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wonder of Joy

by | Apr 9, 2021 | Joy, U2, wonder

I am in a season of 35 one-shot coaching conversations with MBA students who had been taped in a simulation that they were set up to fail in… and no wonder, most did.  Told they only have 15 minutes to convince the COO and CTO to take action, they soon realized there was nothing that would please them… because they had not taken time to ask them what they wanted. Some of the students even dreaded coming to our calls thinking that they were going to learn “what they did wrong”.  And of course, that is not at all what happens… I simply listen, ask a few questions, get them to talk a bit.   As we move through the conversations, the looks become softer, some smiles start, then some laughter, and some deeper engagements… particularly on where they are now trying to go… 

The question that gets the most puzzling looks is “What led you to get an MBA?” Many have clearly never wondered about it, and few have been asked – it seems natural that additional schooling would result in greater Joy… or something. In our achievement-oriented culture, it is not surprising, and an answer I am used to hearing… and providing some room for them to actually talk through what this path will lead to. As they continue to talk, they slow down, their thoughts become more expansive, and the wonder is they start to open up like the beautiful flowers starting around us…

I can remember buying The Joshua Tree CD – one of 25 Million that has been sold, making it one of the world’s best-selling records ever.  From the opening tracks, it was easy to just let it play straight through… over and over.  I was of course the target market – an American.  Knowing that bands hit it biggest when they are successful in the US, the band targeted their record to leverage roots music from America … realizing that much of our roots music actually came FROM Ireland 😉  Particularly the Bluegrass music of the Appalachian mountains is a direct descendant from Irish fiddle music…

… having grown up post-punk, the boys had no real foundation in the music that had dominated particularly Rock.  The Blues which were so formative for the Stones, Van Morrison, even Dylan and his history with Folk music – they were busy MAKING music during those years, not listening to it.  But their fascination with America having toured there 5-6 months a year for most of the 80’s, Bono wanted to try to capture the wonder of America, and led the band to read and listen to more American music and literature.  The Edge was not that interested  – until he was exposed to Howlin Wolf, Lefty Frizzell, Hank Williams as they listened to public radio on tour… 

As synth-pop – inspired BY U2 – was taking over the airwaves particularly in Europe, the band decided to steer straight into actually writing songs that had a focus and purpose.  While not explicitly a concept album, Bono worked to complete thoughts in lyrics that were not just sketches.  The Edge worked to incorporate new rock/harsher influences.  And Larry was encouraged to also get more into the writing.  And they decided to actually start recording in his home in late November 1985.  He showed them an odd drum pattern, and Brian encouraged him to continue to make it “odder” to see where it might go… 

Early demos of today’s song (here is one Desert of our love) Edge called “The Eye of the Tiger” played by a Reggae band.  Adam called it “… kinda a one-note groove”.  But Bono had been listening to early gospel singers like The Swan Silvertones, The Staple Singers, and Blind Willie Johnson, and of course now you can see the absolutely perfect match to the next generation of Irish Soul, following after Van The Man.  As Bono was singing a random gospel vocal track to the music, Edge remembered a line he had just written down as a possible song title…. And also a line from a Dylan song they had been exposed to, and dashed it off and handed it to Bono as he was singing, “You’ll find out when you reach the top your on the bottom”…

As watched recording after recording, the pattern was familiar enough that I needed something to keep my mind sharp, and mixed The Joshua Tree into my headphones with their sound.  It is such a comfortable album, with songs more fleshed out than the previous albums and still a universal appeal.  As this week comes to a close, you may want to do the same – simply put on the whole record, take a look at the flowers around you, and wonder “What brings you to this new year?”  Today’s track would bring huge rewards and other accolades, but I think it is a simple wonder.  We are all just trying to get something to work out… and we Still Haven’t Found What we are looking for. 

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