In the 1980's I loved U2. One day, while shoplifting at Turney's, I discovered the cassette of "October" sitting there. On the top of the cassette case. Not in the locked case (I knew where the keys were kept, I stole things there often so it didn't matter). And not even in the big plastic cassette protective theft-proof cases we'd cut with wire-cutters in the hardware department. Hey, I wasn't always the choir boy I am today!
I was hooked. Totally. In fact, I went back and stole "Boy" just get more U2.
But "October" was, in my mind, the most amazing album of the early 80's.
Until "War" came along and "The Refugee" demolished every other alternative rock song in my world. Why "The Refugee" was never played live (and I mean never) blows my mind.
Then "Under A Blood Red Sky" ... best fucking live album of the 80's ... with "40" at the end with the crowd singing along. That's some heavy shit. I actually purchased that on album. Along with War.
Then "The Joshua Tree" opened my eyes to how a popular band could address political issues in a way that got them coverage. In fact, I ghost-wrote a term paper for a kid I graduated with (he paid me) comparing the lives of Jesus and Martin Luther King, Jr., through U2's "Pride (In The Name Of Love)" because it was a great song.
But I thought musically, that album sucked.
It was weak.
I loved the tour, thought they rocked it, but on vinyl, based on that album, I was ready to jump off the U2 fan parade just as everyone else was getting on it.
Especially troubling to me was the recorded versions of "Bad" and "A Sort of Homecoming" ... those songs just flat-out sucked, but live - rocked the house.
Then came their amazing performance at Live Aid.
"Bad" morphed into a 12-minute medley mixing two Lou Reed songs ("Satellite of Love" and "Walk On The Wild Side") with two Rolling Stones tunes ("Ruby Tuesday" and "Sympathy For The Devil"). Unfortunately, the US feed (Mtv) quickly switched from London to Philly for the fucking Beach Boys. Um, yeah. It really happened. Click here for a great breakdown of Mtv's coverage. Talk about your bands not seeing the big picture ... look at who Mtv cut away from, and who they cut into ... that'll give you some perspective on how music was viewed back then. Dinosaurs got all the glory, just for being dinosaurs. If you survived the 60's, you were a god among musicians, and Mtv treated you as such at Live Aid.
But I could spend days talking about what Mtv was, could have been, and turned out to be. Very little of it is good.
But back to U2.
So to capitalize on the success of the band's Live Aid performance, and long before anyone thought of the Internet, YouTube or anything like that, when bootlegs were exchanged on cassette, Island Records tossed out "Wide Awake in America" ... a great 4-song EP that had both of those songs live ("Bad" checking in at 8:02) along with two previously unreleased in America album castoffs "Three Sunrises" and "Love Comes Tumbling" that were b-sides in the UK.
Those versions of "Bad" and "A Sort Of Homecoming" showed what U2 was about, live. And the EP was a success in a market where albums were on their final years of being the big dog.
Then in 1987, "Rattle & Hum" blew the roof off things with some blistering live versions of songs (particularly "Bullet The Blue Sky") mixed with studio stuff and surreptitious stuff pulled from sound checks and bus recordings) that I rode 12 miles in the November snow in Indianapolis on a bicycle to purchase at the Carnation Mall, because the base exchange on Fort Harrison didn't get new releases on the day they were released ... it was usually a week or two later).
Then, as I grew ... and got back into the singer/songwriter phase I was in for most of the 1990's, and still today, I really didn't want to like them anymore. They were old.
Then I heard "Mysterious Ways" and BAM - was right back in the fold. In love, again, with U2.
So as I sit here tonight listening to my 80-song, 6.5 hour iTunes U2 mix, (including the complete "Under A Blood Red Sky" album in one flat-file MP3 with no gaps between songs) I realize that they are an amazing musical act that has been with me for 25 years now.
And haven't left yet.
Yep, it's official. I'm old.
I've spent 25 of my 38 years on this planet with a band now.
And grown with them.
Loved with them.
Hated with them.