Hearing “I Will Follow” by U2 recently on Pandora magically transported me back in time to my long forgotten childhood, to an era back when I wasn’t completely tired of them and wishing they would retire.
Ages ago, I remember reading about this cool new band from Ireland back in elementary school. “Bono, what a funny name!” I thought. Little did I know I would hear them every day for the rest of my life and that photo of a young Bono in Rolling Stone would be more easily recalled in my brain than the face of my own father.
It’s hard to remember now but there was a point in time when people, myself included, would pay cash money to obtain the exclusive privilege of listening to the song “Where the Streets Have No Name” on demand, any time of the day, instead of just, you know, going to the grocery store and hearing it for free whether you wanted to hear it or not.
Someday I’ll tell my grandchildren that I played the Joshua Tree album on repeat so much that I cried when the cassette tape wore out and snapped. And the children will marvel that a man as globally hated as Bono was once so adored. That a guy who once educated the world on Ireland’s long history of suffering would become as insufferable as the potato famine prattling on about saving Africa to his friends at Davos while investing in a tax dodge shopping mall in Lithuania.
Throughout their long history, U2 was legendary for re-inventing themselves and keeping their music fresh but unfortunately after 1987 it was always downward, gradually at first but more precipitously at the end, like a man losing their grip on a sheer rock wall. They went from writing “Bullet the Blue Sky” which recalled the glory of Led Zeppelin to so bad they had to give away a song for free to Apple users. I’m convinced at some point all Apple updates are going to contain U2 songs bundled in them like a virus you can’t destroy.
Funny story – I grew up in a town so stocked with Irish that I thought Catholicism was the dominant religion of the U.S. Every class in my school had at least one kid nicknamed “Sully” and all my neighbors had fair skin, freckles, and were experts at wielding a shillelagh. Hearing songs like “Mothers of the Disappeared” and “Red Hill Mining Town” made me wonder what our town’s Irish ancestors lived through across the Atlantic. But now, here I am, begging to stop learning about these things. Please U2, it’s time. Enough.