Thursday, October 10, 2013

On the Road With U2

On this day 25 years ago, U2 released its "Rattle and Hum" record, the double album soundtrack for the movie by the same name — which wasn't released in the United States until the next month.

Critics were mixed in their reactions, but the album was quite successful, and, as far as I was concerned, there was no secret behind its success. U2 was a rising force in popular music at that time, and its power was best observed when it fed from the energy of the live audience.

The original concept was to document U2's tour of the United States in 1987. As a result, songs that were recorded in the last 25 years are not to be found on the album or in the movie.

But many of their best songs are to be found on it — like "Desire," "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," and "Pride (In the Name of Love)" — along with cover versions of songs like "Helter Skelter" and "All Along the Watchtower" and a duet with B.B. King that produced a smash hit, "When Love Comes to Town."

It became one of my favorite albums when I bought it.

But my favorite track on the album probably received little airplay when the album was released. "Bullet the Blue Sky" may have been a little too long for most radio stations, at 5:37, and it was never released as a single, anyway. For a disc jockey to play it, the DJ had to know it was there and play it directly from the album.

In my experience, most DJs did not know it was there. I discovered it when I got the album.

For several years, I worked with a young man who was a devoted U2 follower. He had all their albums on CD — and, I confess, I copied some tracks from him.

I've still got 'em, and I listen to 'em from time to time.

And I have a CD of "Rattle and Hum" that I play frequently. Not all the way through. Just certain tracks.

I always listen to "Bullet the Blue Sky," and I often listen to "God Part II," which was something of a sequel to John Lennon's "God" and refers to another Lennon song, "Instant Karma," in its lyrics.

(Yesterday, by the way, would have been Lennon's 73rd birthday. I always wondered if that figured in the timing of the album's release, given the regard that Bono and the rest of the band have for Lennon.)