Achtung! Baby and Me Are 20 Years Older

The Zoo in Zoo-Octan or Zoooctan (because Yahoo wouldn’t allow a hyphenation or punctuation back in the day) is from the “ZooTV Tour”. “ZooTV” is the mind-blowing, ridiculous, over-powering multimedia circus that supported U2’s Achtung Baby tour. If you know this, you know me. And twenty years down the road, Achtung Baby is two decades old, U2 is still the biggest rock band in the world and I’m married with three kids to the girl I was met in hospital during this period of my life.

Achtung Baby is arguably U2’s finest work, but what’s unique about it is how different it is to anything and everything else they did before or have done since. It was also borne out of the period where the famous Berlin Wall would come down, with the group themselves in Berlin and how they were famously close to breaking up themselves due to in-fighting.

Then as they’ve testified, the song “One” arrived.

Twenty years ago, I was growing up like most young adults, conflicted, insecure, basically a wise ass. Thinking that black and white photography was the way to see the world. That “The Joshua Tree” was the gospel truth of music. And trying to make sense of all this new multimedia nonsense – computers, satellite broadcasting and Magic Bullet theories that were being taught at my university’s Communication classes.

Then the album “Achtung Baby” arrived.

My best friend, who introduced me to U2 through “The Joshua Tree” and “Rattle & Hum” heard it and hated it, thinking they (U2) had sold out. I’d like to think that I was a little more knowledgeable then because I was taking all these classes dealing with Marshall McLuhan’s post-modernism: “No, no, no. They haven’t sold out. It’s a con job. There’s another layer.”

And there was. There still is. Life has many layers.

I’ve tried to live much of my spiritual life trying to straighten out those layers. Always tried to be “sincere”  like “The Joshua Tree.” And always had limited success. I’ve gone so far down the road. Only listening to Christian music, only having Christian friends, bringing my best mates to church – but I could never sustain it. I’m not one of those people who can live their life within the ecosystem of the church.

But love moves in Mysterious Ways. There is faith, and there is the church. But grace abounds everywhere. And blessings aren’t just for the ones that knell.

This is why Achtung Baby has always held a special place in my heart. That beauty in the chaos. The belief that in life’s contradictions, there’s hope not despair. It still means a lot to me, that the group that wrote songs like “Gloria”, “40”, “Pride” and “Where The Streets Have No Name” would go so far out to sing about Judas (Until The End Of The World), about television (Even Better Than The Real Thing) and cross-dress for all the world to see (One).  All this under the magnificent layers of LEDs, suspended East German Trabants, and over-the-top characters like the devil himself – Macphisto. All this was and still is nonsense to those who take Achtung Baby at face value. But the album, this amazing tour – like life, always has deeper layers, should one be inclined to explore.

I miss my life back then. I miss the young internet, the promises of multimedia and the hope of Capitalism. This was the end of the cold war and this before the fear of terrorism. I miss the days of The Edge dancing and Larry Mullen singing; of Adam smoking on stage and Bono teaching me that you don’t lose your soul by making fun of the devil. My faith is stronger than that. Life has many, many layers – it’s okay to have fun, okay to doubt, okay to ask questions.

Let’s end with ONE more thing. One International. The Campaign is backed by 11 organizations including Mercy Corp, DATA, CARE, Save The Children and others and has with associations / ties to the Buffett Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It is dedicated to fighting extreme poverty and preventable diseases particularly in Africa. Much of it is fronted and backed by Bono and highlighted by many high profile individuals including U2 particularly during their live performances during their last two major tours.

It’s a good initiative. And you can find out much more about it here.

But you don’t have to look very far for where One International got it’s name and inspiration from. Such beauty from such chaos.

“I dreamed that I saw Dali, on a supermarket trolley. He was trying to throw his arms around the world. And a woman needs a man, like a fish needs a bicycle; I was trying to throw my arms around the world.”


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