Introducing, "U2: A Love Story (The Mix Tape)"

Those of us who grew up before the digital era's dominance over our music listening and purchasing habits remember the turntable. Its fusion in the 1980s with the cassette deck and CD player turned it into a hotwired “hearth”—the heart of youth culture where we would gather, listen together, not talk but instead read lyrics and fetishize the cover and liner notes artwork. Throw in a mid or high end sound equalizer and our capacity for absolute absorption into the mythic realm of music listening was made complete (and your room, at your house became the “hot spot”).

 

Borne out of this space was something unique that previous music lovers did not have access to: The Mix Tape. Whether for a friend, a boy-girl you crushed on, or your own “improvements” upon the musician’s compilation, the Mix Tape recorded from your stereo system’s radio, or CD player, or deck to deck tape player onto a cassette tape of your own making that communicated to others your passion. True to form, then, I (Brian) made a Mix Tape to accompany our book.

Here is the set list to that Mix Tape, including most of the “liner notes” I penned for each song. The compilation includes songs featured in our book, and it follows (in a mostly accurate fashion) those songs’ chronological appearance in the book. If you bought a copy of the book or you’re planning on it and you want a Mix Tape, then please reach out to me through my LinkedIn site or email (johnstb@miamioh.edu). I hand-make the packaging out of paper, scissors, and staples.

 

Link to my Spotify playlist here.

Below, from top to bottom: Brian (right) and his brother Dave at U2's Joshua Tree 2017 tour in Cleveland, OH, and Susan at U2's Joshua Tree 2017 tour in Philadelphia, PA.

“THE FIRST TIME” (1993, Zooropa). Prologue, Chapter-6

This song made sense as a prologue to the Mix Tape after I read our book all the way through. I had no idea how much my brother David factors into my fandom, and if you include the “altar” [stereo] so does my brother Steve. There are also some profound mythic metaphors here: The “door” (which returns in the last track), the “key,” and the lover as “soul love.” I’m grateful to Susan for bringing her “sacred feminine” to this “prodigal son.”  

 

“BEAUTIFUL DAY” (2000, ALL THAT YOU CAN’T LEAVE BEHIND). Book Cover

The book cover is by Kelly Eddington from one of her interpretations of a music video for "Beautiful Day." The Tristan and Isolde imagery is perfectly matched to our book’s themes: “Teach me love / I know I’m not a hopeless case.” How many times have we traversed a sidewalk and either stepped on or barely dodged a small flower breaking through the hard stone? “The heart is a bloom / Shoots up through the stony ground” – perseverance. This song is about love, loss, making major life mistakes but still wanting to mean; to be defined not by our mistakes or shortcomings, but by our desire to be genuine and jubilant in our embrace of life.

 

“RED HILL MINING TOWN” (1987, THE JOSHUA TREE, LIVE: 2016). Dedication Page

The photo on the Dedication Page is for JANICE HOCKER RUSHING. Erin Riegel took the photo (featured here on the Home page) at U2's Joshua Tree 2017 tour in Cleveland, OH. The song is about life in a mining community. The brass band in the live version is Welsh. My first critical application of U2 lyrics was at Tyler Junior College in Biology class. I cited this lyric for my final paper: “Scorch the earth, set fire to the sky / We stoop so low to reach so high.”

 

“PRIDE (IN THE NAME OF LOVE)” (1985, THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE). Chapter-1

Brian’s story. “One more, in the name of love.”

 

“SUNDAY, BLOODY SUNDAY” (1983, WAR). Chapter-1

Susan’s story. “Tonight, we can be as one.”

 

“BAD/’40’/WHERE THE STREETS HAVE NO NAME” (FROM: 1985, THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE; 1983, WAR, 1987, THE JOSHUA TREE—LIVE: BOSTON, JUNE 2000). Chapter-3, Chapter-4, Chapter-7

This track includes three songs from three separate albums, recorded at the Boston show featured in chapter 7. My brother David and I were in the “Heart” for this performance. My brother recently found where we show up on the concert documentary, at the mark: 50.21 to 50.36 – during Bono’s Joey Ramone speech. (I have this on an EP, but could not find it for the Spotify playlist, so I had to wing it a bit and this included omitting "40" from the Spotify).

 

“THE FLY” (1991, ACTHUNG BABY) Chapter-5, Chapter-7, Chapter-8

Watch the video for “Without or Without You” and then for “The Fly.” I like very much how Kelly Eddington’s imagery for both, collages from scenes in the videos, depict in one “sacred feminine” (“With or Without You”) and in the other “masculine ego” (“The Fly”). Awesome. It’s no accident in my opinion that one of the last singles of the 1980s, “Angel of Harlem,” leads into the first Achtung Baby single in 1991—“The Fly”—, or that the former is part of the B-stage recovered feminine archetype in the Zoo TV shows from the B-Stage Jungian unconscious site of the staging. Read the lyrics to “Angel of Harlem” and then those to “The Fly,” and paired together. The latter and the former share the same T.S. Elliot styled streets -- one in “daylight” and the other at “night.” Same stars. The Chapter-7 narrative intro is true. The only “lie” is that I did watch her leave. It broke my heart that I could not have both—swagger, and her. I chose swagger.

 

“MYSTERIOUS WAYS” (1991, ACHTUNG BABY) Chapter-5, Chapter-7, Chapter-8

Read the lyrics to this song after a listening. The layers here are what I consider “transmodern poetry.” Now that I have sons and a daughter, the imagery and interactions are all the more powerful. “She’s the wave, she turns the tide / She sees the man inside the child,” “Johnny take a dive with your sister in the rain / Let her talk about the things you can’t explain.” Paging Robert Johnson.

 

“ONE” (1991, ACHTUNG BABY; DUALS, WITH MARY J. BLIGE) ALL CHAPTERS

This is one of the best rock songs ever written. MJB takes it to a transcendent, “sacred feminine” space. This song was number one in its day. Proceeds from the sales went to HIV/AIDS research and the band performs in drag for one of its video versions. Where I grew up this was the kind of “radical cool” that got you beat-up-uncool. With the “sacred feminine” made flesh, with the soul and spirit and talent of MJB and this subtle rearrangement, it is now perfect. “...You say love is a temple, love the higher law / You ask for me to enter but then you make me crawl / Well we hurt each other, then we do it again…. One life but we’re not the same / We get to carry each other, carry each other / One...” This is the new myth for the whole world, what Joseph Campbell interprets from Sanskrit: “Thou art that.”

 

“ELEVATION” (2000, ALL THAT YOU CAN’T LEAVE BEHIND; LIVE: 2005, “FROG”) Chapter-7

This live performance is referenced in Chapter-7, when Bono says, “I got a frog in my throat." Ode to Zootopia.

 

"ALL BECAUSE OF YOU” (2004, HOW TO DISMANTLE AN ATOMIC BOMB) 

The only song on this compilation that is not mentioned in the book. In an earlier version of The "Mix Tape" this addition was dedicated to my then partner and mother of our beautiful children, Samantha, to whom I also declared my "great love" in the book's acknowledgements page. Lesson learned, as she and I have since parted ways. In Chapter-7, which stands out in the book as an auto-ethnographic study of fan culture, I dig deep to explain how my fandom served as an emotional supplement. My love was true, but it was always lacking in its capacity to be fully present. Another lesson learned. “I’m at the door, I’m being born / from the place I started out from and I want back inside.” This song has powerful mythic journey and “sacred feminine” language: birth, sex, and re-entry/birth. The womb as nexus of the hero’s and heroine’s journey.

 

“MOMENT OF SURRENDER” (2009, NO LINE ON THE HORIZON) Chapter-7

This is one of the best U2 songs most have never heard, because the album did not get much acclaim and the band did not make a shorter, single version. It was a great closer to the 360 shows in 2009 and it is a beautiful ‘on the brink’ tune. The main character is in liminal space, physically and spiritually. Brian Eno’s production is all over this one.

                          

“THE MIRACLE OF JOEY RAMONE)” (2014, SONGS OF INNOCENCE) Chapter-8

The “sacred sound”, the journey: “I woke up at the moment when the miracle occurred / heard a song that made some sense out of the world / everything I ever lost now has been returned / In the most beautiful sound I'd ever heard.” I like how this song is in great part about fandom: “I was young, not dumb.” Susan masterfully connects the “pilgrim” metaphor to the larger mythic journey, and back to chapter two on the rhetorical appeal of the rock music / religious performance space of liminality.

 

“I WILL FOLLOW” (1980, BOY) Chapter-3, Chapter-8

Not sure how young men of this age (when U2 wrote this song they were 14 and 16 years old) could conceive something so complex. And the triangle as instrument... rock music needs more triangle. 

 

“THE BLACKOUT” (2017, SONGS OF EXPERIENCE) Chapter-9

This self-reflexive, club-pop performance calls to question that moment where one either either recedes “into oblivion” or reboots for a new journey,

 

“LOVE IS BIGGER THAN ANYTHING IN ITS WAY” (2017, SONGS OF EXPERIENCE) Chapter-9

I had the option to end this compilation with “The Ground Beneath Her Feet,” written by Salman Rushdie, performed by U2, and based upon the mythic tale of Orpheus who, as mentioned in chapter-9, was a musician who put away his lyre in remorse for his lost love only to be torn to pieces and cast into the river by those angered by not getting to hear his music and “golden voice” anymore—now THAT’S fandom. I wanted to end this mix with U2’s collaboration with Johnny Cash on “The Wanderer,” a trippy postmodern take on the prodigal son story where the son does not come home. I wanted to end with “Miss Sarajevo,” written for the longest siege in modern history that U2 beamed into their Zoo TV (Europe Tours) via rogue journalist, Bill Carter. Nope. This really is the best conclusion. At the E+I show in NY that David and I attended, U2 dedicates the song to Salman Rushdie. We were next to Rushdie for the entire show--he was in V.I.P. behind us and we were in the Floor GA section (photo below by David). I hear this song as a meditation of what I hope to be: a reliable, trustworthy presence to my children as they grow up.To help them where maybe I failed myself too many times: “So young, to be the words of your own song / I know the rage in you is strong / Write a world where we can belong / To each other and sing it like no other.” “Love” is “Bigger” than “anything in its way” if we remember to embody it in every moment, especially those moments where we think it doesn’t matter, which is where it probably matters most. 

© 2019 by Brian Johnston for u2mythos. Created with Wix.com