Why U2 #31 – The Case of the Controversial Covers

During this past week, U2 revealed the cover artwork for the upcoming retail release of Songs of Innocence. My first thought was “What are they thinking?”. If you haven’t seen it, the image is a touching picture of Larry and his 18 year old son, the former’s arms wrapped around the latter’s waist, with his head resting near his son’s bare stomach. The image is rife with symbolism related to the album’s theme of innocence – the picture is easily interpreted as Larry both holding onto and protecting his son’s innocence – but I can already hear all those U2 haters out there getting riled up about it. In fact, I’ve been wondering if the cover image will be the victim of censorship like the original cover of U2’s first LP Boy was when it was released in the U.S., when it was changed for fear that it might be misinterpreted as pedophiliac. Of course, times and tastes have changed enough in the past 34 years that that censorship is unlikely, but the fact is that there are many similarities between the two covers. I’ve come to the conclusion that the band are probably just as aware of their detractors as I am, and that they knowingly made the decision to go with this cover image that could become controversial. I say “Good for them!” By doing what they believe in, artistically, they’re going a long way toward taking the wind out of the sails of those who like to find fault with each and every move that the band make. Hopefully, I overreacted a little bit and no one will think or say anything out of line about the beautiful portrait, and if that best-case scenario does come to fruition, I have to believe that it’s due, in large part, to the band’s continual thumbing of their collective nose at convention and expectation. Just another reason for me to love U2!

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Ever since I realized as a kid, while poring over the liner notes of the Bob Marley - Songs of Freedom boxed set, that writing about music was a viable career choice, one of my greatest desires has been to write about U2. The band has been a major part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I'm thrilled to have this opportunity to contribute a little something to the fantastic online community that's been built around the band.