The other day I was out for a walk, with my MP3 player on. I was listening to Stay by U2 when it occurred to me that - gasp! shock horror! - it is 2008 (yes, I know, it's well and truly 2008, being September and all).
The reason I stopped in my tracks is because I was hit by the revelation that I have been a U2 fan for 20 years now. TWENTY YEARS. It's amazing how things like that creep up and tap you on the shoulder every now and then.
My worship of this band started in the long, hot summer holidays of 1988. I'd finished Year 10 and had the hormones to prove it. Which meant I spent a lot of that six weeks in my bedroom with the curtains drawn and the door firmly shut.
This was about the time that U2 released Desire and - whoa - I'd never heard anything so fantastic, so addictively good. At first I taped the song from the radio, as you do - or as you did back then. I'd get up at the crack of dawn to watch the Top 50 (or was it 20? Can't remember) chart songs on Rage.
Anything for a glimpse of that rock god who will forever surpass all rock gods: Bono. The black and white film clip for Desire is thus permanently etched in my mind. Bono caresses the microphone stand; the lovely Larry Mullen Jr, in all his sleeveless-top handsomeness, belts those drums; Adam Clayton looks like ... well, the man I want to marry most in the whole world at that time; The Edge works that guitar like there's no tomorrow.
One three-minute glimpse of U2 would make my week.
I moved on to purchasing the cassette of Rattle & Hum from the local Retravision store. I then proceeded to play it over and over and over and OVER. (I still have the cassette - which is quite astonishing; it ought to be worn out, believe me.) That summer I played Rattle & Hum morning, noon and night (especially at night, with the light out and volume on low so my parents wouldn't hear it).
I would close my eyes and visualise Bono singing Angel of Harlem with a choir; I'd dream (and daydream) that the lyrics were for me and me alone. That one day we would meet and our lives would be forever changed when Bono realised it was me he still hadn't found (until then!).
Oh yes, then the scrapbooks began. Any morsel of news, any tidbit about Bono and the boys, even articles about Ireland in general were meticulously cut out and pasted in. I had some experience in doing this - having collated a similar scrapbook about Boy George (my very first crush!) some years before.
It escalated from there to getting a subscription to the fanzine, the copies of which I still have (unless my mum has thrown them out - I hope not!) and to sending the band members birthday cards and taking a birthday cake to school in their honour. I'm serious.
One of the biggest thrills of my teenage years was when I actually got a reply to one of my birthday cards - from Adam (well, let's face it, from a staff member at the U2 management office). It said he had actually been in Australia on that particular birthday. How bittersweet that was - if only I'd known...
Mind you, a farm outside Coonabarabran is a looooooong way from Sydney and, well, anywhere you're remotely likely to find a rock star hanging out. Still, I could dream.
All this happened and then I experienced an epiphany: the band had other albums. So I set about purchasing them one at a time (limited pocket money, limited range at the local store) and buying all the cassingles (remember them?). I do mean ALL.
These days I am still a fan (of course!!!!). I will be for all my life. But today the band's music carries much more meaning for me than it did when I was a 16 year old. During a particularly low point earlier this year, Bono's lyrics from Walk On (How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb) were imbued with such meaning and resonance that, gosh, I could almost say they redeemed me:
And if the darkness is to keep us apart
And if the daylight feels like it's a long way off
And if your glass heart should crack
And for a second you turn back
Oh no, be strong
Walk on, walk on
What you got they can’t steal it
No they can’t even feel it
Walk on, walk on...
Stay safe tonight
I played that song over and over. Crying every time.
Today, I hear and understand (hopefully) the spiritual in the songs. I still fancy Bono, sure. But I now know that he is the godliest (is that a real word - doubt it) man I have ever encountered.
So, Bono, thanks for 20 sensational years.