“See what’s on the other side.” – U2
These first few weeks of January have really challenged me. I’ve been working on this post for days, but it seems fitting that I would finish it up on MLK Day, because Bono is a big fan of the late Dr. King:
“He wasn’t just talking about the American dream. It was a much bigger idea, actually, an idea that could fit an African dream, an Irish dream. And it certainly wasn’t a daydream. It was a call to action.” – Bono
Two thousand and sixteen flew by and I have to say I’m not sure where it went. I found joy in small family moments and in our summer trip to Madison, WI and Chicago. My daughter turned 16 and my wife and I found joy in the many blessings that we try not to take for granted everyday (I would like to quote contemporary musical lyricist philosopher Peter Hernandez by using the phrase “#blessed.”)
I was saddened by the continued random acts of senseless violence everywhere. I was disappointed in politicians and media and in many Americans during the election cycle that was nothing more than a glorified circus. I was saddened by the deaths of family and acquaintances, and of some of music’s best (Glenn Frey, Prince, and George Michael; for me, those are three of the giants in the industry).
I felt like I made strides in areas of my life and maybe that’s all I was intended for in 2016. There were times I felt like I was in neutral spinning my wheels while cars drove slowly by me and stared sympathetically at the idiot stuck in park. Maybe I was “running to stand still.” I felt like this blog in particular has been stuck in park to begin 2017. My river of ideas has an army of beavers somewhere upstream. I’ve been trying to find the location so I can blow the friggin’ dam up.
I say all of that in order to say thank you U2. If there is one band who will call you to think, act, examine, and question then it has to be the quartet from Dublin comprised of Paul, David, Adam, and Larry.
“The rivers run but soon run dry. We need new dreams tonight”
Maybe God is purposely slowing me down, and preparing me for something more in 2017, but I do want more out of 2017. I want to write more. I want to write better. I want more out of my relationships. I want more from my heavenly relationship. I want to produce more fruit at my day job. I want to be a better co-worker to others. I want to lead better. I want to serve more. I want to be a better father, a better husband, a better friend, a better son. I want to soak in more of the good word. I want to spend more quality time with family members and close friends. I can’t be the only one that has this overload of feelings and desires all cascade upon me at the same time can I? Where to start, and on January 16th no less?
Relax… breathe. I think I sometimes have so many thoughts like that at once that my immediate response is escaping to the television or down the thousands of rabbit holes the internet can take you. If there’s a better time consumer than the internet I’d like to know what it is. Not saying that the internet is a bad time consumer, because you can learn and grow in knowledge from time spent online. It’s a wonderful resource, but you can also spend worthless amounts of time when you have a natural curiosity towards entertainment. Actors, athletes, musicians, and the like interest me. If it didn’t, then this blog probably wouldn’t exist. I like the nostalgia of the 80’s. I like the memories that produce posts and random thoughts that I can’t quite formulate onto the screen yet. And I absolutely love the music.
Which brings me to the subject matter at hand today. One group that soothes me, and in a way helps me to focus is the band U2 and the album a few of you may have heard of called “The Joshua Tree.” I was reminded of the greatness of this album following a recent announcement by the band to tour in 2017, and to play this album in order from “Where the Streets Have No Name” to “Mothers of the Disappeared.”
I hadn’t listened to this album in its entirety in quite a few years, but I was inspired to listen to it and write about this album and band when I saw a recent Instagram post by a former Norman High classmate who posted a memory of the album and the discussion she had in class with others about whether side 2 was better than side one. For those of you who are now lost, let me introduce you to the cassette! It had two sides just like albums.
Behold! The cassette tape! A side “A” and a side “B”
This piece is not a dissertation or literary masterpiece by any means on the greatness of the album, but simply a way for me to pay tribute to a band that I have to say I was late to the game on. My true appreciation for the band really didn’t begin until the early 90’s at the encouragement of a great friend of mine named Scott. I didn’t own “The Joshua Tree.” I didn’t own “Rattle and Hum.” I sure didn’t own “The Unforgettable Fire,” or “War,” but he encouraged me to listen more to the band and so I purchased both “The Joshua Tree” and “Achtung Baby” around the same time period, and listened, and listened, and listened some more.
The first U2 song I actually remember was seeing the video on MTV in the fall of 1984 for “Pride (In the Name of Love).” While easily a more appropriate song and video to post today, I don’t remember being overly impressed with the song, and dismissed the ridiculously annoying video that featured a lot of train tracks and no shots at all of the band if I recall correctly (I searched for the video online, but it seems to not exist anywhere that I can find anyway). A much better video featuring the band with some poor lighting in a basement somewhere is the prevalent video online for the song.
I didn’t spend much time lost in the lyrical wonderland of U2 songs in the mid to late 80’s because my musical tastes were being swept away more with the likes of Van Halen, Poison, GNR, Run DMC, LL Cool J, and classic rock acts like The Eagles and Boston. To borrow from my financial world, U2 is one of the bands that continues to appreciate in value in my mind and that opinion continues to be strengthened by their continual sell-outs in stadiums around the world, and the social significance and causes that they bring awareness to.
Personally, if they’re going to tour and play “The Joshua Tree” in its entirety from front to back, then I think the band should have to revert to the hairstyles and clothes they rocked in 1987. That’s the only true way to try to recapture that 1987 magic! Bono and The Edge better get that hair growing again if this tour is going to work properly. I’m ready to dye my hair dark again, break out my stone washed denim, polo shirt, and loafers (minus the socks) and show out for one of the greatest bands of all-time.
“Desert sky. Dream beneath a desert sky.”
Today’s featured video is not my favorite U2 song by any means. It’s not even my favorite song on “The Joshua Tree” album (“Where the Streets Have No Name” holds that distinction). Somehow though it seemed appropriate as I wandered my way into this post not knowing which direction it would take me.
The song didn’t even break the top 40 in the U.S., and was the fourth single released from the album. As much as I love this song, everytime I listen to it I just feel like there’s something missing. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s the shortest song on the album coming in at just under three minutes in length leaving a bit of longingness for more. Whatever it is it just feels like it could have been more. Nonetheless I still love it, and here is the video for “In God’s Country…”
Just for fun, I thought I’d rank my favorite Joshua Tree songs in order, because who doesn’t like a good list for debating unimportant things like this? I will preface this list with the fact that it has changed many times throughout the years, and probably will continue to. That’s another sign for me of a truly great album. It’s always dynamic. I’ve been listening again to this album a lot since the announcement of the tour, and here’s what has been appealing to me now, and keep in mind that this album is like a NBA all-star game – even the 11th player is awesome:
- Where the Streets Have No Name (“I want to tear down the walls that hold me inside.” Just a special song that I’ve already featured in a difficult post I wrote months ago)
- Red Hill Mining Town (“From father to son the blood runs thin.”)
- I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (“I have spoke with the tongue of angels
I have held the hand of a devil.”)
- Running to Stand Still (“You’ve got to cry without weeping, talk without speaking, scream without raising your voice”)
- One Tree Hill (a tribute to Bono’s personal assistant who was killed in a motorcycle accident just prior to the recording of this album; “You run like a river runs to the sea.”)
- In God’s Country (“Sad Eyes, Crooked Crosses”)
- Trip Through Your Wires (“Lips were dry, throat like rust. You gave me shelter from the heat and the dust.”)
- Bullet the Blue Sky (love the vividness of the lyrics and the Biblical reference – “In the locust wind comes a rattle and hum. Jacob wrestled the angel and the angel was overcome.”)
- Mothers of the Disappeared (Beauty and sadness – “In the wind we hear their laughter. In the rain we see their tears.”)
- With or Without You (30 years ago this song is probably top 4 on this album; hauntingly beautiful vocals – “Slight of hand and twist of fate. On a bed of nails she makes me wait.”)
- Exit (give this song to Jim Morrison and the Doors and I think it fits right in – “A dog started crying like a broken hearted man at the howling wind.”)
There’s really no wrong or right way to rank these songs so feel free to post your rankings in the comments section if so inclined.
Wow, this really did turn into a dissertation on the greatness of this album as I sit here and realize I’ve just pushed out over 1800 words.
Thank you U2, and as always if you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading.
Here’s to an awesome 2017 for you and yours, and hopefully there’s a U2 concert in your new future as well.