"I look more like an artisan than an artist. I have these big hands and this pointed face. Where's the glamour in all that?"
Column: off the record..., vol. 14-618
May 11, 2014
I have been on an interesting musical journey lately. As U2’s new music is not monopolizing my listening time, I’m finding myself comforted by the tunes I spent my childhood listening to blended with my midlife crisis artist of choice. In a “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” sort of way, they’re all interconnected.
Billy Joel’s music was always played in my house. His song “My Life” was my mom’s anthem when she divorced my father. My teachers used him to educate us about the Soviet Union when he performed there in 1987. My U.S. history teacher used the lyrics of "We Didn't Start The Fire" during a month long lesson, reminding us that the "U-2" reference wasn't about an Irish band.
His last contemporary album of original work, River Of Dreams, came out in 1993. Since then he’s had a classical release as well as several compilations and live albums. Currently he’s a franchise artist at Madison Square Garden, where he will perform once a month until the interest wanes. At the moment, there is no end in sight to his engagement at MSG. He is also participating in a limited-engagement run on Sirius/XM radio with his own channel. I have been listening to it as much as I can.
During a recent town hall interview with Howard Stern, Joel was asked why he hasn’t recorded new music or released a new album. His answer was quite direct: “I don’t want to.” At 65 years old, he said he still wakes up with music in his head, but it’s usually classical and he doesn’t have any desire to record another record. I have always appreciated his blunt responses.
During a University of Massachusetts lecture in 2011, he was quick to point out that U2 aren’t just four men on the stage. Interestingly enough, most diehard U2 fans already knew about the technology in the Underworld and Terry Lawless’ role on keyboards.
Technology can sometimes get the best of musicians, and Joel is no exception, as Auto-Tune was used for his performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the 2007 Super Bowl. Auto-Tune has infiltrated the music industry to the point where it’s all people hear on the radio. It has an “if you can’t beat them, join them” reputation.
Artist Michael Bublé has embraced Auto-Tune for that very reason. In an interview with The Globe And Mail, he said, “I need to get on pop radio … and if my songs don’t sound like all the other songs, I’m not getting on pop radio.”
After reading that article, I question what the future holds for U2’s sound. We know Bono’s sentiments about needing to be on the radio. How much Auto-Tuning should we be expecting if Bono is adamant about needing to be on the radio?
A few years ago in the @U2 Forum, our readers weighed in on the possibility of U2 using Auto-Tune.
While on the topic of Bublé, he is my midlife crisis go-to at the moment. Bublé has been on the professional scene for a little over a decade now, and has done a great deal to be as personable with his fan base as he can. I enjoy his Instagram warm-up rehearsal videos as well as his Bungalow-B fan club. In particular, he greets his logged-in users with a special welcome video where he thanks his fans for their support. He also encourages fans via Instagram to request what the next rehearsal video will be.
It’s been a while since we’ve had a video on U2.com where paid members are welcomed with a brief greeting from the band or anything offering direct contact with the fans. Just sayin'.
We’d like to thank everyone who has visited the @U2 Tours site and for helping us make it as complete as possible. If you are a live U2 show aficionado, have a library of U2’s concerts at your fingertips or would like to listen to U2’s live stuff non-stop, then we have something special for you! We are still in need of some fans who would be willing to assist us with the concert set lists as we are now able to include song snippets. Please let us know if you’re interested in helping out.
And finally … I pity the fool who doesn’t listen to Mr. T’s request to treat your mother right.
Happy Mother’s Day to all celebrating!