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Old 10-18-2004, 12:25 AM   #1
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U2's Legend and How They Earned It: An Article By Me

(Sorry if this isn't the right place for this, and sorry for the length)

U2's Legend and How They Earned It

It is now just over a month until U2's 11th studio record, enigmatically entitled 'How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb', is finally released. The operative word here is finally. It will have been four years and one month since their last studio release, 2000's 'All That You Can't Leave Behind', and, as always, the new U2 record is the most anticipated new record of the year. That in itself is sort of amazing, that after more or less three decades of existance, that U2 can put increasingly and distressingly long periods of time between records, and when they finally do get around to releasing them, still have legions and legions of fans watering at the mouth for what is, every time, invariably, the most anticipted new record of the year. That is a status that U2 have earned over their 28 year career.

They earned it by taking what raw talent they had in the late 70s and working hard at it, with an ambition and confidence rarely seen in any band before or since, working nonstop, putting out three records in the first four years of the 80s. By being able to reconcile their music with their faith at such an early age. With early classics ranging from 'Out Of Control' to 'I Will Follow' to 'Gloria' to 'Sunday Bloody Sunday' to 'New Year's Day', U2 developed a reputation and built a fanbase around their first three records, 'Boy', 'October', and 'War'.

They earned their status by still striving to grow even after their early success, by allowing their music to evolve into a more spiritual, ambient, and atmospheric entity. With 'The Unforgettable Fire' and 'The Joshua Tree', with too many enduring anthems and ballads to list, they were essentially crowned the biggest band in the world, a title they've yet to concede, though it may have been shaky at times.

They earned their status by not only refusing to fall apart after the negative backlash of 'Rattle And Hum', but by having the balls to turn away from what made them superstars and totally reinvent themselves and their sound, when they could just as easily have made 'Joshua Trees' for the rest of their career. With the trilogy of 'Achtung Baby', 'Zooropa', and 'Pop', U2 continued to push the envelope in every facet of their music, constantly trying to find something new, something they hadn't done before, some way to continue evolving musically, and in doing so, were intent on proving they could continually expierment and throw musical curveballs while still producing quality music. And for the most part, they were successful. Indeed, they earned it by having the sheer balls to release a side project like 'Passengers' under a different moniker, and with a single featuring Pavarotti, no less.

They earned their status by not being afraid to admit when perhaps they had pushed the envelope just a tiny bit too far, by diving headfirst into the idea of just rediscovering themselves instead of reinventing themselves, by letting the next U2 image find them, rather then losing sleep over how to elaborately construct one. By being the one band that had the cajuns to keep playing after 9/11. By writing songs like 'Walk On' and 'Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of', containing a unifying quality that came to comfort us all in the wake of the attack, and being the only band to accomplish that feat almost universally. By showing that they can still rock with the best of them with 'Elevation' and 'Electrical Storm'.

They earned their status by touring tirelessly and relentlessly over their entire career. From the raw, dangerous, Bono-life-risking outings of the early days that were epitomized with 'Under A Blood Red Sky', to the stadium epics of the late 80s that were showcased in 'Rattle And Hum', to the revolutionary, record-setting, bar-raising spectacles that were ZooTv and Popmart and the scaled down arena intimacy of Elevation, which have been captured on countless videos and DVDs, the live stage is where U2 became legends. They are still the only band that can play a 100,000 seat stadium and make it feel like a small club in which you are the only person. Bono connects with the audience in a way that perhaps no other frontman has ever been able to, and that enables the fans to very intimately connect with the performances and the rest of the band, who are near unanimously still labeled the greatest live act in the world. The fact that their 2001 Elevation tour was highest grossing tour of the year and the second-highest grossing tour in history, and the fact that fans have set up entire servers and hubs for the sole purpose of trading U2 concert bootlegs, are testament to the legend of live U2.

But if the live arena is where the heart and soul and energy of U2 are most apparent, the records are where the artistry of U2 is most apparent. On record, U2 can take all the time they need to make the music exactly what they want it to be. And as any fan knows, they DO take all the time they need. Because whereas a band like the Rolling Stones releases a half-assed record every 8 or 10 years just to have an excuse to tour, U2 cares a great deal about not becoming characatures of themselves.

They care a great deal about continuing to make music that MEANS something, about making albums that aren't just collections of songs, but cohesive entities, whole works of a quality high enough to ensure that in a hundred years, people will be listening to them through headphones just like people go to art museums to see the greatest paintings and sculptures ever created. And that's WHY they insist on taking such large periods of time to complete their albums. They are perfectionists, and they always want, nay, need, to make sure that their albums are more than adequate as the ultimate and enduring records of their art.

And throughout the years, the glue that has held everything together time and time again, is the friendship of these four men. It existed before the band did, and it will exist after the band ceases. It is at the core of everything that is and ever was U2. They left their childhood families together, and they've married and had kids of their own together. When the U2 members attend public events with their wives/girlfriends, they look like they're good friends, like they'd be spending the evening together even if they didn't have any event to attend. One gets the feeling that one member's kids might consider the other members to be uncles of sorts. No matter what U2 are doing musically or commercially, that sense of commradary amongst them has always been there, and they've definitely gotten each other through some tough times. Bassist Adam Clayton's drug and substance abuse, and guitarist The Edge's marital problems are just a few examples. The proof of all this is in the unspoken understanding that any fan would be familiar with. The one that says that the day any one member of U2 says he quits, is the day U2 ends. Such is nature of the U2. The friendship has always come before the band. Take the following quotes, from the conclusion of VH1 Legends U2; I think they capture how each member feels about the band very, very well:

Bono: "I don't wanna be in a crap band, and the minute U2 becomes a crap band, we're, you
know, we're all out of here. And crap does not mean, it's not measured in sales, or
even relevance, it's about the sense of adventure, is it still there, are you still
blowing your own mind, are you still growing as a musician, and as a songwriter, and as
a person, and I think, I think that in U2 we are, right now."

Edge: "It's hard to really say in a few sort sentences what everyone brings to the table
because everybody brings, in the end, brings everything they have, and that's a lot
because it's four very smart, very independent, thinking people."

Adam: "Hard as it is to keep it together, it is still possible to have those moments
when it is the four of you being able to keep the rest of the world out, and that's kind of
what it's about."

Larry: "It's bigger than all of us, and it is kind of indescribable, but it's a very special
thing, and I really, I don't want it to end, I don't want the experience to end, and I
know the band may have to do less, and maybe record less, and whatever, but whatever it
is that's special between the band, I never want that to finish."

Bono: "I just remember getting a real, just a sense of, this is the most extraordinary sound
I've ever heard, and it was still out of time and out of tune, and I thought if it made
all the people feel, half what it's making me feel, then this is the way I want to spend
the rest of my life, I mean I really remember feeling, very early on, a strong mesionic
complex coming on, I mean, you know what I mean, meglamania set in very early on with U2."

And today, in October 2004, as they promote their new material, the friendship is still clear as day to see, as is their passion for the music. And not only that, the music looks to be as good as ever. The first single off the new record, 'Vertigo', is as rocking as anything U2 have ever done, and is ridiculously sing-alongable. It is already at the top of the charts. A couple other pieces from the new record were performed live at a recent Top Of The Pops performance, and from what dodgy bootlegged recordings I've heard of them, this record is gonna be a great one. I may be setting myself up for disappointment, but I doubt it.

U2 have earned the privlege of having today's younger artists, the Coldplays and the Radioheads, the Travis's and the Moby's, among others, consistantly referring to U2 as 'the greatest band in the world' and as one of their biggest inspirations. Some of these bands and artists themselves are great, Coldplay and Radiohead in particualar. But if these artists are ever to reach the kinds of plateaus that U2 have been and continue to be on, they will have to earn it just as U2 had to earn it. And once they get there, they will have to avoid getting comfortable. They will have to take on the rock artists of the day head-on, including U2 themselves, who are still relevant as ever.

And still working and making music as if you they still have something left to earn and something left to prove. They never feel like they've made their best music, and that's what makes them so special. These younger bands have their work cut out for them if they want to approach the aforementioned plateau. With U2 set to have a monster year or two ahead of them with a new record and new tour, the youngsters will have to come up with something momentous to counter the U2 machine. I don't envy them right now. When U2 performed Vertigo for Top Of The Pops recently, they were doing so in pouring down rain, and they were faking the performance to an extent as TOTP requested a backtrack to be played with it. And in spite of all of that, and even though they have been around long enough to be on the cover of Rolling Stone with The Beatles, Hendrix, Dylan and Elvis as 'Immortals' of rock, U2 still looked as excited to be doing it as they did in the clubs of Irleand in the late 70s, and they looked like they could continue to do it for another ten or twenty years, easy. So did the fans who had stood in the pouring rain for nine hours just to see them. U2 deserves fans like that. They earned them.
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Old 10-18-2004, 05:47 AM   #2
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good stuff
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Old 10-18-2004, 07:47 AM   #3
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very nice!
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Old 10-18-2004, 08:19 AM   #4
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Thanks
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Old 10-18-2004, 11:05 PM   #5
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This is too much work to disappear altogether so fast.

El bumpy fantastico!
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Old 10-19-2004, 12:11 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by UnforgettableLemon
This is too much work to disappear altogether so fast.

El bumpy fantastico!
I think so too!
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Old 10-19-2004, 12:31 PM   #7
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enjoyable read
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Old 10-19-2004, 01:26 PM   #8
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why the unprofessional jab at the rolling stones?
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Old 10-19-2004, 01:28 PM   #9
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Great read!

I tried writing an article like this once similarly titled U2's Legend and How They Earned It but mine was just once sentence long: "By kicking so much ass!"
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Old 10-19-2004, 04:42 PM   #10
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mind me, if i copy this onto my site?
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Old 10-20-2004, 03:05 AM   #11
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Great work. I enjoyed reading this.
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Old 10-20-2004, 11:03 AM   #12
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Re: U2's Legend and How They Earned It: An Article By Me

"the new U2 record is the most anticipated new record of the year."

What makes you think it is more highly anticipated than Eminem's?



"They earned it by taking what raw talent they had in the late 70s and working hard at it."

They had zero raw talent in the late 70's and they admit that part.


"By being able to reconcile their music with their faith at such an early age."

Their music and faith have still not ben reconciled, and Bono admits that. They have an evolving faith. One album they are writing Wake Up Dead Man which is a lament to God, then in another album they are writing Grace which is so Christian.


"They earned their status by touring tirelessly and relentlessly over their entire career."

Cancelling a Raleigh Popmart show because of low ticket sales? Cancelling the possible 2nd European leg for Elevation? Starting Popmart Las Vegas underrehearsed and with so many blunders? Starting the Elevation tour and not knowing how to play Kite yet? Adam Clayton missing a gig due to overload? You call that "tirelessly" and "relentlessly"? Give me a break.


"They are still the only band that can play a 100,000 seat stadium and make it feel like a small club in which you are the only person."

Tell that to the people who did the sit-down protest inside the heart in the Boston show. Tell that to the poor Japanese fan in the Lovetown Osaka concert where Bono warns him "one more piece of sh*t out of you and you're f*cking out of here." Small clubs don't beam live satellite linkups to war torn Sarajevo just for publicity stunts.


"On record, U2 can take all the time they need to make the music exactly what they want it to be."

On most records, not on POP. They admitted it was unfinished.



"They are perfectionists, and they always want, nay, need, to make sure that their albums are more than adequate as the ultimate and enduring records of their art."

This is the same perfectionism that led them to finish POP by remixing it for the Best Of collections.


"It is already at the top of the charts."

What charts does Vertigo already top? Perhaps the iTunes charts which happens to be run by the very computer company U2 endorses now.



"When U2 performed Vertigo for Top Of The Pops recently, they were doing so in pouring down rain, and they were faking the performance to an extent as TOTP requested a backtrack to be played with it."

First of all, U2 did not "perform" - only Bono did. And secondly, the performance wasn't faked "to an extent". It was faked, PERIOD.

So here are some minor corrections for an otherwise respectable article.

Cheers,

J
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Old 10-20-2004, 03:03 PM   #13
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(Of course, I must add a for the Stones. Come on, you got to give Keith some credit for still being alive!)
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Old 10-29-2004, 11:03 PM   #14
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jick, you said

Quote:
They had zero raw talent in the late 70's and they admit that part.
I must disagree with you. How is it that they had no talent? Maybe you can acquire skill but talent you are born with.

Quote:
Tell that to the people who did the sit-down protest inside the heart in the Boston show. Tell that to the poor Japanese fan in the Lovetown Osaka concert where Bono warns him "one more piece of sh*t out of you and you're f*cking out of here."
Can you explain these two events and how they occurred? Also, that Boston protest, how come you can't see it on the DVD? My first guess is that it was edited out but I want to know for sure.
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Old 10-29-2004, 11:44 PM   #15
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J...the sarajevo comment was near libel....and actually, they are number one right now on the modern rock charts.
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Old 10-30-2004, 07:37 AM   #16
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Very nice read, namkcuR -

I agree with your basic trust in and respect for U2. They have never attempted to mislead their audience with their music - they have always believed in themselves and in us.

I like U2 "fans" who are positive about U2 and their music (why be their "fan" if you can't be positive about them?) and have a positive outlook on Life in general.

Your attitude and enthusiasm for U2 and their new album is much appreciated.

KICK THE DARKNESS 'TIL IT BLEEDS DAYLIGHT (Bono)
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Old 10-30-2004, 07:05 PM   #17
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About Keith still being alive...ROFL

I've just finished reading "Old Gods Almost Dead" and it seems Keith went through even MORE than I had imagined...
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Old 10-30-2004, 07:14 PM   #18
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PS. I think Jick's problem is that he is marooned in the Phillippines (if that's indeed where he's from) and is frustrated b/c he hasn't been able to get toa u2 show and finds no prospect of seeing them this time either...?

I feel truly sorry for the people who benefitted from Propaganda most. I don't know how they will be able to see the band now!
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Old 10-31-2004, 03:29 AM   #19
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J I think your comments are unfair, ungracious and unmerited. The comment of yours that makes me the angriest is that about disagreeing that U2 have toured tirelessly and relentlessly. Perhaps you could come up with a group of U2's status that has put such effort into touring when they could have packed up and moved to the west of Ireland many years ago.

Also I think it is very patronising to write such a long list of complaints and then refer to them as "minor corrections". You are not a sub-editor, if you disagree with what's written how about writing some original thoughts of your own instead of nitpicking through other peoples?
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Old 11-17-2004, 03:07 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally posted by Jamila
Very nice read, namkcuR -

I agree with your basic trust in and respect for U2. They have never attempted to mislead their audience with their music - they have always believed in themselves and in us.

I like U2 "fans" who are positive about U2 and their music (why be their "fan" if you can't be positive about them?) and have a positive outlook on Life in general.

Your attitude and enthusiasm for U2 and their new album is much appreciated.

KICK THE DARKNESS 'TIL IT BLEEDS DAYLIGHT (Bono)
Thanks! What I said still holds true after listening to the new record

BUMP
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