U2 – “Vertigo”

When: October 2004
Where: Don Bosco Technical Institute
Who: Several people
Weather: Overcast

On a random Wednesday, a family friend and classmate named Elliot Cuite told me to come with him to one of the shops. It was my first meeting with Tiger TV, our school’s technologically outdated live Friday news show. Before long, I was a cameraman, and I lived for those mornings. After a while, this became our regular theme song. It was by U2, and it wasn’t horrible, so I suppose it was worth a shot.

Next: Pasadena and Los Angeles’ only new rock.

U2 – “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of”

My dad woke me up with a strange question: “You know the World Trade Center?”

I creakily replied yes. “It’s on fire.”

I rush out of bed and spend an hour in front of the TV. My mom was already gone, but she kept calling back. The Pentagon, Pennsylvania, then they were gone. The fact that America’s 2nd and 3rd tallest buildings, which had long replaced the Empire State Building as media shorthand for “New York,” just weren’t there. She worried that maybe I shouldn’t go to school. So many questions.

My Dad took me to middle school this one time; we were listening to NPR– a booming voice was calling out, slightly garbled, “We will topple your cities, destroy your churches and slaughter your children.” I get out, and the rest of the day was spent talking about what was going on. It was the second day of school.

My main teacher (and future political football), Ms. Jaeger, tried to keep us calm by playing some music. She seemed to have brought a mix CD, I don’t know why or when she prepared it, but this was the one song I remembered. The whole day was spent wondering: Who did this? They hit the Statue of Liberty? Where is the fifth plane? We kept waiting for a fifth plane to hit, the assumption that there was such a thing went hand in hand with the assumption that this would keep happening every day, and maybe they would start hitting schools. This was how we were going to live now.

On the way home I picked up one of those American flags for our car window.

“Why they hate us” never came into the picture. The first time I heard that question was on CNN, because from our perspective it didn’t matter. And if it happened now, it still wouldn’t.

Next: America’s musical depression gets worse, but the result isn’t all bad.

U2 – “Mysterious Ways”

When: November 1991
Where: My dad’s ’88 Corolla (radio tuned to KROQ-FM), southbound on Mariondale Avenue, Los Angeles
Who: My mother
Weather: Overcast

There isn’t much to say about my memory that isn’t already above. Although since starting up a Background Music playlist for my mom, this is the first memory that we seem to share. I’d rather talk about U2.

U2 is the poster-boy for “Better to burn out than fade away.” Most bands stop being good 10 years after their first LP, and while U2 beats that rule by a year, they had already ruined their public persona when Achtung Baby was released. “Rattle and Hum,” the documentary on the making of The Joshua Tree, had portrayed Bono and company as selfish, ruthless yuppies doing anything for a quick buck; a sharp contrast to their diplomatic image.

Achtung Baby was three years after this PR disaster, and while it was a good album, it was their creative dead end. While the band is still commercially successful, the newer music is poorly-received and gives the impression that U2 is on a never-ending reunion tour. One can only wonder how people would feel if they’d called it quits after releasing this single.

Have you had your Lucky Clovers?Next: 1992 arrives, and Trip-Hop helps a decade take shape.