"[I]n the early '80s . . . there was this rather ridiculous idea . . . that if it was big, it was bad. Which of course rules out Elvis."
Like A Song: The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)
December 09, 2015
[Ed. note: This is the 95th in a series of personal essays by the @U2 staff about songs and/or albums that have had great meaning or impact in our lives.]
In memory of Lawrence John Murphy 1942-2015
I was young, not dumb
It’s been over 42 years since I’ve been to Ireland, and like Ireland, I’ve changed a bit since that visit. My grandfather’s family owned a dairy farm in Co. Louth, and I got to spend the summer of 1973 roaming that farm and getting myself into a little bit of trouble.
So I got a little too close to the blades of the combine as they turned and sliced through the wheat in the fields. I also broke a few eggs while I was “helping” to collect them from the hens. Turns out, the practice of breaking eggs on a dairy farm is frowned upon. Who knew? There was also this cow I liked to climb on and try to ride. I figured that while all the other cows were in for milking, the powers that be just wanted to leave one out for me to play with. Incidentally, that was the day I learned cows don’t actually have horns, and this one did. Mind you, I was 5, and my mom still talks about the years I took off of her life from the cow/bull incident. I also quickly learned that a bull can be a lot nicer than a farmhand, who evidently didn’t like any of the eggs being broken.
I guess sometimes those life lessons have to be learned the hard way. Speaking of life lessons …
I was aching to be somewhere near
Chasing down a dream before it disappeared
When I heard the announcement that U2 would be playing four November shows at the 3Arena in Dublin, my heart skipped a beat. Not just because I wanted to be at those shows, but because my family and I had a trip planned to the Czech Republic in October to spend a week with my wife’s brother and his family. So the thought of flying across the Atlantic for the first time in over 42 years and missing U2 by a month wasn’t sitting well with me. We were all looking forward to this trip, but my wife could see on my face that I was hatching some plot, and scheming some scheme.
My initial thought about seeing U2 in Dublin was that it would be so cool to see the band in their hometown. You know, a bucket list kind of thing. I realized, though, it was more about me not wanting to learn some valuable life lesson about a wrong decision, and wanting to gain a life experience from a right decision.
Just wishing to be blinded
I tell people that I’m blind so they can understand my perspective on things. It’s not a big deal, but it might be irresponsible of me to pick a song for a “Like A Song” essay that includes the word “blinded” and not make mention of it. I also tell people because I think they need to know. Especially while having a conversation at home or abroad, where there’s a lot of pointing going on. I joke – that’s how I deal. Get over it. But seriously, I mention it in this essay because it’s not every day that a blind, diabetic guy who has some pain issues gets on a plane to see two U2 gigs on another continent. But it’s certainly not, and (Lord willing) never will be a reason not to.
I get so many things I don’t deserve
Thanks to some awesome friends on Atu2 (you know who you are), a nephew who was up for the ultimate road trip with his uncle, a mom who helped in a big way in making it possible for said nephew to go, and last but certainly not least, my wife and son, who encouraged me to hatch that plot and scheme that scheme.
And we were pilgrims on our way
It was great to reconnect with the Murphy clan in Ireland. It was such a short visit with them, but we got to catch up on so many things. Jimmy, my mom’s cousin, and his wife Frances live in Co. Meath. Incidentally, their house is only about 15 kilometers (just a little over 9 miles) from Slane Castle. So naturally, talk of the 2001 U2 gigs came up. They told me they could actually hear the concerts from their house, and that made me smile. It was also cool to hear that their son, Richard, was at those gigs. It often amazes me that this band we love can be such a common thread with people all over the world. Even with people you’re related to.
Unfortunately, I had to share some bad news with them. My mom’s brother, Larry Murphy, who lived in the U.S., had passed away while I was in the Czech Republic, and none of the family in Ireland had heard the news. In this age of technology, it’s so easy to send a digital message to whomever you want, and whenever you want. But news like this, to me, is always better to share in person, even if it’s sad news. Larry left this world too early, and left behind a beautiful wife, and an amazing 19-year-old daughter, who is also a miracle. Larry and his wife, Shirley, adopted Emily from China in 1998, and she has really been a blessing to the family ever since. Larry spent some of his earlier years in Ireland, and I couldn’t wait to tell him that I was finally getting back to the Emerald Isle. But I never got that chance to tell him.
We can hear you
Emily wrote in her dad’s eulogy about Larry’s love of Irish heritage and Irish music. She mentioned being stuck in traffic jams when she was a little girl, and he would open all the windows, turn the music up, and sing along to his favorite Irish songs like “Danny Boy.” Saying that she was embarrassed would be an understatement. But Uncle Larry, we can still hear you.
Above the noise, above the hurt
So many of us have been thinking about the recent terrorist attacks in Paris. But I have to admit that, selfishly, I wondered how those attacks would affect my trip to Dublin. I quickly realized that it was all much bigger than my own wishes to see U2 in their hometown.
If you’re a new U2 fan, or someone who’s followed them for years, you probably know by now how they use their voices and music to try to make positive changes in this broken world. And if you’ve seen them on this tour, I hope you’ve been able to tune in to their message of surrender and healing. That’s a message I never take lightly.
Religion so I can love and hate
None of us need to look very far to see how religion has divided this world. My friends and family in Ireland certainly don’t need to be reminded of this fact. I’ve read too many threads in our forum where the topic of religion comes up, and unfortunately, the message often gets lost and can’t be heard above the noise and hurt. However, this line in the song fascinates me more than any other line. I think Bono sums up the brokenness of human beings perfectly with these seven words. But it’s not a hopeless summary. In this 2005 article, Bono talks about his own religiosity, and how it’s not enough to make him pure. I love this band for many reasons, but mostly because they are very proactive when it comes to ideas of surrender, healing and grace.
When the miracle occurred
C. S. Lewis wrote, “Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.”
At times, I believe this to be true in my own life. Too often, I want to know the nuts and bolts of why and how a miracle happened. But when I do that, I often miss the actual miracle itself. My trip to Ireland was a miracle of pure joy. Not life and death, just pure joy. Music, relationships and life are all miracles to be treasured. But the miracle I treasure the most of all, in this case, is the fact that my wife let me take my nephew to Ireland for a three-day party!
The most beautiful sound I’d ever heard
U2 friends are the best. After catching the Dublin 1 gig, my body and mind just needed to rest. But on the day of the second gig, I was ready to live that experience. My nephew and I got over to Temple Bar and took in the whole experience. The sights (for my nephew), the sounds, and most important, the tastes. The Jameson and Guinness never tasted better. I also got to meet some of my non-U.S. AtU2 co-workers: Aaron (and his cousin), Kenny (and his awesome accent), and then later, Liseth and Carol. They really took care of my nephew and me. Also, a big shout out to Scott, who played a big part in all of this happening.
Your voices will be heard
We all have our favorite U2 songs, and songs we wish they’d play live. But hearing them play their songs in Dublin with people you love and respect makes the songs take on a different meaning altogether. I hope I can encourage people reading this, who can think of 101 reasons why not to do something, to focus on maybe the one reason why you should do it. Three words that I couldn’t wait to shout at these gigs, after the thoughts of it happening, the action it took to make it happen, the many reasons why it shouldn’t happen and the overwhelming reason why it should, were these words: Here we go!
(c) @U2/Tuohy, 2015