Monday, 21 April 2008

1988 Rattle and Hum, the Album and Film

From 1987 to 1988 I was gathering various bootleg cassette tapes (remember them?!) and videos from U2's previous years. Listening to live shows and interviews, catching up on things that I'd missed out on over the ten years U2 had now been together.

1988 saw the release of the album Rattle and Hum, just a year and a half after The Joshua Tree (why can't they make albums so quickly now?). I bought it on the day of release in October, not really sure what to expect. It certainly wasn't another Joshua Tree, but then I didn't really expect that. Initially I was a little disappointed, this album didn't assault my senses and amaze me as The Joshua Tree had. It was very different. I didn't like every song on the album, in fact I really disliked some such as Angel of Harlem and When Love Comes to Town (and still don't like them). But there were also beautiful classics there such as All I Want Is You. This was the start of me realising that to be a U2 fan was challenging, they weren't going to churn out a winning formula with each album, and this is exactly what I grew to love about them and their music. Whereas The Joshua Tree flowed so effortlessly Rattle and Hum was much more chaotic and disjointed. Maybe that was indicative of where the band were themselves at the time, they were approaching a crossroads in their career.

Shortly after the album was released the film of the same name was released. Originally it was intended to be a low-key film about The Joshua Tree tour, but it ended up being a much bigger scale film, with the band playing mini-gigs at premieres in key cities. There was a lot of criticism at the time towards U2 for both the album and the film, saying that the band had overblown ideas, seeing themselves in the same league as the likes of The Beatles, Bob Dylan, B B King - all people that featured in some way on the album. I really felt that U2 were not doing that, they admired and were inspired by these musicians and Rattle and Hum was a celebration of that.

When Rattle and Hum the film came to my home city I immediately went to see it, and yes, it was a bit grandiose and over serious in parts, but I loved it! For the first time I got a sense of what it would be like to see U2 live, the power and passion - so often used to describe U2's live gigs - but they are accurate descriptions. I saw the film three times and knew then that I had to see the band live as soon as I could.

Both Rattle and Hum, the album and the movie got a panning from the critics, which must have shook them after the plaudits for The Joshua Tree. As I wrote, at the time I was slightly disappointed in the album, but loved the film. Looking back now, they weren't U2's best moments, they got a bit lost in it all and seemed to be trying to be something they were not. But that was where U2 were at the time, and sometimes in their career they lost their way a little.

A still from the film Rattle and Hum - This one is for the ladies - need I say more?

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