Thirty-five years ago this week U2 released their second album, “October.” I'd like to say that I bought the album the day it came out because I was so excited by their first album, “Boy,” which had been released a year earlier, but I can't.
The truth is I wasn't actually a big fan of music at that stage of my life despite the fact I was 17-year-old boy living in a suburban NY town. In fact, among the boys I hung around with I was the easily the least interested in popular/rock music. I don't know why that is, but I was obsessed with sports and paid little attention to music.
I vaguely knew who Bruce Springsteen was, who the Clash was and the names of the big British bands from the 70s – the Beatles, the Stones, the Who – were familiar. In fact, I think at that stage I knew all the words to “Emotional Rescue,” but that might well have been it.
I didn't get involved in the heated arguments that seemed to flare up when someone suggested that Rush was the greatest live band and someone else countered with, “Rush are total ****. The Who is the greatest live band.”
Believe me, I wanted to join in. I loved heated arguments, but I just didn't know enough.
MTV was born the summer I turned 17. I can't remember whether I liked it or not, but it was on our TV a lot because my brothers and our friends liked it. It seemed to be on all the time.
That's where I first became aware of U2, on MTV. I don't know if any of my friends in school knew who U2 was before “Gloria,” but that song off “October,” that video was my introduction to “the great young band from Dublin.”
I can't tell you now whether it was the song or the video, but something happened when I was watching U2 that fall. I remember feeling a little nervous excitement and I felt it again and again, each time “Gloria” came on. Eventually I realized that the song AND the faces of the band and the crowd AND the shots of dreary Dublin somehow all appealed to me in a way I couldn't account for. Until that moment “Irish” didn't mean a lot to me. U2 changed that.
They were Irish and that meant something to me.
I still can't quite explain why. I remember being with a couple of friends who were talking about music and I tentatively said “I like U2.” I'd never said anything like it before. I was kind of nervous wondering how my friends would react. One of them looked at me and said, “Well of course you do, Fay. For the first time you've realized that guys as pale as you can make cool music.”
“Cool music.” Whew! It wasn't just me. Although I knew there was something to what he said about “guys as pale as you” too. That was code for “Irish” and he was right.
I was hooked. I liked “Gloria” and I liked pretty much every song U2 came out with during the 80s. Within a year of that introduction I had an album collection. There were bands I liked and bands I hated. I was joining in the heated arguments and loving it. That was thanks to U2.
But the Irish thing? I guess I never quite shook that off. In 1985 I made it to Dublin. U2's Dublin. Part of me couldn't believe it, but I loved the place despite the fact it looked desolate to me.
Before “Gloria” was ten years old I was married to a Dublin girl and living in Dublin. That all started with “Gloria” on MTV in the fall of 1981.