“Uno, dos, tres, catorce,”

BonoFans will recognize those words as the opening lines of the U2 song “Vertigo.” With some time on my hands and Google at my fingertips, I found the following explanations for why Bono counts off “1, 2, 3, 14” at the beginning of the song posted on the interwebs. Enjoy.

  • Bono doesn’t know Spanish.
  • Bono does know Spanish and is just joking around.
  • Bono is paying homage to an old “Three’s Company” episode in which Jack Tripper says that very thing while testing a microphone. (Whether such an episode exists, we don’t know.)
  • You can’t count straight when in a “vertigo”.
  • Bono was directing listeners to The Bible: 1st Testament, 2nd Book, 3rd Chapter, 14th verse – “And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.”
  • U2’s 14th album
    • The album is U2’s 14th album (including Wide Awake in America) and Steve Lillywhite has been involved with U2’s first, second, third and now fourteenth album. There have been some debate to which albums to include to get fourteen albums, if the “Best of” or “Wide Awake in America” should be included etc., but nobody knows for sure what Bono is referencing to yet
    • One! Two! Three! Four! Bono began Boy, 24 years ago now, counting in the opening bars of “I Will Follow” just so. They sounded drilled and disciplined from the start, marshalling the righteous ire of The Clash with the rigour of Joy Division, like God’s own post-punk marching band…
      UNOS! DOS! TRES! CATORCE! So when “Vertigo” wails into life with mangled Spanish, it feels like a timely nod to their garage-band hinterland. “Catorce” rather than the expected “cuatro” because this is, after all, U2’s 14th album (including Wide Awake In America and Passengers).
  • Bono said on Jo Whileys BBC Radio 1 Show that he didn’t realise that it meant 14–he thought it meant 4 and that there may have been some alcohol involved at the time.
  • In an interview with Bono that a Mexican fortune teller told him he would die on the fourth month of the fourth year after his fourth child was born. She said the number four (“cuatro,” since the fortune teller was in Mexico) was cursed for him, and he must avoid it at all costs. Bono resolved never even to say the word, which is why he says “uno, dos, tres, catorce.” This is also why U2 frequently performs with backup singers or without the full band, so there won’t be four band members onstage. When Bono doesn’t have backup singers, he carries a small frog in the pocket of his shirt. This frog is named The Edge Jr., and he is an honorary member of the band.

One of them is probably right. The bottom line probably is that Bono is a cool rock star and he just felt like doing it. Apply grains of salt liberally.

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One Response

  1. The Three’s Company episode is called “Doctor in the House” (Season 6, episode 19, 1982). I am watching it now. Jack says, “uno, dos, tres, catorce”. Pretty cool!

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