"I'm not sure you ever get to be an ex-rock star. You can get to be a fading star."
Column: off the record ..., vol. 16-736
August 14, 2016
One of the only paper magazines I still subscribe to is Entertainment Weekly. I’ve been a reader since its inception in 1990, and continue to appreciate their coverage of film, music and books, though I’ll admit I often skip over the music section because the majority of today’s artists don’t move me.
Imagine my surprise, when reading the Aug. 12 issue, to see that a U2 song placed No. 1 on their “50 Pop Culture Pick-Me-Ups” list! Critic Jeff Jensen (@EWDocJensen) recognized “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” because he believes, “It embraces hopeful paradoxes: that doubt and faith are compatible, that certainty doesn’t preclude a constant search for truth.” He goes on to say, “Bono’s lyrics and the Edge’s church-bell guitar combine to create a bittersweet hymn that calls me to look up when I’m down and keep clear-eyed when I’m fogged.” Beautifully written.
The remaining entries are strong as well, with choices I also would’ve included, such as The Sound Of Music and The West Wing. To see the full list, visit EW.com.
A few years ago, I watched a documentary that left me shaken for days. Called Alive Inside, it focused on the reawakening that can take place among those afflicted with memory problems, whether they suffer from Alzheimer’s or are merely advanced in age, when presented with music from their past. In a nutshell, the film explained how our brains store music in a different way than other memories, and they remain accessible long after other areas of the mind have diminished.
Psychology Today posted a fascinating article on the broader topic back in 2013, and of course we occasionally see news stories like this one about someone coming out of a coma because of a song that was played at their hospital bedside. Just in case something awful happens to me, right after I saw the film, I made my own list of songs in case I’m ever in a coma. Laugh if you want, but it gives me peace of mind knowing that it’s out there.
I’ve always tried to explain to friends and family who don’t understand my U2 obsession why their music means so much to me. Seeing films like Alive Inside and reading books like Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks reassures me that I’m not a complete nut. Research proves that there are biological reasons for why some of us respond to certain patterns of sound, not to mention the spiritual and emotional complexities that arrive with (or even without) lyrics.
I’m just grateful that so many of my happy memories have been tied to U2 and the friends I’ve made as a result of my love for them. That the personal portion of my life hasn’t been centered on only movies or food or jobs, but on music and, most specifically, U2’s music. What a gift it is to know that if I make it to an advanced age, those memories will follow.
Speaking of memories, our pending trip for #U240Cleveland has me reminiscing about all the other times I’ve been there — every single journey has centered around the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
In 1996, my college roommate worked for the airline Trans World Express and generously shared her flight benefits with me when she was unable to use them. In one instance, that resulted in a trip to Cleveland less than a year after the museum opened to tour the new space. My sister joined me from the East Coast and we had a blast exploring the not-yet-crowded exhibit halls. I distinctly remember one part of the interactive tour where we were identifying songs via headphones and kept hitting the wrong buttons. Each time, “Rock Lobster” by the B-52’s would come on and we would dissolve into hysterics. It was a great time, and the start of many fun sister travels for concerts and such.
In 2003, the first major U2 exhibit graced Cleveland, so I returned the week of Valentine’s Day to tour it with two local friends I'd met through a Seattle U2 Meetup group. There were body-numbing cold temperatures, flight delays and a cot with a broken spring that sent me to the floor of my hotel room, but I recall only joy from this trip. I got to see Larry’s first drum set (and be asked to step away from it by security when I got too close) and a number of other jaw-dropping relics from the band’s past.
Four months later, I returned for the International U2 Fan Celebration with one of the same friends who attended in February. Sure, I made a fool of myself in the U2 confessional. Yes, I got a bit starstruck when Steve Averill signed my War CD. But it was on that trip that I met Matt McGee and the rest, they say, is history. Welcomed into the atu2 family with open arms, first as a contributor and a few years later as a staffer, I’d found my special part of the tribe and would never look back.
In 2013, the stellar U2 Conference took place there and I had the pleasure of interviewing Jim Henke during the program. It was also wonderful hearing Bill Carter tell the story of his time with the band during the Zoo TV tour and beyond. But nothing compared to catching up with my atu2 family of friends and doing what we do best: laughing, talking, reminiscing.
In just 40 days, I’ll enjoy my fifth trip to the Rock Hall for our #U240Cleveland celebration and I couldn’t be more excited. Not only will I get to catch up with old friends, but I’ll get to meet some of our newer staffers I’ve never seen in person, and hopefully some of you reading this column as well. We’re cooking up a lot of fun for that weekend, so if you’ve been on the fence about coming, don’t even hesitate.
We won’t disappoint!
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) 2016, @U2/Kokkoris.