Moment of Surrender - Writing and Recording

Writing and Recording

"Moment of Surrender" was written by U2 and No Line on the Horizon producers/co-writers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois during a two-week recording session in Fez, Morocco between May and June 2007. The song was developed within a few hours, and then recorded in a single take at a riad in Hotel Yacout. Eno began by creating a percussion loop of a "rolling hand drum" so that the band would have something to improvise along with when they joined him for songwriting and recording. However, Eno had not arranged the loop properly and the result was a strange, uneven beat that he compared to "a wheeled carriage that had one of the wheels a bit cracked" or "the way a camel moves". Although Eno was trying to fix the loop, drummer Larry Mullen, Jr. began playing along to it. Eno then asked guitarist The Edge to play some chords. After a quick discussion about the chord changes and the meter (in which they decided to have a "funny layout" that was not based on "eighths or sixteenths"), the six of them improvised the entirety of the piece.

As they began to play, bassist Adam Clayton developed a bassline. The part was originally based on the Grandmaster Melle Mel song "White Lines (Don't Don't Do It)" before Clayton changed to a more trance-like bassline. Vocalist Bono created some melodies and sang over the music. During the album's recording, Bono had become tired of writing in the first-person and he began writing lyrics and singing from the perspective of different characters. During the writing of "Moment of Surrender", Bono assumed the character of a drug addict having a crisis of faith. The song title was borrowed from the Alcoholics Anonymous term for when an addict admits his or her helplessness. Bono had attempted to use the phrase "vision over visibility" in the lyrics of earlier songs; however, "Moment of Surrender" was the first song where he felt it was appropriate to be used. Eno called Bono's singing in this character as "so heartbreaking agonized and vulnerable", creating a feeling like "a knife to the heart". Lanois contributed by developing the gospel-like chorus. The uneven hi-hat from the drum part stems from Mullen's electronic drum kit malfunctioning during the song's recording. Eno was amazed by each performer's ability to develop and play their part without any instructions or cues. After the song's recording completed, everyone in the studio, including a gathering of production personnel and visitors, was completely silent, and Eno suggested it was as if they had gone on an "emotional adventure of some kind". He called the song's recording "the most amazing studio experience I've ever had", and he believes the "emotional crescendo" heard in the song properly captures how they felt as they improvised the piece. Bono stated "it was a spell and we were in it".

The song was played only once and received minor treatments afterwards, with the addition of a cello part in the introduction and some editing, which included removing a verse to reduce the song's length. Eno was outraged that U2 wanted to shorten the song, and he was adamant that the band not alter the original track too much, saying, "These fucking guys, they're supposed to be so spiritual—they don't spot a miracle when it hits them in the face. Nothing like that ever happened to me in the studio in my whole life." The band's original concept for No Line on the Horizon was to create an album of future hymns—songs that would be played forever. According to Eno and Lanois, "Moment of Surrender" is the closest the band came to reaching that concept.

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