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A St. Patrick's Day U2 Salute
by psychologist Dr. Bruce L. Thiessen, aka Dr. B.L.T.

You could have ruled the world

But you served a higher purpose
You could have ruled the world
But you served a higher king
You changed the face of songs
With a message of salvation
Now I call you a name
That only you deserve

The Irish Beatles
U2 made such a mark
The Irish Beatles
You led us through the dark
Your sound surrounds us
And makes our spirits say
The Irish Beatles
Have come to save the day..."
Extracted from: "The Irish Beatles?
Words and music by Dr. BLT, (c) 2004

U2 started with the vision of a lone drummer. In contrast, though the first four letters in the Fab Four's name spell Beat, with a capital "B," the Beatles started out with no regular drummer at all. Yet both bands ended up dancing to the beat of their own drummer rather than conforming to the ho hum drum beat of top 40 radio. Both bands paid their dues in the early days. The Beatles, (who started out as John, Paul, George, Stu, and Pete) paid their dues in Hamburg, Germany, in front of noisy, perpetually demanding, rude audiences. At that point, Pete Best's Best wasn't good enough, Ringo was on his way and Beatlemania was an accident waiting to happen on the Ed Sullivan Show in America.

U2 would never inspire the hype and hysteria that surrounded the four lucky lads from Liverpool in their early days, particularly after they arrived in the USA, but they became a sleeper band that woke the world from a deep slumber.

I was just a 4-year-old child, but I had my first guitar -- a Bugs Bunny special -- and after seeing the appearance of The Beatles on television, I tried to look and act like Paul whenever I played.

Where were you
When The Beatles came
To the USA
On a great, big plane?
Tell me, did you cry?
Tell me, did you scream
When you caught the band
On your TV screen
On that day...
The day The Beatles came to play
Extracted from The Day The Beatles came to Play 
by Dr. B.L.Thiessen, (c)2004
U2 didn't have one single grand debut that set the world on fire. They were a sleeper band. In the beginning, U2 played anywhere and everywhere they could get a gig, at one point performing in front of a nine-member audience at the Hope in Anchor, Islington. 
It doesn't matter where you come from
Liverpool or Bakersfield
Find your dream and follow it
And the rest will be revealed...
Extracted from Liverpool or Bakersfield,
Words and music by Dr. B.L.T., (c)2004
Though ones roots can never be overestimated in shaping one's character, ones personality, and ones musical identity, it's not where these bands came from that created their respective legacies; it's the story that they told us along the way. And though one band came from the unglamorous, industrial town of Liverpool, England and the other from Dublin, Ireland, both bands gave the world a "Ticket to Ride" and we took it, or should I say, it took us?

Yes I should, and I will. That ride took us to places we had never gone before. March marks the 17th anniversary of the release of The Joshua Tree. It also marks the 24th anniversary of U2's record deal with Island Records. >From that point on, U2 records began flying off of the shelves. It wasn't enough, however, to beat records set by The Beatles. The Beatles broke nearly every record that could be broken as it concerned record sales. 

Although U2's record sales were phenomenal compared to most bands of that era, my comparison between the two bands cannot possibly be made on the basis of commercial success and record sales. The link must be made on the basis of each band's cultural contribution and in their common quest--a spiritual quest embarked upon through the medium of music.

If you were "hip" in the 60s, the decade became a time to unwind, a time to rebel against crass commercialism, to protest the Viet Nam war, and a time to "Come Together" for sometimes noble, sometimes Quixotic causes. The 60s marked the end of innocence and the beginning of the sexual revolution. 

There would be a hefty price tag attached to that revolution, but at that time, any love was deemed "free love," and, to quote a 60s hit, "Me and Bobby McGee," a song Janis Joplin made popular in the 70s,"Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose." Nothin' ain't worth nothin', but it's free..." Free love (or at least love that appeared to be free), was considered good love back in those days.

A decade later, Bachman-Turner Overdrive would musically proclaim, "Any love is good lovin', so I took what I could get..."

Since AIDS had not yet reared it's ugly head in the '60s (or the '70s for that matter), the hook for that BTO hit, "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet" was to take on an unintended prophetic significance.

Although The Rolling Stones pushed the envelope harder and faster towards sexual "freedom," The Beatles also came to represent the sexual revolution, at least in the minds of those traditionalists who feared that the tide was turning in a perilous direction.

The public's predilection for lumping together two of the most famous bands of the British Invasion was unfortunate since The Beatles, like U2, were ultimately in search of something supernatural. As it pertains to the matter of sexuality and its importance in the grand scheme of things, The Beatles were to The Stones as Carl Jung was to Sigmund Freud.

Freud was obsessed with all things sexual, and Jung, a student of Freud's, strove to steer things in a decidedly more supernatural direction. U2 would later pick up where The Beatles left on their spiritual quest. In the meantime, The Beatles were recording songs that struck chords of social awareness, spiritual seeking and a revolution that went well beyond the matter of sex.

Who could forget the soundtrack to that era of social upheaval, political activism, and sociological advancement (or regression, depending on one's perspective)? Beatles and post-Beatles solo songs were sine qua non for that soundtrack of the 60s.

Who could forget, "All You Need is Love", "Revolution," and the John Lennon Christmas classic, "Give Peace a Chance"? Who could forget the colossal role that psychedelic drugs would play in rock's quest for spiritual transcendence? 

The 70s became a transitional decade, marked by silent, passive protest against all active forms of protest. The prevailing attitude was epitomized in the growth of glam rock, and the outlandish outfits of Elton John. Who could forget the great hits that Bernie Taupin and Elton John put together during that deprived decade? They were awesome songs, but most had a superficial ring.

Though "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting." for example, tore it up, it didn't make me (or any of my platform-heeled friends), want to stand tall or fight for any social causes. "Crocodile Rock" was all the talk, but it made us want to rock, not reflect. And when Elton John made The Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" glitter far brighter than The Beatles' original version did, we all knew that he had Coke, not LSD, on his mind.

LSD is the clearly the wrong path to true spirituality, in fact, it is a dangerous path that can take you to the point of no return. But a spiritual trip, not a quick fix, is the ultimate goal of its most avid LSD junky. During that transitional era, Elton John, like his many fans, was probably was more interested in getting amped than he was in getting stoned and seeking the meaning of life.

When Thin Lizzly declared, in their 70s anthem "The Boys are Back in Town," we all knew that the piece of action the boys wanted had nothing to do with ushering in a social or political revolution. The seventies was a time when fleshy flash and hefty cash replaced the "lefty" mass and their stash of hefty hash. With certain noteworthy exceptions, young people became less invested in political and social causes and more interested in having a simply good time.

That hedonistic attitude was most succinctly represented in the lyrics of Trooper, a Canadian band that arose in the 70s-"We're here for a good time, not a long time, so have a good time, the sun don't shine everyday..." All the while, the redeeming seeds of U2 were germinating in the sullied, socially bereft soil of the 70s. 

U2 woke us all up from our 70s slumber party and rescued us from our complacency. In the 80s, cocaine became the drug of choice for those who wanted to further distance themselves from the 60s, especially the now all grown up hippies, who were beginning to embrace the very materialistic values that they once so vehemently sought to kill in the 60s. On a global scale, the 80s, (with a little help from Ronald Reagan and the pope), brought the fall of communism; a return to traditional values among some of the sons and daughters of the once-hippies-turned-yuppies, the rise of The Clash, and the collapse of disco.

U2, like The Clash, but with a smoother edge, helped us get off the dance floor long enough to reflect on the meaning of life and liberty. Who could forget The Unforgettable Fire the one that spawned "In the Name of Love," the inimitable tribute to a man I share a deep admiration for, Martin Luther King Jr.?

It could be argued that The Sex Pistols, like The Beatles, made U2 possible. Their debut marked the beginning of the end of 70s pretentiousness, and, in the minds of some critics, these English lads shook things up in the late seventies, every bit as dramatically as The Beatles did in the early, middle, and late 60s. But while The Sex Pistols may have been rebels without a cause, The Beatles paved the way for the more salient, definitive element in U2--cause. 

In the 80s, U2 came in like a bat of hell and delivered a slice of heaven. They took over the desultory spiritual quest of The Beatles, and set it on fire with an unmatched, unbridled passion and dogged determination. The Beatles opted for the wide road of drug abuse, but U2 took the road less traveled. Though the boys in U2 boozed it up a little, and then a little more, they never pointed their audiences to drugs as a pathway to redemption. Instead they offered the cross. It wasn't a leftist Lennonesque agenda, and it wasn't the overwrought agenda of Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority. U2 was a band of musical mediators-socially conscious, spiritually sanctified sinners.

The Joshua Tree lacked some of the attractively rough edges of prior albums but with songs like "With or Without You," "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," and "Where the Streets Have No Name," it defined most vividly their spiritual hunger, the nature of their spiritual quest, and their fervent commitment to spiritual transcendence and transformation.

Too Much, Too Soon.

Four lads from Liverpool
Slow down, too fast
You know that you can't go on
At this pace..."
Extracted from Too Much, Too Soon
by Dr. B.L.Thiessen, (c) 2004

The Beatles crushed under the pressure of a deluge of fame, but then again, it came at them harder, faster, and more forcefully than it did for U2. Then, as time passed we would lose John in murderous cold blood of an insane, obsessed "fan." Later we would lose George.
Bye George, so long, farewell
You touched the world with the warmth of your song
United with John, now The Beatles are two
Bye George, 
must we go on livin' without you?
Extracted from Bye George by
Dr. B.L.Thiessen, (c) 2004
Paul would lose Linda, in the same way he lost his mother, Mary, through breast cancer. Paul got closer to God through the whole, mercilessly painful period. 

Hitherto, U2 managed to be spared from such tragic events, but they never took their faith for granted. U2 remained a force to be reckoned with throughout the 90s, and they show few signs of slowing down in this, the first decade of the new millennium. 

Now, you may think it is as great a sin to compare U2 with The Beatles as it was for John Lennon to compare The Beatles to Jesus Christ in the 60s.

If that's the case, I am as guilty as sin itself. I have attempted to draw a comparison while pointing out crucial differences. Each band helped to defined a decade. The Beatles mirrored the times as they were changing.

Paradoxically enough, while everyone seemed to go insane over The Beatles in the 60s, The Beatles were the one band that seemed to stop the world from going in sane over the chaotic nature of that decade. Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band was their masterpiece, and it became the glue that held a war-weary world together.

U2 not only helped define the 80s, but they became "rock 'n' role models," who led us out of our bondage, like Moses when he led the Israelites out of Egypt and into the Promised Land.

We still haven't arrived at that Promised Land, but while both bands relied on music to transcend the shallow in search of the supernatural, only one band has taken us so close to the Promised Land that we can see it, feel it, and hear the trumpet beckoning us to enter in.

That band is a band I prefer to refer to as the Irish Beatles--U2.

*All extracted lyrics are from Dr. B.L.T.'s forthcoming CD tribute to The Beatles, entitled If The Beatles Were From Bakersfield


 Copyright © 1996 - 2004 The Phantom Tollbooth