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Column: off the record ..., vol. 16-726

@U2, June 05, 2016
By: Matt McGee


off the record, from @U2

What a fun day this has been on Twitter! I'm gonna assume many of you know what I'm talking about, but for those who don't: Today, June 5, 2016, we celebrated U2's famous concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre -- which happened 33 years ago to the day on Sunday, June 5, 1983 -- with a day-long party on Twitter.

We sent out 30-40 tweets from our Twitter account throughout the day as if it was June 5, 1983. And those tweets led into a DVD/Twitter party that began around the time we think the concert actually started back in '83. Fans all over the world watched the Red Rocks concert together and tweeted about it as if it was happening live. Super fun stuff, and I extend a big THANK YOU to everyone who joined us.

This is an idea I've been wanting to try for a while now. There are some Twitter accounts that send out tweets as if some historical event was happening now. One of them, @RealTimeWWII, has been online for a few years, tweeting out various news and events from World War 2 as if they were happening live. It's a fascinating way to consume history.

Taking that idea and making it U2-related wasn't easy. It requires something where you have a timeline of events throughout a day or week or whatever. Red Rocks seemed like a natural fit because there have been a handful of articles written about the day. From those, you can kinda figure out the sequence of events that included the awful weather, the debate over whether to move/cancel the show, the decision to play, the calls to local radio stations and so forth. Between those articles and other research (rewatching the DVD, checking the booklet from the Under A Blood Red Sky remaster, etc.), we were able to piece together a pretty good sketch of the full day. If you followed along, I hope you agree and hope you enjoyed it.

It's an idea I'd love to do for other U2-related events, but I'm not sure which ones would offer enough of a timeline for us to be able to fill a full day like we did today. Live Aid is a possibility, but I'm not sure there's enough of a full-day timeline to make it work. (I mean, there's a timeline overall for Live Aid, but we don't know much about what U2 was doing in the hours before and after it performed.)

Even if we can't do the full-day of tweets around some of these big events from U2's history, we can still do the live viewing parties -- and I'm sure we will. In fact, as tonight's Twitter viewing party wrapped up, a bunch of fans were tweeting suggestions to us: Live Aid, Slane, Zoo TV Sydney and others. We could also do the I+E Paris DVD as a viewing party once fans around the world have had enough time to buy and receive their copies. We'll let you know what we're planning along these lines as soon as we can.

What we did today around the Red Rocks show was the kick off of @U2's coverage of #U240 -- U2's 40th anniversary as a band, which dates back to that first meeting in Larry's kitchen on September 25, 1976. In addition to the Twitter events I've been talking about above, we're also planning a series of articles and essays that celebrate U2's 40 years together. And, as you may have heard in our latest podcast, we're going to do a podcast series looking back at every U2 album, one at a time, as part of our #U240 coverage. Stay tuned for more on that -- we'll be inviting you to send in brief audio clips telling us what you love about your favorite U2 album(s).

To help get ready for today's Red Rocks stuff, I recently watched the DVD with the director's commentary turned on -- first time I'd listened to that. The director, Gavin Taylor, spoke at one point about the heroism of the helicopter crew for braving the weather in order to get some of the aerial footage that's shown during the video. The end credits list the pilot's name as Peter Peelgrane, and on a whim I decided to look up his name to see where he is now. Sadly, I quickly learned that he died in 1995 from injuries suffered in a helicopter crash a few years earlier. This news report from the station where he worked is really well done. Barry Fey, who promoted the Red Rocks concert and is seen on the video introducing the band at the start of the show, is also dead -- he committed suicide a couple years ago. RIP Peter and Barry. 

2016 isn't just the 40th anniversary of U2's first meeting as a band, it's also the 25th anniversary of the album that many U2 fans (including me) call their favorite, and many critics call U2's best. I'm talking about Achtung Baby, which was released in November 1991.

You may recall in an OTR earlier this year that I mentioned I was working on a personal, U2-related project. Well, I'm ready to let you all know about it.

Such is my love for Achtung Baby that, when a fellow U2 fan offered to sell me the domain a few years ago, I couldn't say no. Since then, I've been looking for a good time to build a website on that domain, and this year's anniversary made perfect sense. So I built a tribute to and history of what I consider U2's best album:

If you like Achtung Baby, I think you'll like the website. I'm not gonna suggest that you'll learn anything new -- if you're a die-hard, knowledgeable fan, you probably know the whole story about the recording, release, remastered version and more. But hopefully you'll enjoy having all of this information presented in one place for future reference.

(Note: If you use any content filters while browsing the web, you may be unable to visit That's because there's a page on the site talking about the album cover controversy and I've included the uncensored nude image of Adam Clayton.)

This is a personal project for me, not an @U2 project -- but I do want to thank the @U2 staffers that helped me fact-check and gave me feedback so I could get it ready to share with the world. If you think I missed something, feel free to drop me a gentle note.

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

(c) @U2, 2016.

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