Not planned, expected or desired but I seem to have taken the summer off…by accident. No need to fret, I’m Talkin’ Here is back and with the Rugby World Cup around the corner it’s gonna be pretty busy around here. So what better time to launch a new weekly (yes, weekly I swear) segment than now. It has been suggested to me that at times I can be a little too on the defensive when it comes to some articles here (Me? Defensive? Never, I’m never defensive) and so In Defence Of will be the place where I take those interests (sports, music, games, books etc.) that I have that seem to be the most polarising amongst my peers, and at least attempt to put across my arguments for why people might do well to give out some second chances. What better place to start then than the musical Marmite that is U2.
Like many things in life that you might find yourself alone in liking, my interest in U2 stems from nostalgic origins. From the age of 8 I have been listening to them, and the veil this covered me with allowed me, above all else, to completely ignore the fact that I didn’t very much like Bono. I should clarify that, as a singer and songwriter I am quite the fan. What I wouldn’t consider myself too fond of is some of the humanitarian efforts he embarks on and how he does so. I should clarify that, I have no objection to humanitarian work or charitable givings, I do however feel they can be out of place. See how convoluted the U2 debate becomes and we’re barely scratching the surface? This is gonna be a tough one.
So where was I…yes, I was 8. The first U2 Best Of album served as my introduction to the band, followed by the next and a trip through their back catalogue. I got caught up on their history. My father regaled me with tales of how, when The Joshua Tree hit in the eighties, U2 appeared on TV screens incessantly and when Bono took centre screen to belt out the heart wrenching strains of With Or Without You well, he couldn’t describe it as anything but “Jesus, they’re the biggest in the world”. And that is exactly what they were and arguably still are. U2 didn’t just become a big deal, they became the biggest deal. I can still remember the first time I travelled to America. Sitting into a cab outside the airport there’s Where The Streets Have No Name blasting over the radio. I could feel the pride. That doesn’t work for everyone, I know that, but it is a big part of why I have stuck with them.
To me, U2 are just a powerhouse of staying power. I love their music and further to that I just can’t believe that they have managed to stay an intact unit through decades of activity. They’ve hit speed bumps, of course they have, but not once did they teeter on the edge of disbanding. Whenever I say I’m a fan the response is usually the same – “Bono is a tosser” or some derivation of such. My usual response to this is, so what? Frontmen, by their nature, have an immense capacity to be tossers. The difference with U2 is that Bono is the frontman of one of the biggest groups in the world, he is on the world stage more often than any other. A consequence of this is that we see and hear far more of him than we should. With other bands it is a hell of a lot easier to ignore the individual personalities of the members. Further to that, rock music has gone very much on the lowdown these days and so it’s hard to inadvertently stumble on any insider info relating to your favourite musicians. Were it not for Bono would this U2-bashing be anything like it is? I doubt it. The lesson at the end of this tale can be quite simply: never meet your heroes (or at least never look into them too much). But my defence goes further than that. If I were to take this task on as definitive goal I would say, try and give them a chance as if it is your first time hearing them. They don’t need me to champion their cause; they’re more than comfortable as it is and for all the hate they’re not going anywhere. This is just for me, to all of those who know me and to those who maybe never gave them a proper shot – do it. You might find yourself pleasantly surprised.