As I stepped into rediscovering Joy, it is not a surprise it is related to creating things. Raised in a family of tinkerers, I was always in the process of either building something or helping someone build something. The wonder of imagining something that hadn’t existed before was something that was second nature with my Dad, having built things even in his youth out of scraps around his house. He constructed model airplanes, and by the time I came along, that had progressed into “Radio Controlled” which were typically built very “solid” – read that as ugly 😉 But he absolutely loved the sleek form of the airplane that accidentally came to prominence in the 60’s…
.. the long wings designed to fly in very thin air, 80,000 feet above the earth. Thought to be high enough to avoid missiles, it was a classified program until that turned out to not be true… and after being shot down, the world learned about the airplane called the U2. We had a plastic model that Dad and I built when I was little, and now he wondered whether he could build a scale version of it to fly. We used calipers to measure the small dimensions, and then slowly constructed a version that had an 8-foot wingspan. We painted it white, which actually made it almost impossible to see when it was airborne…
The last member of U2 for us to meet is Adam Clayton who was the first “musician” in the band. As they were just starting out, it was known that he “owned a bass and amplifier”, and was invited to join. He used words like “fret” and “action”, and they were all convinced that he knew what he was talking about, until someone figured out he was playing the wrong notes 😉 No matter – remember that really all of U2’s members were not natural musicians when they started out. It is interesting that he and Larry really supported each other as they both got progressively better and provided the exact foundation for both The Edge and Bono to ride on top of.
On the Joshua Tree, the trip across the US before recording was particularly important to Adam. “The desert was immensely inspirational to us as a mental image for this record. Most people would take the desert on face value and think it’s some kind of barren place, which of course is true. But, in the right frame of mind it’s also a very positive image, because you can actually do something with a blank canvas, which is effectively what the desert is.” The track for today was started as an “up-tempo” rock song, to bring some energy to the album. Bono wanted an actual “rock star” break from The Edge, and kept ratcheting up pressure, even kidding him that he was better on guitar. It was light-hearted, and it changed the session into a Joyful one that got this in mostly one take.
Dad had amazing Joy when he was on the flying field. The natural conversations with his friends about building, flying, debugging the models was where I saw him renewed and at his best. He was generous with his time, and helped countless people take the leap into building their first airplanes, and helped many learn how to fly by slowly mentoring them by standing behind them with his arms around them guiding the sticks. And the ratio of flying time to talking time was about 10 to 1 😉 but you could tell it was something that was just naturally Joyful in every aspect. He had found what he was looking for.
Sunday’s were days we spent in different places and approaches for renewal. Church was non-negotiable, and I am still thankful that such a standard was in place. And, we would normally then load up the van with all of the equipment for an afternoon at the Flying Field. To fly safely, you would have to be far away from people and buildings, so it was normally a long drive out to an area where there would be a long grass strip mowed. We would park, and set up the tent, and get ready for mostly an afternoon of talking, punctuated with some fun minutes watching things that had been built on earth take flight.
This track is a good reminder of the pure Joy and renewal that is still available. Where do you regularly renew your own Joy? Is it away from the city, or close in with coffee shops and friends? Either way, as we wrap up this short treatment of Joy and the band whose name means different things to different people. For today what would help U 2 renew – In God’s Country.