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Joshua Tree, 15 Years Later

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There is no way that I can even do justice to the title of this piece. I am too wrapped up as a fan to turn a coherent, critical eye to the U2 masterpiece Joshua Tree.

See, I already called it a masterpiece in less than 3 sentences.

Recently I was browsing through my CD’s looking at release dates to see how long I have owned and/or listened to the music in my collection. Also, anytime I slide in a CD in the car, my son asks how old it is. Getting to the U2 stacks, of which there are three, I flipped over Joshua Tree and read: 1987. Really? Was it is that long ago?

A lot has happened in 15 years. I graduated from high school, college, and law school. Ran through a bunch of bad mistake girlfriends and finally found “the one” and got married. I have two kids, a car payment, a mortgage and work as an attorney. Not to mention the world is completely different place.

But, I can still remember where I was in 1987 (I was 13) the first time I heard “I Still Haven’t Found What I am Looking For.” Strangely enough, it wasn’t on the radio. For some reason, I didn’t listen to a lot of radio then. Earlier that year I found about U2 while looking through the “Nice Price” tape collection and came across Live Under a Blood Red Sky, thought the cover was neat and bought it. Hooked instantly. Not life changing yet. I think I responded to the music more than the words. The music seemed important, and big and wide open.

I had heard that U2 released a new album that year, but being of limited funds (remember, I am 13), I waited and asked for Joshua Tree for Christmas.

The tradition in my family is let the kids open a small present on Christmas Eve. The little box I opened that night was Joshua Tree. I could hardly stand it, sitting around another hour or so with the adults. I wanted to listen and listen bad. Finally, it was time for bed, and I grabbed my Grandma’s little tape player and headed to the bedroom.

“Where The Streets Have No Name,” is the first song. I remember liking it, but kind of put off by the long opening. Now, Streets is my favorite song off the album. Before taking every exam in law school I would sit in my car and listen to a live version of Streets to settle down and focus.

The next song, the next song, I can remember lying there in the dark, the room quiet in that in between spaces between songs on a tape, and I heard it. Those ringing guitar sounds, at first soft then gaining steam as the notes duplicated and crashed against each other. The world opened up for me during those few seconds and my life was forever altered. The song of course was “I Still Haven’t Found What I am Looking For.” Looking back, I can honestly say that I didn’t get the song, lyrically, but that sound, that sound. It held a promise. A promise that there were more things in the world than were dreamt of in my philosophy. A promise that music didn’t have to be what I sometimes heard on the Top 40 station.

This thing has probably gone on long enough. But a quick word about New v. Old U2. There is great controversy in the world of U2 Fans over whether the Band from Dublin peaked with Joshua Tree. One camp swears they did, and other swears by Achtung Baby! What I think most fans miss, and every U2 Fan swears they KNOW THE TRUTH, is the band grew and changed and maybe some of the fans didn’t. Not all, but a large enough group to make some noise about it with each new album. I think I was lucky enough to discover U2 at age 13, with no preconception of what U2 should or shouldn’t be. All I knew was that what I heard was greatness and kept getting better through each successive album. I grew up with U2, in more ways than one.

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  • http://ditty.biz Ditty

    I share the writer’s opinion that “The Joshua Tree” by U2 is a great album, but am I the only one who hears the obvious mechanical pops and clicks at the beginning of the 1st and 3rd tracks and at the end of the 2nd ?