In 1983, I was fifteen. and I was starting to get more into New Wave. Starting in my sophomore year of high school, there were three bands that pretty much got me through–Oingo Boingo, the Police and U2. Long before U2 was the most popular band on the planet, they were a band of pissed-off Irish kids, who expressed their rage at the social and political injustice of the British government through songs like Sunday Bloody Sunday. U2’s songs weren’t complicated. Sunday Bloody Sunday is basically Bm, D, and G, with a bit of C in there. I learned to fake my way through that guitar riff long before I had any idea of what I was doing on guitar. And that was cool.
U2–Ireland’s Bob Dylan?
I once heard someone refer to U2 as Ireland’s Bob Dylan. Um…yeah, okay. That kinda works. I think I get it. From humble beginnings and writing protest music to being the biggest thing in the world. Okay, I suppose I see the comparisons.
The album War was my introduction to U2. I think it probably was for a lot of us. I don’t recall how many songs were on that record, but there were four or five outstanding songs from War. It’s funny that twenty-eight years later, the only song I can think of at the moment is Sunday Bloody Sunday. The others will come to me when I can get to an Internet connection again, or I find my box of old records. I have a vague recollection of how many great songs were on War. Our friend and minister, JD had about six-hundred 12-inch vinyl records in his collection–and he would often record one record or another on to cassette tape for us. We got stuff like U2, the Rolling Stones, the Waitresses, Frank Zappa, Oingo Boingo, the Police, rare and bootleg Beatles recordings, Laurie Anderson, Wall of Voodoo, Bram Tchichavski, and so much other cool music from JD. I still think of his influence on us high schoolers in the early 1980s foothills town. I wonder if JD knows that any time I hear something from any of U2’s first few records, I think of a time in my life that I got through as gracefully as I did, due in no small part to his being such a good guy and positive roll model for us delinquent youth. As my friends and I were discovering the album War, we also saw JD’s Betamax copy of U2’s Live at Red Rocks concert for the first time. Shortly thereafter, our buddy, Marcus taught us all the piano part to October. By the time we had thoroughly digested U2’s War, October, Boy, and Live at Red Rocks–“Under a Blood Red Sky”–the Unforgettable Fire was released.
The Unforgettable Fire was the first U2 cassette I bought in late 1984. The others had been gifted to me, or recorded onto TDK 90 minute tape, but this one I bought myself. I thought it was so cool that U2 cassettes–were all Island Records cassette releases like this?– had the entire record on both sides of the tape. I remember the Unforgettable Fire being different from U2’s earlier recordings. I liked what I heard.
U2–Ummm…Was Bono beginning to think he was a rock star..?
If the Unforgettable Fire was different from U2’s earlier work, the Joshua Tree was from out of left-field. I liked the Joshua Tree. I was getting into American roots music and blues, so that part of it was cool with me. But, with the Joshua Tree came a sense of dread. Bono was beginning to think that he was important, and that what he had to say could change the world. There were some good songs on the Joshua Tree, but by the time Rattle and Hum was released, U2 had lost me.
Six or eight years later, in the early 1990s, a buddy suggested that I listen to Zooropa. Steve’s words were that Zooropa was good enough for me to forgive both Rattle and Hum and Achtung Baby!–I heard Achtung Baby! when it was released, and I was not impressed. U2 had too much to make up to me. Although I was willing to listen to Zooropa in ways that I was not willing to listen to Achtung Baby! again, I couldn’t get behind what U2 was doing since they got rich. I had Zooropa in my library for about a year. I think I traded it to Joe Mendez at Below Zero for store credit or something.
A couple of years ago, U2 did a live webcast from South America or someplace. After a day of toiling for the Goddess, my buddies and I built our campfire, connected the lap top to the projector, and watched the web cast projected across some bales of straw and a bed sheet for a screen, as the dozen or so of us drank from the pony keg of Racer 5 That was a nice way to re-connect with my once upon a time favorite band. It brought back memories of being young, even if I still wasn’t particularly interested in U2’s newer work.
U2–they can’t take back all the great stuff they have already done
Sort of like McCartney, I may or may not care about anything U2 has produced in over twenty years or more, but you can’t take Boy, October, War, Under a Blood Red Sky–live at Red Rocks EP–or the Unforgettable Fire away from U2. I love these records! I will always remember that group of friends, and associate that time in my life with U2. We went our separate ways after high school. Some of us kept in touch. Some of us didn’t. One of the last holidays that we were all home at the same time–Christmas 1987?–we saw the film Stand By Me at the local Tower theater. We were already out of school. We were doing our own things, but we would come home to our “Little Chill” from time to time. The film over, we left the theater in silence. We wondered which of us would go first. As far as I know, now in our early 40s, everyone in our group of high school friends is still alive and basically well. That’s a good thing. Although none of us have talked about this record in years, I suspect that most of us would agree that we have mainly good memories connected to U2 and the record, War. And, yes, I am going to steal and paraphrase a line from Stephen King’s Stand By Me. I never had friends like I did when I was in high school in the ’80s.
…Damn! Does anyone?