I knew that I needed something new to focus my somewhat unexamined, but always emailed, feelings for the man and the band who continue to haunt my life in strange and unexpected ways. (Most recently by very nearly providing Hillary Clinton with her '08 campaign song.) Maybe even something like that worked like a kind of penance or atonement for all those cheap jokes and unpurchased albums.
And although I hadn't a clue as to what form that it might take, I knew there would be a Sign. A Path. I had Faith that Providence would Provide. (Providence seems to be good at that. Hence, perhaps, that name it's got. 'Providence.') A Way would be made Clear. I would also Need to get my Caps Lock Key FIXEd.
Or I'd just find a really cheap, used copy of Eamon Dunphy's Unforgettable Fire at the record store where I probably bought the bulk of any U2 vinyl I ever owned. And I'd think "Yeah, that'll work. I'll read Unforgettable Fire and write snide rants to my friends who will quietly block my email address and alert the appropriate authorities. It'll be like a book club meeting that goes on and on and there's nothing you can do about it."
Reader, I bought it!
And after a couple depressing thoughts on the twenty year old copyright date, I started in. And there we are, onstage in 1985, at Wembley. It's Live Aid, clearly the greatest stadium concert with [as the book says] "the greatest rock 'n' roll bill of all time." And off we go:
It all hung on Bono. At moments of acute need like this it was as if he was the vessel into which all their fears and hopes, ideas and emotions dissolved. In him and through him the pool of accumulated sadness, joy, anger and yearning swelled and began to flow -- from Edge's guitar, through Larry's drums and Adam's bass the music gathered force, bursting out through Bono whose task it was to give it words, meaning, substance on a day like this. He was the medium for their message. When Bono prayed that day, as he always did backstage, he asked for strength...
Right there. That's when the needle scratched across the vinyl of my attention span. Praying backstage. At a ROCK concert? And am I the first to catch that "through him, with him, in him" echo in the second sentence? Yet I keep reading. A page later, we have Bob Geldof and Paul McGuinness crying like reunited brothers in each others' arms.
Oh dear. It's going to be a looooong book.
I understand atonement and all, but shouldn't a rock-n-roll biography have something a little more ...ah...carnal about it? Like underage blonds in hotel suites, roadies with bicycle chain belts and tattoos, mirrors and razors, M&Ms painstakingly sorted by flunkies backstage, wads of under-the-table cash exchanging hands, suits from the record label harshing the buzz...all that sort of thing? At the least, a certain snarky, smart-ass tone capturing the hustle and balls of it all?
For example, here in Ian Christie's new book Everybody Wants Some: The Van Halen Saga, published by Wiley. (Oh yes it is!) Does the legend of Eddie, Alex, Michael and Dave start with prayers and hugs? Let's take a look:
Like the stories of other great Americans from Henry Ford to Walt Disney to Fievel the Mouse, the saga of Van Halen begins in an ancient land, far from the United States and its constant supply of hot water and electricity. As a narrator would say in the old movies: Among the windmills, tulips, and wooden shoes of lovely Amsterdam, Holland, there lived a kindly musician named Jan van Halen.
Now that's not too bad on the snark-o-meter, but to be fair and balanced we need to give it a full page of text as we did for the other. And so to:
As they traveled all around Holland and sometimes across the border to Germany, the boys saw the practical aspects of a musical career firsthand, and on some of the more rustic and ribald nights they discovered the perks--Alex reported losing his virginity at age nine after one of his dad's gigs.
Hot DAMN! You can almost hear that clicking sound of green M&Ms being sorted now.
And so I've decided that I will read BOTH books. At once. As in together. Randomly. Flipping from one to the other whenever the mood strikes. Confusing names, places, venues, genres until I forget whether it's Bono or Alex who trips over a cable and twists his ankle at the Anaheim Stadium in '78. Whether its Paul McGuinness or David Lee Roth who gets sent down from Trinity College, Dublin. It's a Lit-Crit Mash-up! Prayers AND M&Ms backstage! Let there be ROCK!
I am running a little bit hot tonight, now that you mention it. I can barely see the road from the heat coming off. So I reach down between my legs and I still haven't found what I'm looking for...
1. How did they get wind that I was planning to attend the much vaunted U2charist with two of the City's leading members of the leather community and a young, brash, rising star in the drag performance firmament, that's what I want to know.