No Line on the Horizon
I thought U2 was okay last night on David Letterman. And this from someone who has lost much of my respect for them. I had been a fan of theirs since before they had an American release in 1980, thanks to Steve Lillywhite. I believe I knew of Lillywhite from XTC’s Drums and Wires album. I had read in Trouser Press magazine about a forthcoming release, which was all the rage in Europe, by a band called U2. Later, Rolling Stone and everyone else under the sun would call them, “the next Big Thing”. When I saw the forthcoming album was also produced by Steve Lillywhite, I was intrigued. A few days later while in Sacramento, I stopped at a record store called Aftermath and bought two imported singles. One was U2-3 and the other, 11 O’clock Tick Tock. Both were pre-Lillywhite and I believe, if memory serves me, were produced by Martin Hannet, which knowing what I know about him now, gave them even more street cred as far as I’m concerned. Hannet worked with Joy Division and the likes.
If I were to listen to those records now I would wonder what the heck it was I liked about them. The songs sound frail and weak, as if played on toy instruments. But at the time I loved them. I was totally hooked. When Boy came out stateside shortly thereafter, I bought that too. I don’t know how many times I listened to ‘Out of Control’, but I wore that song to the bone.
Yes I was some kind of geek for underground punk and new wave at the time. When everyone else was doing airbands to Molly Hatchet and Van Halen my senior year, we did U2. There is a video floating around of that performance somewhere. I wish I could see it now! There were people throwing stuff at us when we came out, but at the end we got rousing applause.
Just to speak of my dedication, I had missed seeing U2 several times before I finally saw them on the War tour twice in 1983. The reasons I missed them were always because of circumstances beyond my control.
The first time they came I missed three shows at the California Hall in Berkeley. They sold out the first day tickets were on sale. The next time was on the October tour. I was in LA on a family vacation when they were playing at the Warfield in SF and my aunt also refused to allow me to go to the Hollywood Palladium show while I was there.
A few months later I finally got tickets to see them in Sacramento opening for J Geils of all bands. I hated J Geils, but the sacrifice would have to be made. A few days before the show U2 cancelled. Rumors of fatigue were blamed, but more likely, their being booed off the stage in Seattle at an earlier date opening for Geils was the real reason.
The next time I would have an opportunity to see them was in Ohio. They were playing a couple of hundred miles away in Cleveland from where I was going to school in Ohio. The date was May 19th, 1983. I had no car and I had actually seen Roxy Music the day before with friends, also in Cleveland. No one wanted to see U2 so I was out. I was walking to a class the next morning, thinking about it and being depressed that I was once again going to miss them. Suddenly, this car pulls up alongside of me and the window goes down. These two dudes I vaguely knew from school go, “Hey Tony, we’re going to see U2 in Cleveland. You wanna go?”
Just like that I was finally going to see them. I ditched my two new best friends the moment we got through the door and I fought my way to the wall in the center of the stage. Dream Syndicate opened. I hardly noticed.
I have no words to describe the rush I got at that show. I walked out with a bruised cheek from Bono kicking me in the face when he jumped into the audience. I didn’t notice. I was literally steaming when I walked out of that show. It was amazing. I came back to SF a few weeks later and saw them again with a group of my best friends. That was amazing too.
I did see them two more times in ’84 and ’85. But I was burned out by the time they played a free show at Justin Herman Plaza show in November of ’87. Even though I was only blocks away I didn’t go. They were FM radio giants by that time and I had lost interest.
That wasn’t really why I lost respect for them though. That happened many years later.
The real reason I lost respect for U2 is that I think Bono is more concerned with getting a Peace Prize than he is honestly trying to help people. It’s kind of like AJ and BP. I don’t trust them. With the star set it just feels like everything is about self promotion first. Helping the needy seems to be a tool to achieve that. Maybe I’m wrong. I certainly hope so, but I have much more respect for the way Bill Gates goes about it that any of the stars do. As more of a private cruisade.
Back when Bob Geldof made that silly Christmas record it seemed sincere and fresh. Now it seems passé. Does that mean I think that Bono and Angie should stop trying to help starving Africans and such? No. But I think it should be illegal for them to profit from it. Now do I believe you can separate the two? Probably not. In fact, I will be the first to admit that is impossible. Does that mean I’m to going to vent about it? Hell no.
That said I think U2 did something last night on David Letterman that incorporated what they have been known for musically for many years along with something vaguely early rap influenced (at the beginning), which I thought was kind of cool.
Plus, I like Letterman better than Leno or that other knucklehead that is taking over for Leno in short order. How can I not, Letterman is an Aries.
Am I going to buy U2’s new album? Even though, for the first time since War, Steve Lillywhite helped with producing a U2 album, the answer is a resounding, No.