In God's Country

"In God's Country"
Single by U2
from the album The Joshua Tree
B-side "Bullet the Blue Sky"
"Running to Stand Still"
Released 17 November 1987 [1]
Format 7" vinyl, 12" vinyl, Cassette
Recorded Windmill Lane Studios, Dublin, Ireland, 1986
Genre Rock
Length 2:57
Label Island
Writer(s) U2 (music), Bono (lyrics)
Producer(s) Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois
U2 singles chronology
"Where the Streets Have No Name"
"In God's Country" (North America only)
"One Tree Hill" (New Zealand only)
The Joshua Tree track listing
"Red Hill Mining Town"
"In God's Country"
"Trip Through Your Wires"

"In God's Country" is a song by the Irish rock band U2. It is the seventh track from their fifth studio album The Joshua Tree and was released as the album's fourth single in November 1987 in North America only.[2]

Recording and composition

"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."

Adam Clayton, on the song's desert imagery[3]

"In God's Country" was a difficult song for the band to record, which they put down to not being trained musicians, and they do not speak overly highly of it. During The Joshua Tree sessions, they knew it was not going be one of their best songs but they needed more up-tempo songs.[4] It was developed out of Bono's frustration at trying to get "...a bit of Rock'n'Roll out of [U2 guitarist], the Edge." Bono tried to inspire the Edge by teasing and playing on his competitive instincts by claiming to be a better guitarist. Of the song, Bono said "[My] lyric was really good, the tune is pretty good, and the hook is pretty average - thanks to the Edge."[4] Played in the key of D, the verses of the studio version alternates between D and A minor chords. The first chorus repeats an Em-G-D-Em-G-D chord progression while the second chorus repeats a C-G-D-C-G-D progression.[4]

Bono has stated that he originally didn't know whether the song was about Ireland or America, but eventually dedicated it to the Statue of Liberty.[5] The song characterises the United States as a "desert rose" and a siren whose dress is torn in "ribbons and bows." The lyric speaks of a lack of political ideas in the West which Bono later contrasted to the revolution in Nicaragua where he had travelled during the recording of The Joshua Tree.[3]

Along with "Where the Streets Have No Name," "In God's Country"'s lyrics and sound reference the desert in accordance with the band's wish for The Joshua Tree to have a "cinematic" sense of location.[6]

Release and critical response

"In God's Country" was released as a single in Canada and the United States in November 1987. The cover art (photographed by Anton Corbijn), sleeve (designed by Steve Averill), and B-sides ("Bullet the Blue Sky" and "Running to Stand Still") were identical to those used for U2's 1988 single "One Tree Hill," released only in New Zealand and Australia.[7][8] The Canadian release was available on 7", 12" and cassette, while the US release was limited to 7" only.

"In God's Country" reached number 44 on the Billboard singles chart and number 48 as an import in the UK.[9] Sales of the single may have been hampered by the fact that its b-sides were two tracks from The Joshua Tree album instead of the usual non-album tracks.[10] An abridged live version of the song recorded on the Joshua Tree Tour appeared on the band's 1988 rockumentary, Rattle and Hum, but did not appear on the accompanying album of the same name.

The single's video appears on Outside it's America, a documentary tracking the band's first few weeks on tour through the American Southwest in 1987. The music video visualized the Irish immigrant experience and the complexities of the American Dream.[11] It was ultimately not released to MTV or other outlets.[9]

Hot Press editor and long-time U2 supporter, Bill Graham, described the song as "...U2 cruising, a starter and not a main course..." and referring to the lyrical cliches, he said the song was "...saved by the fact that [Bono] does Bono better than anybody else."[12]

Track listings

No. Title Length
1. "In God's Country"   2:57
2. "Bullet the Blue Sky"   4:32
3. "Running to Stand Still"   4:20

Chart positions

Year Chart Position
1987 UK Singles Chart[13] 48
US Billboard Hot 100 44
US Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks 6
1988 Canada RPM Top 100[14] 25

Appearances in media

The song is in the final scene and during the credits of the film Three Kings.[15]

See also


  1. Sams, Aaron; Kantas, Harry. "U2 – "In God's Country" Single". Retrieved 25 May 2016.
  2. Sams, Aaron; Kantas, Harry. "U2 – "In God's Country" Single". Retrieved 25 May 2016.
  3. 1 2 Stokes, Niall (1996). Into The Heart: The Stories Behind Every U2 Song. London: HarperCollins Publishers. p. 72. ISBN 0-7322-6036-1.
  4. 1 2 3 McCormick, Neil (ed), (2006). U2 by U2. HarperCollins Publishers. p. 182. ISBN 0-00-719668-7
  5. "The Joshua Tree Song Quotes and Information". Transcribed from radio interview. 1987-06-01. Archived from the original on February 4, 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-22.
  6. Graham, Bill; van Oosten de Boer, Caroline (2004). U2: the Complete Guide to their Music. Omnibus Press. pp. 27–30. ISBN 0-7119-9886-8.
  7. One Tree Hill (7" vinyl). U2. New Zealand: Island Records. 1988. 878 302-7.
  8. One Tree Hill (7" vinyl). U2. Australia: Island Records. 1988. K-338.
  9. 1 2 McGee, Matt (2008). U2: A Diary. Omnibus Press. p. 112. ISBN 978-1-84772-108-2.
  10. "In God's Country Single". U2 Wanderer. Retrieved 2009-05-22.
  11. Almeida, Linda Dowling (2001). Irish Immigrants in New York City, 1945-1995. Indiana University Press. p. 119. ISBN 0-2531-0853-5.
  12. Graham, Bill; van Oosten de Boer, Caroline (2004). U2: the Complete Guide to their Music. Omnibus Press. p. 34. ISBN 0-7119-9886-8.
  13. "Chart Stats - UK Singles & Albums". Retrieved 2010-01-14. Note: U2 must be searched manually.
  14. "Search Results: In God's Country". RPM. 1988-01-23. Retrieved 2009-11-25.
  15. "Three Kings Soundtrack". IMDB. Retrieved 8 April 2015.

External links

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