U2101 – Stories For Boys

Sometimes, if I stop to think about it, the planning and foresight that the four members of U2 showed, even from the very beginning, astounds me. It is like they knew from a very early stage in their career that they would one day be the biggest band in the world. I’ve written a little bit before about Bono knowledge from his youth that he was meant for something great, but I can’t attribute all the decisions that were made in 1980 and before to Bono alone…it was (and always has been) a group effort.

What got me started thinking about all of this today was the song “Stories For Boys”, from the EP Three and its predecessor album Boy. These titles have always seemed to me to be the band’s acknowledgement that this was just the beginning of a story that would span decades and would set a new template for what a rock band could accomplish. Take the title Boy for instance. Boy represents youth and energy, and both of those are present in spades on the album, but the word boy also represents a starting point. After boy comes teen, then man. After the Innocence of Boy, comes experience, which is exactly what the last two albums and their corresponding tours have been about.

“Stories For Boys” is about just what the title implies. No puzzles here…from TV and radio programs to comic books, the song is about the young singer’s willingness to escape into fiction to get away from the difficulties of the real world, but it also serves as a kind of descriptor for the whole album that it is taken from. Boy, the album, is all about the difficulties of life as a youngster, from finding love to learning about loss, the whole spectrum is included here. Each song is a story told by the young for the young. I love the idea of a young Bono being so wrapped up in a work of fiction, a tale of easily identifiable right and wrong, a narrative of simple blacks and whites, that he doesn’t want to leave that world. “Sometimes, the hero takes me, sometimes I don’t let go.” With the childhood that Bono had, I don’t blame him for indulging in some escapism now and then. Heck, I still do the same thing now and I’m more than twice the age that Bono was when he wrote this song. I started to wonder whether Bono still enjoys escapist fantasies, but I suspect that his escape from reality is getting up on that stage.

Like last week’s subject, “The Ocean,” “Stories For Boys” was performed frequently by the band in the early days, going as far back as 1979, which was the same year that the EP Three was released. Unlike “The Ocean,” “Stories For Boys” has not been revived in more recent years, other than the occasional snippet at the end of “Vertigo,” which is far and away my favorite arrangement of that song. I really think that some day, U2 ought to hold a series of one-off concerts where they play entire albums from start to finish…kind of like the Joshua Tree 2017 Tour, but not a tour that lasts a whole year. These should be special engagements in Dublin or Madison Square Garden, where the band books the arena for three or four nights, even a week straight, and each night they play one or two albums from front to back. Heck, a yearly festival like what I’ve described above would surely bring some business to Dublin, and would make the fans very happy, I believe. Without a doubt, Boy would be one of those albums that the band would play during this festival. That would be incredible, I think. What are your thoughts?

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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.

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