Posts Tagged ‘U2’

Everyone is always looking for the next Beatles. From The Monkees to The Arctic Monkees, we salivate over any upstart new band that threatens to upset the world as we know it.

They never do. We ain’t gonna see anything like The Beatles and Beatlemania again. There will never be another moment in the Earth Prime timeline as there was in 1963, when unlimited talent met universal need and when there were so few media channels that one message could smack every human in existence.

However, there has been one band that’s come close: U2.

Wait a minute, Mr. Postman!

I’m not suggesting that The Beatles and U2 are equivalent. They are nothing like each other. The Beatles, for example, displayed more humor on any afternoon in 1964 than U2 have in their entire career. The Beatles, for another example, never tried to be rock’s answer to Wagner.

What I am suggesting is that the two bands have similar trajectories. Here’s my evidence. Ready Steady Go!

The Beatles 1963-64
The Beatles’ catalog in their early years is like the cellar of my parents’ house: Good luck finding two things that match. Different Beatles albums with different lineups of songs appeared in the U.K., the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, the Netherlands, the Sea of Tranquility, etc.

Here in the U.S., we had Introducing…The Beatles, then Meet the Beatles! even though we’d already been introduced, then The Beatles Are on the Grass, The Beatles Are in My Hall, The Beatles Are in My Head, etc.

Get rid of all these random collections of songs, hold off on the two soundtracks, and you’re left with Please Please Me, With the Beatles, and Beatles for Sale. This is where The Beatles reimagined pop and changed the world.

U2 1980-83
U2 released Boy, October, and War. This is where they reimagined arena rock and tried to change the world, one cause at a time.

The Beatles 1964-65
A Hard Day’s Night: The perfect soundtrack.

U2 1983
Under a Blood Red Sky: The perfect live album.

The Beatles 1965-66
Rubber Soul and Revolver were a great leap forward.

U2 1984
The Unforgettable Fire was a great leap forward.

The Beatles 1967
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band: Their masterpiece.

U2 1987
The Joshua Tree: Their masterpiece.

The Beatles 1967
Magical Mystery Tour was a serious expedition into psychedelia.

U2 1993
I have to mix up U2’s chronology by one album to make this work. Zooropa was a serious expedition into electronica. You think if The Beatles had lasted into the 1990s, they wouldn’t have explored electronica? Tell that to Paul McCartney, one of the two men behind Strawberries, Oceans, Ships, Forest (1993).

The Beatles 1968
The White Album was a lab puppy that doesn’t know how to work all those legs.

U2 1988
Rattle & Hum was a lab puppy that doesn’t know how to work all those legs.

The Beatles 1969
U2 has nothing like Yellow Submarine. Since there were only four new songs on this disc and of those I only like “It’s All Too Much,” I don’t see this as relevant.

The Beatles 1969
Abbey Road demonstrated a new maturity. It’s probably their best album after Sgt. Pepper.

U2 1991
Achtung Baby demonstrated a new maturity. It’s probably their best album after The Joshua Tree.

The Beatles 1969-70
After Abbey Road and Let It Be, the Beatles ceased to exist.

U2 1995-97
After Original Soundtracks and Pop, which were not as good as This Is Spinal Tap or Meet the Rutles, U2 almost ceased to exist.

That is the theory that I have and which is mine, and what it is too.

Bonus: U2 go into extra innings

U2 is a fading empire that refuses to die without a fight. As a service to my loyal readers (all three of them), and because I did the same for Duran Duran, here’s my guide to the 10 essential U2 songs since Zooropa. You can conveniently forget everything else they’ve done since 1993.

“All Because of You”
U2’s version of playing “Get Back” on the roof of Apple Studios. Bono kisses a girl!

“Beautiful Day”
This song belongs in a temple to a new religion. Features the first-ever Bono double. He’s good-bad, but he’s not evil (see “Elevation” below).

“Do You Feel Loved”
Curtis Mayfield funky. This is one ballpark I didn’t think they could play in.

“Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me”
The first cut from the Batman Forever soundtrack. If you love comics, you’ll swoon over this video. The music could knock your croquet ball over the house and down the street.

“Elevation”
Good U2 battle Evil U2 while The Edge tries to survive in a Tomb Raider movie!

“Magnificent”
One of their bombastic anthems. Awesome.

“Mofo”
The rhythm sections rips your garage door off its hinges and paints “Mama never loved me” on your car.

“Original of the Species”
The horns are straight out of Magical Mystery Tour. Unfortunately, the video is dull and, well, pretentious.

“Unknown Caller”
The only U2 song I know where they chant the lyrics. Kind of pretentious, but that’s their natural habitat. It’s grown on me.

“You’re the Best Thing About Me”
It’s not a great song – it sounds as if it were recorded by four guys who’ve listened to a lot of U2 – but I include it because it’s the happiest U2 video of all time. And almost none of them are happy.

Dedicated to the memory of my dear friend Judy, whose ambition in her 50s was to jump out of a cake on The Edge’s birthday.

 

“Ask Run-DMSteve” returns, after a refreshing intermission of five years, thanks to fascinating questions from two of my three readers. This week we hear from Dr. D, another working stiff with a Ph.D. Next week we’ll “get down” with my mentor, Accused of Lurking.

Dear Run-DMSteve,

The other day I was listening to Alt Nation (as in alt-rock, not the other alt) which I often do when [redacted] is not in the car. The DJs on it don’t talk much (good!). But the guy who was on said the following: “Next up is a new release by Car Seat Headrest. Gosh, I hate that name. That is the worst name for a band. The best band name? It has got to be U2.”

OK, so what are the best and worst band names in your CD land?

–Sincerely, Dr. D

Dear Dr. D,

I agree with your DJ.

The one official rule in naming your band is that your name has to be a name that people remember. Bonus points if your name scares adults. When the teenaged Paul Hewson, David Evans, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen Jr. chose U2, they fulfilled the one official rule. Their name wasn’t scary, but it implied that the fans could do what the musicians do or that the fans and the musicians were part of a movement (à la The Who and the Mods), and they did all that with TWO CHARACTERS. No band will ever beat this name.

(The Who fulfills the one official rule because you have to think about it. The Guess Who is a game you play with your tiny clients at pre-school.)

Car Seat Headrest might as well be Car Seat Stuffing. It’s just three words on the side of a box. The Portland band Nu Shooz used two words everyone says, but they changed the spelling and ended up in a nu place.

Bands with memorable names that also scare adults usually evolve from the punk neighborhoods: The Fuck-Ups, The Dead Boys, The Dead Kennedys, The Butthole Surfers. Add a feminist perspective and you hit a lot harder: Hole, The Slits, The Coathangers. (Politer versions: The Breeders, Bikini Kill.)

Hole is my nominee for the second-best band name.

Third place is AC/DC.

Fourth is Herman’s Hermits because it’s alliterative and because a gang of actual hermits would never put a band together. They’re too busy being hermits.

Fifth is probably And And And.

A special shoutout to Big Head Todd and The Monsters, because our dogs Emma and Sailor were known as Big Butt Emma and The Monster.

As for names as bad as Car Seat Stuffing, there is no shortage. How about The Dentists? An OK band, sort of a more fanciful version of the Hoodoo Gurus. Bands that go with the formula “The” + “plural noun” often run intro trouble. No disrespect to dentists – some of the finest people on earth – but their profession doesn’t lend itself to rock ’n’ roll glory.

There was a Seattle band called Seafood Mama that signed with a major label that changed the band’s name to Quarterflash. What was wrong with Seafood Mama? Quarterfuckingwhat? Another Seattle band, The Dynamic Logs, immediately changed their name to Quarterlog.

This is all a matter of taste, of course. I like the name Bananarama, so why not the name Kajagoogoo? However, by any objective standard, U2 is u-nanimous. It’s the best. As for the worst name ever, here it is:

Portugal. The Man.

Thanks for writing. For those about to rock while listening to their alt-rock station in the car, we salute you.

–RDMS

(Editor’s note: Dr. D was the first physicist to drive a motorcycle lengthwise through a superconducting supercollider.)

 

Electric Folklore Live
The Alarm
1988

If in 1988 you had wanted to make a movie about U2’s early years, you could’ve hired The Alarm to play them. They were Welsh, not Irish, but they were all inspired by The Clash and were intensely righteous. The Alarm sounded like U2. They sounded like U2 on the day they strummed their first note and I’ll bet they sound like U2 today. Middle-aged U2.

The Alarm were good. They weren’t built for a marathon, like U2, and they weren’t able to evolve, like U2, but they could be magnificent in a sprint. Like U2. Plus the gentlemen in The Alarm had serious hair.

The Alarm

Electric Folklore Live is The Alarm’s answer to U2’s Under a Blood Red Sky (1983). On the first three tracks they go head-to-head with U2’s legendary live album and emerge with a draw, including one first-class pop song: “Rain in the Summertime,” a bouncier version of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” (by, of course, U2).

Sadly, Electric Folklore has three more songs, and the quality drops like a ball rolling off a table. Well, that saves time! Once you’ve played the first half of Electric Folklore Live, put that record down and go check out two other songs by The Alarm: “The Stand” and “Sold Me Down the River.” Then I recommend you go directly to the album that The Alarm failed to record but U2 did: The Joshua Tree (1987).

If The Alarm came to Portland and played the Oregon Zoo Amphitheatre, I would probably go. The tickets would be way cheaper than tickets to U2.

Random Pick of the Day I
Siouxsie & The Banshees, Kaleidoscope (1980)
If you want an artist who can whip up a mood of despair and sometimes carry a tune, Siouxsie is your girl. I enjoy these glimpses of hopelessness because I’ve spent so much of my life working in corporate America. Feeling buoyant, joyful, vivacious? Give Kaleidoscope a chance to let some of the air out of your life.

Random Pick of the Day II
John Cougar Mellencamp, Uh-Huh (1983)
John Mellencamp’s early career was a struggle. His record company changed his name to Johnny Cougar and forgot to tell him. Sorry, kid, our bad. All of his early albums feature glamour-boy photos of him as if he were David Cassidy’s smarter younger brother. Critics dismissed him for sounding like Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Bob Seger, and The Rolling Stones. I refused to buy his records. How do you survive such a storm of disdain?

Mellencamp can’t write as insightfully as Springsteen, Petty, etc., and thanks to my boycott he was practically living out of a cardboard box. But he was persistent. By 1983 he had managed to sneak his real name onto his albums. Critics were reconsidering his work. Even I started to like him.

Uh-Huh is a good place to start some Mellencamping. It has some solid songs in the first half, particularly the opener, “Crumblin’ Down.”

Random Pick of the Day III
R.E.M., Life’s Rich Pageant (1986)
Once or twice a year I trip over Life’s Rich Pageant and I ask myself, How did I get here? How do I work this? This is not my beautiful house! This is not my beautiful wife! Then I ask myself, Why do I own this record? It packs several things I dislike inside one jewel case:

  1. Music by R.E.M., the most self-important, humorless band of the 1980s. (USA division – U2 takes the title in the U.K.)
  2. Michael Stipe’s monotonal, monocultured voice. You get more emotional nuance from Weird Al singing “Another One Rides the Bus.”
  3. The song list is hard to read plus it’s in in the wrong order double plus it doesn’t mention the one song that was a hit.

But then I start to play it and by the time I get to the last track I’m eager to hear the first one again. R.E.M. had an immense talent for being boring, which is why I forget them for most of the year. But it’s hard to imagine an ’80s Hall of Fame jukebox that doesn’t include at least half of what’s on this disc, including “Cuyahoga,” “Hyena,” “Begin the Begin,” and that hit I mentioned, “Superman” (the one song they didn’t write and that Stipe doesn’t sing).

No Trump jokes tonight. I was making myself ill.

 

Red Octopus
Jefferson Starship
1975

Starship is coming to Portland. What? You thought they were dead? So did I! Perhaps these descendants of Jefferson Airplane were grown from stem cells. However they did this, I thought I’d listen again to their mightiest musical effusion, Red Octopus.

Listening to Red Octopus makes me feel like I am living in an alternate universe where you can never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public. Oh shit, I am living there. Back in 1975, I read that RCA promoted Red Octopus by placing a red octopus in a fish tank in record stores all over the country. I can only vouch for the one I saw floating in its tank in Boston. It seemed to enjoy watching us. Personally, I wouldn’t buy something just because you called it red and then waved a red sea creature in my face, but I guess lots of people feel differently because this thing went to #1 on the Billboard 200. I’m in the wrong line of work.

Were the octopii naturally red, or where they painted red, the way the evil cult members in Help! kept painting Ringo red so they could sacrifice him to their heathen gods?

John: You’re all red again.
Ringo: I know. I’m beginning to like it.

Jefferson Starship (they streamlined the name to Starship in 1984 following a lawsuit) spent the 1970s trying to decide if they were Wings or Peter Frampton. They didn’t reach a decision on this album, though at times they do a passable imitation of the E Street Band. Red Octopus produced two hits, “Play on Love” and “Miracles,” both of which were designed to roll harmlessly off your frontal lobe like water off a duck. Too bad, because “Play on Love” is the best showcase for Gracie Slick’s voice since “Somebody to Love.” (Surrealistic Pillow – now that’s a record. You can get something done with a record like that.)

I forgot most of the songs on Red Octopus while I was listening to them. In fact it was a couple of minutes after the last track ended before I noticed that the room was quiet. “Sweeter Than Honey” is the best song in this bunch. It rocks just hard enough to remind you of Jefferson Airplane, though it would’ve been too joyous for the original incarnation of the band. As good as it is, however, Jefferson Starship’s contemporaries Journey or even REO Shitwagon could’ve done it better.

The main virtue of Red Octopus is that it doesn’t include “We Built This City.” And I say that even though many people whose opinions I value think that “We Built This City” is a good song. I’m not naming names because I don’t want to be painted red.

Random Pick of the Day
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, B.R.M.C. (2000), Take Them On, On Your Own (2003), Baby ’81 (2007)
In BRMC’s world, it’s always an hour before dawn, the chips are down, the jig is up, and you’re playing for all the emotional marbles. There’s rarely a break in their glum view of life and all the people in it. Only their love of psychedelia and their layers of droning guitars keep them from turning into The Cure. I can’t get enough of them, but even I can’t tell any of their songs apart, which is why I’m listing these albums together.

You might as well start with their 2000 debut, on the cover of which our three heroes pose like U2 in black and white. Nice try, boys, but you’re nowhere near as pretty as Bono, The Edge, Adam, and Larry were in 1980.

 

I thought I had finished listening to and saying stupid things about every band with a number in its name that we collectively thought up, but I was wrong, as I so often am. Loyal reader and Southern industrialist corncobb has unearthed two bands that I’d overlooked: 8-Ball and Infinity. Thanks a lot, loyal reader and Southern industrialist corncobb!

Well, this blog wouldn’t exist without my loyal readers. Actually, it wouldn’t exist without WordPress. So in the interest of completing Let Me Count the Ways Week, which is now in its 10th frakking day, I gave these groups a good listening to. And boy was I sorry.

8-Ball and Infinity were both founded in the 1990s, 8-Ball in Japan and Infinity in Norway. 8-Ball is associated with several songs that are used in video games or with video magazines. “(Need for) Speed” uses unnecessary parentheses and shows how closely these boys have listened to Deep Purple, though Deep Purple wouldn’t spend five minutes listening to 8-Ball. “Can’t Carry On” sounds like Candlebox moving from California to Seattle in the ’90s and pretending to be a grunge act. “Masquerade” is something the Foo Fighters would scrub out of their swimming pool.

That brings us to Infinity. The Infinity gang loves Madonna. To her music they add just enough rapping to keep their grandparents on edge. The only song they have that is even halfway listenable is “Sleeping My Day Away,” and that’s because they didn’t write it – it’s a cover of a song by the Danish rock band D-A-D. No, I am not starting a project where I review bands with capital letters for names. I’ve already done ABBA and AC/DC anyway.

The one thing I like about Infinity is that this summer they toured Norway as part of the “We Love the ’90s!” tour. I have no idea what the ’90s was like in the home of the Norse gods, but it probably wasn’t like what I saw in the first Thor movie. I’ve always wanted to visit Scandinavia (Special D just put her head in her hands) and if I ever get to Oslo you can be sure I’ll report back on “We Love the ’90s!” I’d be crazy to miss it. Imagine the band merch!

The summing up
A couple of weeks ago, I gave Special D what I’ve written on my novel so far, all 25,000 words of it. She gave me her usual excellent feedback. Since then I’ve been thinking pretty hard about what she said and where I think my book is going. Listening to 110 or so bands with numbers in their names and then unfairly judging them and dismissing their life’s work in a few biting sentences was a fun project for my off-hours.

Despite the crappy bands this project stuck me with (Kenny Rogers & The First Edition, The Four Seasons, and 101 Strings lead that pack), I ended up listening to a lot of music I liked: U2, Three Dog Night, Gang of Four, The Bobby Fuller Four, The Jackson Five, Nine Inch Nails, UB40, The B-52s, Galaxie 500. For once I’m going to emphasize success rather than failure, and that means I want to single out the bands I didn’t know or didn’t know well and that happily surprised me: 2 Nice Girls, Timbuk 3, Sixpence None the Richer, 16 Horsepower, Matchbox Twenty, and 50 Foot Wave. I was pleased to reacquaint myself with 10cc’s “Neanderthal Man” and that Dean Moriarty song by Aztec Two-Step.

A warning: Don’t ever put a four in your band’s name. The 14 bands in that sad category were offset only by Bobby Fuller, Gang of Four, and The Four Tops.

Thanks to everyone who suggested bands and put this list together. I never would’ve gotten half of them without your help. For the record, here they all are, including the acts I reviewed in the two months before Let Me Count the Ways Week started on August 25:

.38 Special

Kenny Rogers & The First Edition
One Direction
KRS-One

2 Live Crew
2 Nice Girls
2 Unlimited
2Pac
Amon Düül II
Aztec Two-Step
Boyz II Men
RJD2
U2

3 Doors Down
3 Mustaphas 3
311
3OH!3
Fun Boy Three
Loudon Wainwright III
The Three O’Clock
Third Eye Blind
Third World War
Three Dog Night
Timbuk 3

4 Non Blondes
Bobby Fuller Four
Classics IV
Four Bitchin’ Babes
Four Men & a Dog
Gang of Four
The Four Aces
The Four Freshmen
The Four Fellows
The Four Havens
The Four Horsemen
The Four Seasons
The Four Tops
The Four Toppers

Ben Folds Five
The Dave Clark Five
Deadmou5
Five Finger Death Punch
Five for Fighting
Five Man Electrical Band
Maroon 5
MC5
Q5
The 5th Dimension
The Five Satins
The Jackson 5
We Five

Apollonia 6
The 6ths
Six By Seven
Sixpence None the Richer

7 Seconds
7 Seconds of Love
L7

Crazy 8’s
8Ball
8-Ball

Nine Inch Nails

10cc
10 Years
Ten Years After

12 Rounds

16 Horsepower

East 17
Heaven 17

Matchbox Twenty

UB40
Level 42
Black 47

50 Cent
50 Foot Wave
The B-52s

MX-80
M83

The Old 97’s

Apollo 100
Haircut 100
101 Strings
blink-182

Galaxie 500

Area Code 615

1000 Homo DJs

1910 Fruitgum Company

10,000 Maniacs

Do as Infinity
Infinity

Before we get started, I have two more disqualifications:

  • The 4 Hits & a Miss: They were born during the Great Depression as 3 Hits & a Miss. They later expanded to 6 Hits, but like many start-ups they soon learned that steady growth is preferable to reckless expansion and by the end of the war they had cut back to 4 Hits. There was only ever one Miss. Survived into the late ’40s when they drafted Andy Williams, who was just starting out as a force against music. Anyway, they are so not rock ’n’ roll.
  • World War Four: AllMusic.com mentions an album, Rising From the Rubble, but gives no further info. I can’t find any tracks. Someone on MySpace has a World War Four page, and there are bands in Canada and New Zealand that claim this name. This is beginning to smell suspicious so out they go.

Beginning right now: I spend the week summarizing people’s life work in 100 words or less!

.38 Special
One of only three non-integers on this list. .38 Special was sort of an ’80s power pop band, not as hard as The Romantics (“What I Like About You”) but not as soft as A-Ha (“Take on Me”). They broke into the Top 40 in 1981 with “Hold on Loosely,” which is about not smothering your girlfriend with attention, which is unusual for a rock song. The only other thing I find interesting about this band is that “38 Specials” would be a great name for a porn actress.

Kenny Rogers & The First Edition
Kenny Rogers, with his immaculately made-up hair and his meticulously landscaped beard, looks exactly like the kind of guy who always tries to corner me at a party so he can deliver a monolog about his main area of expertise, himself. You gotta know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em and the time to fold this joker’s music was way back in 1967.

One Direction

KRS-One
It’s kind of late for me to be catching up with KRS-One (“Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone,” or Kris Parker, to use his birth name), as his heyday was the late ’80s-early ’90s. I’ve detected a curious thing about rap: What sounded raucous, threatening, and unfocused 25 years ago can sound almost melodic today. I listened to his second album, KRS-One (1995), and found myself tapping my foot as I listened. If KRS-One is reading this he’s probably wondering where he went wrong. Way wrong.

2 Live Crew

2 Nice Girls
Folk music with a country flavor and a feminist/lesbian perspective. Sometimes they add Spanish or Hawaiian overtones. 2 Nice Girls is actually three girls; I suppose the third one is not very nice, but I am prohibited by certain legal requirements from researching this.

The three women harmonize beautifully, not with the strange-visitors-from-another-planet grace of The Roches but more like The Indigo Girls. You can’t resist them when they sing, “I spent my last ten dollars on birth control and beer/My life was so much simpler when I was sober and queer.”

2 Unlimited
Dutch 1990s techno that was absurdly popular in Europe but almost unknown here, except for “Get Ready for This,” which has starred in the soundtracks of two movies (How to Eat Fried Worms and Scooby-Doo 2) and was played for many years in the old Kingdome whenever the Seattle Mariners did anything noteworthy or were just trying to wake the crowd up.

2Pac
Kid Rock owes a lot to this guy; KR simply removed the politics and the real-life gun battles. But I suppose every rapper who came along in the 1990s owes something to Tupac Amaru Shakur. No telling where this artist would be today if he hadn’t been murdered in 1996. I listened to his debut, 2Pacalypse Now (1991). I wish I could say something insightful about rap but I usually flee from it. From everything I’ve read, Me Against the World (1996) is supposed to be 2Pac’s best, but I don’t intend to test that claim.

Amon Düül II
This was a tough call. Amon Düül II may be the only band in history with two consecutive umlauts in its name. (Their distant competition is Hüsker Dü.) This alone deserves some attention.

The “II” in their name refers to the second incarnation of this German juggernaut of musical avant-gardists. The second act didn’t just recycle the old material, à la Devo 2.0; they produced new, noise-filled records that I’ll bet their own mothers wouldn’t listen to.

A much-traveled co-worker once told me that the only thing wrong with Germany is that it’s filled with 90 million depressed Germans. The thought of listening to German experimental music filled me with angst, and I’m not talking about a German beer.

Aztec Two-Step
Aztec Two-Step (1972) is a relaxed country-folk hybrid that makes me want to nap under a tree. The surprising exception is “The Persecution and Restoration of Dean Moriarty (On the Road),” which is surely one of the lost classics of the 1970s.

Boyz II Men
Doo-wop transplanted from the ’50s to the ’90s. Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes and Teddy Pendergrass pulled off the same trick in the ’70s. “Motownphilly,” their first hit, is a song I remember from dance floors of the very early ’90s.

RJD2
Another white hip-hop artist/MC/turntablist. This one mixes in lounge and various strange things and takes us to a very boring place.

U2
No one takes themselves more seriously than U2. U2 makes Yes, The Moody Blues, and Kraftwerk look like a corral full of circus clowns. U2 makes Coldplay look like a bunch of guys who blow up balloons on your birthday. Only a band with the collective ego and awesome skills of U2 could decide to call a song “Magnificent” and then write a song that actually is magnificent. Only Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen could stand around like Anasazi gods in the desert and then deliver a record that very possibly came from Anasazi gods in the desert. Only Bono and The Edge would call themselves Bono and The Edge and five minutes later everyone else in the world is calling them Bono and The Edge.

U2 is the best band by far on our list of bands with numbers in their names, but they’d be the best band on almost any list. I wouldn’t give you much for them here in the new century, but in the 1980s and ’90s they led the pack. My favorite U2 album is still their live set from 1983, Under a Blood Red Sky, even though it showcases U2’s most enduring and least endearing trait: the way they can pair genius (“Gloria,” “The Electric Co.”) with way less than genius (“Party Girl,” “40”) on the same record.

Tomorrow night: They’re givin’ you a number, and takin’ ‘way your name!

“I am what I am. Thank God.” – Jimi Hendrix, “Message to Love”

A co-worker entered my humble cubicle one day late in 2012 and said, “Flashback!” He was looking at the two shelves above my desk, which held a row of CDs, a display of old postcards, and the Pets.com Sock Puppet Spokesthing. While he gushed about these ancient cultural artifacts, I saw my possessions through his eyes. I realized that I could’ve decorated my space the same way at the job I had in 2000. In fact, I know I did.

I’m stuck in time!

In an email later that morning to this co-worker, after stating that I didn’t care what he thought of me, I wrote without even thinking “I’m through being cool!” and hit Send. Then I thought, Oh no, it’s Devo! I’m really stuck in time.

Rather than consider what all this says about me, let’s use it as an excuse to go back to the future. Welcome to 1986 Week, commemorating that stellar year when, as Paul Simon sang on Graceland, “I was single/and life was great!”*

Most of the artists I loved in the ’80s released nothing new in 1986. Echo & The Bunnymen, The Psychedelic Furs, The Cure, U2, Prince, and Bruce Springsteen held off until 1987 (when Prince gave us Sign ’O’ the Times, his equivalent of The White Album, and U2 gave us their masterpiece, The Unforgettable Fire**).

The B-52s didn’t record again until 1989, but in 1986 The Rolling Stones dressed up just like them.

Dirty Work

By 1986 Romeo Void had broken up. David Bowie and Michael Jackson had left the bulk of their best work behind. Gary Numan had left all of his best work behind. Robert Cray debuted with Strong Persuader, though I prefer what he did later. Duran Duran released Notorious, which was notorious for being awful. I refuse to listen to Madonna’s True Blue or Boston’s Third Stage. I can’t decide which is funnier, The Beastie Boys’ Licensed to Ill or Metallica’s Master of Puppets. I’ll get to Depeche Mode, The Pretenders, Paul Simon, Talking Heads, and Siouxsie & The Banshees as 1986 Week progresses.

What was the best song of 1986? Yo, pretty ladies around the world: Put your hands in the air like you just don’t care for Cameo’s “Word Up!”

Don’t expect 1986 Week to last all week. Don’t expect a comprehensive survey. Don’t get all army-foldy on me, either.

As we used to say in the peculiar slang we employed back in 1986: See you tomorrow!

* Special D is fond of quoting that line to me. Hey doll: “I sure do love you/let’s get that straight.”
** A tip of the critic’s pointy hat to my friend and fellow softball player Donald Keller, who put “mantlepiece” in my head whenever I want to say “masterpiece.” 

Random 1986 Pick of the Day
The Chills, Kaleidoscope World
1986 gave us albums from The Chills, The Cramps, and The Creeps. This reminds me of an evening I spent at Fenway Park in 1979 when we had three pitchers on hand named Clear, Frost, and Rainey.

I don’t know a thing about Kaleidoscope World; I just needed a Chills album from 1986 to fit my theme. The album I have heard is Submarine Bells (1990), which has two lovely pop songs, “Singing in My Sleep” and “Heavenly Pop Hit” (nice try, boys).

Random 1986 Pan of the Day
Stan Ridgway, The Big Heat
I must honor this man for rhyming “Tijuana” with “barbecued iguana” in Wall of Voodoo’s “Mexican Radio.” Sadly, on his solo debut he sounds like The B-52s’ Fred Schneider with really bad hair.