Author Topic: Alternate History: Where would you change the U2 timeline?  (Read 2526 times)

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Offline Achtung Bubba

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Alternate History: Where would you change the U2 timeline?
« on: February 24, 2017, 02:18:29 PM »
In a different thread The Exile makes an excellent point:

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Yeh U2 "where did it all go wrong"...

As much as I hate the album, I don't begrudge U2 making ATYCLB. After a decade of avante garde indulgence it was a move that made sense. But then from 2000 onward they have become obsessed with riding that wave of cultural approval with results that have been sometimes questionable and sometimes disastrous.

Their legacy would be much better if they had simply stepped down from their pedestal rather than being told to, or being knocked off it.

Though I quite like ATYCLB, I agree with the basic point, and it leads to an interesting thought experiment:

How would you change U2's history, at a single moment in the band's career?

The question might be particularly interesting if you're not entirely happy with how things have unfolded for the band, and the answer would produce something that would be recognizable to readers of the genre called You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login, where, for example "The Man in the High Castle" is set in a world where the Allies lost World War II.  In that TV series, the United States was subsequently conquered and divided by the Axis Powers.

An alternate timeline would emerge from changing the band's history at one key point, and that imagined timeline would be as interesting to me as the change in history itself.

I have my own alt-timeline, which I'll cover briefly describe below.



Offline WookieeWarrior10

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Re: Alternate History: Where would you change the U2 timeline?
« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2017, 02:26:35 PM »
How about after ATYCLB, U2 go ahead and "dream it all up again", releasing a mature-sounding album with songs a la Stateless or Never Let Me Go? HTDAAB never happens, yet they have still saved their asses from falling apart as a band by making ATYCLB.

Following this, we get a more avant-garde version of NLOTH with far less polish. U2 continue to sporadically release albums and EPs every few years until they feel like it is time to call it quits.

Offline Thunder Peel

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Re: Alternate History: Where would you change the U2 timeline?
« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2017, 02:35:12 PM »
I wouldn't really change what they released but rather the amount of output. If they could release an album every two or three years I'd be thrilled, with intermittent tours in-between. They've wasted so much time over the last 15 years.

Offline coolz481

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Re: Alternate History: Where would you change the U2 timeline?
« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2017, 03:05:43 PM »
I LOVED the Vertigo Tour shows - especially the early ones that brought back Electric Co and An Cat Dubh / Into the Heart - and wish they had channeled that energy into a quick follow-up album instead of settling into that interminable wait until No Line on the Horizon.

Offline Achtung Bubba

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Re: Alternate History: Where would you change the U2 timeline?
« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2017, 03:32:09 PM »
As with The Exile, I think All That You Can't Leave Behind did make sense for the band, but in hindsight the album raised the question, "now what?"  Or, if we're going to quote from a b-side, it's not "Where Did It All Go Wrong?" It's the single lyric from "Endless Deep."

Where do we go from here?

They had gone from thesis to antithesis and finally to synthesis; from post-punk and Americana to industrial and techno and finally to mature pop.  Their tracks ranged from abstract tone poems to very tightly crafted songs, from the heights of ecstasy to the depths of sorrow, and from stadium rockers to the most intimate bedroom music.

I'm not sure there was much more new ground to cover for a band that was always trying to innovate and look forward -- and what ground there was, even less was realistically within their reach if one accounts for the permanent strands within the band's personality, the musical abilities of each band member, the commercial ambitions of the band, and perhaps especially the changing scene in music.

In terms of globally televised, single-concert accomplishments, I'm not sure one could imagine any greater summit than the first post-9/11 Super Bowl halftime show, certainly not for a rock band of U2's age when Bono already recognized that he was "last of the rock stars."  Red Rocks and Live Aid and POPMart Sarajevo and then that Super Bowl show: where do we go from here?

--

In 1993, Billy Joel released his last rock album, but he had performed a few times since then.  No one would have known for certain that he would do this at the time, but he's been extensively touring on his back catalog since 2006.

With All That You Can't Leave Behind, U2 was in much the same position as Billy Joel when he released River of Dreams.

Billy Joel:  12 studio albums over 23 years, 1971-1993

U2: 10 studio albums over 21 years, 1980-2000

Maybe the Piano Man blazed a trail that U2 should have considered.

--

In my mind, here is where the alternate timeline would diverge from ours.

February 27th, 2002.

Consider the last three months for the band.

  • December 2, they wrap the top tour of 2001, grossing $143 million and playing to more than 2 million people.
  • January 22, they release the Target-exclusive EP, U2 7, a kind of bookend to their first EP, U2 Three.
  • February 3, they have their tremendously moving post-9/11 performance during the Super Bowl halftime, watched by some 85 million Americans; the crowd-pleasing highlights are "Streets" and "Beautiful Day," the very popular singles and opening tracks from both their 15-year-old blockbuster and their most recent album.

Whether they had any inkling before hand, the night of February 22nd was shaping up to be a stellar night, the second consecutive rousing success for U2 at the Grammys.  Between the two years, they would win double their number of Grammy wins, scoring 7 awards out of a then-total of 14 -- and not only would their album win a Grammy, but literally every single off that album would win.

  • Record of the Year, 2001: Beautiful Day
  • Song of the Year, 2001: Beautiful Day
  • Best Rock Performance, Duo/Group, 2001: Beautiful Day
  • Record of the Year, 2002: Walk On
  • Best Pop Performance, Duo/Group, 2002: Stuck in a Moment
  • Best Rock Performance, Duo/Group, 2002: Elevation
  • Best Rock Album, 2002: All That You Can't Leave Behind

Record of the Year is one of the "big four," and if I'm correct, it's the last award announced.  Having already won three for a night Grammys for a night that would otherwise belong to Alicia Keys, the band could have been prepared for that last award, and they might have had some "inside information."

Perhaps they discussed the idea at some length before, in the days between the Super Bowl and the Grammys, but regardless, the band decides to accept the award with an announcement that stops the presses.

Maybe Bono says something about dreaming it all again -- or maybe, "We dreamed out loud, and we've accomplished more than we could have ever dreamed."

Maybe he brings up the line about reapplying for the world's best band:  "We reapplied for the job, and we've done all that one band could do."

Maybe he simply says, "I'm someone who always seems to have something to say, but you've left me speechless -- and as a band, we've said all that we can say."

"You certainly haven't seen the last of Larry, Adam, Edge, and myself -- and you might not have seen the last of U2, but we should take a bow.  Good night, and God bless you."

--

After that, the band that is named U2 releases the occasional new music -- a song for a soundtrack, like "Ordinary Love;" or a reworked song for a rerelease, like "Blow Your House Down" -- but never more than a four-song EP.

In 2005, the band releases a book and accompanying compilation, U2 By U2, which takes a look at the band's entire history as an active, ongoing concern.

Between 2007 and 2011, the band also releases re-mastered, deluxe editions of most of their older albums.

The band members work on their own projects -- Broadway musicals for Bono and Edge, acting for Larry -- and the four work together in various projects under other names.  One such project is Passengers where the original Passengers (U2 & Eno) rope in Daniel Lanois to release a single album originally planned as two EP's:  titled Daylight & Darkness, the 2009 album doesn't make too many waves on the charts beyond its one single, the atmospheric "Fez - Being Born."

And the band emerges about once a decade for a massive, wildly popular stadium tour on the strength of their old work.  Between 2009 and 2011, they have the 360 Tour.  Along with an earlier Passengers track, "Your Blue Room," the occasional Daylight & Darkness track appears, but especially later legs of the tour focus on Achtung Baby to celebrate the album's 20th anniversary.

Then, in 2017, the band announces a stadium tour explicitly celebrating The Joshua Tree's 30th anniversary.

With the Passengers work and other side projects, U2 fans continue to follow the band members' forays into art, sometimes the esoteric and sometimes very accessible pop art. 

Inspired by doing the original theme for "The Batman" cartoon, Edge writes an album of instrumental music.  Bono writes poetry and records an album of pop standards (it's never acknowledged, but fans all recognize the inside joke, that he sings as Macphisto).  Larry gets a small but important role in an HBO noir series.  Adam joins Anthony Bourdain on one of his travelogue shows.

And there remains no doubt that U2 was the greatest rock band at least of its era, and perhaps for all time.

Boy. October. War. Unforgettable Fire. Joshua Tree. Rattle & Hum. Achtung Baby. Zooropa. Pop. All That You Can't Leave Behind.

The discography remains untouchable and untouched.

Offline Achtung Bubba

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Re: Alternate History: Where would you change the U2 timeline?
« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2017, 03:37:11 PM »
I appreciate the feedback! (No pun intended.)

Looking at what I just posted, I do think that all the re-releases and the coffee table book and now the nostalgia stadium tour would have been much less divisive if the band had been effectively in retirement.  I think that the stature of the band has been diminished by their last three overcooked, underwhelming albums and especially their obvious ambition for continued relevance:  cut that out of the picture, and much of the last fifteen years is tolerable.

Online an tha

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Re: Alternate History: Where would you change the U2 timeline?
« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2017, 03:51:36 PM »
Just go and delete everything post Pop and you have the greatest band ever in my book....sadly what happened from 2000 onwards is just for me sad...the reasons are complicated and deep but the end result is for me really sad...

I find u2's music post Pop mainly ordinary - very ordinary, could literally be any middling non descript pop rock band knocking it out....and that isn't the u2 I fell in love with - they made extraordinary music that had a unique feel, atmosphere and sound.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2017, 04:05:52 AM by an tha »

Offline ShankAsu

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Re: Alternate History: Where would you change the U2 timeline?
« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2017, 03:53:13 PM »
I'd go back to their recent history and see a release of SOE early in 2016 with a follow-up tour immediately following.

Offline giggmann

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Re: Alternate History: Where would you change the U2 timeline?
« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2017, 04:05:05 PM »
I would change the bit where they moved their business from Ireland to the Netherlands. It dented their good public image somewhat and I wasn't comfortable personally with the whole situation.

Offline eddyjedi

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Re: Alternate History: Where would you change the U2 timeline?
« Reply #9 on: February 24, 2017, 04:16:50 PM »
I would go and review no line with them before release and tell them how sh** some of the songs are. I'd also include EBW winter and Soon and it would be one of the great U2 albums. Redefining their career.

Offline WookieeWarrior10

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Re: Alternate History: Where would you change the U2 timeline?
« Reply #10 on: February 24, 2017, 04:48:45 PM »
Actually, to revise my last post... I'd take ATYCLB off too. I don't think that album was particularly necessary in order to keep the band afloat. That album could have bombed and U2 would still be making music.

Everything else still stands, though. U2 need to act their age and make mature music, for themselves (like Radiohead does).

Offline JaraSangASongAWeapon

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Re: Alternate History: Where would you change the U2 timeline?
« Reply #11 on: February 24, 2017, 05:01:21 PM »
Continue in the AB-Zooropa-Passengers-Pop vein of experimenting rather than the play it safe-ness of ATYCLB and HTDAAB.

Not make songs like Elevation, Vertigo, GOYB, Miracle of Joey Ramone/SFS.

Go back and listen to October/TUF/b side of TJT. That's when U2 was at their boldest in the early part of their career.

Stop f'ing around with Davos and Munich. Think Hanover Quay and Electric Lady Studios.


Offline Kmama07

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Re: Alternate History: Where would you change the U2 timeline?
« Reply #12 on: February 24, 2017, 07:18:30 PM »
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Continue in the AB-Zooropa-Passengers-Pop vein of experimenting rather than the play it safe-ness of ATYCLB and HTDAAB.

Not make songs like Elevation, Vertigo, GOYB, Miracle of Joey Ramone/SFS.

Go back and listen to October/TUF/b side of TJT. That's when U2 was at their boldest in the early part of their career.

Stop f'ing around with Davos and Munich. Think Hanover Quay and Electric Lady Studios.
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Offline PopMart_1997

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Re: Alternate History: Where would you change the U2 timeline?
« Reply #13 on: February 24, 2017, 10:37:53 PM »
I already said this on Twitter on atU2's post, but I'd start with after the PopMart tour (just to appease certain fans... I actually like the true timeline as is.)

From what I remember, All That You Can't Leave Behind was hailed as a great U2 album when it was released, and the Elevation tour sold out its tickets and was well received. I wonder what's changed people's minds about it almost 17 years later?

Offline mrsamrocks2

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Re: Alternate History: Where would you change the U2 timeline?
« Reply #14 on: February 24, 2017, 11:00:31 PM »
As much as I understand the argument that ATYCLB should have been their last album from a legacy point of view, I think it would be sad to not have songs like COBL, MOS or EBW. I know I'm probably in the minority here, but I really like their post 2000 albums and I think it's the case of much of their younger fans who are below 30 like myself. Most people my age who love U2 don't like them because of Bad or The Fly, but because of songs like COBL, SFS, BD and EBW.