When Love Comes To Town
by U2

Album: Rattle And Hum (1988)
Charted: 6 68

Songfacts®:

  • This is a duet with blues legend B.B. King. American blues musicians were a big influence on U2, and the group had a great admiration for King. In 1987, King played a show in Dublin and found out U2 would be in the audience. This made him nervous, as U2 had just released The Joshua Tree and were wildly popular, especially in their native Ireland. After the show, King was honored to meet the band and humbled to find out they were big fans. He asked Bono to think of him sometime when he was writing a song, and this was the result.

    King performed the song with the band for the first time during their Joshua Tree tour at a concert in Fort Worth, Texas on November 24, 1987. Parts of this show as well as the soundcheck were included in the U2 concert documentary Rattle And Hum, which contains a scene where Bono is rehearsing this with King.
  • B.B. King opened for U2 on their 1989 "Lovetown" tour, which went through New Zealand, Japan, Ireland, Germany, and Holland. King joined U2 when they played this, which usually occurred near the end of their set.
  • The version used on Rattle And Hum was recorded with B.B. King at Sun Studios in Memphis, where King is royalty. This was one of several new songs on the album, which was a combination of live cuts from their 1987 tour and studio recordings.
  • This was a huge career boost for B.B. King. Although he was revered in the blues community, he wasn't well known in the world of rock or pop. His association with U2 brought him a huge number of new fans and changed the dynamic of his audience, which became split between blues purists and rock fans who learned about him through U2. Many of King's older fans did not appreciate the newcomers.
  • Admiration between King and Bono on this song was mutual; King was amazed that Bono could write such mature lyrics at such a young age, and Bono was blown away by King's vocal. "I gave it my absolute everything I had in that howl at the start of the song," Bono said. "Then B.B. opened his mouth, and I felt like a girl."
  • This won the MTV Video Music Award for best video from a film in 1989. The video provided B.B. King with his first exposure to the MTV audience.
  • Near the beginning of their 1989 tour with B.B. King, U2 threw him a surprise birthday party. They invited King on a boat for what he thought was a fishing trip, but as soon as they left shore, they released balloons and sang Happy Birthday. That night, they had a fireworks display in his honor.
  • This was B.B. King's biggest hit in the UK.
  • B.B. King got another career boost when he teamed up with Eric Clapton in 2000 to record an album called Riding With The King. Many blues legends remain in rock obscurity, but his collaborations with U2 and Clapton gave King a higher profile than any blues musician has achieved. After his recording with Clapton, King opened a series of nightclubs under his name. It helped that King remained a skilled guitarist and powerful vocalist into his 60s.
  • This was included on U2's compilation, The Best Of 1980-1990.
  • BB King played his Gibson "Lucille" guitar probably through a Lab Series amp on this song.
  • Adam Clayton: "We discovered a common bond between us and some of these older artists like B.B. King. When we met him there was a whole world of understanding and nothing needed to be said. That has been the payoff of working ten years to get into this position. We no longer have to prove ourselves. It's in the music and people can hear it." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France

Comments: 6

  • Shehryar from Islamabad, Pakistanfisrt things first, RnH is a great album. secondly, when BB says he's no good with chords, Bono's reply... is even more interesting... 'i'm sure edge will take care of the chords, there's only two of them!' referring to the two chords used in the song, E and A
  • Roger from Los Angeles, CaThe best song on U2's worst album. This song is actually the one redeeming quality of Rattle and Hum and that is only because BB King stole the show with this song.
  • Joost from UtrechtActually, BB says "I'm horrible with chords".
  • Dillie from Atlanta, GaThis song didn't mean anything to me before Christ. I finally got it.

    Lyrics for: When Love Comes To Town

    Lyrics Meaning

    Verse 1
    I was a sailor, I was lost at sea Lost soul, didn't have Christ
    I was under the waves before Love rescued me Drowning in sin, he was saved by Christ
    I was a fighter, I could turn on a thread B. C. carnal, controlled by the flesh, emotions, angry
    But I stand accused of the things I've said Dead in sin; accused by the Law

    Refrain
    When Love comes to town He is going to run to Jesus when He comes
    I want to jump that train Ditto
    When Love comes to town Ditto
    I want to catch that flame Ditto
    Maybe I was wrong to ever let you down Hurt others
    But I did what I did before Love came to town His life B. C.

    Verse 2
    I used to make love under a red sunset Fornicator
    I was making promises I was soon to forget Liar
    She was pale as the lace of her wedding gown Womanizer
    But I left her standing before Love came to town Centered on Self B. C.

    Verse 3
    I ran into a juke joint where I heard a guitar scream
    Searching, worshiping idols along the way
    The notes were turning blue Seeking
    When I fell into a dream Truth starts to come
    As the music played I saw my life turn around He finally gets Truth
    That was the day before Love came to town He accepts Christ and is a new creature

    Refrain
    When Love comes to town
    I want to jump that train
    When Love comes to town
    I want to catch that flame
    Maybe I was wrong to ever let you down
    But I did what I did before Love came to town

    Verse 4
    I was there when they crucified my Lord
    We all crucified Him with our collective sin
    I held the scabbard when the soldier drew his sword Ditto
    I threw the dice when they pierced His side Roman Soldiers cast lots for His clothes
    But I've seen Love conquer the great divide The gulf between God & man'Christ is our bridge

    Refrain
    When Love comes to town
    I want to jump that train
    When Love comes to town
    I want to catch that flame
    Maybe I was wrong to ever let you down
    But I did what I did before Love came to town

  • Shell from Riverdale, GaHmmm, I remember the line as "I'm terrible with chords." Guess it's time to watch it again.
  • Paul from Greenwood, ScFor you musicians...an interesting note. On the Rattle and Hum DVD, as the band and King are discussing playing the song, B.B. tells Bono that "he doesn't play chords". This guitar legend is worried about playing chords, which Bono assures him won't be a problem. B.B. does a masterful job in the live show playing his signature fills and riffs, but NO chords.
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