why U2 is tops in my book

“This song is not a rebel song, this song is …”

If you were anywhere between the ages of 5 and 35 in 1983 you’ve already finished this sentence, and you’re already imagining Bono marching in combat boots under the lights of Colorado’s Red Rocks to the opening militaristic drum beats of “Sunday Bloody Sunday”.

It’s just one of the many influential U2 moments that those of us of a certain age hold dear. For most people my age, U2 is like our Beatles or Rolling Stones, their many sweeping anthems inextricably intertwined into our collective memory. You can hear their enduring influence whenever you turn on the radio — the most obvious (and overdone) comparison is Coldplay, but I find traces (for better or worse) of U2 in such varied artists as The Killers, Radiohead, Broken Bells, Mumford & Sons, Train and Daughtry, to name a few. U2 hasn’t quite gained retro caché with today’s teens, the way Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and others did for those of us who were teens in the ’90s. In fact, I’m pretty sure most teenagers cannot name  a single U2 song (I’ve tested this in class before). But it should only be a matter of time before the kids start showing up to school in vintage Under a Blood Red Sky t-shirts. U2 is the Milennials’ best candidate for Band My Parents Like But I’m Okay With Also Liking Because They Are So Tight (“tight” is slang for “cool” for those of you who don’t frequently hang out with teenagers).

My friend Katy and I recently had a discussion about our favorite U2 songs, and it got me thinking of the lasting influence of this Irish quartet, both in my own life and on music in general. Click here to see Click here to see our top picks.

It seems that Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullen, Jr. and Adam Clayton have just always been there. I was 8 in 1983, and I remember watching those early MTV videos — the aforementioned Red Rocks clip, the Scandinavian artsiness of “New Year’s Day” and the floating barge performance of “Gloria”, featuring a neon-yellow-haired Adam. But it wasn’t until 9th grade that I really began to cultivate my U2 obsession. Much of the credit goes to my friend Heather, whose undying love for Bono was illustrated in her ultimate fantasy: that he would walk past her bedroom door, turn slowly, flash her a sexy Irish smile, then keep on walking. That’s it. She didn’t want to ask for more, for fear of being disappointed should Bono be a bad conversationalist, or worse, a bad kisser. (This deep level of fan worship was hilariously conveyed in Troy’s love for LeVar Burton in the most recent episode of “Community”.) Heather knew every word to every U2 song, and after hours of listening to them with her, I wanted to, too. It was a moment in time ripe for U2-loving — the band was riding high on the critical and commercial success of The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby was just around the corner. The latter was probably the most played album of my high school career.

I loved all versions of the band — the social statement-making angry youths of Boy and War, the spiritual seekers of The Joshua Tree, even the later ’90s pop concepty stuff of Zooropa and Pop (which I’ll admit I hated at first, but can now appreciate for the tongue-in-cheek weirdness). I also loved all versions of Bono, from the John Cougar-esque mullet and tank-top wearing activist to the fly glasses and MacPhisto red devil horns of the Zoo TV tour (which my friends and I saw twice). But my all-time favorite Bono is the sleek, long-haired “With or Without You” Bono. This is the Bono that captured our high school hearts.

U2 was present on our radios and TVs — I have no idea how many times I’ve seen Rattle and Hum or U2: Zoo TV Live from Sydney — even in our bars: we closed out many college nights at Maloney’s with the live from Sun Devil Stadium version of “Where the Streets Have No Name”. I carried my love for them to San Francisco, and was relieved to learn on our first date that Tim was also a superfan. I don’t think I could be married to someone who doesn’t love U2.

Somewhere along the way, though, I lost some enthusiasm for U2. Perhaps I burned out, or perhaps I subconsciously wanted to distance myself from the aging rockers so I, in turn, didn’t feel so aged. All That You Can’t Leave Behind is a really good album — it’s tough not to be motivated to get happy by a song like “Beautiful Day” — and though I don’t listen to them very often, I do like some of their two most recent albums. But these later works just don’t grab me like the band’s earlier stuff. I happen to love the ambassador-to-the-world, elder statesman persona Bono has adopted; I am impressed and inspired by his tireless commitment to the causes he champions. But, for me, Bono will always be that self-assured, intense young rocker. I guess we always hold the softest spot in our hearts for the imagery of our coming of age. And, to be honest, the band’s current status as the reigning Adult Contemporary artist just makes me feel old.

Don’t get me wrong, the members of U2 are still my favorite Irishmen. And, though I hate to pick a favorite, I guess I can’t deny they hold the top spot as my all-time favorite band. It’s nearly impossible to narrow down their extensively awesome music catalog into a Top 5 list, but I asked some friends and fellow U2 lovers to do just that. Here’s what they came up with:

Our Top Picks

Katy’s Top 5 (in no particular order)
“Red Hill Mining Town”
“In God’s Country”
“I Will Follow”
“A Sort of Homecoming”

Michelle’s Top 6 (couldn’t narrow it to 5)
“Party Girl”
“With or Without You”
“Where the Streets Have No Name”
“I Will Follow”
“A Sort of Homecoming”

Tim’s Top 5 (in order)
5. “Running to Stand Still”
4. “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”
3. “Where the Streets Have No Name”
2. “Bad”
1. “Elevation” (From Tim: “If possible, I strongly recommend hearing this song at the Rose Bowl ten feet from Bono with a 100,000 fans clamoring along.  Good times.”)

Kristy’s Top 5 (this was really hard)
5. “Running to Stand Still”
4. “Party Girl”
3. “Red Hill Mining Town”
2. “Bad”
1. “I Will Follow”
Honorable Mentions: “Pride (In the Name of Love)”, “Bullet the Blue Sky”, “Until the End of the World”

“This is a song called ‘Party Girl'”

What are you favorite U2 songs?


2 thoughts on “why U2 is tops in my book

  1. Theresa

    Love love love U2!!! Had a difficult time choosing five but here are mine:

    “Walk On”
    “Where the Streets Have No Name”
    “Red Hill Mining Town”
    “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight”

  2. Pingback: bad, bad = good, good | it's on my mind

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