@U2 Forum

U2 => The Music and Lyrics => Topic started by: zooguitar on December 23, 2019, 08:17:53 PM

Title: It's Debbie, Not Joey
Post by: zooguitar on December 23, 2019, 08:17:53 PM
I recently picked up the remaster of Blondie's Autoamerican album at my local used record shop. For casual fans, this is the one with with "Rapture" and "The Tide Is High". The 2001 reissue, which I picked up, also happens to include a version of the single "Call Me", which came out earlier in the same year that Autoamerican came out.

Upon listening to this classic album, it dawned on me: U2 heavily borrowed from "Call Me" and "Rapture" for Songs of Innocence. In particular, "Call Me" is the obvious influence for "The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)" and "The Crystal Ballroom" is a tribute to "Rapture".

This isn't the first time U2 has had dissonance between their lyrics and the music associated with it. "Angel of Harlem", a song recorded in Sun Studios that musically evokes Wilson Pickett and the Stax/Volt house sound, is about discovering classic jazz artists on a NY radio station. "The Miracle" seemed to replicate this dynamic, as the music recalls nothing of the Ramones.

In "The Crystal Ballroom", U2 doesn't stitch a reference to another band onto its Blondie tribute. But it echos "Rapture" so much, I wonder if there is a version in the U2 vault featuring Bono rapping, a la Debbie Harry.

Mind you, I enjoy these U2 songs very much. I think SOI got a bit of a bum rap, and has stronger tunes than people remember (my personal playlist of SOI includes TCB). But I wonder if these songs, in particular "The Miracle", might have resonated more if the band had acknowledged the Blondie influence in them. Blondie was already established when this album came out (a month after Boy). But I'm sure that Autoamerican made a big impression on them, especially when U2 played NY for the first time in December 1980. Autoamerican was probably being played in a lot of NY clubs U2 had to be taking in on their first ever trip to the US. Instead of a story about the power of the Ramones, I wonder if there is a more interesting song to be sung to this music about the band that was so influential on U2 that they inspired 2 songs on SOI?

Title: Re: It's Debbie, Not Joey
Post by: Tortuga on December 24, 2019, 06:14:35 AM
I donít find much similarity between the two pairs of tracks you mention.  There are some phrasing similarities between ďCall MeĒ and ďThe MiracleĒ but its is so slight that I think its presumption to assume U2 would have been consciously aware of it.  Rapture and Crystal Ballroom donít really sound alike other than both having disco backing tracks but so do hundreds or thousands of other songs.  I think I know where you are coming from.  I hear similarities between two pieces of music I know very well all the time.  Then I play it for my wife and she doesnít hear it at all.  Then I play it for friends and they agree with my wife.  And then I realize that what Iím hearing is there but its subtle and I could probably find a hundred or so other songs equally similar....so its probably not conscious on the part of the creator of the newer song.
Title: Re: It's Debbie, Not Joey
Post by: zooguitar on December 24, 2019, 08:39:34 AM
Hmm, I played these 4 songs in an office of mostly under 40 year olds, and they all thought the similarities were obvious once they heard the songs back to back. TCB's "Everyone but you" line is sung in a very similar way to how the chorus is sung in "Rapture", and the song also ends with an escalating guitar outro. You can really hear the similarities between "The Miracle" and "Call Me" when you compare the opening riffs of CM to the pre-chorus and chorus of TM, with the rolling drum beat and chords similarly falling on the 3rd and 4th beats.

U2's mission statement for SOI was scripted well in advance, but making a new album about their teenage influences filtered through modern production seemed like a redundant idea; isn't that what they'd been doing since Boy, after all? Like all of U2's concept records going back to Achtung Baby, the end result is often different from the original concept (Achtung Baby ended up having more industrial rock influences than the Manchester scene that was hyped in the original demos; NLOTH's Morroccan hype devolved into nothing more than the kind of "world music" adult contemporary pop Sting and Peter Gabriel became too good at in the 90s).

U2 is famous for having absorbed Bowie, the Stones, Zeppelin, the Clash, and Joy Division before they first played together at Mount Temple. You don't really hear any of those sounds/influences on SOI, and that's why I thought the concept was a little forced. Given that the 2 Blondie songs I referenced above came out the same time as Boy, I thought it would have been more interesting for U2 to write about how they were actively influenced by New York music after their first band visit. U2's first trip to the US was to NY in December 1980, and they were in NY when John Lennon was killed. Historically speaking, you could make the argument that U2's "innocence" as a band was truly shattered during that first trip to NY. In 1981, U2 didn't seem to absorb any underground NY music of the time into their repertoire; October sounds like it was written while traversing cloudy Western Europe backroads. But after hearing these 2 songs through the lens of their similarities to Blondie songs which came out when their debut album did, I feel there was a hint of a more interesting story that didn't get told.

After all, Blondie was part of the same CBGB new wave scene that Talking Heads was from. TH's last collaboration with Eno (Remain In Light) also came out the same time as Autoamerican and Boy. So it's likely that U2 was listening to quite a bit of the New York scene other than The Ramones after they arrived in NY. In fact, U2 pursued Eno as much for his reputation built with TH as it was with Eno.
Title: It's Debbie, Not Joey
Post by: Tortuga on December 24, 2019, 11:26:43 AM
I agree with all your discussion on the influences.  I just donít hear anything in those two songs that make me think THOSE are the songs they were thinking of when they made CB and The Miracle.  They sound influenced by that era but that is about as far as it goes for me. But Iím not a big Blondie fan and Iím sure I would notice less thannsomeone thatís heard those songs alot.  I was a big Kansas fan and I hear ďKansasĒ in alot of music!

Great discussion.  If I wasnít busy with holiday preps I would like to dig in more.  Hope you have a great holiday!
Title: Re: It's Debbie, Not Joey
Post by: Dali on December 28, 2019, 02:18:18 PM
I remember reading some fans comment that "Crystal Ballroom" was totally Roxy Music.
Title: Re: It's Debbie, Not Joey
Post by: zooguitar on December 29, 2019, 03:53:43 PM
Happy Holidays, @Tortuga (sorry was traveling for the holidays and just saw this)!

@Dali: Roxy Music were one of the originators of glam rock (along with Bowie and T-Rex, among others). Simple Minds' first album, Life In A Day, is pretty good sample of how the post punks were influenced by Roxy Music.

FYI: CNN had a great 80s doc on the music of the 80s, and they pointed out that the difference between the UK post punk scenes is that the UK artists respected disco as a legitimate genre, leading to Joy Division and New Order's popularity when they incorporated disco elements in their early sound. It is a distinction that is a valid counterpoint to any who think U2's club culture experiments in the 90s were contrived or came out of thin air.
Title: Re: It's Debbie, Not Joey
Post by: laoghaire on December 29, 2019, 05:44:31 PM
It's a cool idea, thanks for sharing. I will give those back-to-back listens and see.

I'm with Tortuga overall - though. I don't doubt for a minute that you are hearing something, but often some piece of a song jumps out at us in a way that may be bigger than for other people. God knows I hear weird links between certain songs and I think it says more about me than the two songs.

Hey, I like Kansas. "It's a figment of your imagination." I saw them in Milwaukee in, I guess it was 1994.
Title: Re: It's Debbie, Not Joey
Post by: Tortuga on December 29, 2019, 09:44:38 PM
Ahh really?  Perfect Lover?  I donít think that really qualifies as Kansas!  ;)

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Title: Re: It's Debbie, Not Joey
Post by: laoghaire on December 30, 2019, 08:06:43 AM
Laoghaire: Hey, we can bond over Kansas. Maybe I'll cite something other than THE KANSAS SONG or THE OTHER KANSAS SONG.