In the middle of this song Bono says the following on the "Save The Yuppie free Concert", Justin Herman Plaza, San Francisco, 13 November 1987:
This song was written in a hotelroom in New York City (inaudible) about time a friend of ours, called Little Stevens, put togeather a record of artist against Apartheids.
This song is written about a man at the point of no return. The point where he is ready to take up arms against those that would deny him and the majority of black South Africany a right to the future.
This man in a shanty town at the South of Johannesburg having enough of looking down the gunbarrel of white South Africa. He's ready - but he still waits. Waits for the West - supposed peacemakers - all they argue about sanctions and they fail to support a man like bishop Tutu and his call ... call for common sense. Because this is all to do with silver and gold. That is what brought the white South African man there in the first place as he dug the diamonds in the earth. An rich mean of deposits of South Africa. He was there for the silver and gold that's what will get them out of there.
Had enough? (inaudible) However I always got a man beside me that likes to play the blues. (The Edge takes over...)
Jonas Steverud (Maintainer of U2MoL) (24:th of June 1998)
This song is obviously about conditions during Apartheid in South Africa. But, I think that some of the lyrics are a bit more telling. The phrase "Praying hands hold me down" refers to the fact that the Afrikaners used God and the bible to legitimize segregation and Apartheid laws. "Tin can town" refers to the townships where the native blacks lived illegally, thus they were often forcabley removed from these areas when the white suburbs began to creep closer. The government raided the townships and took all of the people (humans who are usually the hunters) into custody ("Only the hunter was hunted"). "Captains and kings" refers to the fact that respected leaders of Native tribes were taken as slaves from Africa, as well as put in prison (i.e. Nelson Mandela is a Tribal chief). "Navy blue uniforms" and "bright shiny things" refers to the police and military of the South African government. "Temperature is rising, Fever white hot" refers to the riots and protest of the natives during the 1980's and the fact that the South African gov. is getting "sick" because the government is losing control. In the live version Bono sings of a "Prize fighter in a corner is told..." I think that he is refering to the Police paying their officers to use force and to kill to win the "war."
Rob Hammerschmidt robertmail.lemont.k12.il.us (22:nd of December 2000)
Toward the end of the song on Rattle & Hum, Bono says: Yep, silver and gold. This song was written in a hotel room in New York City, 'round about the time a friend of ours, Little Steven, was putting together a record of artists against Apartheid! This is a song written about a man in the shanty town of Southern Johannesburg...a man who's sick of lookin' down the barrel of white South Africa...a man who is ready to take up arms against oppressor...a man who has lost faith in the peacemakers of the West, while they argue, and while they fail to support a man like Bishop Tutu and his request for economic sanctions against South Africa. Am I buggin' you? I don't mean to bug ya. Okay, Edge, play the blues!
Jessica Green jessigreensasktel.net (19:th of March 2004)