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Column: off the record..., vol. 14-612

@U2, March 30, 2014
By: Arlan Hess


off the record, from @U2

I have been reminiscing about the days before the 24-hour news cycle and social media-driven rumors after reading two promising reports this week that U2 are back in the studio and planning their next tour. I'm encouraged that we might have a release later this year, but I'm not getting my hopes up until I have something more concrete to go on. Like many fans, I have had my hopes raised and dashed many times over the decades. It was easier to be a U2 fan back in the '80s when I was in high school and college. I didn’t judge or compare the music to itself; I just listened. I listened to albums and cassettes over and over again until I wore them out because I wasn’t searching Twitter for selfies taken with band members outside restaurants or combing obscure online industry zines for snippets of confidential information leaked by producers or hangers-on. Back in those days, the wait was somewhat like foreplay. It made the climax of the one live show that I could see that much sweeter. At that point in my life, following the band around the country or the world was beyond my ability. Now, with a full-time income and job flexibility, I can see several shows every tour. I was more patient back then, because I had to be. If Willie Williams’ suggestion this week (that the next U2 tour will be less imposing) proves to be true, I may have the chance to see the band at Pittsburgh’s new Consol Energy Center – a new facility across the street from the old, demolished Civic Arena where I first saw the band in April 1985. If I just put down my mobile phone, I might be able to enjoy life coming full circle.

Speaking of circles, John Waters, author of Race Of Angels: The Genesis Of U2 (Fourth Estate, 1994), is back in the spotlight, but this time under somewhat vainglorious circumstances. For someone who at first seemed to me to be on the cutting edge of Irish culture, his vociferous opinions on blogging and homosexuality have mystified me. At the beginning of January, Rory O’Neill, popular Dublin pub owner and drag queen (@pantibliss), mentioned on RTE’s Saturday Night Show that he thought Waters and other media figures were homophobic. After Waters and the others threatened a lawsuit, the network removed the clip from its website and paid 85,000 euros to Waters and members of the Iona Institute for defamation of character. The debacle has been hotly debated on the streets of Dublin and in the national parliament as Ireland considers putting marriage equality on the ballot in 2015. Until late January, Waters had written a column for the Irish Times every Friday for more than 20 years. At that time, in the wake of the scandal, he took a leave of absence. On Friday, the Irish Times and Waters parted ways for good. Although he no longer writes for the Times, he will continue to write a Sunday column for the Irish Mail.

Also in publishing this week, Liberties Press, one of Ireland's leading independent publishers, launched Where The Streets Have 2 Names, featuring hundreds of unpublished photographs of U2 and other bands who were part of the Dublin music scene in the late '70s and early '80s, such as the Virgin Prunes, The Blades, The Black Catholics, The Undertones and The Buzzcocks. Patrick Brocklebank began his career with Hot Press and, as a favorite photographer and confidant of many emerging musicians, received commissions from international publications as the bands gained notoriety. In 2012, The Little Museum of Dublin exhibited a selection of his U2 photographs (and has since set up the only permanent display of U2 memorabilia in the world). Subsequently, Scott Calhoun gained access to the collection and Brocklebank’s photos were displayed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of the U2 Conference in April 2013. Where The Streets Have 2 Names is available from the Liberties Press website and was edited by Sinéad Molony.

(c) @U2/Hess, 2014.

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