Music can change the world because it can change people

May 5, 2012 |  by  |  Achtung Baby, U2 Memorabilia  |  12 Comments

A Filament Project bracelet made with a string from Bono's Gibson acoustic used during the Achtung Baby re-release sessions at Hansa Studio in 2011.

I get asked a lot if I’ve met Bono. Surely someone who’s devoted 20 years of her life and a URL to the man has met him, right? Wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. I haven’t met him, haven’t touched him, haven’t smelled him, haven’t been rendered stupidly speechless by his presence. And it’s probably for the best, as I still don’t know what I’d say to the man. “Thank you” is my best guess. It’s simple, sincere, all-encompassing. But it’s the same thing I say to the pizza delivery guy and the pedicurist. The man whose voice has been in my head for a couple of decades probably warrants a little more inspiration.

But, this week I did manage to get a little closer to him thanks to The Filament Project, an organization that collects donations of guitar, bass and other musical instrument strings along with various electrical and telephone cables to create bracelets and other jewelry. U2 fandom’s EdgeFest, knower of all things The Edge, spotted and won and shared an auction on eBay for one of these guitar string bracelets. It was for a string from Edge’s Fender Stratocaster guitar, played during With or Without You at the 360 tour’s finale in Moncton (totally thought I was done saying that word) last July. I quickly clicked on “seller’s other items” and saw a listing for another bracelet — one made of a string from Bono’s acoustic Gibson guitar, used during the 2011 Hansa sessions, when U2 went back to the famous Berlin studio where they recorded 1991’s Achtung Baby. The listing included a photo of the packet of strings donated to The Filament Project, on which Dallas Schoo, U2’s beloved (by fans as much as the band) guitar tech had written, “This is a packet of used guitar strings off of Bono’s Gibson acoustic guitar from the re-release of “Auchtung Baby” [sic] in “From the Sky Down.” Read More

Cover boy with natural grace: Q Magazine’s December issue celebrates U2

November 29, 2011 |  by  |  Achtung Baby  |  No Comments

(The headline quotes ‘Babyface’ (Zooropa, 1993). Bethandbono trivia/dirty little secret: It’s the one U2 song I don’t like.)

The December 2011 issue of Q Magazine has finally hit newsstands in the United States, but without the Ahk-Toong Bay-Bi Covered CD, to many U2 fans’ disappointment. But, the CD is available in its entirety on iTunes ($7.99 US), with proceeds benefiting Concern Worldwide’s work in famine-stricken areas of East Africa. The issue celebrates U2 as the greatest act of the last 25 years (as voted by the readers of Q) and coincides with the 20th anniversary of Achtung Baby’s release.

It appears that three versions of the magazine are in circulation. Q subscribers got the cover with a close-up of a wild-eyed Bono while non-subscribers got the cover with all four band members, three of whom are hiding behind the flap that hosts the CD. The version showing up Stateside has the same full-band cover, sans the CD flap. It became a little obsessive-compulsive scavenger hunt for me to get my hands on one of each, but I succeeded. I’ve compiled the three covers, as well as any U2-related pages in the issue (including a series of quarter-page ads for the deluxe re-releases), into a PDF (about 8 MB): U2 in Q Magazine, December 2011. It’s pretty low-res. Go grab a copy before they disappear from the racks.

I love the group cover. Mostly because I’m convinced the way Bono was photographed by John Wright for Q is a deliberate homage to the Rolling Stone cover (March 4, 1993) that defined The Fly era, photographed by Andrew McPherson in 1992. Bono reinvents his look regularly. And guyliner phase excepting, I’m a fan of all his iterations. But the 1993 Rolling Stone cover boy is quintessential Bono for me. I stared at that cover a lot when I bought the magazine in ’93. I (stupidly) hacked it up and stuffed Rolling Stone’s once-luxuriously oversized cover into an 8″ x 10″ frame and took Bono off to college with me in 1997. Each May 10, the cover makes an appearance as my profile photo on Facebook to honor the birthday boy. I own two of the $5 WalMart bags that feature the cover, one for use and one that stays in the touch-and-die drawer. And as of today’s mail delivery, I’m an owner once again of the original magazine, thanks to some eBay auction sniping.

It could be accidental. Shades plus earrings plus oozing sexiness are standard Bono-cover-photo fare. But the shades are darker and more Fly-like than what he’s been wearing on tour and at appearances lately. And the slight head cock to the right along with his pulling down his collar to reveal a cozy little patch of chest hair, and his gorgeous-even-if-they’re-dyed locks especially moussed up to resemble that jet-black pompadour … It’s all alluding to the iconic Rolling Stone cover, which celebrated U2 as artist of the year then. Two decades later, Q’s justly celebrating them as artist of the last quarter century.

Happy birthday, ‘Baby’: Achtung Baby turns 20

November 19, 2011 |  by  |  Achtung Baby  |  2 Comments

Twenty years ago today, on Nov. 19, 1991, Achtung Baby was released. It was my U2 entry point. I knew a few earlier songs from radio play — mostly The Joshua Tree hits of “With or Without You” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” — but U2 was not yet Beth’s Favorite Band. Until late 1991, early 1992. I was 12 going on 13. These were formative years, for the band and for me. A boy I had a crush on was walking in our apartment complex singing “Mysterious Ways,” a song I recognized from the radio.

Johnny, take a dive with your sister in the rain … Read More

Every poet is a thief: Bono channels Rilke in ‘Oh Berlin’

November 1, 2011 |  by  |  Achtung Baby, Influences  |  11 Comments

Bono channels German language poet Rainer Maria Rilke in Oh Berlin.

Every once in a while, a new song just consumes you. With the special 20th anniversary releases of Achtung Baby, U2 have unveiled some gems they’ve been sitting on for two decades, including* the song “Oh Berlin.” I have not come up for air from this track since my first listen two days ago.

I’ve been feverishly doing some quick research to get a basic understanding of the many references in the song — literary, biblical, autobiographical. This is sort of a survey of what I’ve discovered. It doesn’t delve too deep into the works alluded to, but rather slides down the surface of things. I’d like to continue developing it and welcome any additional insights, comments or corrections. So, before you read any further, do this:

Listen to “Oh Berlin” right now.

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Tryin’ to throw your head around a song

October 30, 2011 |  by  |  Achtung Baby, Early Versions  |  1 Comment

I stumbled upon some of my most favorite U2 tracks back in the early aughts, when Napster ruled and music was free and easy and yours for the taking — and I took, because I was a college student and that justified being cheap and breaking the law. These were songs not on the studio albums or singles, and all of a sudden, I had a way to access them. These rarities are what we U2 fans use as a litmus test on other fans we meet. “Dreaming With Tears In My Eyes” and “Slide Away” are like our secret handshake. If you’ve heard these, you’ve proved you’re worth your salt. Read More

AHK-toong BAY-bi: A dangerous idea that almost makes sense

October 11, 2011 |  by  |  Achtung Baby, Cover Songs  |  2 Comments

Q magazine announced this week that to mark Achtung Baby’s 20th anniversary (Nov. 19), the next issue will feature a cd of the entire album reworked by a range of notable artists. Here’s the AHK-toong BAY-bi Covered track listing:

  • Zoo Station – Nine Inch Nails
  • Even Better Than The Real Thing – U2 (Jacques Lu Cont Mix)
  • One – Damien Rice
  • Until The End Of The World – Patti Smith
  • Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses – Garbage
  • So Cruel – Depeche Mode
  • Mysterious Ways – Snow Patrol
  • Trying To Throw Your Arms Around The World – The Fray
  • The Fly – Gavin Friday
  • Ultraviolet (Light My Way) – The Killers
  • Acrobat – Glasvegas
  • Love Is Blindness – Jack White

Read More