I sometimes feel that U2 was the greatest rock band of my generation. They were huge yet I feel they were slightly underrated or misunderstood for simply the greatest “rock” band of a generation. Innovative yet at times normal. And moving. Yet, somehow I always am surprised by their success. They aren’t your traditional band, per se, when you get past the surface. Listening back to some of their material The Edge’s guitar is mind blowing and more often than not his Eno-produced guitars sound more like synths than guitars. And how when it’s “time” to take a solo he simply hits a few chords and takes the background a bit. That’s punk rock to me and there’s no safety pin involved. Definitely in my Top 10 Guitarists. And the drum production for their records recorded in the 80s is beyond anything in recorded music for that time. Not to mention all the political goodness Bono has done. Talk about a good use of power. Bono Vox for real. Not to belittle the power and emotional goodness of the Edge’s guitar work, but I wholeheartedly believe that the driving force with U2 is Adam Clayton. His bass work is insanely solid. He does exactly what he’s supposed to and then he pushes it, just slightly. Yet keeps it all together.
Also, let’s recall the early 90s. Grunge was everywhere. Good or bad. Even R.E.M. joined the bandwagon and started layering their guitars with distortion on their Monster release in ’94. But what did U2 do? They released a record (Zooropa) they wanted to that was kinda weird and seemed to have the least guitars of all their records and not to mention, was more European influenced with dance beats than any other record of theirs. It’s less about a dis to R.E.M. but more a hand clap to what U2 was doing then.
I remember the first time I heard this band. Sara Marcus made a mix tape for me on one of those Type I Maxell cassettes with the clear purple and yellow streaks on them. They had yellow stickers. So it wasn’t like I hadn’t heard their music. But I hadn’t owned a record of theirs. Only songs taped off the radio here and there. This was probably summer after freshman year of high school when we both were working at the JCC Summer Camps. Strangely, I was a counselor for an art camp. I think that Fall we had a friend-date where she came over and we watched Rattle & Hum. I remember Where The Streets Have No Name came on. The build up was immense. And as soon as the time changed from 6 to 4 and the bass and drums kicked in, all hell broke lose in the enormo-dome they were playing. It was complete ecstasy. I didn’t know it then, but I was being moved. And no bowel was involved.
- Where The Streets Have No Name (The Joshua Tree) – For many reasons. The guitar work. The bass. The intensity. And where this songs takes me. Who needs church when you have a DX7 synth.
- Elvis Presley & America (The Unforgettable Fire) – I feel this song came from hours of just playing in the studio and they selected 6 minutes from the session. I just feels too raw to be a “song”.
- A Sort Of Homecoming (The Unforgettable Fire) – When Bono sings “I am coming home” at the end when the song finally releases it’s chord structure I feel released emotionally on many levels.
- “40” (War) – Hey, it’s a Psalm. And it’s beautiful. Who woulda thunk the bible could be this beautiful.
- So Cruel (Achtung Baby) – There is that cliched Edge delayed guitar in the left channel that comes in at 1:15 that just haunts the song with future reprises. The delay in the hi-hats. The violin and viola. And I think the fact that Adam Clayton waits until after a verse and chorus, nearly 1/3 of the way in to the song to start playing. Now that’s restraint. In retrospect, the idea reminds me of Radioheads’s Airbag. Clearly not something new, but executed wonderfully. Stravinsky was on to something there. Or was that Chick Corea?
- Ultraviolet [Light My Way] (Achtung Baby) – The synth that takes the sorta-lead/bass in the intro (once the drums kick on) is stellar. Very seesaw. If only I could be that fly on the wall while recording went down at Hansa Ton in Berlin.
- With Or Without You (The Joshua Tree) – Until you’ve done a duet with Emily in the car on the interstate, you haven’t lived life. Also the Edge’s use of the Infinate Guitar made by Michael Brook is to die for. And did I mention the lack of guitar solo that is being begged for towards the end? Instead you get a quiet interlude and the song fades. I rest my case with The Edge, yet again.
- Love Rescue Me (Rattle & Hum) – A song built for Dylan on backup vox. And the pain and soul. My god. I also would like to add the fact that Rattle & Hum is a completely underrated record. Fuck the critics who panned the movie. They wouldn’t know good music if it shot up their ass and out their mouth.
- Mother’s Of The Disappeared (The Joshua Tree) – Vocoded drums. And the truth in this song will make you weep.
- Bass Trap (B-Side to The Unforgettable Fire) – Needs no explanation, but is obvious where The Verve acquired their inspiration for their first record.
Last night before going to bed we were listening to the audio portion of U2’s Rattle and Hum movie I transfered to my iPod. I like the movie audio better than the CD version. It’s less cleaned up and edited. It’s raw. It’s how they are live. Voice cracks (Sunday Bloody Sunday) and wrong notes stuck in the delay chain (In God’s Country) and all.
We got to thinking about political bands. Since U2 in the 80s has there really been a band in the spotlight that has been as successful or even close to that of U2? I am not sure that Green Day, et al counts with their one notably political record as they are not really a political band, per se. While it is laudable having a post 9-11/anyone-but-Bush attitude, it doesn’t really constitute being a political band, in my eyes. Any takers on this one?
On a side note, it’s amazing what they have accomplished in their lifetime. Hearing this audio of Rattle and Hum reminded me of how powerful they were (and still sort of are) – not in the sense of media saturation or money they net at concerts, but how their quite simple yet dense music influenced and inspired so many fledgling bands across the world not to mention moved many of people.
I once thought that Adam Clayton was the powerhouse behind U2. Sometimes I still do. There is no one who can produce thundering 1/8th notes like Adam. He means every one and it propels the band further with each note. I can’t begin to go on about the Edge’s guitar work. Besides his “on the verge of being a punk” mannerisms and playing style, his guitar work and sound produced something 20th Century rock music never had been heard before. Larry, the good looking drummer, had a timbale where a rack tom was supposed to go. That my friend is, punk rock. He also had the most resonant floor tom in all of the 80s and 90s recorded music. To this day I dream of tuning a floor tom that deep and ballsy. And Bono. Three Chords and the Truth. Well… you are Bono. You continue to amazing and piss off. I tend to stay on the amaze line.
So, please, by all means, remind us of what other successful political bands there have been since U2. Our brains farted last night.
My allergies today gave me a headache. I haven’t really had real allergies since 1997. It’s bizzare, cos they used to be horrendous. Then I went to TN and they got very mild. Once I got back to DC last spring they seemed to have disappeared. But alas, my body is back to normal, I presume, and my allergies are back in black. I can’t breathe. I feel like a coke-head. My nasal passage feels bruised. ARG…I need to see a doctor to get a prescription. I need that 12 hour allergy relieve stuff they advertise on the tele.
My headache was so bad today I had to come home and pop in THE JOSHUA TREE. I just played the first side. After listening to it, I realized how much I was missing by playing it on my old stereo. There were sounds and textures and feelings that were never portrayed to me before. I especially noticed the attack of the drums on Where the Streets Have No Name. The drums on this record are phenomenal. The player is not phenomenal, but he knows when not to play, which then makes him/her phenomenal. Very similar to Ringo Starr. Most people can’t distinguish a non-flashy drummer with a bad drummer. There is a huge difference. The drummer for the Offspring however, is a bad drummer. I digress. I sometimes still miss my late drum teacher. She taught me so much. Even outside of music. She also taught me how to contort my legs like a pretzel. I miss ya Nora.
At work today the guy I work with got an assistant, more or less. She is pretty cute, which I guess helps in Promotions. And doesnt hurt she’s half-Jewish. She’s all mouse-y in that cute kind of way. She is mega rock though. Totally hooked my ass up with alleviating a lot of the burden of trivial blah, like contesting. So I did end up going to work at 7.30am today so we (me and the Promotions Director) could move her (the new girl’s) desk outside in the parking lot. We did this to she’s have to say HI to all the people coming in to the station. We even put her computer out there with a power supply. But he caved in and bought it back. Meanwhile we moved all our desks in our room around and it rocks more now!
Most Suprising Influences on George Clinton and P-Funk (Excluding James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, and Sly Stone)
- Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers- Inspired a teenaged George to want to sing for a living.
- The British Invasion- Before hitting it big, George produced soulful cover versions of a few Beatles songs; worked with British born rocker Ruth Copeland.
- Iggy Pop and the Stooges, and the MC5- Their freaked-out stage shows in Detroit pointed the way for the early Funkadelic.
- Frank Zappa- His approach to packaging influenced Funkadelic album-cover artist/conceptualist Pedro Bell.
- Sun Ra- Let George know that space was the place.
- Smokey Robinson- Taught George the importance of strong pop hooks
- Process Church of the Final Judgement- Quasi-satanic hippy cult’s tracts published on first four Funkadelic LPs.