Please forgive the pomposity of this story’s title but it has a purpose. First, since the first five articles were titled U2 and Me, parts 1,2,3,4, and 5, a final story about how I felt an article about U2 after I stopped working as a music journalist, might be appropriate, from a purely subjective point of view, of course.
Second, U2 and their relationship with the world changed dramatically after the release of The Joshua Tree in 1987 just as the world changed dramatically after 1990.
Third, well, because I couldn’t resist the title and its not so subtle reference to one of the band’s best known songs of all time, With or Without You, the third track of their career defining album, The Joshua Tree.
Personally, it became obvious to me as we advanced into the ’90s that music journalism was not going to sustain my future. The newspaper industry was slowly, painfully, making the switch to new technology and some, particularly the newspaper I was working for, the Irish Press Group, were drowning.
So I began to look around for alternatives. A rival newspaper, The Evening Herald, had a new editor who was looking for a new social diarist. Before long I was the new social diarist, prowling the hotels, bars and nightclubs of Dublin, sharing the evening’s activities with the readers of the following morning’s newspapers.
It was gossip writing and celebrity stalking. The picture at the top of this story is self explanatory. That’s me in the hat, chatting to Bono outside The POD, a Dublin nightclub and the two people in the foreground, Michael Hutchence and Paula Yates were both dead within 18 months.
The ’90s was the unfolding of Europe, the beginning and reawakening of a succession of new (and ancient) wars and nations. It was the decade Ecstasy became the drug that defined a generation and 120 bpm, its rhythm. In the ’90s, humour was ironic, it was post-ironic. Its tragic and ironic legacy, along with the internet and email, is the social media phenomenon of the ‘Noughties, when people forgot what ironic meant and spoke of the world as though while telling a story, they were narrating it, too.
Achtung Baby introduced that to popular culture but as the decade progressed, that diffused and scattered message the show was talking about became the subject and reflection of the show itself. In the colloquial parlance of a Dubliner, U2 began to disappear up their own collective arsehole.
They were growing up, buying houses, raising children. Just like the rest of us.
They became more at ease with their own wealth, bought holiday homes in the south of France, New York and God knows where else. Bono became a statesman, an ambassador of goodwill. But his portfolio was rock.
No-one doubted his sincerity when he brought Unionists and Republicans onstage together in Belfast on the eve of the Good Friday Agreement but many found his ubiquity, irritating to say the least.
In music too, they appeared to founder. Listening to the albums released from the ’90s to today, Pop, All that you Can’t leave Behind, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, No Line on the Horizon and Songs of Innocence, I can find enough songs to make one great album,
- Stuck in a Moment You Can’t get Out Of
- Sometimes You Can’t Make it on Your own
- City of Blinding Lights
- All Because of You
- Moment of Surrender
- Staring at the Sun
- Song for Someone.
I know and someone might notice, I’ve left out two albums from their discography of this period, Zooropa and their latest, 2016’s Songs of Experience. Zooropa because it’s an album within a tour and Songs of Experience because by 2016 I just wasn’t interested anymore.