Life’s rivers flow

It seemed appropriate, post-Heaney, to have a Much Love Monday with a little Irish throwback, so here’s U2 with Everlasting Love. 

U2 are one of those bands that I grew up with, and ‘The Troubles’ along with Heaney’s poetry, is part of the defining consciousness of my teenage years. From hearing Sunday, Bloody Sunday at my friend Davina’s house right the way through to listening to Achtung, Baby! on repeat in my first year at university, U2 were a massive part of my teenage years.

After Achtung, Baby! it all got a bit pretentious and if you ask me, Bono started to believe his own hype a little too much. Plus, he reminds me of this two-bit singer back in my home town who truly believes he’s some kind of legend. Legend in his own lunch-break if you ask me. This two-bit legend in his own lifetime walks around as if he’s Bono. And Bono? He walks around like he’s the king of the planet, the one who got blessed with all the morality and righteousness. Bono just got all a bit too smug and shiny and smarmy right after 1991 and now most of the time, I can’t see his face without wanting to punch it. It’s a shame because I love their early stuff very much. And I still love drummer Larry Mullen very much too.

Ironically, they’d be right up there with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Depeche Mode in terms of soundtracks to my youth. War was genius. Unforgettable Fire was forgettable. The Joshua Tree was epic. Rattle and Hum was poor. Achtung, Baby was great. It seems like they got it right about half of the time when they were being sincere and Bono wasn’t being a cockwomble.

There is one single that came out in 1989 and reminds me of a friend of mine who died in 1991. I had the biggest crush on this guy. The biggest. He was all I thought about. When you’re 16, love’s like that. He bought me the single of All I Want is You and I must have played it so often that I’m surprised it hasn’t worn out. I guess when Achtung, Baby came out, it reminded me so much of him. I still can’t listen to One. I listened to it over and over in 1991 in the days after his death, when nothing made sense and I ached for this friend I’d lost. It had two songs on the B side, Everlasting Love and Unchained Melody. It was back in the days where everything was vinyl and I had an old record player. I can’t tell you the times that I lifted the record player arm back to the beginning to play it again and again. It didn’t get to be the uplifting song it should have been for many, many years. In fact, I think I like most the way it sounds like it’s been recorded in a box by some weird medium on the other side of life.

Later, when U2 brought out their Best Of 1980-1990, I was 26 and the most immediate pain of those songs had dissipated a little. Andy bought me the CD and I listened to it over and over. It’s funny how memories associated with that time in my life are mixed in with memories from ten years before. Mix them all together and it’s my own personal recipe for goosebumps.

So much love to those who made U2 songs mean something, and much love to those singers whose voices get into your soul and can stir you to action, be it anger, love or tears. Much Love for these bands, because we all need a little rousing now and again. I grew up in the years where music did that – be it Live Aid or Free Nelson Mandela. You can blame the 80s and 80s bands for me being so political. Today’s big music stars don’t seem to care much about anything beyond themselves. I sometimes wonder how music can be so trite and meaningless when it seems the world around us is crumbling. Perhaps music is just escapism these days. Between The Smiths and U2, Midge Ure and Chumbawamba I managed to grow up with a healthy conscience as well as a healthy cynicism about politicians and politics. You’d think in these troubled political times, people would want a little protest song. Perhaps they don’t care any more. Is the next step after cynicism really apathy?

Much Love, anyway, to the angry generation. Post-punk, we definitely grew up airing our feelings.

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