This gem came out just before Joshua Tree, U2’s The Edge doing some soundtrack work, bringing in an unknown named Sinead O’Connor to sing a lead vocal so strong it inspires thoughts of an alternate pop-history, where U2 never goes supernova. Instead, they break up for whatever reason, Bono runs off and joins Van Halen, and the Edge sticks with young Sinead. They end up going to the Vatican, overthrowing the Pope and ruling the world. Satan (who it turns out was David Lee Roth all along) retires and moves to Calgary. A thousand years of peace ensue, except in Alberta.
“The Big Music is the first Waterboys song I ever heard and it didn’t do much for me. It felt too on the nose, and anyway, wasn’t Big Music U2’s thing? But a decade slipped past and I guess I found it serving a different purpose. More of a statement of intent (from Mike Scott in particular) than some half-baked U2 rip-off. Because the Waterboys had since proven themselves entirely their own unique beast, and pagan at that, like the wild crash of surf on a northern shore, at sunset, everything turning blood red. I actually saw that happen once, off Ireland, while listening to a different Waterboys track. Proof that gods exist, and here they were showing off at the edge of things. And they’re still at it, by the way. The Waterboys, that is. I can’t speak for the gods.” (Philip Random)
“Two in a row from way the hell back in the U2 story (and as eventually found on the R.O.K. 12″), way before all the fame and riches and boredom. My boredom, that is. I blame Joshua Tree. Though I guess it wasn’t the songs so much as the environment. They just weren’t as good anymore in those huge stadiums. Give me the Commodore Ballroom any day, 1981, three dollar ticket, maybe a thousand curious punks and new wavers. I’m pretty sure they did Eleven O’Clock Tick Tock as the encore that night, and the whole show actually began with The Ocean. But either way, the place went mad. Or as a friend said at the time, it’s like they weren’t playing songs, they were playing us, the audience. The songs were what we sounded like. He’d dropped acid.” (Philip Random)
The Simple Minds (from before they decided the world needed yet another U2 and thus became officially uncool), 1981 being the year that they released two solid albums in Britain (jammed into one for North American consumers), then hit the road with one of the hottest live shows on earth. It would never get any better.
In which we are reminded that way back when (1980-81 to be specific) U2 were still pretty much complete unknowns. But one listen to something like Another Time Another Place and you knew that wasn’t going to last. Because this outfit was like Joy Division with the doom removed, rhythm like runaway horses, guitar like great sheets of illuminating light, big voice, epiphanies by the minute.