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[I]t's the struggle, the fight to get it right, that makes U2 what it is." -- Larry

On Being a U2 Fan

I was interviewed earlier this week by a reporter from our local newspaper for a story that I presume will be about "local guy's web site partners with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for international event," or something like that. I like interviewing others a lot more than being interviewed, but the reporter was very nice and I think we had a good conversation.

Speaking with a stranger about U2 is, well, a bit strange. Make that double if the person isn't a U2 fan. You have to explain things more. Non-U2 fans don't get it, and after twenty-plus years of being a fan, I'm pretty convinced most never will. You can try to fill their cup of knowledge, but it seems most of the drink spills on the floor.

So I went into this interview assuming the reporter wasn't a U2 fan, and I was ready to do the required amount of explaining. I was prepared to talk about the U2 Fan Celebration which @U2 is co-presenting with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, about the plans, preparations, etc. I even prepared for a few questions about @U2 -- how much traffic we get, how the site is managed on a daily basis, things like that.

It was a pleasant surprise to discover, over the course of our conversation, that the reporter was more versed in U2 than I'd expected. But her first question knocked me for a loop. I don't remember the exact wording, but in essence it was Why are you such a big U2 fan?

I wasn't prepared for that.

I stumbled through a response that I'm sure will come back to haunt me if it gets used in the article, something about U2 being an important band and writing songs that matter and avoiding fluffy love songs. (I'm making it seem more coherent than it was.) The reporter was very gracious, and gave me the impression she completely understood what I was on about. At least one of us did.

"Why are you such a big U2 fan?"

Can you ever be prepared for that one? How do you answer such an open-ended question? Especially when you're speaking with someone you don't know?

How do you explain...

...the feeling you get when you hear the beginning of the live version of "Streets," which you've heard close to 1,000 times probably, and have never not gotten the chills and/or goosebumps?

...that U2's music is the soundtrack of your life, and say it without sounding cheesy? Come to think of it, I'm sure I used that phrase in my answer. Ugh.

...that even though you don't agree with all of Bono's politics, you're a fan because you admire his relentless effort and his tireless involvement, and how he doesn't just show up to promote a cause and then leave the details to others (like so many other celebrity spokespeople) -- that Bono is the detail guy?

...that going to a U2 concert really is like going to church, and (forgive me, Father) often better?

...that you think it's terrific how four guys have managed to remain true to one another for such a long period of time, and that part of the allure is how they prove the value of friendship and staying power? I didn't mention that. Way too cheesy.

...that you agree 100% with Bono when he says there's "magic" and a "spark" when U2 get together and start playing in a room? And that the one thing you'd want to do more than anything where U2 is concerned is to sit quietly in that room and watch them record an album, soaking it all in for however long it takes -- 6 months, 10 months, a year-and-a-half, whatever!?

...that you're fully aware U2 isn't perfect, that they make mistakes, that in some areas they come up well short of other bands, but that you accept the faults just as you would with a best friend or spouse?

...that you're a U2 fan and a U2 Fan fan? That, when you find another U2 fan on the street, you just know you can get along with that person and you make certain assumptions because that guy's a U2 fan, too? That hanging out with other fans before a concert is just a tiny bit less fun than the concert itself? That you work on a web site with two dozen other fans, many of whom you've never met in person, and yet you count them among your best friends on earth?

I didn't do a very good of explaining all that. I used words like "meaning" and "feeling" and "matter," and even though I'm sure the reporter will do a great job making sense of my convoluted answer, I don't expect anyone reading it will understand (except the U2 fans).

After we finished and I put down the phone, I was reminded of my all-time favorite quote about being a U2 fan. It's from Irish author John Waters, in the prologue of his book, Race of Angels - The Genesis of U2.

"The meaning which U2 have for their fans, and the feeling which that meaning has created, are mysterious things. Truly, they are 'secrets,' which belong to each individual fan, but which add up to something a little puzzling for those who are not privy to the 'secret'."

That's it, right there. That doesn't answer Why are you such a big U2 fan?, but it explains why I can't explain it.

You understand.

© @U2, 2003.