I rushed to the record store only to find that "October" the band's second LP , which features "Gloria" was not out yet. But the guy at The Music Box in Newport, R.I. told em I could buy their first CD "Boy" which had been out for just under a year. I bought it without a second thought. Later at home as the record (yes vinyl) spun and the urgency blasted from my cheap 1970s Emerson Stereo I was blown away. First there was "I Will Follow" a call to arms I had heard a local cover band do (and thought it was an original.) Then "Out Of Control" and "Stories For Boys" both of which I related to. The second to the last track "The Electric Co" was my favorite with it's staccato guitar and pulsing bass. With all respect to The Clash who had broken up, this was my new favorite band.
Vocally Bono went from boy to man with Edge perfected his signature guitar tone. Although "October"failed to produce any hits (that would some soon enough) it would be a defining moment for the band both preventing the dreaded Sophomore Slump and prepping an ever growing fan base for the global domination that was waiting right around the corner with the band's next release--"War."
My two favorite tracks on the disc remain "Seconds" with Larry Mullen jr's machine gun fire drumming driving the band to the brink and the instant sing along classic "40." For years that followed that song would be U2's live show ender, sung by thousands of fans and we marched into the street. After one show in Boston I remember groups of fans singing it all the way out of the venue, into the street, into the subway and off into the night. "War" was thinking mans rock. If you need a refresher in why you love the band "War" is an amazing starting point.
I can't tell you how many times I sang the chorus to that song out loud at the at the top of my lungs. Of course years later, I must admit, I had no idea why the boy was called Trampoline and as far as "Party Girl" goes? I still have no idea what she wants. This Cd remains a testament to what a live album should be.
From the epic wail of "Pride (In The Name Of Love)" to the Hypnotic "Bad" and the driving confusion of "Wire" each song is a new level of pain and joy. The sound is big arena rock with a whole lot of flag waving.
My favorite U2 song of all time--"A Sort Of Homecoming" opens the album. Setting the pace for the most well thought out U2 release. There isn't a bad track here. Bono preaches without sounding preachy. Something he has long since forgotten how to do. These songs make you feel as if music can change the world. They inspired me to learn about Martin Luther King. To care about the work of Amnesty International. To look at the world outside of my neighborhood and wonder how I could help right the wrongs and make things better. Can music change the world? Now that I'm older and more cynical I would say probably not. But "The Unforgettable Fire" made me feel like it could. And for me it was the last U2 album that was really mine. After mega success can knocking with "Joshua Tree" it seemed every knucklehead was a fan. Of course many of those thought that CD was their debut.
This album was the first time I also got to see U2 live in concert. Everything about that show was mystical and a memorable. From waiting in line overnight, sleeping outside the Swansea Mall in the snow to buy tickets (there was a time before the internet) to a camera magically falling on us from the higher levels as we sat in out 12th row floor seats. I would see the band a dozen plus times after this tour (including the Rose Bowl gig) but none of them could compare to my first time on "The Unforgettable Fire" tour.
In recent years Universal Music has done a brilliant job reissuing all of these albums (Except "Wide Awake") as deluxe 2 disc editions including tons of bonus material. All of which are readily available in stores and online
As U2 prepares to unleash their latest album (said to be produced by Danger Mouse) on the waiting world it's nice to take a look back at the roots of how the band became the biggest musical act in the world. Go back to re-listen to "War," "Boy" and "The Unforgettable Fire" again and you will appreciate U2 all over again.