Running To Stand Still
by U2

Album: The Joshua Tree (1987)

Songfacts®:

  • This is about heroin addiction. Bono was inspired by a story he read about a man who smuggled heroin into Dublin to feed his habit despite the possibility of life imprisonment if he was caught. Bono was interested in how he got in that position. "Because for a lot of people, there are no physical doors open anymore," the singer told Hot Press in 1987. "And so if you can't change the world you're living in, seeing through different eyes is the only alternative. And heroin gives you heroin eyes to see the world with; and the thing about heroin is that you think that's the way it really is. That the old you, who worries about paying the rent, the old you who just worries, is not the real you."
  • The line about the "Seven Towers" refers to housing projects in Dublin where many drug users lived.
  • U2 has remained mostly drug-free, but they know many people who became addicts. A friend of theirs, Phil Lynott from Thin Lizzy, died from heroin abuse in 1986.
  • Bass player Adam Clayton was arrested in Ireland for marijuana possession in 1989. The conviction was waived in lieu of a donation to charity.
  • Lou Reed's "Walk On The Wild Side" was a big influence on this song.
  • Bono, March 1987, on the Joshua Tree songs: "A lot of the songs were ones that were recorded in Larry's spare bedroom or Adam's living room. When the red light's on we often don't respond to it. When we're just left to be, left to make music our own way, well some of the tracks are almost like demos. We had to fight to make them work and there were a lot of songs left over. It could have gone off in a number of different directions. We wanted the idea of a one-piece record, not a side-one, side-two thing." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • The title was inspired by Bono's brother, who was frustrated with his job in the computer business. Daniel Lanois, the album's co-producer, told Rolling Stone in 1997: "He said to Bono, 'I can't take this anymore - I feel like I'm running to stand still.' He was referring to running this business just to pay the bills."
  • Lanois told Hot Press he played "scrape guitar" on the track. "It's one of those sounds you hide in the background and it offers a color, it doesn't draw attention to itself as a guitar," he explained. "It's one of those songs where people were gathered around in a huddle. Bono had the words written; this was a nice opportunity to get something live. I remember that tender moment, me playing that scrape guitar, Larry [Mullen Jr.] on the tom-tom. There was just a wonderful communication happening in the room at that time. I think it's what people feel on that record, there was really a presence of performance."
  • This was used on the TV show Brothers & Sisters in the 2009 episode "Owning It."
  • U2 won their first Grammy Award in 1988 when The Joshua Tree was named Album Of The Year. The album was also their first to hit #1 in the US.

Comments: 11

  • Jules from OregonBono indicates that it was related to a story about addiction that takes over your life...man or woman. Could have happened to any of us. Does it REALLY matter if it is male or female?!
  • Brian from Boston, MaAwsome song.I think it's cool u2wasnot into heroin.I have absolutally no problem with them smoking marijuana.Pot smoking is so far removed from heroin it's not even funny.
  • Lefty_2ndbaseman from Chicago, IlFavorite line is "She walks through the streets, with eyes painted red under a black-belly of cloud in the rain"...how desperate does THAT sound? Great song, great band, great lead singer!
  • Shawn from Frostburg, MdNo Brad in knoxville, I think you are actually the one on heroin. there are MANY references to to drug use in the song. Read them. it really isn't all that hard to figure out..
  • Lance from Greenfield, TnThis song is, now, one of my favorite songs to exist. I got The Joshua Tree for Christmas, and since then, I have so loved this song.
  • Heather from Los Angeles, CaThis song is so gentle. "Singin' ah, a la la la de day, a la la la de day a la la de day." It is like a lullaby for a girl in desperate trouble. But it is also testimony to her strength, "you've gotta cry without weeping, talk without speaking..." and because she woke up thinking, "I gotta do something about where we're goin'" hopefully she will make it.
  • Brad from Knoxville, Tnyou must be on harrowin,because thats not what the song is about sure it says "needle chill",but thats two words read the rest.
  • Brandon from Sterling, Vathis song is about a woman who smuggled heroin in not a man
  • Jujee from Marquette, MiOne of the best U2 tunes ever...very haunting.
  • Kiddo from Curramulka, IcelandIn reply to U2 being a generally anti-drug band, I do believe The Edge tried magic mushrooms sometime during the Zoo TV tour, although that pretty much ended there. Both Larry and Bono I believe have no history of using illegal drugs.
  • Mick from Chelsea, England"She will suffer the needle chill" is a reference to heroin withdrawal.
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