It is one of those moments burned into my memory.
I was a fresh, young thing when punk rock music was born. With their talk of anarchy and anti-establishment, spit out in raging shrieks and bred with stripped down sound, it was Manna to my Catholic schoolgirl soul. I was enamored with that sound and too, with a boy who loved that same kind of intense music.
I jumped into that boy's VW Beetle one night and, as usual, the Bug was alive in wrap-around sound. (His Bose sound system was worth more than his car back then.) And out of those speakers, came this voice like nothing I had ever heard before, crackling with passion, "Your eyes make a circle. I see you when I go in there. Your eyes...your eyes..."
I was transfixed by this soaring, hungry, ambitious voice, a voice that sang like it was ready to rule the world. I turned to the boy and said, "I have to know who that is."
He answered, "Some new, punk band from Ireland. They're called U2."
And the spell was set.
I kept that tape and I kept that boy in the beat up Bug. Its worked out well for all of us.
The tape wore out. The boy stays young with me, working our way through grown-up life, raising a family together and rockin out to U2.
And those four Irish lads have been there with me, every step of the way, all of us growing and evolving in different but universally same parallels.
We were punk rock together, when we were young and the world was just in front of us, ready to open its mighty doors and invite us in. I memorized each album, as it came out, feeling the questions and rock spirituality that Bono put on paper, emptying out his soul and singing for us.
The words stay with me, like they did the first time I heard them, a mantra for life.
Bono's masterful powerhouse cry, belting out, "I'm wide awake, wide awake. I'm not sleeping." It's how I've tried to live all the days set before me.
There is so much underneath and in between a U2 song and that is one of my main reasons for my undying love for this band. Well...there's also Bono himself and Edge's genius on a guitar and... well, Bono.
We grew up together. My babies knew the words to "One" better than any, "Wheels On The Bus" or "I'm A Little Teapot."
When I had a mini-mid-life crisis in my late 30's, all gloomy and maudlin over the half of my life that had already whooshed away, fast and furious like a Cat 5 hurricane, it was Bono who sang, "You gotta stand up straight, carry your own weight. Your tears are going nowhere, Baby."
And so I did. I opened up my writer's notebook, neglected far too long and began, again.
Quite adolescent of me, I know, to say a rock star changed my life.
But, I've never claimed to be very good at the grown up thing.
When my father died, so tragically unexpected, I remember wandering around those first few days in a grief that was numbing and scalding, all at the same time. I spent those days shuttling back and forth from my house to my parents' place, our homes bursting at the seams with the hundreds of kin and friends that came as soon as they heard. We're loud, Irish and Many and we grieve like we live, heartily with profuse tears and gut-busting laughter to balance it out. We had a house full of joyful and broken-hearted noise. The only time I was alone, was in the car going to and from the houses. I would climb into the stillness of my car and as cheesaroni as it sounds, I would punch on my CD player and whisper through my tears, "Bono, sing for me." He told me, "and I know it aches and your heart it breaks and you can only take so much...walk on." And, I know, I know, ridiculously silly, but it fortified me for a little while.
My beautiful, at the time, 3-year old was the light of her Grandpa's eye. A few days before the funeral, when the beer and wine were flowing, my sisters had her stand up and do her spot-on, word for word imitation of Elevation. The crowd roared. I know my dad was smiling down from the heavens as I disappeared away from the crowd to write his eulogy.
A few years later, Bono lost his father and wrote, "A house doesn't make a home..Don't leave me here alone." We have walked down parallel paths together, experiencing birth and joy and pain and death and he has wrapped it all up in his bow of a voice and sang if for me as we go along.
I thought I owed you a little explanation for my stalkarazzi-Bono ways. I know its adolescent cringing and sentimental slop, but its my sentimental, sloppy heart bared open. But mainly, this is all just an intro for...drum roll, please!
My Boys are back. Back with a bang and a pow and a good old-fashioned Irish toast called New Line On The Horizon.
That boy who lost the Bug awhile back and now drives a snazzy driving machine, brought me home the CD the day it came out. Not that I hadn't already been listening to it for weeks.
I've already come this far with my Tiger Beat confessions, so I will tell you this. I am a card-carrying, dues-paying member of the U2 fan club.
That's right. I'm a soccer mom who belongs to a fan club and I am PROUD of that. Laugh all you want to, everyone else does. But, we fan clubbers got an earful before anyone else did. And this compilation is, in Bono's own song title, Magnificent.
It will not be felt by the average heart. It is complex and full of Edge's brilliant noise and Bono's spiritual lyrics. It has to be listened to again and again and once again to really feel its impact. It is not party music, its definitely not what Bono likes to call, "wallpaper music" and its most likely not Top 40 material. But, what it is, is the genius of U2, still a little punk, evened out with the wisdom of manhood and a well-lived life. It is very close to "Achtung Baby," one mo' fo' genius of an album.
If you love U2 you will love this. If you don't like U2, (I can't even begin to understand that. Its the same thing when someone says they don't like chocolate and I go, "Are you f***ing with me?") but if you don't like U2, try it anyway. I guarantee you, the gospel-tinged, "Moment of Surrender" will lure you in. The rest of it will make you want to ante up the small fee it takes to join our fan club.
Download Today-Of Course: "Magnificent". Bono sings, "I was born. I was born to sing for you. I didn't have a choice but to lift you up and sing whatever song you wanted me to." Call him Messianic, call him pompous, but he sings the gospel truth. In fact, I'm thinking he wrote it with me in mind, knowing somehow, how he has done just that. Sang me through all these years. Go on, download it today. You know I'm making you want to.