Bullet the Blue Sky

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"Bullet the Blue Sky"
Song by U2 from the album The Joshua Tree
Released 9 March 1987
Recorded 1986
Genre Rock
Length 4:32
Label Island
Writer(s) U2 (music), Bono (lyrics)
Producer(s) Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois
The Joshua Tree track listing
"With or Without You"
"Bullet the Blue Sky"
"Running to Stand Still"

"Bullet the Blue Sky" is a song by rock band U2. It is the fourth track from their 1987 album, The Joshua Tree. "Bullet the Blue Sky" is one of the band's most overtly political songs, with live performances often being heavily critical of political conflicts and violence.

It is U2's 7th-most-played live song with almost 650 live appearances.

The song has been featured in promos for the seventh and final season of Sons of Anarchy.

The song was covered by Sepultura in their covers album Revolusongs, by P.O.D. in their album The Fundamental Elements of Southtown and "Queensrÿche" in their album "Take Cover".


The song was originally written about the United States' military intervention during the 1980s in the Salvadoran Civil War. Bono told the Edge to "put El Salvador through an amplifier".[1][2]

The song is a combination of the Edge's guitar slides, Adam Clayton's bassline, Larry Mullen, Jr.'s drumming and Bono's vocals during the verses, and a spoken word section during the bridge.[3] Bono was thinking of American President Ronald Reagan as he sang "This guy comes up to me / His face red like a rose on a thorn bush / Like all the colours of a royal flush / And he's peeling off those dollar bills / Slapping them down / 100! / 200!"[4]


The U2 Podcast Editions in iTunes mentions that this is Paul McGuinness' (former U2 manager) favorite song. In 2004, Mojo placed the song at number 17 on its list of the "100 Epic Rock Tracks".[5]

Live performances[edit]

A performance of the song on the Vertigo Tour, when the band re-interpreted it as a commentary on religious violence.

Although it was never released as a single, "Bullet the Blue Sky" was played at nearly every live concert from its first performance at the opening night of the Joshua Tree Tour on 2 April 1987 through the Vertigo Tour. Its live performances have traditionally been paired with "Running to Stand Still"; this took place on the Joshua Tree Tour, Lovetown Tour, Zoo TV Tour, and the first 46 concerts of the Vertigo Tour. On the PopMart Tour, "Bullet" instead led into "Please"; Elevation Tour performances were followed by "With or Without You" or a cover of "What's Going On" by Marvin Gaye, on the Vertigo Tour, "Miss Sarajevo" replaced "Running to Stand Still" for the last 85 concerts.[6] and on the Innocence + Experience Tour, it segued into "Pride (In the Name of Love)" on the first leg and an abbreviated version of "Zooropa" starting on the second leg.

During the Joshua Tree Tour, Bono would frequently grab a large spotlight and shine into peoples' faces in the audience, and would also make numerous political references to figures such as Ronald Reagan and Jerry Falwell. He also used the spotlight on the Elevation Tour. On the Innocence + Experience Tour, Bono would typically sing the majority of the song into a megaphone.

U2's following album, Rattle and Hum, featured a live performance of this song, with a pre-recorded intro of Jimi Hendrix's version of "The Star-Spangled Banner". "Bullet" then took on new meanings throughout the subsequent years. On the Zoo TV Tour, it was about Nazism; on the Elevation Tour, it became an indictment against handgun violence, illustrated by references to John Lennon's assassination and an ironic intro video clip featuring Charlton Heston, who was at that time the president of the National Rifle Association. On the Vertigo Tour, it was about religious violence and the final lyrics were replaced by a snippet of "The Hands That Built America".[6] On the Innocence + Experience Tour, the song was about corruption of money, which was emphasized with images of Wall Street and Las Vegas on the video screen, as well as Bono discussing a scenario where he meets a teenage version of himself who criticizes the wealthy man he has become.

The Edge has always used his black Fender Stratocaster to play this song (with the exception of the PopMart Tour, during which he used a Gibson Les Paul). Since the Zoo TV Tour in the early 1990s, Edge has played a faster, more intricate blues-inspired solo after the second chorus instead of the distorted solo found on the album version near the end of the song. However, as of the Innocence + Experience Tour, The Edge has reverted to playing the distorted slide solo from the album version whilst dropping the intricate blues-inspired solo. He also added a new longer outro to the song for this tour.[7]

Live performances of the song appear on the concert films Zoo TV: Live from Sydney, PopMart: Live from Mexico City, Elevation 2001: Live from Boston, U2 Go Home: Live from Slane Castle, Ireland, Vertigo 2005: Live from Chicago and Live from Paris.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Greer, Miranda (2008-11-20). "U2 Lists: Top 10 Political U2 Songs". @U2. Retrieved 2009-03-16. 
  2. ^ "U2" episode of VH1's Legends.
  3. ^ Bono, On 60 Minutes in November 2005.
  4. ^ Bono, November 2006 in an HBO interview.
  5. ^ "100 Epic Rock Tracks". Mojo (125). April 2004. 
  6. ^ a b Live performance history of "Bullet the Blue Sky".
  7. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DHSL0Wvyf3k, retrieved 2015-12-25  Missing or empty |title= (help)

External links[edit]