" is a song by rock
and the opening
track from their 1991 album Achtung
. The song is one that most dramatically represents
the band's reinvention with the album's release. It features
several layers of distorted
guitars and vocals and industrial
-influenced percussion, along
with lyrics suggesting new intents and anticipations. During the
Zoo TV Tour
, "Zoo Station" opened every
concert except for one. The song title refers to the Bahnhof
Zoo (the official name is Berlin Zoologischer Garten) station in Berlin.
Coincidentally, the station has been on the U2 line
of the Berlin metro
since 1993; however, at the time
the song was recorded this part of the Berlin metro was served by
the U1 line
Writing and recording
troublesome recording sessions at Hansa Studios in Berlin in late
1990, U2 returned to Dublin in 1991 for
the second phase of the recording sessions for Achtung
One song, "Lady With the Spinning Head", later
released as a B-side, proved troublesome, but would inspire
portions of three separate songs, "Zoo Station" being one of them,
" the other two. The band
ultimately decided to take "Zoo Station" in a more industrial
direction than "Lady With the
"Zoo Station" came together near the end of the recording sessions
when producer Flood
the song and introduced
to the drums.
The song's direction was largely influenced by the production team
of Daniel Lanois
, Brian Eno
, and Flood. Lead vocalist Bono
had been disappointed with his vocal performances
in early recording sessions for the album, and told the production
team, "Let's just try something that's gonna put me in a completely
different place". After they distorted his voice to make it sound
as if it were coming from a megaphone
Bono was inspired to sing in a persona, as the effect gave his
vocals a different "emotional feel".
The song's lyrics were originally inspired from a story that Bono
heard of Berlin during World War II
which animals escaped the city's zoo
was damaged in overnight bombing. Rhinoceri
wandered around the next morning
while people were sifting through the rubble. Bono was also
influenced when he learned of a subway station in Berlin called
Zoo Station, since it stopped at the zoo.
the song to the actual subway station, saying "it was written as an
opening track, the beasts breaking out of their cages."
further inspiration from the subway station representing Europe at
a crossroads, as people of many different walks of life had
descended upon a reunified
Berlin after the Berlin
Wall was knocked down.
As the first track on an album that was a major reinvention for the
band, "Zoo Station" gives listeners an introduction to the U2's new
sound. The song features several different layers of distorted
guitar and vocals. Irish rock journalist Bill Graham cites David Bowie
's album, Low
, as a major influence on "Zoo Station",
which he called a "new brand of glam-rock
of "Spartan rhythms and sudden flurries of melody".
The song is played in a 4/4 time
, but only one element of the song's distinctive
introduction, a marimba
-like texture, is
played in regular time. This sound, which has been compared to that
of a "clock ticking", was achieved by picking the guitar's D string
behind the bridge
. On the second half of the third
, the song's signature guitar
, a distorted, rapidly-strummed descending
, enters. In its descent, the
glissando overshoots the octave
by a major second
before sliding back up to it.
After the second time it is played, an "explosion" of percussion is
heard, playing twice on beat four of every second measure
. This "explosion" of percussion, played
, enters early the third
time, being played on beat two. The drums then enter, before
stopping and starting again. Much like the song's guitar sounds,
the drums' timbre
is noticeably different
from previous U2 songs, exhibiting a "cold, processed sound,
something like beating on a tin can". Amidst layers of various
guitar sounds, the bass enters, the part played in the introduction
and verses consisting of repeating G
, mimicking the ascending portion of the
guitar riff after the glissando overshoots the octave. After the
bass begins, the song's regular groove is established.
Guitarist The Edge
says "Danny [Lanois]
provided an incredibly mad intro which sounds like a keyboard, but
is in fact guitar on which I'm creating strange textures." Of the
song's introduction, bassist Adam
says, "When people put on the record, we wanted their
first reaction to be either 'this record is broken' or 'this can't
be the new U2 record, there's been a mistake.' So there is quite a
dramatic extended intro where you just don't know what you are
listening to." Author Albin Zak, in his book The Poetics of
, says of the introduction, "Before any words are sung,
the sounds alone alert the listener that the band has moved into
new expressive territory."
After the introduction, the song follows a conventional verse-chorus form
. During the verses, Bono
sings primarily in a medium-to-low range and his vocals are treated
with heavy processing
takes out the bottom of the sound and "emasculate[s]" his voice.
The processing also introduces a wavering quality to his vocals.
The guitar glissando continues to be played during the verses.
During the chorus, the bassline becomes more dynamic and plays
descending quarter notes
-D-C-A-G-A. Bono's vocals also become more
dynamic in the chorus, featuring layers of both "open-throated"
singing and monotone lyric recitation, as well as both processed
and unprocessed vocals.
Many of the lyrics suggest new anticipations and appetites
("I'm ready for what's next"
), as well as a willingness to
throw caution to the wind and take risks ("I'm ready for the
… "I'm ready to let go of the steering
). Some of the lyrics, particularly those in the
before the final chorus, use
the eponymous subway station as a metaphor
for time: "Time is a train" / "Makes the future the past" /
"Leaves you standing in the station" / "Your face pressed up
against the glass"
. Bono cites the enjoyment of his first
child born in 1989 as a major influence on Achtung Baby
as was his wife's second pregnancy during the album's 1991
recording. Bono says babies influenced the lines within "Zoo
Station", "I'm ready, to say I'm glad to be alive" / "I'm
ready, I'm ready for the push…"
Station" was not released as a single, yet became a radio success
in the United
States, reaching the top spot on the mainstream rock
charts and No.
10 on the Billboard Hot 100
The song was featured in the 2002 film About a Boy
On the Zoo TV Tour
, "Zoo Station" opened
every concert except for one show. "Zoo Station" was not played
during the PopMart
and Elevation Tours
. It was played on the
. It appears on the video
releases Zoo TV: Live from
and Vertigo 2005: Live from
. A live version of "Zoo Station" from the Vertigo
Tour also appears as a b-side
on the maxi single
for "Window in the Skies