One of the songs on The Joshua Tree that explores American culture and politics, Bono's lyrics were inspired by the Statue Of Liberty in New York City. He was concerned that the American Dream was being threatened by shady politics. In 1987 radio interview, Bono explained he was also addressing Americans' tendency to align themselves with old political ideologies instead of coming up with new ideas. "I thought, put off the old, put on the new," he said. "Where are the new dreams - where's the new dreamers? And, 'we need new dreams tonight' is the line. I wonder where they are. I want to see them."
The lyric, "I stand with the sons of Cain," refers to the biblical Cain in the Book of Genesis. One of the descendants of Cain, Jubal, was the first ever musician. According to the Genesis account, he was the "father of all who play the harp and lute."
In the book Into The Heart: The Stories Behind Every U2 Song by Niall Stokes, U2 bassist Adam Clayton explained the significance of the song's desert setting: "The desert was immensely inspirational to us as a mental image for this record. Most people would take the desert on face value and think it's some kind of barren place, which of course is true. But, in the right frame of mind it's also a very positive image, because you can actually do something with a blank canvas, which is effectively what the desert is."
The Joshua Tree, the second of many U2 albums produced by Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, launched the Irish rockers into superstardom. The ensuing world tour had them performing in sold-out stadiums for the first time.
This was recorded in the basement of the Edge's (U2 guitarist) house, which, according to Lanois, was not a very inspiring place. "It's a kind of muggy little room where everything sounds dead," he told Music Technology in 1987. "It worked because of the spontaneity and the lack of pressure at the time of recording. Now, you could say: 'You can't record down here. We need a proper room for the drums and we need this or that sort of mic.' But you could spend three days working out a foolproof plan and still not get a performance."
Lanois used a mixing console with a bank of channels designated as sound treatments to work magic on the Edge's guitar part. "At any given point I can send an instrument or a vocal to these treatments and get a quick impression of what is working and what isn't," he explained. On this track, the result transformed the entire song. He said: "The guitar now has a beautiful shimmer which has a lot to do with the mood of the track. What was a fairly straightforward rock track is now undermined by a mood of unrest; not all is well. It supplied Bono with new inspiration. It gave him a clue to modify his lyrics and give the track a greater dimension."
This was used in the 1999 movie Three Kings, starring George Clooney.