When I was in graduate school, I made the majority of my money doing odd babysitting and tutoring jobs (and believe me, some of them were truly odd). One of the standing gigs I had was for a professor in the English department (I think) at Ohio State. She had a toddler who needed to be entertained for the majority of the day, but who was not allowed to watch any sort of screen (which I get, but these folks were harsh) or spend too much time outside (diseases and all). The kid was nice enough, had a pretty even temper (probably due to lack of screen and outdoor time) and we got along pretty well. One day, when we were playing "chase" (my least favorite game of all time, when you literally chase the kid around the house), he finally collapsed in a fit of laughter under the dining room table and proclaimed, "That was U2-y!"
Turns out that one of his favorite adjectives to describe something favorable or entertaining was "U2-y" (as opposed to funny or lovely). Apparently, his dad (who I don't remember ever seeing) was a big fan of U2, and turned the band's name into an adjective of the highest order. "My GOD, that coconut cream pie is U2-y!" "Oh, baby, your abs are so...U2-y!" It has a funny sound, doesn't it? Sort of like "cutie-patutie," only with more of an edge (literally).
Anyone who has known me for more than five minutes knows that I am a hard-core U2 fan. I can remember back to the "War" and "October" days, when U2 was considered edgy (literally). You could hear the punk influence--the gritty, industrial sound of Dublin in the late 70s. The Clash. The Ramones. The Dead Kennedys. The Sex Pistols. Remember that?
Then, in 1987, when I was a sophomore in college, "The Joshua Tree" arrived, quickly followed by the companion documentary, "Rattle and Hum" in 1988. *Swoon!* I was hooked. These guys were for real, and I was completely seduced. Not that Bono is technically sexy, but my, oh my...
I think what gets me all riled up is his swagger. I'm pretty sure that I'm taller than he is, and frankly, he's not THAT much older than I am (re: he ain't no spring chicken). And that mullet he sported in the 80s? Really? But honest to Pete, he just "does" it for me. That confidence that borders on arrogance. That total "rock star" persona. What saves him, of course, is his philanthropic nature, which, if you're as rich and famous as Bono (and really, who's richer or famouser?), you're morally obligated to do. I like that in a rock star. He understands that he's a character in his own performance. He's post-modern like that.
As a fan, it's tough for me to pick a "favorite" U2 song. I mean, where would one even begin? I feel like I grew up--really grew up--with these guys. They came to me in college, and have been with me ever since. I don't even know how many times I've seen them in concert--three? Maybe four? Most recently up in Vancouver, where they rewarded me with an amazing mix of old and new material. (Thanks, guys.) But if Bono were holding a gun to my head (which he wouldn't, but just for the sake of argument), it would be a toss-up for favorite song. I'd have to choose between "Bad" and "One" (because, really, Bono is a bad boy, and who doesn't love a bad boy?). If forced to narrow it down even further, "Bad" would come out on top.
Yeah, that's right. It's the long-haired, vest-wearing, wouldn't-hurt-to-get-to-the-gym Bono of the 80s. Just the way I like him.
On Saturday night (October 29th), Showtime is debuting the documentary "From the Sky Down," which chronicles the making of "Achtung Baby." When that album first came out in 1991, I must admit, I wasn't a fan, mainly because it wasn't a carbon copy of "Joshua Tree," (which many critics believed to be the apex of U2s discography). But, because I'm a fan, I bought the CD (crazy new technology back then!), and you know what? The songs grew on me. "One." "Mysterious Ways." Good stuff, really, and some of the stuff I now look forward to the most at concerts. I believe the point of the documentary is this was a transformative album for the band, where they set off in a new direction, and happily, their fans allowed them to do that. And hopefully, they'll keep doing that for years to come.
When I'm on a long car trip, I like to play a little game called "Who Opens?" The rules are simple--toss out the names of two relatively similar bands, and have your traveling companion decide which band is the headliner, and which band opens. For example: Van Halen/Aerosmith. Who opens? (Obviously, Van Halen, but only if it's Sammy Haggar on vocals. If it's David Lee Roth, it gets a little dicier.) The Rolling Stones/The Who. (I think The Who open for the Stones, but that could be argued.) But who would U2 open for? Answer: NOBODY, because they're the biggest band in history! More influential than Elvis or the Beatles? Probably not, but that's just timing. For sheer...bigness, U2 simply can't be topped. They've had some ups and downs (the Popmart tour comes to mind), but for 30 some years, they've been relevant. Not a lot of bands can say that.
So, if you're looking for me on Saturday night (and why wouldn't you be?), I'll be at home watching Showtime, and reminescing about where I was 20 years ago, and where I might be going in the future.