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Column: off the record ..., vol. 16-724

@U2, May 22, 2016
By: Aaron Govern


off the record, from @U2

I just love summer. I’m looking out my window over to the garden, and the sun is out, the flowers in full bloom. Summer is here (at least in my part of the world, England), and I’ve been in a reflective mood the last few weeks wondering whether or not U2 will release Songs Of Experience before the year is over. I have been closely watching the various postings by Edge and Adam on Instagram, trying to suss out where U2 may be. It sees that from time to time they have been in the recording studio, but where, when and with whom has been difficult to determine. And just like the first blooms of the summer, we got some very interesting and exciting news in the last few days that Ryan Tedder is producing songs on the album, and that the band members are getting their heads down. Let’s hope they have a few productive months and we get some good news before the end of summer!

If news of the new album does break later in the year, I have been wondering whether it may coincide with September. Why? Well, Sept. 25, 1976, is said to be the date when seven young lads -- our Fab Four, Dik Evans, Ivan McCormick and Peter Martin, all schoolmates at Mount Temple School in Dublin -- met for a rehearsal/band meeting in Larry’s kitchen at his parents' house in Artane, following the pinning of the now legendary notice on the school noticeboard and his inquiry to form a band with any interested parties.

Whilst technically not the formation of U2 there and then -- the band would quickly become a five-piece, with Dik Evans as the fifth member of Feedback and then The Hype before leaving in March 1978 -- I think most U2 fans would generally acknowledge this date in the calendar to be the formation of U2 as we know it. I'd be surprised if the band didn’t acknowledge this one way or the other -- and certainly, every anniversary seems to be celebrated by major musical acts nowadays, however trivial. I’m hoping there will be some formal events around the globe, and if you are following U2 via social media, you will almost certainly came across the hashtag #u240.

It’s been an interesting year already for serious music fans, with the deaths of such major act as David Bowie and Prince, and you may be aware that in October a remarkable set of artists are playing two weekends in California, probably the first time a concert of this type has taken place. I think it acknowledges, in many respects, that heritage acts (and I hate that term) are really the only example where the artists, promoters, merchandise companies and record labels can make money in a very difficult music industry. But I believe that the heritage artists still have a lot to give. There has already been significant evidence of this -- both critically and commercially -- in the posthumous success of Bowie’s Blackstar at the beginning of the year. That success has, in my opinion, led to a long-overdue cultural watershed for rock music, meaning it is now OK to admit that you like “heritage” artists’ recordings.

Perhaps this is a more recent phenomenon. Twenty years ago, in my mid-20s, the artists I would listen to were in their mid-20s to mid-30s. And 20 years on, the major acts are generally in their mid-40s to mid-50s: Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters, etc. I go to a lot of concerts, and always love that these acts are still recording; that they are still making vital albums; and that they aren’t just touring for the sake of touring, but continue to strive to be creatively active. And that’s why I just love U2 -- they push and push and push to make sure the music remains the focus of the band's existence; i.e., without taking care of the tunes, it’s all a waste of time. As Bono says, “Two crap albums and you’re out!”

It frustrates me (and I’m sure the actual artists involved) that because an act has been commercially successful for many years previous, its latest offering is just an excuse to tour, sell expensive tickets, and charge a fortune for a program and T-shirt. In some cases, band reformations such as Guns N' Roses barely contain enough original members to justify their touring (or as I call it, "the flogging of a dead horse"), but a very good example of the opposite is the latest offering by Iggy Pop, who recently released Post Depression Pop, a truly magnificent album, and quite possibly the best of a very long and interesting career. It looks like he is enjoying critical success as well, if not the commercial success of the Taylor Swifts of this world.

Finally, I’d like to leave you with the thought of how U2 could have remained in the eyes of the world if they hadn’t continued to follow the spark they saw in that first band meeting nearly 40 years ago. Ladies and Gentleman, I present to you their very first TV appearance from 1978, Street Missions on Youngline, RTE television.

(c) @U2/Govern, 2016

Any opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily represent the views of @U2 as a whole.




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