As we discussed with Happiness a few weeks back, Joy can be a fleeting commodity. It often arrives when you may or not be even looking for it, but appears with a smile, a laugh, a look. You may not know what has caused it, but the endorphin rush in your brain confirms it is real..and wants to recreate it again. For the last few years, all I knew was that something that I used to have, and had misplaced along the way, not in a dramatic way, more like how you lose your keys. You know there – somewhere – and you slowly retrace your steps to where you can remember last having them…
… and like your keys, this is a good time for great partners – people who know you sometimes better than you know yourself. And as with any discussion of partners, you can’t develop them when you need them – it is an ongoing development process. Just before the pandemic I had started to realize that Joy was something that had disappeared from much of my work, and I had to take a leap of faith and let go of what was certain, and what was also certainly not working well. And partners that were not bringing Joy…
Trying to stay away from political topics, Bono talked about the other thing prevalent in the rock industry – drugs. Two songs on the album have lyrics that are sketches about addiction and its impact on those around them. One, Wire, is a masterpiece of guitar work by The Edge, and fully embraces the “ambient” approach that was quickly becoming the “U2 sound”. I have found many guitar sites that nearly 30 years later are still trying to figure out exactly how he was able to create the amazing staccato harmonics that drive the song forward. I would have used it, but another similar song was – not just amazing, it catapulted them into 2 different types of Joy.
The Unforgettable Fire was released in the fall of 1984, and started a worldwide tour, of stadiums and halls across the world, and ended with an invitation for a global event that was being organized by one of the band’s friends, Bob Geldof: Live Aid. U2’s performance was one of the show’s most memorable; during a 12-minute performance of the song “Bad”, Bono leapt down off the stage to embrace and dance with a fan.
The Joy is obvious on his face and those in the audience (to say nothing of the amazing mullet). The length of the song’s performance cut their set short by a song. Initially thinking they’d “blown it”, it was, in fact, a breakthrough moment for the band, showing a television audience of millions the personal connection that Bono could make with audiences.
All of U2’s previous albums went back into the charts in the UK after their performance. In 1985, Rolling Stone magazine called U2 the “Band of the 80’s,” saying that “for a growing number of rock-and-roll fans, U2 have become the band that matters most, maybe even the only band that matters. This performance and this song would be the start of the steepest growth for the band, but there was an even more important contribution to their future.
Bono got personally involved in the after-work in Africa with Geldof, and saw the direct impact that his fame and fortune could have on the world around him. His faith had kept him away from drugs and other outlets that trapped other artists. Here, he found a lifelong connection to real Joy that could be a driving force for all the touring and time away from home, and other things that come from the rock star lifestyle. If you see Bono interviewed anytime after 1985, he will always turn the conversation to Africa and giving back, and his many missions to change the trajectory of lives there.
When the pandemic hit, I knew how to facilitate and work online after over 10 years of teaching there. I quickly set up Zoom coffee hours for our church, for our family, and slowly with other small groups. The technology I had mastered would slowly bring back new partners … and in a small way, my Joy. The sudden “isolation” only existed if you let it… I was frequently on calls with people in all 24 time zones during a day – all from my basement… and that was also Joyful. I enjoy beating the system, so fine – watch this – I can have partners like never before.
Having made good choices with their producer and recording approach, now U2 was prepared for their place on stages around the world. What remains for you to consider when it comes to Joy? It is there, and I believe like your keys, is worth finding. And if your brain is telling you that your a slacker or don’t deserve Joy, well, that is not a partner that is serving you. It is like the addicting drugs that Bono was writing about. I would call that out, put on your best Mullet wig and sing it this song at the top of your lungs. You don’t need to be… Bad.