What Ryan Adams’ songs mean to me, part two: When The Stars Go Blue

There are not many things in life that disappoint me; I’m a relatively happy-go-lucky kind of guy.  I can sometimes feel a little disgruntled when I can’t find a shade of socks to entirely match the colour of my tie, and there’s a certain kind of sadness when a pair of boots I particularly enjoy wearing are cracked right across the soles (although this experience did very recently aid me in getting the most wonderful laugh out of a barmaid when a random stranger I was conversing with decided to reveal to her that he works as a shoe repair man and I was at the ideal level of drunkenness and boldness to comment:  “A shoe repair man?  That sounds like the kind of job that must be great for the soul [sole,]) but other than that the greatest disappointment I tend to feel is when I step into the shower on a morning and realise that I have forgotten to replenish my Nivea facial scrub, which happens once approximately every seven weeks.

One moment in my thirty-three-and-a-half years outside of the womb has stuck with me as being a poignantly displeasing experience, however.  It was the time that one of the most iconic performers in the world, Bono, covered a Ryan Adams song with The Corrs.

I love U2.  Somewhere on the internet in the dense scrap heap of discarded blogs written by me there is a series of posts detailing my adoration for Bono and the lads.  And The Corrs are a quite inoffensive pop quartet.  Indeed, probably the only offensive thing attached to the family foursome from Ireland is the pub question popular amongst groups of men who have nothing better to discuss:  Would you fuck Jim Corr in order to sleep with the rest of The Corrs (particularly, although not limited to, Andrea?)

I would like to state for the record that my answer to this brain teaser is typically no.  Not out of some overtly masculine fear over my sexuality being brought into question.  Nor is my answer negative due to some vague form of chivalry whereby I refuse to have sex with a prospective lover’s brother.  I generally answer no to the question of whether I would have sex with Jim if it meant I could have relations with the other members of The Corrs because I cannot help but imagine how awkward the subsequent family dinners would be.  The trembling in my hand as I pass the gravy to Sharon whilst trying to avoid eye contact with Jim.  The silence that would wash over the room when Andrea asks her brother if he would like more meat.  It would be too much for me to bear.  And there is certainly no way you could have a meaningful relationship with Andrea Corr after such an inglorious courtship.

I cannot remember where I first heard of Bono and The Corrs covering When The Stars Go Blue.  I have a suspicion that they performed it at a large benefit concert that was televised in the mid 2000’s (I’m thinking a Live Aid or something similar?) and I felt this palpable excitement when it was announced that one of my favourite artists would be covering a song by my absolute favourite musician.  I couldn’t wait to see it.

Then Andrea Corr called it “Stars Go Blue” (fair enough, hardly the greatest crime ever committed – especially when you consider the things her brother does) and Bono pranced onto the stage wearing those purple shades and with a yellow rose in his hand.  Everything about how they made this lonely and miserable song an attempt at upbeat beauty made me cringe.  By the time Bono and Andrea finished up dancing I could not think of a musical performance I hated more.  There should have been a benefit concert for the tragedy of this song.

It has taken me a long time to get over this disappointment.  Ryan recently (in the last three or four years) reintroduced When The Stars Go Blue into his live set and it still makes me feel uneasy, although my intolerance of it has cooled the more he plays it.  It is a lovely, melancholic song and I would kind of like to like it.  Maybe this year he can reclaim it.

Album:  Gold
Album release:  25th September 2001
Also appears on:  VH1 Presents:  The Corrs, Live in Dublin

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What Ryan Adams’ songs mean to me, part one: So Alive

This song does such a great job of reminding me that I am alive.  Not only because it is inferred from the title, or even due to it being one of the more anthemic Ryan Adams tracks in his catalogue.  So Alive is brilliant at reminding me that I am alive because it is one of those songs that, when it is finished, I immediately have to fish into my pocket for my phone so that I can skip back and listen to it again.  And anybody who has witnessed me walking to or from a particular location (for that is my primary reason for walking:  to get to or from somewhere) will attest that, if I am not reaching into my pocket for my phone, I pretty much resemble a mindless zombie with no awareness of what is happening around me.

Perhaps what I enjoy most about that moment of being alive, when you hit ‘back’ and the opening guitar chord blasts out through the earphones again, is the idea that passers-by probably think that I am reading an exciting text message or receiving another massively complimentary comment on the colour of my socks.  When little do they know that the reality is that I simply want to hear a rare uplifting song from this melancholic alt. Americana troubadour again, because I can never listen to So Alive just once.

Always on your side
I’m on your side
And so alive it isn’t real

So Alive isn’t the first song I heard by Ryan Adams.  It isn’t even the first Ryan Adams song that I loved or that I love the most.  But it is the song which made me fall in love with his music and sparked a fourteen year and twenty gig obsession.

Tuesday 25th November 2003 was the first time I saw Ryan Adams play live.  It was the first gig I would attend.  I still have the ticket and some cuttings of newspaper reviews in a scrappy old notebook alongside my own handwritten review of the night.  My piece is overly sarcastic and lacking in depth.  Thankfully I have matured out of that habit.


I don’t remember a great deal about the performance.  I was young – barely twenty – and had enjoyed some Jack Daniels, whilst my enthusiastic scrawling suggests that everything he and his band played that night was the best thing ever.  But it is So Alive that truly left a lasting impression.  Rock N Roll had been released barely weeks before the tour and this would be the final song of the night.  It was delivered with an energy and a passion that still resonates today.  I can remember him perched on a speaker at the front of the stage bellowing these words with every ounce of his being.  Probably with a bottle of wine in hand, such was the Ryan Adams of the early 2000’s.  I knew immediately that he would be my favourite musician and that I would see him again and again.

The next time I saw Ryan Adams perform – in Liverpool in January 2004 – he played So Alive early in the set, it wasn’t nearly as impactful, and towards the end of the show he would fall from the stage and break his wrist.  He wouldn’t tour again until sometime in 2005.

I was already hooked, however, and like that ridiculously big falsetto in the chorus my appreciation of this song goes on and on.

Album:  Rock N Roll
Album release:  4th November 2003