Vertigo
by U2

Album: How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb (2004)
Charted: 1 31
  • songfacts ®
  • Artistfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • Vertigo is a sensation of dizziness or a feeling of disorientation. It can be a serious medical condition, but in the context of this song, it seems to be about opening your mind and looking at things in a different way.
  • This was used in commercials as part of a big promotional deal with Apple. The commercials, where many people first heard the song, promoted Apple's iPod. Apple also released a special-edition iPod with the signatures of the band members engraved on the back, and made the entire U2 catalog along with special bonus tracks available for download at iTunes for $150.
  • U2 made many high-profile appearances to promote the album, including performances on Saturday Night Live and the Grammy Awards. In the late '80s and early '90s, U2 often stayed away from these kind of appearances to avoid the feeling of commercialism, but by the 2000s, it became clear that these appearances were crucial if U2 was going to continue selling millions of albums and fill arenas.
  • This song is notorious for its intro, in which Bono says "Uno, dos, tres, catorce," which is "1, 2, 3, 14" in Spanish. One theory is that Bono was directing listeners to The Bible: 1st Testament, 2nd Book, 3rd Chapter, 14th verse - "And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you." Another theory is that he did it because How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb was U2's 14th album.
  • Vertigo is the name of a popular 1958 movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
  • This won three Grammy Awards: Best Rock Song, Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal and Best Short Form Music Video. U2 performed on the show, but didn't play this - they played "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own," which Bono dedicated to his father.
  • U2 played this when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.
  • This song was ruthlessly parodied on the South Park episode "More Crap." The plot of the episode revolved around the character Randy Marsh breaking the world record for largest piece of crap, which was previously held by Bono. Bono is featured throughout the episode trying to beat, and then preserve this record. Almost everywhere he goes (including poor nations in Africa) he sings run around pointing and singing his "yeah, yeah, yeah" outro of "Vertigo." He also answers his cell phone with the "Hello, hello" part of the chorus. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bert - Pueblo, NM
  • This was originally called "Native Son" and had a very different feel. Adam Clayton explained to Q Magazine November 2004: "Bono and Edge rewrote it when we started work with Steve Lillywhite. The bass and drums have a little bit of Echo & the Bunnymen in there - a nice wink to where we came from."
  • Adam Clayton said of this album: "It's very much a guitar record, 'Vertigo,' 'Love and Peace,' 'City of Blinding Lights,' 'All Because of You' - all pretty up, rocky tunes. A lot of them are a kick-back to our very early days, so it's like with each year we have gathered a little bit more and this is what we are now." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
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Comments: 66

  • David from Irving, VaOh, and they shouldn't have won any Grammys with this song because it's average at best. They should have won Grammys for songs or entire album for War, Unforgettable Fire, Joshua Tree, Rattle and Hum, and Achtung Baby. And about the 14th album thing, it depends which ones you count. This was the 11th studio album, but they also had compilations, EPs, live albums and a sound track.
  • David from Irving, VaThere is an incredible amount of posts about the trivial Spanish count at the beginning, which if it was done deliberately was probably done as a Bible reference considering Bono constantly uses spiritual messages. Otherwise it was done just because he liked the way it sounded, or just for fun, but being a very intelligent person, he knew it wasn't 1,2,3,4

    The song though is about God and temptation. I read another post about a club called Vertigo and that could very well be true also, but I believe the two work together. Vertigo can be the club, or it could be the confusion and head spinning life brings and the questioning about God and religion.

    The temptation "All this can be yours", when watching the video, the band is descending into darkness. Then, the band pops out and they are back in the light, towards the end Bono is singing out “your love in teaching me”, and the light flashes even brighter. The end is a complete acceptance of God and then there is very bright light washing out all darkness.

    Just one interpretation after watching the video. Not saying it’s right, but it makes sense.
  • Brendan from Dublin, Irelandits not their 14th album,its their 11th studio and 13th including live albums
  • Richard from Stoney Creek, OnNobody has really mentioned this yet other than the last point in the "Songfacts" section but they originally had this song titled "Native Son." It seemed to be about a native american "Leonard Peltier" who was convicted of shooting a police officer and for some reason or another has people supporting his release. I'm thinking U2 was going to jump on the bandwagon (celebrities love bandwagons) but looked into this a bit more and found there's not much pointing to his innocence so rewrote the lyrics. (FYI most of my points are speculative and come from a this article http://www.cracked.com/article_18628_the-6-most-misguided-causes-ever-made-famous-by-celebrities.html for anyone interested.)
  • Francisco Javier from Tudela De Duero, SpainI think that is only improvisation. At another show in Spain, a journalists said Bono: "Can you say fifteen for me (15)?" and it was funny to Bono. So the meaning in the song is... nothing."Hola", "Como estas?" or "donde estas?" it´s a trying to make more fans in countries with spanish language trhough this song
  • Joseph from Rochester, Nyhey - Chase, Miami, FL...if you knew Spanish (since you're from Miami and all) you'd know it's "Adios MiS Amigos...not mi amigos. Try again kid.
  • Arbeh from Somerset, United KingdomWow. I find it interesting that so many folk here are debating the use & spelling of 'catorce' in this song, when so few of the ill-educated dunces professing their high-and-mighty knowledge know how to spell basic english words.

    Read a book, go back to school, or just plain LEARN YOUR NATIVE LANGUAGE you mentally deficient cretins.
  • Chase from Miami, Flmy favorite lyric is "the boys play rocknroll they know that they cant dance at least they know"
    due to the fact that im a dude and i play rocknroll on the guitar and i cant dance
  • Chase from Miami, FlHey matt you cant speak Spanish either quatorze?! come to Mia and learn my friend, its catorce
  • Chase from Miami, FlDonde Estas means where are you in Spanish I live in Miami so I think I should know victoria of clarcksville NC. and I checked with five of my friends that were born in Spanish speaking country or there parents were. Adios mi Amigos
  • Dex from Aspen, CoAbout "Uno Dos Tres Catorce," there certainly seems to be a lot of speculation about it. Here's a fact: On the TV show, "Three's Company," this peculiar count is heard from the "Jack Tripper" character at least twice, once in Season Five, "Double Trouble," from 1981, and again in Season Six, "Doctor In The House," from 1982. Needless to say, these high-profile instances of this quote far pre-date Bono's use of it in this song. Maybe as a kid he just watched "Three's Company," like millions of others, and thought it would be a cool way to count in to a song.
  • Chris from Oakland, Caok, Vertigo is not U2's best song. In fact its not even close. However, it still is a pretty good song which shows how good U2 is. I am annoyed by anyone who is annoyed by the fact that it goes 1,2,3,14. That is simply an excuse to bring U2, probably a top three band in musical history considering how long they have been together and had success. If you would take a second and use your brain, you might realize that if this was a mistake, U2 would JUST MIGHT have checked to see if their spanish was correct, before putting out an album that millions and millions of people were gonna hear across the world. Based on that, my guess is that they meant to do it. Bono apparently said he did it on purpose, as a claim that rock n roll had no real order. there are also religious theories as well as the fact taht it is their 14th album. U2 is certainly my favorite band, and no one can argue the success that they have, so i think people should get over a tiny annoying detail in their beautiful 30 year long career together, and just accept that U2 is one of best bands in the history of music
  • Xpdnc12 from Washington, WaTraci from Arkansas concludes the same way I do. It's a Christian song written when the band was on travel. The lady with the cross is a hypocrite with made up nails acting in sin. The bit about "all of this can be yours" is a near paraphrase of the section of the Bible (Matthew 4:8) when Satan tempts Jesus "All of this can be yours if you will follow me." (also referenced by a similar incident with Moses) The "your love keeps bringing me higher" , teaching how to kneel describes Bono's relationship with Jesus (faith) that keeps him out of the usual sin he sees all around, the hypocracy, etc. Basically he's saying that Jesus keeps him out of being tempted.
  • Victoria from Clarksville, TnWhat in the heck does "dónde estás?" mean?

    I specifically want my answer to come from John from Fort Worth, Texas. He knows his Spanish.
  • Marissa from Akron, OhHere's my thought: "uno, dos, tres, catorce" probably means something similar to "no hablo espanol." Anyway... this is a really great song. I think my favorite line is "I can't stand the beat, I'm asking for the check, girl with crimson nails has Jesus 'round her neck." I don't know why, I just like that one.
  • Tricia from Tyler, TxI really want the Beer Smoothie Recipe. I bet Bono has it, and I think he says Unos, dos, tres, catorce, because he is Bono and he can... Leslie, how can you follow this thread without suffering uncontrollably?
  • Dora from Doha, QatarVertigo has more of a rockier, edgier feel to it. Its very cool!
  • Anthony from Reading, PaActually the uno, dos, tres, quatorce was alcohol influenced. Bono even said it himself. Not everything has to have a hidden meaning. Sometimes it's about just having fun.
  • Traci from Little Rock, ArI agree that this song has a religious message of overcoming temptation ("All of this, all of this can be yours" refers to Satan's proposition to Jesus on the mountaintop) and also developing spiritual love ("Your love is teaching me how to kneel" - as in kneel in prayer).
  • Corey Maller from Roslyn Heights, NyLove this song, especially when it is performed live.
  • Rose from Gisborne, New ZealandGood grief, a bit of over analyzing here! Adam Clayton said "It's a bit of a no brainer" I take that to mean turn it up load and enjoy! Great live. I'm glad they didn't miss NZ out this time, 14 years was way too long to wait!
  • Brad from Knoxville, Tnu2 was actually a christian band . . . . . until Bono claimed to be christ,creepy anyone?the song is talking about how hard it is to be a christian in a secular world,with people claiming to be a christian for title purposes,therefore there in vertigo,because theyre confused about all of the happenings around them.
  • Aaron from Manistee, MiIm another tennage U2 fan. For what its worth Im 16 percent irish and I love mixing beer into smothies. Dont ask for the recipe.
  • Conor from Swinford, IrelandI heard that it may be a reference to their producer, Steve Lilywhite. He worked on their 1st(boy), 2nd(october), 3rd(war) and 14th(HTDAAB) albums
  • Sean from Bournemouth, EnglandThis song is great, but I think that U2 should know proper spanish when he writes his songs.
  • Bean from Wayne, Njthe reference for the uno dos tres quatorze is quite simple. I acutally heard Bono comment about it in an interview. It basically means that in rock and roll, there is no rhyme or reason. Him jumping from 3 to 14 was random, just like rock and roll. There is no fine line, no direct pattern to get to your destanation. The steps you take to get to your end result may not always be A B C D, or 1 2 3 4, it's just all random.
  • Jl from Bretagne, Franceto Matt and Jack Lee : "quatorze" is 14 in French, not in Spanish ("catorce", as in the song whatever the reason)
  • Harry from Glasgow, ScotlandHEY GUYS LISTEN TO ME!!!
    Read Bono on Bono and you will see he failed Irish (GOT KICKED OUT OF COLLEGGE FOR IT!)and said he was rubbish at languages. It's got nothing to do with the bible (this time!)

  • John from Fort Worth, TxFolks At SongFacts,
    I speak Spanish and the first word is "Uno" which means "one". "Unos," which is plural, is used to mean "some" in certain contexts. I have always been intrigued by this opening. I agree with anyone who thinks Bono used this lyric for the sound only and not for some deep symbolysm. Spanish is a fun and interesting language.
    John
  • Don from Newmarket, CanadaMy theory on the counting: In Woolly Bully, Sam the Sham has nonsensical counting at the beginning so perhaps it's an homage or as someone suggested, poetic licence.

    Great video, BTW.
  • Leon from Waterbury, CtFirst of all, I don't think the countdown really matters - I'm pretty sure it's because it's their 14th album. And Angela, Bono wouldn't make a mistake like that, seeing as he's fluent in Spanish.
  • Dan from Lee, NhThis song's is just a big rip on Elevation
  • Acrobat from Adelaide, AustraliaOk people... even Bono has admitted there is nothing deep in the fact of the unos, dos, tres, catorce other than a night of heavy drinking. This is actually rather plausible, they are Irish...
  • Rick from Humboldt, IaWho cares it's just a silly song!!!!! Everybody overcriticizes U2 because they are currently the best band in the world. This isn't a bad song, just not their best.
  • Anonymous from -, United States2 words: poetic license
  • Leon from Waterbury, CtTo Nathan in Defiance - I wouldn't consider U2 selling out by their song being using in the iPod ad, seeing as all the money benefited from it went to charity.
  • Angela from Hagerstown, Mdto Nick (Cambridge, England), he grew up half Protestant, half Catholic. which partially may explain his feelings on the tesions in Ireland. there is also an alternative theory for the "unos, dos, tres, catorce" thing: Steve Lillywhite produced their first, second, third, and 14th albums. but i personally think Bono just screwed up, then went with it. it sure has made the song well talked about! most of the song is just refences to their ealier stuff. i think Bono said somewhere that the "Hello, hello" thing was from one of the songs off Boy. i dunno.
  • Anonymous from Las Vegas, NvI think everyone's overthinking the whole 1,2,3,14 thing. "Uno, dos, tres, cuatro" is so overused at the beginning of songs that it becomes somewhat redundant. Therefore, I think Bono used "catorce" (yes, that's how you really spell it) to shake things up a little and make it interesting.
  • Nick from Cambridge, EnglandThis is about when Bono lived in Ireland as a young man. He was in a Nightclub called vertigo which came under attack. The fight was between Catholics and Protestants, who are still fighting today in ireland. The phrase "Its everything I wish I didn't know" is about him hating the fact that he has grown up protestant/catholic (I can't remember which) and how it has coused trouble. 1,2,3,14 at the begining is a bible referance which ties in with everything.
    All the lyrics point towards the fear and atmosphear in the club at various points in the evening.
  • Josh from Pleasant Plains, IlI disagree with the meaning of the song that is stated "opening your mind and looking at things in a different way." I belive this song is talking about either his girlfriend/wife or God. The chorus being: "I'm at a place called vertigo. It's everything i wish i didn't know except you give me something I can feel." meaning his life is messed up except for when he things of (his girlfriend/wife or God.)
  • Grant from Annandale, VaBrian from IL--thank you, you seem to be the only person who gets what I would think is obvious--going from 1,2,3 to 14 is an evocation of the dizziness and out of control feeling of vertigo. nothing more
  • Marius from Lüneburg, Germanythey are used to sing the numbers in that language of the country, where they perform this song...
    and in every language bono sings 14 (for example vertigo-tour berlin: eins, zwei, drei, vierzehn)... so i disagree with "J"
  • Dave from Philadelphia, PaBono says catorce (fourteen in Spanish) instead of quattro (four in Spanish) because this album is their fourteenth.
  • J from Boston, MaFrankly I think he just made a mistake when he said 14, I think people are overthinking about this, unless that is what u2 wanted.
  • Nathan from Defiance, OhU2 is a good band but I hate to see them selling out so much lately, like that whole Ipod incident. Bono should stop kissing the Pope's ass, and go back to writing meaningful music, like he used to.
  • Emily from Cambridge, MaI always assumed that "one, two, three, fourteen" was a reference to the song being three minutes and fourteen seconds long.
  • Brian from Chicago, IlDuring the 'Vertigo' intro at the 5/12/05 Chicago concert (4th of 4), Bono belted out "unos, dos, tres, quince!" (1, 2, 3, 15). U2 received horrible reviews from both local papers following the band's initial Chicago show on 5/7. The modified intro was presumably Bono's way of letting it be known that they were stepping everything up a notch for their final Chicago show (which they did with flying colors). It also marked the first of only two times that the show opened with 'Vertigo' on North American leg. It has since become the show's standard opener in Europe.
  • Brian from Chicago, IlAs for the 'unos, dos, tres, catorce' intro, people seem to be ignoring the obvious: the name of the song is 'Vertigo'; i.e., a feeling of dizziness, disorientation, or confusion. the jump to 14 after 1, 2, 3 may simplty be representative of that sensation. Nothing more.
  • Devin from San Diego, Canow im not sure about this... but i've heard that in the liner notes somewhere there is the quote "I am who I am..." or something like that... Im not sure if any of you are very familiar with the bible, but in the book of Exodus, chapter three verse fourteen reads "I am who I am, tell them I am sent you" or something of that matter...
    but getting to my point, Exodus is the second book of the first testament... meaning that passage is 1st testament, 2nd book, 3rd chapter , 14th verse... 1,2,3,14

    now im not sure if the "I am..." quote is in the liner notes so... so im kinda just throwing this out there
  • Jade from London, EnglandHey Jack Lee & Ryan i am a huge U2 fan aswell & also 14 Ryan! x
  • Jade from London, EnglandRight now i know what you mean Billy, but you spelt quartorze wrong, lol!
  • Jade from London, EnglandA classic stylish U2 song! & can you tell me Billy, from Boston area, (Westwood), MA, what the hell you meant, lol!
  • Ash from Charleston, WvThe melody used for the verses is awfully similar to the Motown song "You Just Keep Me Hanging On." I forget who sang the original of that song, but it was covered by Kim Wilde in the 80's.
  • Jordan from Rhinelander, Wione. two, three, fourteen, bono said fourteen because at the time thats how many grammys the band has won.
  • Carrie from Detroit, MiThe "1,2,3,14" doesn't bug me at all just because, like Springsteen said, it's correct math for a rock band. The only thing that kind of gets to me is that Bono doesn't actually say "uno, dos, tres, catorce," he says "UNOS, dos, tres, catorce." (Even the official U2 t-shirts say "unos") Technically, this means "some, two, three, fourteen". ...To Ryan in NY, I just gotta say how cool it is to find another teenage U2 lover!
  • Leslie from Latham, NyAs a sufferer of vertigo for 13 years now, I can tell you it's nothing to sing about. If Bono had daily, uncontrollable, unpredictable vertigo, that made his life a living hell, he never would have written a song about it. If he's trying to get people to "think" a different way, then he shoud have known, with vertigo, you're unable to think at all. This song will never be played in my house. Leslie
  • Musa from Amman, OtherWhen Bruce Springsteen inducted U2 into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, he said "'Uno, dos, tres, catorce'. That translates as one, two, three, fourteen. That is the correct math for a rock and roll band. For in art and love and rock and roll, the whole had better equal much more than the sum of its parts, or else you're just rubbing two sticks together searching for fire." No band today better exemplifies that power than U2.
  • Devin from San Diego, Ca"uno, dos, tres, catorce"... it makes sense as refering to the bible verse. they do make a lot of religious references in their songs (christian references)
  • Tom from Trowbridge, EnglandGood song but they only won the Grammys because they're U2 and the academy have their heads stuck up U2's arses! Velvet Revolver should have got best rock song, The Killers should have gor best rock performance and Green Day should have got best video.
  • Anonymous from On A White Line Straight To NowhereBono has intimated that there was alcohol involved in his inaccurate counting during the intro.
  • Andy from Halifax, Englandu2 (acording to Bono) we not paid for the use of their song in the iPod advert. Apparantly they just allowed the song to be used because they liked the product so much.

    This song seems to take at least a little inspiration (musically) from 'Get free' by the vines.
  • Angelo from New York, NyA classic
  • Ryan from Albion, Nygod bless you jack lee...im a lone U2 fan in my small town. i'm 14,and everybody usually makes fun of me for my love for u2..lately,it's been the same stupid line over and over again.."hey ryan,how come those idiots 1,2,3,14?" and i have nothing to say. BUT NOT NOW...you have put that beginning into realization for me..thank you
  • Jack Lee from Nottingham, EnglandThe reason as to why at the start Bono counts Uno, Dos, Tres, Quatorze has many meaning, Eg, the fact that HTDAAB is there 14th album. And anyway think about it, if he would have counted Uno, Dos, Tres, Quat, that wouldn't sound right, the last number had to have three sylables to go in with the music
  • Bethan from Somerset, Uk.Reached #1 in the UK in first week of release.
  • Matt from Millbrae, Cabono can't speak spanish! he syas "uno, dos, tres, QUATORZE!" quatorze means 14! so essentially he counts off 1, 2, 3, 14...wow. good song otherwise, but it think they went a little too mainstream with the whole Apple thing.
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