U2: How To Stay Vital!
U2- Best Rock Band Ever?
U2: How To Stay Vital!Quick, name a rock band that has remained intact over the span of a quarter of a century.
From that short list, name one who's EVERY new musical release during their entire career was as creative and ear-catching as their last. Try to think of one that consistently generated the kind of excitement usually reserved for new, breakthrough bands...
Take your time...
OK, we'll come back to this...
Why is it some artists are one hit wonders, grasping our imagination then quickly fading from sight into the vast pop culture horizon? Others have a just a couple of stellar years before they split up or become quickly irrelevant, leaving their fans to wonder where the magic went.
90 to 95 percent of all pop/rock music acts fall into these categories. A very few others can keep the initial excitement going for as long as a decade. These we call icons.
Then there's U2. Jurassic by today's measure, they seemingly keep getting better. Their last album, "Hot To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb", is one of their best and their popularity has never been higher. Bono's song writing and singing are still fresh. And The Edge's ringing, melodic guitar is as appealing as ever.
After 25 years, this is not supposed to happen. By comparison, after 20 years even The Rolling Stones ran out of new things to say. The Eagles are purely a nostalgia act (have been for years) and bands like Chicago and The Beach Boys have become such carcasses of their former selves they should be put in a museum somewhere. What about Springsteen, you say? Hate to disparage "The Boss" but did YOU buy his last album... or the one before that?
Even most of U2's eighties contemporaries have fallen by the wayside. Rock And Roll Hall Of Famers like The Police, The Clash and The Talking Heads couldn't make it much past '85. There was even a time when ridiculously popular, New Wave lightweights The Thompson Twins might have considered U2 as an opening act. Now the mention of them in the same breath seems ridiculous.
Because U2 still seems so contemporary, putting in perspective how long they've been around it isn't easy. Many things have come and gone during the length of their tenure including: TV show "Cheers", The Delorean, cassette singles, "Hill Street Blues", Guns N Roses, VCRs, "LA Law", Ross Perot's political carrer, The Sony Walkman, "Seinfeld" and the Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush II part 1 administrations.
When U2 started The Berlin Wall was still in place, Jerry Brown was Governor of California and The Ford Thunderbird had yet to been discontinued for the first time. The T-Bird has since been revamped and recently put out to pasture for a second time.
No one had ever heard of SUVs, mp3 players, second hand smoke, "The Simpsons", Nike, Oprah, cell phones, rap music, Tom Hanks, AIDS, the internet, MTV, Tom Cruise, Ebay, Compact Discs, aerobics, Michael Jordan, Starbucks or Madonna.
Microsoft was still years away from releasing the first Windows operating system (Windows 1.01). Michael Jackson was just another struggling, young, pop singer. Walter Cronkite was still anchoring The CBS Evening News and Muhammad Ali was still boxing professionally!
How has U2 kept in touch with it's muse after all this time? Why do even their new releases continue to generate a buzz and widespread airplay? How do they attract millions of new fans when most bands of their same age are releasing music no one cares about or rehashing ancient hits on reunion tours or oldies circuits?
It has something to do with passion and love of their craft. And talent. But lots of bands have this.
Perhaps it is the purity of their core that comes through in the music. Part of U2's mantra has always been personal integrity. Somehow THEY haven't been corrupted by the system, money, drugs, sloth, ego or fame. As their integrity remains intact so does their vitality. This cannot be faked or phoned in. You either have it or you don't and your audience can tell like a shark can smell blood.
And then there's the fact that they still just sound so good.
To answer the question initially posed, there have been a few other bands that stayed together for 25 years or more. Not many did it without substantial breaks, temporary break-ups, major line up changes or long lapses in releasing new material. And not many could claim their later releases were consistently, creatively dynamic, exciting and commercially popular.
Certainly none have done it better than the boys from Dublin. Any doubts about this can be laid to rest by listening to "A Man And A Woman", "Yahweh" or "Vertigo" from their latest CD (The music video for "Vertigo" was nominated as an MTV "Breakthrough Video Of The Year"). Compare these to their earlier songs and you will hear a band that remains at it's creative peak.
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