Trust the Gene Genie

Friday, May 16, 2008

The heat, it appears, is on

Well, it's May 16 (I think. I guess I should have checked the date before I sat down to write). Anyway, we broke 100 yesterday and May is only half over. One-hundred degrees. I think the official high out at the airport was 103. Whoever settle this town is an idiot. It's going to be a long summer.

I've kinda been on a U2 jag as of late. It's got me thinking about a few things not necessarily U2-related. Last Christmas I got a copy of the book "U2 By U2" -- it's basically the band's history as told by the band. And it's pretty interesting.

But man, it kills the mystique. I remember discovering the band in high school and trading around books like "Unforgettable Fire" and "At the End of the World" learning things about the band's history and the relationship between the members. You felt like a researcher, learning things no one else knew and finding out little facts that helped unlock some of the songs.

I learned cool stuff, like how Larry had posted the band notice at Mount Temple when they were all in high school and essentially gave birth to the band. And arcane stuff, like "With or Without You" is a song about heroine addiction. I'll admit, it made the song cooler. And I don't know that that was really widely known in the early '90s.

Anyway, on the other hand, there were always things that you didn't know, things shrouded in mystery. For instance, was "One" really about the band wanting to break up? Or was it an imagined tale, like a lot of fans in the '90s argued, about what Bono would say to a hypothetical gay son. It was one of those things that was fun to debate among friends and fans.

Of course, a lot of those notions were dispelled as the internet age grew. At nearly the same exact time, the band was trying to come back to the pop culture mainstream after their perceived "Pop" debacle and so all of a sudden, the band was showing up in places they'd never been seen before. They were promoting "All That You Can't Leave Behind" and showing up on SNL and CNN and Vh1 to a lot of fanfare.

And all it was archived online. It was really easy to get tons of info on the band. Which was really cool. My most favoritest band was completely accessible in so many ways for the first time. But it's funny, I was getting to know more about the band and the songs and, almost imperceptively, my interest in them was fading.

And then a couple years ago, "U2 By U2" came out. As I read it over Christmas break, I discovered two things. One: the format is really tedious. It's essentially a 350-page interview transcript. Two: The band has a really cool history.

And that's when it hit. Rock bands, along with great music, need to have some kind of mystique to remain interesting.

Knowing almost everything it's possible to know about U2 leaves little to the imagination. Which, in turn, makes it a little harder to get lost in the music, a little harder to get excited when you see them show up in "unexpected" places and a little harder to get excited about what they've done.

Is this how Beatles fans feel?

Or maybe I'm just getting old and caring about all these kinds of things less.

Believe it or not, the internet has led to another problem.

I remember being in high school and friend of mine, Brian Memmott, coming in with a taped copy of U2's cover of "Can't Help Falling in Love" -- it was a reasonably rare "Zoorpa"-era b-side. We didn't eally know that in high school -- we just figured we'd disovered gold.

And that's what I really miss in the internet age -- that sense of discovery you have when you stumbled across things rare and arcane. That doesn't happen anymore. You don't discover anything anymore because everything's out there and instantly accessible. I mean INSTANTLY accessible. That's not to say the Internet is bad. It just kind of spoils you.

A friend, Ryan Jensen, pointed that out few years ago when U2 put their entire catalogue up on iTunes for a while. He spent most of high school trying to get his hands on a rare U2 "Unforgettable Fire"-era B-side called "Sixty Seconds in Kingdom Come." He talked about that inimitable feeling of finally finding it in some dive, taking it home and listening to it.

Of course, when U2 did the iTunes thing, it was immediately available to anyone with 99 cents. Which isn't a bad thing, it's a pretty cool tune. But man, it sure takes away the fun.

And that's off my chest. It's been rattling around my head since January. Anyway, if you're still reading, that means you're either bored or my mom.

I leave tonight for the annual fathers/sons campout and in true Rogers fashion, I'll be taking my daughters. I'll get something up here about it on Sunday. I swear.


Kim said...

Interesting, very interesting. What are you doing up at 5:30 in the morning. I'm sure U2 could have waited until 7:00 to have their history written.

urpy said...

It's called stress.

Stephanie B said...

Rob, that was probably the first post about U2 that I read word for word. (Sorry, sometimes I skim.) That was fascinating. Sometimes I wish I had the passions for music that you do. It would be cool to say that I am a diehard - loved them before they were big - fan. I'll just continue listening to your Rob's Best Music Volume I & II in the meantime.

BTW, so is ONE really about the band breaking up?

Amber Carter said...

I don't know much about U2, but I think you should go enjoy your weather at the awesome lake you live near by! Hopefully your campout is near water, because it sounds too hot for camping otherwise!

Uncle E said...

Man, I think you're right on, to a degree. The bigger a band gets the less mystique they have and, yes, the less interesting they get. u2 are a prime example, and as you mentioned so are the beatles. These are two of my favorite bands that I hardly listen to anymore. Why? For the very reason you state in your excellent post. Over familiarity doesn't neccessarily breed contempt in this case, but it breeds a cetain sense of "been there, done that", doesn't it?
In the case of The Joshua Tree/ Achtung Baby, I can only listen to them once or twice a year, ditto for most Beatles albums (well, maybe a bit more). BUT when I do, I love the hell out of them! It's just less frequent. That's why I'm always trying to discover new bands all the time, to fill the gap. Wilco is a great example. So's the Flaming Lips. I need new sounds all the time, and if I don't find 'em I go back to the tried and true until I do. U2 and The Beatles are the Methodone of my collection!

Ronifer269 said...

I loved the comments Rob. The democratization and acessibility of information, especially when it comes to things like music , really tarnish the jubilation of truly being a fan.

I remember a certain feeling of adolescent superiority in high school knowing that people would come to me with certain questions regarding U2 or Midnight Oil.

Now it's all just a click away. The other day I stumbled across a Rattle-Hum era performance of the boys with Ziggy Marley and Keith Richards. 15 years ago that would have been the find of the century. To days ago it held my interest for all of twenty minutes.

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