Writing and Recording
"Stand Up Comedy" went through several different iterations throughout the No Line on the Horizon sessions. It was originally developed during the first two weeks of recording in Fez, Morocco. The song is composed in the key of F# minor. In its original concept, the track contained mandolins playing in a Middle Eastern beat. The riff was altered and the lyric "for your love" was introduced as a chant in the chorus. However the band felt that the new guitar part was too similar to that of The Kinks song "You Really Got Me", and the lyrics too reminiscent of The Yardbirds song of the same name, so this version was discarded. U2 redeveloped the song with a new riff, melody, and lyrics, with only the "for your love" vocal remaining. Guitarist The Edge's collaboration with Jimmy Page and Jack White on the 2009 film It Might Get Loud resulted in their influence being felt in the new guitar part. The Edge felt the guitar riffs were one of his best. The band continued struggling to finalize the song during the final recording sessions in December 2008, 16 months after it was first developed in Fez. The lyrics were rewritten again during this time. At this point the song had been renamed several times, with various album pre-release interviews calling it "For Your Love" and "Stand Up".
"It's saying, stand up to rock stars. That's about choosing your enemies, too. What are you gonna stand up for and what are you gonna stand up against? I love the notion of standing up to rock stars. Because they are a bunch of fucking megalomaniacs."—Bono on the lyrical meaning behind "Stand Up Comedy".
Producer and co-writer Daniel Lanois noted the track had been recreated so many times that six different songs had been written as a result. He likened "Stand Up Comedy"'s creation to the popular YouTube video Evolution of Dance, noting that it had been rewritten so many times that it was "a study in itself". Producer and co-writer Brian Eno felt that the band had taken the song and "work it into the ground, then work it back to life again," noting that it was a "frustrating" process. U2 believed that the completed result at the end of the recording sessions was "a great song", but they also felt that the end result would seem too "crafted" to listeners. An older mix was ultimately chosen for inclusion on the album instead.
The lyrics of "Stand Up Comedy" were inspired by the Stand Up and Take Action campaign, an event in 2008 where 116 million people from 131 countries reminded the leaders of countries of their promise to reduce poverty by 2015. Bono noted that the theme is "not a 'let's hold hands and the world is a better place sort of song.' It's more kick down the door of your own hypocrisy." Several of the song's lyrics stem from Bono mocking his sense of hubris and his fear that his activism and campaigning will go too far, making him unable to measure up to his ideals. Time noted that the song was "explicitly told through Bono's rose-colored specs." The lyrics "Stand up to rock stars" and "Beware of small men with big ideas" reflect this inner doubt; Bono believed that the latter line was the funniest on the album.
Read more about this topic: Stand Up Comedy (song)
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