U2 that featured it, and I immediately wondered how I could have missed such a (umm) fantastic song.

I love everything about it except the bridge that that hasn’t aged well with its 80’s sledgehammer drums and synth. Its momentum makes it a near perfect driving song. Actually I’ve listened to it in my car a hundred or more times in the past two years. I love its deep ambivalence, and I doubt that my teenage self would have related too well to loving someone who is very flawed, to wanting that beloved to both leave and come back.

I will close this post with the song itself.

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