P eople generally feel that for us Classic Rock heads, music ended with the sixties and the seventies. I definitely do not feel so, even though a lot of my friends may disagree with me! Rock has definitely moved into different directions through the ages and has sometimes taken shape in forms that make it unrecognizable from its origins. The freshness of approach is what gives it the power to reinvent itself into different manifestations. I have seen every decade throw up a superstar that stamps the period with its very own unique style. One such mega superstar group who gained prominence in the eighties would have to be the almost spiritual musings of four high school friends from Ireland who went under the unreal pseudonym of U2.
After playing Rolling stones covers in their formative years under the name "Feedback" U2 burst on the local Irish scene in the late seventies when they won a "battle of the bands" contest. They were soon signed to CBS records (Ireland) and got a few no1s on the Irish charts. Their success in Ireland caught the attention of Chris Blackwell, the head of Island records but it was not easy sailing for the Irish lads in the mainstream UK market. After a few dud singles, their first album "Boy" was finally released and fortunately received critical acclaim. Backed by the passionate vocals of Bono and the band's rhythmic tightness, their live shows had become crowd pullers and they were soon on their way to become a post punk sensation in UK.
For me, U2 truly came into their own with the release of "The Joshua Tree" in 1987. Never really big in India, except with a small cult following, this album confirmed U2's standing as one of the world's most popular rock bands. Produced by the amazing Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, "The Joshua Tree" topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic and the ethereal soundscapes of "With Or Without You" and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" gave the world a new sound. One that was both spacey and powerful at the same time! The guitar sound of Edge was analyzed by thousands of guitar players all over the world and Bono, with his unique combination of power and attitude easily made him one of those singers whom I would always look up to.
To follow an album of the greatness of "The Joshua Tree" was indeed a difficult proposition but U2 have always managed to surprise their fans with something that was new and exciting. The double-live album and film, "Rattle And Hum' followed and then Bono surprised everybody by appearing on a Cole Porter tribute album by singing the Jazz classic "I got you under my skin" with the legendary Frank Sinatra. The innovativeness of his approach to a Jazz classic that has been sung a millions times by thousand of great singers was truly commendable. Truly symbolic of the Rock spirit, he infused the song with a hitherto unknown interpretation that was all 'Attitude' and almost devoid of technique. What an ingenious way to make everybody stand up and take notice!
Rock Stars have always stood strong for their personal beliefs and U2 was no different. The band appeared at the "Live Aid" concert and on the anti-Apartheid single, "Sun City". They have also been involved with Amnesty International and their disgust at the proliferation of nuclear arms is well known. They have left no stone unturned in using the fame and influence that their music has given them, to promote peace and harmony on earth. At the MTV Awards in Paris, much to the surprise of the audience and organizers, Bono publicly chided the French president Jacques Chirac for his country's nuclear tests. "What a wanker you have for President" were the exact words he told the shocked audience!
In March 2000, the Bono-scripted movie The Million Dollar Hotel was released and contained the only U2 Indian connection. The soundtrack included the new U2 track "The Ground Beneath Her Feet" and featured lyrics by the Indian novelist, Salman Rushdie, The band's obsession with electronica had continued from their albums "Achtung Baby", "Zooropa" and "Pop" days and U2's hold on it's audience continues unabated. Their constant presence in the "Grammy" Awards is the final testimony to this unchallenged fact and their latest album " All That You Can't Leave Behind" has also been nominated for the Grammys. I would not be surprised if U2, once again walks away with the highest honors that the music industry bestows on its members. Bono and the boys, as you can see, are truly unstoppable!