Final thoughts for the year.
One wanted to play guitar.
One was a guitarist, playing a home-made guitar.
One didn't know how to play the instrument he wanted to.
One was just brave enough to ask around.
They had no vocalist.
2006, thirty-one years later:
Bono rejoices (along with every U2 fan) that the rest did not allow him to play guitar.
The Edge still sounds like he's playing a home-made guitar.
Adam Clayton remains arguably the most boring bassist I've ever heard.
Larry Mullen Jr will be forever thankful for that notice he put up in school, something along the lines of: "I've been given a new drum set. Anyone want to form a band?"
And, Bono found his voice. (His name, by the way, is short for bona vox, Latin for 'good voice'.)
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Back in the early eighties, they were dubbed the Hope Brothers, because "they had two hopes of making it: Bob Hope and no hope." U2 was a running joke among rock musicians steeped in drugs, sex and violence simply because they wore their hearts on their sleeves.
But then they stood the test of time. U2 is a story of hope for all of us. For me, and for you too (pun intended).
I have decided to end the year with this thought simply because something about the nature of U2 hit me hard over the past few days, much to Li-Shia's relief: they are not afraid or ashamed of who they are.
In a world where, musically, many bands sound manufactured, U2 maintains a powerful originality in their voice. But even more remarkably, in a rock music culture that stamped out everything positive and happy and good, U2 decided to go ahead as they were, back in the late '70s. And, amidst much controversy, they reinvented their image in the '90s, much to the chagrin of their legions of fans. But, as one critic remarked, without that bold experiment, we would not have the confident band we have today.
Bono's voice would fail American Idol auditions; the Edge's guitar sounds--as it always has--like something from outer space; Adam Clayton still plays repeated eighth-notes (quaver drone, technically speaking) more than anything else; and Larry Mullen Jr has never quite wandered from solid 4/4 time. U2 is, in a word, simple.
And because this is what they do best, they have decided to stick to it. I think their shortcomings are precisely what defines them: without the driving rhythm section of Adam and Larry, we wouldn't have the epic 'With or Without You'; without the Edge's echo-laden guitar we wouldn't have the immensely atmospheric 'Where the Streets Have No Name'; and because of Bono, the only lyrics anyone needs to know in order to sing along with U2 are 'Oh Oh Oh' (they appear in virtually every U2 hit).
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Thing is, I've always wondered what it would be like if I had more skills, or if I were better at doing some things than I am, or if I could do more. And sometimes I get jealous of others who are more versatile than I.
But then I am reminded of U2; many other bands play better, many other singers sound better. Yet they kept Adam (who would've likely been rejected elsewhere) and decided to make the most of what they had, limited though it was. As a result they redefined rock music, and proved (in the words of another critic) that great bands don't have to break up or degenerate into a social problem.
I realise I ought to have the same attitude, for this is what Jesus told the other disciples, when they asked if John would never die: "What is that to you? You must follow me."
I'm glad U2 minded their own business, and faithfully followed their own path. Now if only I can do the same.
* * * * *
Bought U2byU2 with the MPH vouchers today. Can't wait to read it.
Happy 79th birthday, Kung Kung. Here's to your 80th year!
Have a blessed and joyful New Year, everyone!