This haunting closer to the album is a prayer, quite obviously calling for the return of Jesus to the world. ("Jesus, Jesus help me") Bono as the speaker feels alone and hopeless in a world he can no longer stand. ("I'm alone in this world / and a fucked up world it is too") He yearns for the reassurance of religion, the gospel, and the sweet eternal life promised by the Bible ("Tell me, tell me the story / the one about eternity / and the way it's all gonna be"). He calls out for the resurrection or return of Christ ("WAKE UP WAKE UP DEAD MAN").
He seems to have been waiting for this for a while, trying his best to trust in the Lord, but his doubts about God/Jesus' capabilities are increasing ("Jesus, I'm waiting here boss / I know you're looking out for us / but maybe your hands aren't free"). He acknowledges God's power and Jesus's spiritual authority and asks for a personal favor from Him ("your Father, He made the world in seven / He's in charge of heaven / will you put a word in for me") and then repeats the fundamental plea of the song: WAKE UP DEAD MAN. These lines begin to increase the oft-discussed "selfish" orientation of the song.
Bono in the third stanza creates a picture of a few things worth hearing in a cacophonic world ("listen to your words ... over the rhythm", "listen to the reed ... over the hum of the radio ... over sounds of blades...", "listen through the traffic and circulation ... as hope and peace try to rhyme ... over marching bands playing out their time"). The words (the Bible's Scriptures) over the rhythm of the world. The reed representing music (one of the principal ways of God) over the hum (static and distortion) and the blades (helicopter blades, representing technology and conquering of the elements) and the traffic's circulation. Hope and peace "try to rhyme" as oompah bands obscure their melding, "playing out their time" blindly without regard for the world. WAKE UP DEAD MAN repeats again.
The fourth stanza expresses more plainly Bono's doubts about the power, or more appropriately, the interest of Jesus in the world's affairs. Clearly he acknowledges His power, but seems to be moving in more of a deist direction, looking at a God that doesn't care and doesn't involve Himself in human affairs ("Jesus, were you just around the corner? / did You think to try and warn her? / or are you working on something new?"). Perhaps this refers to a sudden death or upheaval in Bono's life involving a woman that he feels wasn't fair - that God should have "warned her." He feels instead that God was moving on to other, "new", more interesting projects, and away from his old standby, humanity. He restates his deist doubts ("If there's an order in all of this disorder"), then challenges the nature of time - after all, if God is so powerful, can't he roll time back to sometime more pleasant? ("Is it disorder"), then challenges the nature of time - after all, if God is so powerful, can't he roll time back to sometime more pleasant? ("Is it like a tape recorder? / can we rewind it just once more") He wants to find a better time and place where he can be happy - sometime in the past where he was happy. He finishes the song by repeating the refrain, WAKE UP DEAD MAN.
A prayer from a doubting Thomas, demanding for visible proof of God's love and power. Bono feels wronged by God, that God is apathetic and distant, and he is calling for a direct return of God to Earth such as there was in Jesus' time. He wants a third coming - WAKE UP DEAD MAN.
Bono is calling for the end of the world. He sees the glory and bliss associated with Jesus' final reign as perfection, heaven ("and the way it's all gonna be", "eternity"). This will be his final reunion with the God he fears has abandoned him... he will no longer be "alone in this world."
Of course, the very phrase "the end of the world" conjures a connection with "Until The End Of The World" on Achtung Baby. There, Jesus was killed, but Judas ends the song knowing that Jesus will wait "until the end of the world" for Judas' redemption, to forgive him. This is what Bono wants... that final redemption and forgiveness, in the end of the world.
Lyric kismetrichmond.infi.net (contributed before the 20:th of February 1998)
I think you can explain this song at the first level. They asked God how He can allow so many tragedies all over the world. It's also a prayer for more holy interaction in human beings' life:Jesus, Jesus help me/Will you put a word in for me/Can we rewind it just once more.
Karine Maucourtkmaucourigr.fr (contributed before the 20:th of February 1998)
Bono has commented to this song some very important points. It's a prayer, that expresses how Bono and many people feel today at the end of the Century. It's the abscense of God in this fucked-up world, that's the theme. But the singer somehow believe, that he can do something through his prayer. My comment: move God ? and help himself through putting the desperation into words?
Bono also said, it's inspired from the story in the Scriptures, where Jesus is asleep in the boat, and the diciples get very afraid, when the storm comes. My comment: So Bono prays in the middle of a storm and hopes that his fear can be taken away through a stronger faith. Bono also said, that the song is not a full-stop. So it's how he feels right now, but not allways. And he said, that it's revisitng an old wound. And here I think, that he is talking about the death of his mother, that he'll never understand.
The positive part of the song is the stanza about listening, and here he says some important things about how to fight for the direct contact with God. You also have to do some decisions to make it possible.
It's a song to listen to, when you are in need and when you want to share your wounds and desperate questions with the one, you behind the darkness believe can give you some light.
Joergen Lasgaard lasgaardvip.cybercity.dk (29:th of November 1998)
Wake Up Dead Man is a desperate plea by Bono for God to move on our F*cked up world. My first impression of the song was that Bono was mocking God and implying that God is Dead in the way of his involvement in the world. This song was quite a shock to hear for the first time and gave me doubts on the direction of the future U2, (Since when did Bono swear on a CD). However after doing a poetry assignment on U2 and examining the song it became apparent that the song was expressing a thought that all of us have had. Whether Christian or not we all have doubts that they is a God. Bono was not implying that God is non existent, rather he was expressing a doubt that we all have. Tell me, Tell me the story, the one about eternity is Bono asking God for reassurance about his promise of eternal life. The next few lines Jesus, I'm waiting here boss / I know you're looking out for us / but maybe your hands aren't free is a selfish whinge by Bono saying God has no time for him. He made the world in seven is Bono recognising that God is real and is true. The next few lines about listening is about blocking off all distractions of the world like technology and media and fully focusing on God. Which sometimes is very hard to do. The line Did you think to try and warn her is Bono blaming God for not preventing a tragedy in Bonos live maybe his mothers death. And implies that God has no time for Bono. The spine chilling end to this song offers no relief to the overall cynical vibe. I think this is not a full stop for Bono but rather a the feelings he had at a time. This is why we listen to U2 because a simple song has so many gaps and silences. Overall this song is a selfish song by Bono who is questioning Gods role in this World
Jonathan Davies davies1985hotmail.com (23:rd of August 2001)
Bono has said that the music he feels attracted to is the one which is running to God or running from He. Wake up Dead Man is the prove of that: His feeling of anger can be an inspiration as well as the feeling of love. The point is, that God's still the center of the hole thing, this is not an insult, or the affirmation that Jesus' dead. This is just another way to express what he feels, and how most of us have felt sometime.
Denise Bocchieri denyelrojo_locura87hotmail.com (16th of December 2007)