JulieLeung.com: a life told in tidepools

pictures and stories from the water’s edge

JulieLeung.com: a life told in tidepools header image 2

Aural history: U2 and me too

January 21st, 2005 · No Comments

Both Liz Lawley and DrBacchus on the same day this week posted about memories that came to mind while listening to music. Liz commented:

Very strange, how a song can do that. Send you tumbling backwards in time, back to a place that you didn’t know you even remembered.

I confess I don’t often listen to music. Perhaps I grew up with enough cacophony that I learned to like quiet when I could have it. Maybe it’s the way I’m wired.

But from time to time I try to listen to new albums. My strategy is to borrow them from the library first before purchasing. This fall I was curious to hear the new U2 CD so I checked the library catalog. I couldn’t find a listing for How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb but I did find one for U2’s Best of 1980 – 1990 album.

I like U2 but I hesitate to call myself a fan: I haven’t heard half of their albums. I liked them in high school, somehow stopped listening to them (and most music) in college and then discovered them again a lifetime later with All That You Can’t Leave Behind. Ted brought War and The Joshua Tree with him into our home together; I figured that was a good sign.

Listening to the 1980’s album took me on a trip.

When Pride (In the Name of Love) played, I felt myself riding on a metro bus on the way home from middle school. We sat solitaire, one per row, wasted seats, spread out across the bus, as if we were afraid to be close to each other, because we were. A kid sitting behind me was listening to U2, playing Pride loud on his Walkman, case in his hand. Someone else asked him, “So what’s that song about?”
“I don’t know,” he replied, empty expression on his face.
How could you not know what Pride was about?! Wasn’t there even a picture of Martin Luther King Jr. in the liner notes? I’m addicted to lyrics, always trying to decipher what is being said. This was my first realization that some people listen to music and don’t know what it means.

With or Without You transported me to high school and to that excruciating-yet-exhilarating feeling of unrequited crush. Twice that year I had intense feelings for a guy and as Bono sang of agony I too sang along inside, aching I can’t live with or without you. It turned out each time I ended up living life without rather than with the guy I wanted, but in retrospect it was better to go without. After all, had I become connected to one of these classmates, I might never have dated Ted. It’s been years since I even flirted in the world of infatuations, but as I listen to that song the emotions return and pictures with them, as if I had re-entered high school and the late ’80’s. Oh no!( Like Ross Rader , I felt old reading this)

Now the song I relate to from the 1980-1990 U2 album is I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. Hum the melody and I see images from MTV, excavated from the archives in my mind. I don’t remember when I last viewed the video. But how could a sixteen year old appreciate a song about searching? Since then I’ve lived another lifetime, in three separate regions, experienced a range of relationships, and explored different paths of work, family and faith. But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for. In some sense I hope I never do. I hope I’m always searching for more. I hope I’m always hungry. Now I hope I always ache.

It’s amazing how a tune can turn into a veritable time machine. Where does the music end and the memory begin? Writing this piece I remembered Dave Winer’s audio blog post from last October: That memory does not belong to the RIAA ( my quote of him noted here).

Music is social, connecting us through time and people. Reading Suw Charman’s posts on Duran Duran culture reveals how these bonds endure through decades. We lack a common core of literature but it is our music that seems to make us a generation.

And it is also music that redeems us, saves us even, carrying us afloat through emotions on a life preserver. Music validates our invisible struggles. Music itself can be a support system.

So comes the power of mp3s burned into our memory, writing aural history. And I’m grateful for U2 and the connections they’ve given me, both solitary and social. ‘Cause sometimes you can’t make it on your own.

Tags: culture

0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment