Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Killing Bono

How much does the Internet hate U2 right now? Let me count the ways....

So since every other blogger has beaten me to it, I won't continue to flog the proverbial dead horse that has been U2's career for the best part of quarter of a century.

Instead, I'm going to give them some credit.

U2 were a school band. They weren't called U2 then. They were Feedback, then The Hype,  but it was the same four lads from Mount Temple School, Dublin who are now the multimillionaires who are now foisting their latest album on your iTunes account.
And despite the feeling that I lost touch with U2 sometime after Achtung Baby, I am in awe of the fact that these 4 guys have stayed together since they were teenagers.  This was beautifully articulated in the book and film, Killing Bono, which you should read and watch right now. Go ahead, I'll wait.

I can't  think of another band who started out as a school band, never changed their line up and ended  up as global superstars. Can you?

It was another place and another time for sure, but when I work with school bands these days I occasionally get glimpse of what might be the future. 
For a start, kids today are a lot more proficient in guitar and vocals than they were, even ten years ago.
Well in two words, You Tube.
If you want to learn how to play a riff or guitar solo, chances are that someone has posted a tutorial on YouTube. If not, the tab will definitely be out there.
For non guitarists, tab, short for tablature, is a form of music notation that shows  a guitarist where to place his/her fingers on the fretboard.

Fun Fact! Tablature developed in the medieval period, predating conventional notation by a few hundred years.

Similarly, aspiring vocalists today no longer have to wait until their song comes on the radio to sing along. Every song, ever recorded is available 24/7 and backing tracks for any popular song are a click away. The proliferation of TV singing contests over the past 15 years has to be a contributing factor too.
The illusion is that anybody with a great voice can become a sensation and perhaps, kids today are buying into that, listening to the judges and actually trying to sing. I'm not a fan of these shows at all, but maybe, just maybe, they are teaching a new generation of singers that you have to get the basics of performance and pitch right. 

 In the last year I've been involved with a project that aims to encourage great singing called the IT Factor. It's a talent contest, for sure, but the team at Te Aroha Noa who have put this together have found a way to nurture talent too.
Here's a clip of the 2013 semi finalists recording a Christmas staple and getting some studio experience at the same time.

I'm in awe of these kids. At the same age I wouldn't dare to sing out loud for fear of ridicule. When I was at Intermediate School,  being good at singing was not something to be proud of.

But around the same time my ears began to change. Having been consumed by the frothy pop of Wham! for much of 1984 and 85, I turned on the TV for our weekly music video show RTR, to hear this ethereal guitar chime. Then the drums came in. I was mesmerized. Then the vocal... "Ice... Your only rivers run cold..." I was completely hooked.

One of the first songs I ever learned was Bad, from the Unforgettable Fire.
I bought that album on LP and listened to it obsessively on my Dad's stereo system and headphones. By the time The Joshua Tree came out, I had my own ancient stereogram to play it on and a cheap electric guitar to play along with it. 
Within a few months I was in my first band. Although, funnily enough, we never played any U2 covers and even to this date, I cant recall ever playing a U2 song in a band. 

And though we've parted company some 20 years ago,  those 4 kids from a Dublin high school are still the inspiration for who I am today.

And for that, I am eternally grateful.

For the free album on iTunes, not so much.

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