I think this is a song about Christ unselfish love and sacrafice for Bono and the human race. Through the song Bono sings about a woman on a bed of nails and in the last verse he says "she's got me with nothing to win and nothing else to lose". I think this represents sin and how we really don't gain anything from it, but we feel that we have nothing left to lose since we have pushed God away so manytimes before. "And you give yourself away" I believe refers to how ever time we sin Christ redeems us through the cross; giving his pain for our sin. Finally With or without you sums up the idea how sin controls all of us. We can't live without Christ, but Bono, and most of us, feel that we we can't live with him because we always let him down. "My hands are tied, My body bruised, she's got me with ...." sin traps us on earth, but through Jesus giving himself away we can be with God.
Michael Aaron Smith mismit24vt.edu (contributed before the 20:th of February 1998)
I think this song is more about love when it is requited, ie real relationships, than anything else. Its a song about how totally futile love can be...even when shared with another person. Its like the old addage "you cant live with them and you cant live without them". Infact it is exactly that. Its about how when apart from your love, the only thing you want is them, the sun rises and sets by them, and you would give anything to be with them. Then once you are reunited you start to notice tiny little annoying things or you realise that you cant stand the person you thought you loved....only to not be able to live without them again when you are seperated from them.
Its about giving yourself wholeheartedly to another person and them giving all of themselves to you, but it is not enough....and its never enough.You give it all but I want more Its about going into these situations knowing what you are in for but doing it anyway.
I think the she that is refered to in the song is love.she got me with nothing to win and nothing left to lose, which is exactly the way love can make people feel, its futile and useless but its fantastic and we cant wait till it happens again.on a bed of nails she makes me wait, meaning that love has got Bono in an uncomfortable position...but its alright because it is love.
FarawaySoClose u2_rockshotmail.com (29:th of May 1998)
U2's With or Without You is a song about how painful life can be. So often we are torn in two by our feelings, thoughts, and actions. We want something, yet it scares us to death. We hate having to say good-bye to someone we love, yet we are relieved somehow when the person is gone. We want to believe, love, and trust in God, yet to do so can mean giving up so much that we can't seem to let go of.
All this inner turmoil wears on the soul, it makes us question why we're ever put here on this earth to suffer on that bed of nails. Why do we love someone so much, yet hate what that might mean to our lives. Why do long to believe in a loving God, yet love to do evil. It hurts, it leaves nothing else to lose, we can't live either way.
We are TORN. That's why, when Bono cries out to a concert night sky, I can't live ... With or without you ... Oohhh ... there will always be 50,000+ people crying out with him.
Daniel Mallett djm6ualberta.ca (29:th of November 1998)
In an interview with Hot Press in Dec. 1987, Bono said the following "the album is almost incomplete. With or Without You doesn't really make sense without Walk to the Water or Luminous Times."
Eric ejj1geneseo.edu ( 4:th of March 2000)
According to the biography "The Unforgettable Fire", the song With or without you is about Bono's 'relationship' with his audience/his fans. Right from their beginnings, Bono, during their live shows, has always given of himself COMPLETELY to his fans, which over the years has taken a toll, physically and emotionally.
It is also worth noting from the book "into the heart" by Nial Stokes, Bono says that "You" can also refer to the group. "You" might be refering to the group as much as the audience in this case.
The best interpretation of the song is to watch the video POPMART Live from Mexico City. Here you can clearly see how much he gives of himself and how much, we the audience, mean to him.....definately the best performance of the song ever.
Justin Barry justin_ac30hotmail.com (14:th of April 2000)
I have always felt that 'With or without you' is about prostitution. I'll take you through the lyrics and explain why...
See the stone set in your eyes See the thorn twist in your side I wait for you Sleight of hand and twist of fate On a bed of nails she makes me wait And I wait without you
Here the stone set eyes are those of the prostitute he is visiting. She does it every day and to her he is just another customer. There is no emotional attachment. She is making him wait on a bed of nails because he is nervous and biting his nails, not sure what to expect from the whole experience.
Through the storm we reach the shore You give it all but I want more And I'm waiting for you
In this verse he is describing the climax of their intercourse. The storm he describes is the nervousness and the awkwardness he is experiencing. But once she is done and it is over he is just getting used to it and therefore wants more and more. So he waits again.
And you give yourself away And you give yourself away And you give And you give And you give yourself away
This bit is pretty obvious. By being a prostitute she is giving herself away to all of her customers.
My hands are tied My body bruised, she's got me with Nothing to win and Nothing left to lose
This verse is the hardest to decipher but I'll give it a go. His body could be bruised due to the physicality of the whole experience or he could be talking about his feelings and soul being bruised. Hence his hands being tied. He knows what he is doing is wrong but he just can't stop doing it. He is winning nothing by doing it and he is losing nothing by doing it again because he has already done it. This leads on to the chorus of:
With or without you With or without you I can't live With or without you
He can't live with her because it is purely an exchange of pleasure for money. To her it is purely business, no matter his feelings towards her. Yet he has now become addicted to the whole experience. Whether that's addicted to her, the sex itself or both is hard to say.
I hope this has made sense. I fully respect other peoples views of this song and i hope they feel the same about my interpretation.
Kieran kieran.woodhousegmail.com (28th of October 2011)
To begin, the song starts, "See the stone set in your eyes, see the thorn twist in your side."
During Roman crucifixion, it is common knowledge that usually the victim dies as a result of suffocation. The strain and stress that is put onto the chest as a result of the position the victim is in causes fluids to build in the lungs and eventually it causes asphyxiation. After the victim dies (see the stone set in your eyes) then the guards present take a spear and puncture the side of the crucified, letting the fluids that have built up drain out. This was the common practice in crucifixion and is documented in the bible as well (John 19:34).
"Sleight of hand," could be referring to how the Sadducee and pharisees saw christ, as a fake, a con artist, tricking the public into believing his miracles.
"Through the storm we reach the shore, You give it all but I want more."
One of the famous biblical stories with the Christ tells us that he and the apostles were traveling by boat when a storm came upon them (Luke 8:23 and Mark 4:37). The apostles were scared and woke the Christ up. He calmed the waves and they reached the shore. Still, even after these miracles, the apostles had a hard time believing he was the Christ and he would eventually die. Peter in particular had a very hard time accepting Christ's role. Right after he calms the waves, the apostles ask, "what manner of man is this that he commands even the winds and water . . ." thus giving us the idea that they still did not understand who he was for certain.
"And you give yourself away." Peter tried to defend Christ at the Garden of Gethsemane and even attacked a guard and cut off his ear. Christ's response was to tell Peter to stop and then he healed the guard (Luke 22:50-51). He says, "suffer ye thus far", meaning, let this happen. Christ himself says he had the power to take up his life and to give it away(John 10:18). He gives himself to the guards and the eventual crucifixion even though he had the power to stop it.
"My hands are tied, My body bruised." He was constrained and whipped and beaten to the point of near death before the crucifixion. This is an interesting part. During the rattle hum tour (on the dvd) U2 performs with or without you. During this part, Bono crosses his feet and holds his arms out wide as if he were on a cross.
I am not saying the song is for sure about Christ but the many references are startling. The words With or Without You really capture the idea of Christianity. No single christian would want Christ to be taken from them and killed, but at the same time, it is a requisite for salvation. So the singer is torn. For instance, Peter was torn at the idea of losing Christ, and yet his soul would be lost if Christ had not been taken and killed. None of us can live with or without him.
Ryan Gladden ryangladdengmail.com (19th of January 2012)