Some songs tend to haunt me. They get into my head and stay – sometimes long after the welcoming mat has been withdrawn. But there are a few that I’m happy to have stay for an extended period. One song in particular has bitter sweet memories.
It was written to honour the memory of a former work mate of mine. Greg became the fifth staff member of the local branch of the multinational I.T company I worked for. He was around ten years younger than I was, and we worked together for around two years. He left the company around 1980 to join a local band, which from memory, was called something like Straight Flash.
Greg was very likeable. He was always charming, humorous and witty, always polite, and very considerate of others. In other words he was real gentleman, even though he was still in his teens. Travelling took up a lot of our work day and sometimes two of us might spend up to six hours in one day as we traveled between various jobs. We’d take turns at driving, and whoever was in the passenger seat usually did most of the talking. To be honest, I can no longer recall what we talked about, but I remember that I enjoyed his company as talk was not oriented towards sport and other topics that typically occupy the minds of teenage males.
Unfortunately the branch manager was one of those people who can often be heard starting a comment with “I’m not a racist, but…”. To him all Māori were lazy, and incompetent of performing tasks that require intelligence and skill. While he acknowledged Greg’s courtesy, and reluctantly conceded Greg’s grooming was always immaculate, in fact better than anyone else our small team, he was always critical of Greg’s ability as an engineer. It was the criticism he was constantly under, I believe, that caused him to leave the company and seek greener pastures the music industry.
Eventually Greg became a very close friend of Bono from the band U2 after a chance late night meeting when the band was touring Aotearoa New Zealand. Greg took Bono to the inaptly named One Tree Hill (it’s a volcano, not a hill, and although there was a lone tree near the summit, that was removed for safety reasons several decades ago). The “hill” is of great spiritual significance to the Māori, and apparently Greg successfully conveyed much of the meaning to Bono.
Unfortunately Greg was killed in a motor vehicle crash in Ireland in 1986. This song was composed in Greg’s memory and the vocals were recorded in a single take because Bono didn’t feel he would be able to do more.
I often think of Greg, and wonder what he could have achieved if his life wasn’t cut so short at the young age of 26. Hearing this song as I did this morning, always brings his memory back to the front of my mind. I still miss him. R.I.P. Greg Carroll.
One Tree Hill
We turn away to face the cold, enduring chill
As the day begs the night for mercy love
The sun so bright it leaves no shadows
Only scars carved into stone
On the face of earth
The moon is up and over One Tree Hill
We see the sun go down in your eyes
You run like river, on like a sea
You run like a river runs to the sea
And in the world a heart of darkness
A fire zone
Where poets speak their heart
Then bleed for it
Jara sang, his song a weapon
In the hands of love
You know his blood still cries
From the ground
It runs like a river runs to the sea
It runs like a river to the sea
I don’t believe in painted roses
Or bleeding hearts
While bullets rape the night of the merciful
I’ll see you again
When the stars fall from the sky
And the moon has turned red
Over One Tree Hill
We run like a river
Run to the sea
We run like a river to the sea
And when it’s raining
That’s when the rain will
Break my heart
Raining…raining in the heart
Raining in your heart
Raining…raining to your heart
Raining to your heart
Raining…raining in your heart
Raining in your heart..
To the sea
Oh great ocean
Oh great sea
Run to the ocean
Run to the sea