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40 by U2

Album: WarReleased: 1983
  • This was the last song written for the album. They had already used an extra week of studio time and needed one more song in a hurry, so Bono opened a bible, read from Psalm 40 of Psalms of David, and they put it to music.
  • The last song on War, it invokes the first track, "Sunday Bloody Sunday," with the refrain "How long must we sing this song."
  • At a concert in Chicago on April 29, 1987, Bono said: "This is a song that when we were being thrown out of the studio... we spent ten minutes writing this next song, ten minutes recording it, ten minutes mixing it, ten minutes playing it back, and that's nothing to do with why it's called '40.'"
  • U2's bass player Adam Clayton was not available when they recorded this, so The Edge played both guitar and bass.
  • U2 closed most of their concerts in the '80s with this. They did so on many of their 2005 shows as well.
  • Dave Stewart of Eurythmics had his first encounter with Bono when the U2 lead singer pulled Stewart on stage during a show in Ireland's Phoenix Park in 1983. He handed Stewart a microphone and had him join in on the song. Stewart recounts in The Dave Stewart Songbook, "I was mortified - not knowing the lyrics, I stood there frozen, staring out at a sea of Irish faces. Since then I have been lucky enough to become a friend of the band and their families, and I must say they are all real, down-to-earth, caring individuals."
  • Producer Steve Lillywhite on the slapdash recording session: "We had to leave the studio at seven in the morning 'cause there was this other band that were starting then. It was incredible - Bono was singing 'New Year's Day' with this other band waiting outside! We'd not even started mixing it yet. Bono was doing the vocal while we were doing the mixing, and we got out by seven. 'New Year's Day' was mixed in ten minutes." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
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Comments: 22

@ Justin: Firstly, you've got the lyrics wrong. He doesn't sing "Don't believe the devil or the book" - he sings
"Don't believe the devil
I don't believe his book
But the truth is not the same
Without the lies he made up"

See: HIS (the devil's) book.

As an aside, real Christians don't worship any book in any event - they worship God. The Bible is a wonderful, dangerous, easily misunderstood collection of writings where God used normal people to tell His exceptional story. It was told a long time ago to ancient cultures within certain contexts in languages that has since been translated into many others. A lot of it is also poetry. One doesn't read poetry the same as one reads a legal document, so it's imperative to take great care (and have a truthfully searching heart) when reading the Bible.
Pieter - South Africa
Justin, you cannot be more wrong. At one time early in their career they actually almost put the band to rest because they was not sure if playing rock'n'roll music was OK with their faith in God.Micke - Angelholm, Sweden
Justin from Ca, Once again You are wrong. Bono and his mates are Christians. It doesn't take much listening to figure that out. Their songs are riddled with bible verses and this song is a prime example of that.. Geesh !Shawn - Frostburg, Md
I saw U2 in '85 on their Unforgettable Fire tour and they closed with this song. Adam and The Edge switched instruments for it. They left the stage one at a time while the music was still playing until only Larry was left alone playing the drums and the crowd singing "How long to sing this song..." over and over and over again. When the lights came up the crowd of around 15,000 was still singing and continued to sing as we made our way outside. Everyone was still singing it all the way to the parking lot. It remains one of the coolest concert moments of my life.Claude - Kingston, Ma
Read the first line to their song "God Part II" and tell me that they're christians if they DON'T BELIIEVE the devil or the BOOK.Justin - Pioneer, Ca
Justin, -- Bono along with his other bandmates are christians and do, in fact, beieve strongly in their religious faith... Might want to learn your facts before commenting...Shawn - Frostburg, Md
so bono doesn't believe in the Bible, yet he takes words from It to write his music and make money? u2 is garbage.Justin - Pioneer, Ca
I agree with Sammy from New York, NY. This song makes me want to beieve in something. It seems to touch the soul.Shawn - Frostburg, Md
On the DVD Vertigo 2005 Live from Chicago, the last song they play is 40. After finishing it and before he leaves the stage Bono hangs a cross from the microfone. (probably in reference to Pope John Paul II who was dying at that time). After Bono, Clayton and Edge left the stage, Larry Mullen Jr. did an excellent drum solo just for the audience. Beautiful Song.Fabricio - Buenos Aires, Argentina
wow that does sound awesome i really want to go to a concert! how do you guys get tickets? i heard they sell out in minutes!Lily - Godrics Hallow, England
I saw U2 twice on the vertigo tour. On both occasions they closed the concert with this song. The first concert was by far the most memorable for me. Seeing as halfway through Bono brough out a placard signed by Mayor Thomas Menino(Mayor of Boston) saying that May 28th or something like that was the official U2 day in Boston. I am pretty sure it was their last concert no the first leg of their American tour so all of the emotion seemed to get put out through this song. Just unbelievably awesome.Moe - Boston, Ma
Don't be fool! This a great and emotional song, but till now it serves only for U2 to close its shows without hear any asks for bisGetúlio - João Pessoa, Brazil
This song makes me wanna believe in something. Great bass, I was not aware that The Edge played it on this song. Wish I were there at a U2 concert to see such an exit. Someday! Hope they'll plan another tour soon.Sammy - New York, Ny
I saw U2 on their Vertigo tour, and they play this song, then Bono stops singing, but the band keeps playing their part. After a while, The Edge leaves, and Adam Clayton keeps playing on the bass and Larry Mullen stays on drums, then after a few minutes Adam Clayton leaves, and Larry Mullen stays banging on the drums, then, after a while he'll leave, and the concert is over. It is really cool, because the crowd kept singing the line 'How long to sing this song' after Bono leaves, and it sounds really awesome.Dawson - Draper, Ut
I saw U2 in concert December 7th this year (2005)...best concert I've been to as of yet, and I'm not just saying that because they're my favorite band. Martin and Tom, I completely agree with you and know exactly what you're talking about with this song being the concert closer. Truly magic.Leon - Waterbury, Ct
I will second Martins sentiments - I saw U2 in 1985, and they closed with 40. Bono finishes singing and the crowd picks up the verse "How long to sing this song" while the band plays on. Eventually the band stops but the crowd sings on. The singing very slowly fades away so that even 15 minutes later as you are walking out of the building, you hear and even feel the song faintly being sung. It was/is really an amazing thing to be aroundTom - Newark, De
'40' has been played only on occassion during the Vertigo tour, usually on the 2nd or 3rd night if playing in the same venue- or at the very end of tour like in Lisbon.
At the end of the song the band leave the stage individually one at a time leaving Larry playing drums on his own- he then stops, stands up throws his drum sticks to the crowd and departs.........magic... leaving the crowd to sing 'How long to sing this song' all the way home.
Martin - Limerick, Ireland
Sean is right. Edge plays bass on this song because he gives the backing vocals. The guitar on the song is mostly controlled feedback which requires alot of hanging back near the amplifier... and away from any microphones. So they swap instruments.Terry - Ocean Springs, Ms
Here is the psalm from Psalm 40.
U2's lyrics are in parenthesis.

I waited paitently for the Lord's help; (Waited paitently for the Lord)
Then he listened to me and heard my cry (He inclined and heard my cry)
He pulled me out of a dangerous pit, (He lifted me up out of the pit)
Out of the deadly quicksand. (Out of the miry clay.)
(I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song
How long to sing this song?
How long to sing this song?
How long... how long...
How long to sing this song?)
He set me safely on a rock (He set my feet upon a rock)
And made me secure. (And he made my footsteps firm.
Many will see
Many will see and hear.
I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song
How long to sing this song?
How long to sing this song?
How long... how long...
How long to sing this song?)
He taught me how to sing a new song,
A song of praise to our God.
Many who see this will take warning
And will put their trust in the Lord.
Richard - Dublin, Ireland
Rumor has it that U2 is playing this on theor current Vertigo tour (2005)John - Philadelphia, Pa
I have that album. It shows so much pain that they went through...but they made it, and that is far-out, dude!Kaleigh - Vancouver, Wa
on their 1987 Joshua Tree tour when they would close with this song, The Edge would play Bass & Adam Clayton would play Guitar.Sean - Middlesex, England
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