One of the benefits of spending time in the Halls of Rock is the opportunity to air petty grievances. For those of us who love rock ‘n roll, there are moments in a day when a thought comes to mind that no normal person who ever consider nor feel the need to share. Here, we do and we do.
This morning I was searching for something decent for my wife and I to hear on commercial radio. As I flipped to a station playing U2’s “New Year’s Day”, I became quickly and mildly annoyed at the fact that any time I do run across a U2 song on the radio it’s rarely one of the half dozen or so well-known U2 songs I’d rather hear, that I could tolerate for a few minutes. It always seems to be the hit song from whatever album that I don’t get any pleasure from hearing! My wife told me that this is typical of me, claiming I only like any band’s obscure songs over their big hits. The she told me that it’s for this reason she’s always amazed that I consider The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” to be the greatest song in all of rock ‘n roll. I explained to her that it’s just a coincidence that my great taste sometimes coincides with the taste of The Masses, but I digress. Yes, my wife suffers on an almost daily basis with hearing me express some beef along these lines.
Anyhow, following are songs by U2 that commercial radio chooses to play followed by hit songs I’d rather hear from the same album containing the track with radio programmer staying power. I could make a similar list for The Who, a band that I really do love yet for whom commercial radio programmers typically display equally bad taste in songs fit for broadcast. You may have your own examples regarding a band you either like mildly or love.
From Boy, if commercial radio plays anything these days it’s “I Will Follow”. No complaints from me, although as with early Who, it’s rare that “Classic Rock” stations play “I Will Follow”. When the band first hit, other songs used to be played from that album too, but I’m not deluding myself into ever thinking I’ll hear one of those songs again.
From the highly listenable October, commercial radio plays…nothing. Instead, “early U2” typically begins with the album War, which I never liked. This is the moment when all the heroic posturing of U2 was codified. It’s also the moment when it became clear that they only played variations on the same song or two.
That said, I might have better tolerated the last 2 minutes of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” than “New Year’s Day” this morning.
I’m sure I’m going to lose sequence at this point, because from album #4 (whatever it was) on they all start sounding the same (with the exception of their “blues” album, you know, the one that accompanied the movie).
Let’s jump, if that’s the case, to The Joshua Tree. Maybe it’s my bad luck, but more often than not, when flipping channels on commerical radio, I’m hit with “With or Without You” or “Where the Streets Have No Name”. As much as it pains me to admit this, given those two options, I’d rather hear “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”. As least I get a little bit of DESIIIIIIIIIre and emotion out of all the 2-chord, same-dynamics emoting that Bono and the band go through on that number.
These days, radio’s go-to track from The Unforgettable Fire is “Pride (In the Name of Love)”. I know that song stands for a lot of important things that occasionally stir my soul and make me proud, in the name of love, to be a righteous American, but I don’t get a kick out of hearing it. Years ago they used to play another track from that album, called “Bad”. I can’t for the life of me remember how that tune goes, but if you put a gun to me I’d imagine The Edge is playing a I-IV progression with lots of effects on his guitar while Adam Clayton plays eighth notes on bass and Larry Mullen does the swishy hi-hat/constant beats on the kick drum thing. Bono probably starts out the song in a lower register and then jumps up into the higher octave. (He must have been a huge fan of Bowie’s “Heroes”, don’t you think?) Anyhow, I can’t remember how that song goes, but I used to favor hearing it on the radio when that album first came out. There may have been a live version that was more often played, but even that’s faded off the airwaves.
Achtung Baby is the only post-October U2 album I own. It’s got a number of songs I like, a few of which I really like. I can’t complain about “Mysterious Ways” holding on at the major hit from that album – and “One” is a good lighter waving/tit flashing while sitting on your boyfriend’s shoulders number, but how ’bout giving some radio love back to “Even Better Than the Real Thing”, with its recurring Magical Mystery Tour-style George Harrison guitar lick?
In recent years, as U2 healed our nation and helped sell iPods, the songs with the most staying power have been “Elevation”, “Beautiful Day”, and “Vertigo”. I’d rather hear the secondary hits, “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” and “Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own”.
I won’t even get into the U2 song from that Wim Wenders film, “Stay (Far Away, So Close)”. I really like that song, but adding that to my list would confirm my wife’s initial suspicions.