Archive for the ‘ 88 mph ’ Category

one. [88 mph.]

[For those newer to the blog, this is an ’88 mph’ post: posts in which this humble blog becomes a time-machine to appreciate something from the past of one of our writers.]

/ one love / one life / when it’s one need in the night / one love / we get to share it / it leaves you, baby, if you don’t care for it /

/ did i ask too much? / more than a lot? / you gave me nothing / now it’s all i’ve got /

This month, it’s been 19 years since the release of U2’s Achtung Baby. I should probably write an 88mph post about the whole album, and I could actually pretty easily write a post for each song. Today, one song has got me thinking to the point of needing an outlet.

“One,” the third track on the album, is one of the most amazing songs ever written. I’m not going to qualify that statement at all, because whether you actually like the song or not, its impact is well-documented, and can’t be disputed. Whether you are referring to the huge sales; the acceptance by, and impact on, other artists; the song’s almost constant appearance on critic, musician and listener created lists of the greatest songs ever; the fact that it saved one of the most successful bands in history from breaking up; or the various causes and issues that the song has become an anthem for… to quote our VP, the song is “a big fucking deal.”

As the story goes, the band was recording, or attempting to record, Achtung Baby in Berlin, during the period of reunification. Things weren’t going so well, and the band was quite literally on the verge of calling it quits, believing that the life of the band had run its course. That’s when The Edge started improvising a riff, Bono started improvising some lyrics over it, and a long process began creating a song which has literally touched the lives of millions.

As The Edge has said:

“At the instant we were recording it, I got a very strong sense of its power. We were all playing together in the big recording room, a huge, eerie ballroom full of ghosts of the war, and everything fell into place. It was a reassuring moment, when everyone finally went, ‘oh great, this album has started.’ It’s the reason you’re in a band – when the spirit descends upon you and you create something truly affecting.”

The music of U2 in the 80’s was hopeful, and angry, and naive (in the most beautiful way possible). With open eyes, they looked at the pain of the world and tried to offer a rallying cry for a better way to live. As they grew up, and the 80’s became the 90’s, the band and the world changed. The Edge had just gotten divorced, Adam Clayton had experienced some personal problems, the world wasn’t the bright new place the band believed it had the potential to be. As Bono would later sing nearly a decade after Achtung Baby, the band was trying to find its identity in a world where / hope and history don’t rhyme /.

This song became the anthem for where the band was, what this album would be, and what the band had to say throughout the 90’s. Gone was the heart on his sleeve, earnest Bono of the 80’s; replaced by characters to hide his true self and offer incarnated prophetic utterings. The Mirrorball Man (an over the top televangelist/used car salesman douchebag, also, evil or the devil); Mr. MacPhisto (an aging actor or rock star, also, evil or the devil); and most often, The Fly (the typical rock star, too cool and arrogant for emotions), with his trademark wraparound shades, always hiding behind the glasses, this character obviously functions as a cartoon of what Bono fears about himself, perhaps all three characters do.

Everything was different now. The Edge describes Achtung Baby as the sound of four men chopping down The Joshua Tree.

“One” was truly at the heart of that sentiment. Moving into darkness and depression, but without ever fully letting go of hope. To use Bono’s metaphor from later in the decade, it was a time of / looking for the baby Jesus under the trash /

As is the case with most of Bono’s lyrics, “One” finds that perfect balance of being explicit enough to be affecting, while being vague enough to allow nearly endless interpretations. Like all great art, it can mean something poignant to a person or people in very specific circumstances, while meaning something equally powerful to someone in a very different place and time. One remarkably brilliant interpretation of the song is listening to it as the conversation between a gay man dying of AIDS and the fundamentalist father who’d rejected him. Lines like, / have you come here for forgiveness? / have you come to raise the dead? / have you come here to play Jesus to the lepers in your head? / — and — / you say love is a temple / love, the higher law / you ask me to enter, well, then you make me crawl / and I can’t be holding on to what you’ve got, when all you’ve got is hurt / — just to name a few, take on a pretty powerful nuance when you listen to the song through that filter.

Whatever interpretation you might embrace during any particular listen, the song’s interaction with estrangement and forgiveness is powerful.

Born from the band’s anger, frustration and near demise, in a context of a Berlin which had been a divided city for decades, about to come together again, forced to learn to live as one city, comes a song about conflict, and pain, and the beauty and agony of living together. As the band has pointed out, the song is about going through some bad shit, and having a pretty difficult discussion when all involved realize things will never be the same again. It’s about disillusionment, and rage, and grace.

The fact that Bono can get to the heart of the difficulty of loving one another and still remaining differentiated, still being ourselves, disagreeing and holding onto ourselves without casting out the other, is amazing. Yet, the fact that he can do so with the way his voice aches over a single phrase, /we’re one, but we’re not the same / — is unbelievable. Bono said:

“It is a song about coming together, but it’s not the old hippie idea of ‘Let’s all live together.’ It is, in fact, the opposite. It’s saying, We are one, but we’re not the same. It’s not saying we even want to get along, but that we have to get along together in this world if it is to survive. It’s a reminder that we have no choice”.

To lift a quote directly from wikipedia:

The Edge described it on one level as a “bitter, twisted, vitriolic conversation between two people who’ve been through some nasty, heavy stuff”. On another level, he suggested that the line “we get to carry each other” introduces “grace” to the song and that the wording “get to” (instead of “got to”) is essential, as it suggests that it is a privilege to help one another, not an obligation.

That’s brilliant. It’s such a beautiful and challenging philosophy. The sort that could change the world if more people took it to heart. Sadly, most don’t, myself included. Still, I’ll keep listening, hoping that this is one of those artistic works that might actually make me a better person in my experience of it. Perhaps the music can work its way into those deep recesses of my brain that science hasn’t yet mapped and help me live like / love is a temple / and remember when I’m dealing with some asshole I’d rather tell to fuck off, that we have no choice but to learn to live together.

/ we get to carry each other /

That’s some pretty profound shit. My God, I love this album.

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The Songs of My Father [ 88 mph ]

Growing up, before I ever really got into music on my own, my ears were held captive by whatever record (and later on CD) my Dad happened to be into at the time. I was a child of the MTV generation. Not the reality show MTV garbage that kids these days know and, in some cases love, but the “let’s actually be true to our name and show music videos” MTV. I didn’t know what was or wasn’t cool, and what was or wasn’t considered quality music for a chap of my age at the time. Maybe the fact that it was Dad’s music made me uncool for liking it, but I’m talking about as far back as age 6, where my Dad was the coolest guy I knew … to quote “The Wedding Singer”, “You’re eight years old, you only know your parents.” It’s funny how you grow up thinking your Dad is the coolest guy in the world, and then you hit a certain age, and all of the sudden you want nothing to do with him … but i digress …

At one of my places of work, thanks to satellite radio, I am brought back into this world of my dad’s music. I had intentions of trying to include a song from the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, but as it turns out, most of what I grew up with was 80s, either that, or the artist/band repeated … anyway, let’s see what I can come up with …

1960s:

1967, The Moody Blues, “Nights in White Satin” (or as I thought at the time “Knights in White Satin”, HA!)

1967, The Moody Blues, “Tuesday Afternoon” (pretty epic, especially in the context of the entire album)

1970s:

1975, Led Zeppelin, “Kashmir” (why, oh why Jimmy Page, did you let that no talent ass clown Sean “Puff Daddy ‘P. Diddy’ ‘Diddy'” Combs use the amazing riff from this song on one of his bland, unimpassioned “songs”?!?! AND, you played with him! Why?!)

1980s:

Here we go …

1986, Paul Simon, “Graceland” (Paul Simon and Ladysmith Black Mambazo, FTW!)

1986, Pink Floyd (sans Roger Waters), “Learning to Fly”

1986, The Moody Blues, “Your Wildest Dreams” (yeah, i know, more Moody Blues, he always referred to their music as “hippie music”, heh.)

1987, George Harrison, “Got My Mind Set on You”

1988, The Traveling Wilburys, “Handle with Care” (how awesome is Roy Orbison??? also, you gotta love supergroups)

Embedding is disabled, but go here to watch …

1990s:

1990, Paul Simon, “The Obvious Child” (oh, Paul Simon and your Vampire Weekend inspiring Afro-pop)

1990, Eric Johnson, “Cliffs of Dover”

and because this is just way too fucking awesome to not include:

Anytime I hear any one of these songs, I am transported back to my childhood … a simpler time, where liking something your Dad liked was just fine … and I am glad that I am back to a place in life where I can say the same thing now. So, thanks, Dad, for liking good music (and for being completely oversensitive about the AC in the house, and for thinking “Predator” is the best movie ever made) … “HILARIOUS!”

say it ain’t so. [88 mph.]

Remember that stuff from the past that was really awesome? I love those things that you watch, taste, smell or listen to that suddenly takes you to a bygone part of your life. Even when the association may be negative, the sense of being transported to a feeling or state of mind that has long seemed dead and gone is a pretty remarkable experience.

Perhaps it isn’t nostalgia, but is just something that was awesome in the past, and is still awesome now.

That is what the 88 mph posts will showcase.

First up, the music video for Weezer’s ‘Say It Ain’t So.’ I’ve listened to The Blue Album countless times, but still, I hear a song from this CD and I am 12 years old, riding the Gravitron at the local fair.

It’s the last ride of the night, the guy running the ride tells us we can break the rules, turn upside down and such, and he will let us know when he is getting ready to shut down the ride. He blares Weezer, and lets the ride go for an unprecedentedly long amount of time.

It’s probably the best memory from my pre-teen years. It was so fun. As is this CD.