Nicky (arcmorality) wrote in u2,

Springsteen induction speech

In case you haven't read yet, here's the bossman's speech.

Quite awesome if you ask me.

Uno, dos, tres, catorce. That translates as one, two, three, fourteen.
That is the correct math for a rock and roll band. For in art and love
and rock and roll, the whole had better equal much more than the sum of
its parts, or else you're just rubbing two sticks together searching for
fire. A great rock band searches for the same kind of combustible force
that fueled the expansion of the universe after the big bang. You want
the earth to shake and spit fire, you want the sky to split apart and
for God to pour out. It's embarrassing to want so much and to expect so
much from music, except sometimes it happens: the Sun Sessions, Highway
61, Sgt. Peppers, the Band, Robert Johnson, Exile on Main Street, Born
to Run... whoops, I meant to leave that one out... uh... the Sex
Pistols, Aretha Franklin, the Clash, James Brown; the proud and public
enemies it takes a nation of millions to hold back. This is music meant
to take on not only the powers that be but on a good day, the universe
and God himself, if he was listening. It's man's accountability, and U2
belongs on this list.

It was the early '80s. I went with Pete Townshend, who always wanted to
catch the first whiff of those about to unseat us, to a club in London.
There they were: a young Bono (single-handedly pioneering the Irish
mullet), the Edge (what kind of name was that?), Adam and Larry -- I was
listening to the last band of whom I would be able to name all of its
members. They had an exciting show and a big, beautiful sound. They
lifted the roof. We met afterwards and they were nice young men. They
were Irish. Irish. Now, this would play an enormous part in their
success in the States. For what the English occasionally have the
refined sensibilities to overcome, we Irish and Italians have no such
problem. We come through the door fists and hearts first. U2, with the
dark, chiming sound of heaven at their command which, of course, is the
sound of unrequited love and longing -- their greatest theme. Their
search for God intact, this was a band that wanted to lay claim to not
only this world but had their eyes on the next one, too. Now, they're a
real band; each member plays a vital part. I believe they actually
practice some form of democracy -- toxic poison in a bands head. In
Iraq, maybe. In rock, no.
Yet, they survive. They have harnessed the time bomb that exists in the
heart of every great rock and roll band that usually explodes, as we see
regularly from this stage. But they seemed to have innately understood
the primary rule of rock band job security: "Hey, asshole, the other guy
is more important than you think he is!" They are both a step forward
and direct descendants of the great bands who believed rock music could
shake things up in the world, dared to have faith in their audience, who
believed if they played their best it would bring out the best in you.
They believed in pop stardom and the big time. Now this requires
foolishness and a calculating mind. It also requires a deeply held faith
in the work you're doing and in its powers to transform. U2 hungered for
it all and built a sound, and they wrote the songs that demanded it.
They're keepers of some of the most beautiful sonic architecture in rock
and roll.

The Edge, the Edge, the Edge, the Edge. He is a rare and true guitar
original and one of the subtlest guitar heroes of all time. He's
dedicated to ensemble playing and he subsumes his guitar ego in the
group. But do not be fooled. Take Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Berry, Neil Young,
Pete Townshend -- guitarists who defined the sound of their band and
their times. If you play like them, you sound like them. If you are
playing those rhythmic two-note sustained fourths, drenched in echo, you
are going to sound like the Edge, my son. Go back to the drawing board
and chances are you won't have much luck. There are only a handful of
guitar stylists who can create a world with their instruments, and he's
one of them. The Edge's guitar playing creates enormous space and vast
landscapes. It is a thrilling and a heartbreaking sound that hangs over
you like the unsettled sky. In the turf it stakes out, it is inherently
spiritual, it is grace and it is a gift.

Now, all of this has to be held down by something. The deep sureness of
Adam Clayton's bass and the rhythms of Larry Mullen's elegant drumming
hold the band down while propelling it forward. It's in U2's great
rhythm section that the band finds its sexuality and its dangerousness.
Listen to "Desire," she moves in "Mysterious Ways," the pulse of "With
or Without You." Together Larry and Adam create the element that
suggests the ecstatic possibilities of that other kingdom -- the one
below the earth and below the belt -- that no great rock band can lay
claim to the title without. Now, Adam always strikes me as the
professorial one, the sophisticated member. He creates not only the
musical but physical stability on his side of the stage. The tone and
depth of his bass playing has allowed the band to move from rock to
dance music and beyond.
One of the first things I noticed about U2 was that underneath the
guitar and the bass, they have these very modern rhythms going on.
Rather than a straight 2 and 4, Larry often plays with a lot of
syncopation, and that connects the band to modern dance textures. The
drums often sounded high and tight and he was swinging down there, and
this gave the band a unique profile and allowed their rock textures to
soar above on a bed of his rhythm. Now Larry, of course, besides being
an incredible drummer, bears the burden of being the band's requisite
"good-looking member," something we somehow overlooked in the E Street
Band. We have to settle for "charismatic." Girls love on Larry Mullen. I
have a female assistant that would like to sit on Larry's drum stool. A
male one, too. We all have our crosses to bear.

Bono, where do I begin? Jeans designer, soon-to-be World Bank operator,
just plain operator, seller of the Brooklyn Bridge -- oh hold up, he
played under the Brooklyn Bridge, that's right. Soon-to-be mastermind
operator of the Bono Burger franchise, where more than one million
stories will be told by a crazy Irishman. Now I realize that it's a
dirty job and somebody has to do it. But don't quit your day job yet, my
friend, you're pretty good at it. And a sound this big needs somebody to
ride herd over it, and ride herd over it he does. His voice, big-hearted
and open, thoroughly decent no matter how hard he tries. Now he's a
great frontman. Against the odds, he is not your mom's standard skinny,
ex- junkie archetype. He has the physique of a rugby player... well, an
ex- rugby player. Shamen, shyster, one of the greatest and most
endearingly naked messianic complexes in rock and roll. God bless you,
man! It takes one to know one, of course. You see, every good Irish and
Italian-Irish front-man knows that before James Brown there was Jesus.
So hold the McDonald arches on the stage set, boys, we are not ironists.
We are creations of the heart and of the earth and of the stations of
the cross.
There's no getting out of it. He is gifted with an operatic voice and a
beautiful falsetto rare among strong rock singers. But most important,
his is a voice shot through with self-doubt. That's what makes that big
sound work. It is this element of Bono's talent, along with his
beautiful lyric writing, that gives the often-celestial music of U2 its
fragility and its realness. It is the questioning, the constant
questioning in Bono's voice, where the band stakes its claim to its
humanity and declares its commonality with us. Now Bono's voice often
sounds like it's shouting not over top of the band but from deep within
it: "Here we are, Lord, this mess, in your image." He delivers all of
this with great drama and an occasional smirk that says, "Kiss me, I'm
Irish." He's one of the great front-men of the past 20 years. He is also
one of the only musicians to devote his personal faith and the ideals of
his band into the real world in a way that remains true to rock's
earliest implications of freedom and connection and the possibility of
something better.

Now the band's beautiful songwriting -- "Pride (In The Name of Love),"
"Sunday Bloody Sunday," "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For,"
"One," "Where the Streets Have No Name," "Beautiful Day" -- reminds us
of the stakes that the band always plays for. It's an incredible
songbook. In their music, you hear the spirituality as home and as
How do you find God unless he's in your heart, in your desire, in your
feet? I believe this is a big part of what's kept their band together
all of these years. See, bands get formed by accident, but they don't
survive by accident. It takes will, intent, a sense of shared purpose
and a tolerance for your friends' fallibilities and they of yours. And
that only evens the odds. U2 has not only evened the odds but they've
beaten them by continuing to do their finest work and remaining at the
top of their game and the charts for 25 years. I feel a great affinity
for these guys as people as well as musicians.

Well, there I was sitting down on the couch in my pajamas with my eldest
son. He was watching TV. I was doing one of my favorite things: I was
tallying up all the money I passed up in endorsements over the years and
thinking of all the fun I could have had with it. Suddenly I hear "Uno,
dos, tres, catorce!" I look up. But instead of the silhouettes of the
hippie-wannabes bouncing around in the iPod commercial, I see my boys!
Oh my God! They sold out! Now, what I know about the iPod is this: it is
a device that plays music. Of course, their new song sounded great, my
guys are doing great, but methinks I hear the footsteps of my old tape
operator of Jimmy Iovine somewhere. Wily, smart. Now, personally, I live
an insanely expensive lifestyle that my wife barely tolerates. I burn
money, and that calls for huge amounts of cash flow. But, I also have a
ludicrous image of myself that keeps me from truly cashing in. You can
see my problem. Woe is me. So the next morning, I call up Jon Landau (or
as I refer to him, "the American Paul McGuinness"), and I say, "Did you
see that iPod thing?" and he says, "Yes." And he says, "And I hear they
didn't take any money." And I said, "They didn't take any money?" and he
says, "No." I said, "Smart, wily Irish guys. Anybody - anybody - can do
an ad and take the money. But to do the ad and not take the money...
that's smart. That's wily." I say, "Jon, I want you to call up Bill
Gates or whoever is behind this thing and float this: a red, white and
blue iPod signed by Bruce 'The Boss' Springsteen. Now remember, no
matter how much money he offers, don't take it!" At any rate, after that
evening for the next month or so, I hear emanating from my lovely
14-year-old son's room, day after day, down the hall calling out in a
voice that has recently dropped very low: uno, dos, tres, catorce. The
correct math for rock and roll. Thank you, boys.

  • *waves*

    If anybody out there is looking for somewhere to chat about U2 now the @U2 forum is gone... this place still exists. :p

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