Column: off the record…, vol. 11-487

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off the record, from @U2

No matter what Guggi or Bono or anyone else says, U2 isn't splitting up anytime soon. It just ain't gonna happen. Nothing to worry about, as far as I'm concerned.

I tend to think Neil McCormick came the closest to explaining what's going on at the moment in U2's camp when he said:

U2 need to feel that there are things at stake when they are writing and recording, deliberately using tension and risk to maintain focus. This, presumably, gets harder the more successful and comfortable individuals get. When Bono declares U2 to be on "the edge of irrelevance," what he is really doing is raising the stakes for himself and his band, shoving them rudely out of their comfort zone.

That sounds like the U2 I know.



I thought I would lose my U2 fan card last week. I was traveling when the Achtung Baby Super Deluxe box arrived in the mail. Then, even though I got home on Wednesday night, I didn't open it up when I settled in that night at my office desk. And I didn't open it on Thursday, either. I didn't get around to it until late Friday night. Ack! And I call myself a fan?

Well, since then, Casa McGee has been pretty much all-Achtung all the time.

I started with the "Baby/Kindergarten" audio CD. Listened to that twice on Friday night, and am listening to it right now as I write this. How cool is this?? I so love the baby version of "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses" -- pretty sure it's better than the album version. Don't like the baby version of "One," though. The baby version of "Ultraviolet" is really interesting because it has what we think of as the opening stanza -- Sometimes I feel like I don't know, etc. -- near the end of the song. They made the right choice when they cut that part and put it at the start of the song.

What I've been doing is listening with my good radio/DJ-quality headphones (the ones I used to wear back in my radio days) and following along with the Achtung Baby lyrics that our guru Ian Ryan has already posted. (Huge thanks, Ian!) If you get a chance, listen with headphones on so that you can hear a lot of the Eno-esque sound effects that are scattered throughout these early versions of the songs. And follow along with Ian's lyrics so you can see what's different. (Hint: a lot.)

I still haven't listened to Achtung Baby itself, but I did finish the entire b-sides/bonus CD today. Love, love, love "Down All The Days" on that CD. And "Everybody Loves A Winner" also sounds like ... umm ... a winner right now. But you know what I can't stand? That they did new vocals on "Heaven And Hell," which was one of the best songs on the old Salomé bootleg set. They did new vocals for "Blow Your House Down." And they did new vocals for "Oh Berlin." No disrespect to Bono, but I don't want to hear 2011 Bono singing those songs; I want to hear what they sounded like in 1991 when they were left off of Achtung Baby. And if they weren't complete, that's fine; just label the song as "Blow Your House Down (unfinished)" or some such thing. We'll get it.

(Off-topic: It's interesting that U2 has a song called "Oh Berlin" on the bonus CD and R.E.M. just had a song called "Überlin" on their last album.)

Even more than the baby and bonus audio CDs, I'm loving the extra DVD material. Yeah, it pretty much sucks that they included the Zoo TV Live From Sydney DVD in the set, and it kinda stinks that some scenes are missing on the From The Sky Down DVD ... but the other two DVDs are pretty sweet. On The Videos DVD, I like that they have a video that strictly shows the flashing Zoo TV tour messages from "The Fly." There's also a live Zoo TV version of "Until The End Of The World" that I don't recall seeing before.

Then there's the Bonus Material DVD, which is filled with stuff I'd never seen before this weekend. It starts with the awesome Zoo TV documentary that aired over Thanksgiving week/weekend in 1992 on Fox-TV in the US. Only the version on the DVD is the longer and more bizarre UK version. You have no idea about my history with this documentary. After it aired, I'm pretty sure that I watched it 3-4 times per week. I somehow even managed to connect my VCR to my stereo and recorded the audio from this documentary onto cassette so that I could listen in the car. I bet my wife has seen and heard this documentary more times than most of you reading right now!

So earlier today, when I told her that the documentary was on the DVD, she immediately said she wanted to watch it again. (The VHS and audio versions of it went missing ages ago.) So, we watched it this afternoon, along with my 13-year-old son. Only, he didn't join us in reciting what we remembered of William Burroughs' Thanksgiving Prayer (which I still can't believe actually made it on US national TV in 1992).

Also on the bonus DVD are a few documentaries I'd never seen before -- U2 on Naked City and U2 on TV-AM -- along with the MTV documentary about the Zoo TV Stockholm show when a fan named John Harris had the concert beamed into his living room. I met John the night before PopMart Las Vegas and have kept in touch with him a bit over the years -- neat guy. I emailed him this weekend after finally seeing what he'd told me about in Las Vegas, and he said he had no idea they were including the documentary about his amazing night in 1992.

So, anyway, I suspect you'll be reading a fair amount about the Achtung Baby reissue as our other staffers write OTR in the coming weeks. For now and for me ... quite happy with the Super Deluxe set. The main feeling/thought I'm left with so far is that they have a ton of video and audio material from this era, especially from the Zoo TV tour. And I can't get enough of that stuff.



Quick heads up that Killing Bono is available for rent in the iTunes Music Store. So if you've never seen it and really want to, there you go. I think it's also playing in a limited number of US theaters right now, too.



And finally ... here's Larry Mullen on Skype last week, accepting the "Star On The Horizon" award from the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival.



See ya next time!

(c) @U2, 2011.

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