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.
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."
Bertrand - Paris, France