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"I'm as honest as I can be in talking about songs, but I'm really honest when I'm singing them." — Bono

Column: off the record..., vol. 15-652


off the record, from @U2

And so another year begins. Happy 2015 to all of our readers!

This is a time of new beginnings and resolutions, of anticipation and excitement for what the new year will bring. Anything's possible! Full steam ahead! List your goals for the year, whether personal or professional, and go make them happen!

If you're a U2 fan -- and I assume you are if you're reading this -- there's even more excitement. A new tour is due to start in just over four months. There might even be another new album this year to fit the tour's name and theme: Innocence and Experience.

But as excited as I am about all that, 2015 is off to a difficult start for me. I have far too many family members and friends that are dealing with death, illness and other serious personal issues right now to really enjoy the holiday season and new year. It seems like my prayer list grows longer every 4-5 days, and rather than think about a new U2 tour, or about my own goals for 2015, I'm just hoping these people who mean the world to me can get through the difficulties that they're in right now.

One of our @U2 staffers lost an immediate family member a few days ago. It's terrible for anyone to have to go through that. I thought I might lose one or two of mine last month. In late November, both of my parents ended up in the hospital for almost a month -- one needing pretty serious surgery. They're both in their early 80s, so it was a scary time. Luckily, they're both home now and starting to improve, but things will never be the same.

I was able to see them right after Christmas for what was a short-but-emotional visit. After the visit, I was sitting in a hotel room near the Philadelphia airport ready to go home and needed some music. There's a U2 song for every occasion and situation, isn't there? This time, this one helped get me through:

I probably listened to that song 20 times in the hotel room and during my flight home. The live from Boston version, the Slane DVD version, the live from Sydney version, the album version ... all of them. But especially the live versions. Something about U2 playing live together ... I don't know. It's hard to explain, but I'm betting I don't really need to. You get it.

All of that family health stuff was going on last month when it was my turn to write the first OTR of December. But I couldn't do it. Even with U2 concert tickets going on sale, U2 was about the last thing on my mind. And when I did focus on U2 things, I was getting bombarded on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere with a lot of whining and crying over U2's tour announcement, ticket sales and so forth.

If I'd written OTR last month, it might've been pretty nasty. I was ready to vent about some of the complaints I was seeing from U2 fans. Sure, it sucks to see thousands of U2 tickets on StubHub and the Ticketmaster ticket exchange site and, in some cities (cough...New York...cough) you had no chance to get GA tickets during the public ticket sale. It wasn't perfect, and it never will be. But I'd had enough of people complaining about things like their third U2.com account not being able to score tickets, or -- and this one was a favorite -- the guy in our forum who complained that U2 was gouging fans because the talk about having a "different vibe" (those are Bono's exact words) from one concert to the next meant we'd have to buy tickets to see multiple shows. Really? For the past two decades, fans have been criticizing U2 for not mixing up the set lists enough. Now Bono talks about maybe having a different vibe from one show to the next, and that's an attempt to force fans to spend more money on tickets? Incredible.

In any case, I have to thank Sherry Lawrence for her last-minute fill-in for me last month. It was already late on Sunday afternoon when I asked her to take over for me, and she had OTR written and published just a few hours later. Thanks Sherry!

If you get Google News alerts (or Bing or Yahoo) related to U2, you've been bombarded this weekend with headlines from around the world discussing Bono's revelation that he may never be able to play guitar again.

I have to confess: When I read that in his U2.com message, my initial reaction was, "So what?" It's not like his guitar-playing is an essential element of any U2 songs, is it? (That's being discussed in our forum.) I love the acoustic guitar he plays at the end of "Kite" in the video above, but that's not a staple of U2's canon. And even during the half-dozen times he straps on a guitar during a typical U2 concert, it usually seems to be as much a fashion statement as anything.

So my first reaction wasn't very sympathetic. But since then I've been thinking a little differently. For starters, he's a musician and to be told that you might not be able to use one of the primary tools of your craft must suck. Just having that taken away from you must be pretty disappointing for him. Secondly, and this is something none of us really know -- how much does he use the guitar when he's in the studio working out new songs, working on new lyrics, and so forth? That might be where not being able to pick up a guitar actually has some real impact.

In any case, I'm still not worried at all about the upcoming tour and whether he'll be ready. He may not be the same Bono we remember from past tours, but I trust that he'll be out there giving everything he has. Whether he plays guitar or not, I'm sure the shows will be fantastic.

My wife got a new car a couple months ago and it came with a three-month trial of SiriusXM radio. I'd never listened to satellite radio before, aside from a couple brief experiences with it when I was renting a car on some business trip. As best I can tell, SiriusXM has dedicated channels for Elvis Presley, Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, the Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd and Tom Petty -- and those are just the rock artists.

I keep wondering ... what do we have to do to get a dedicated U2 channel added?

2015 is the 15th year that this website has produced a weekly column called "off the record...," which still blows my mind. I remember about 6-7 years ago, we mentioned that we were thinking about shutting down OTR, and y'all practically came after us with pitchforks. Message heard, loud and clear!

This is also our 20th year online. We've been publishing U2 news and information uninterrupted, in busy times and slow times, since October 23, 1995: no breaks; no going on hiatus; no taking time off to "dream it all up again" (to borrow yer man's famous line). It goes without saying that I'm super proud of this, and super grateful to be part of an amazing team of U2 fans that makes it happen year in and year out.

Back in 2005, we had a great time celebrating 10 years online at the end of the Vertigo Tour. With U2 hitting the road later this year ... well, it seems like a perfect fit for us to have another big party somewhere along the way. As soon as we know when and where, we'll let you know. And I hope you can join us, whenever and wherever it happens.

(c) @U2, 2015.