U2's "The Joshua Tree 2017 Tour" is stopping in the Buffalo area next Tuesday. It would have been a prime opportunity to witness in person what I would say is my all-time favorite group and all-time favorite album, if I was forced to name something like that.
However, that Tuesday I will be busy. I have a doctor's appointment and then a night of work.
Getting old is tremendous.
I can't say it's completely heartbreaking as we have access to concerts in our very own home these days and I watched the entire Joshua Tree '17 concert a few months ago (I don't remember where it took place). It was terrific.
When I watched the concert, the songs didn't hit me quite the same way as they did in 1987. I am not the same person I was in 1987 -- I was young and ready to change the world as many college-age people are. But I still felt at one with everything on that album. This is the sweet spot for me in music, in terms of sound, mood and lyrics.
I've gone through my connection with U2 before (on the 25th anniversary of the album), so I'll keep this brief. I was a fan of U2 from the time of "War," when I first heard "New Year's Day" on 99.9 FM, the WAAL, in the winter of 1983. And my devotion grew, until The Joshua Tree hit and then everyone knew. And I said, "See? Great isn't it?"
U2 was never as fantastic as they were during The Joshua Tree, although I remained a fan through much of the '90s and early 2000s.
It's now 30 years later and you can find all kinds of U2 haters. I chalk that up to a generational thing and a current world in which everyone has to dismiss everything. All I have to say to that is: you missed out. It was phenomenal. A wave surging over millions. And the album remains a regular entry in critics' lists of the all-time greatest.
To recognize the 30th anniversary in my own way, I'm doing my first Match the Song Title post in a year and a half. This is where I attempt to find a card that connects with the title of the song. In some cases I go with the meaning of the song, but that can get messy (in this album's case, the topics are very heavy).
So here we go.
But first, the song list.
Match the song title: "The Joshua Tree, U2"
Track 1: Where the Streets Have No Name: A song about how a place -- where you live -- can define how people perceive and treat you. For baseball card purposes, I took it to mean someone coming from a tiny place to play baseball, like Curacao. Jonathan Schoop is one of several major leaguers from the tiny island off of Venezuela. However, it does have street names. Many of which feature double a's or double e's.
Track 2: I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For: My Nebulous 9 list enjoys quite a bit of turnover. But there are some cards that stay on there for months. This particular one has remained there for an annoying period. It's a Toppstown card from 2011 Update. It's worth almost zip, but since everyone sells 2011 Update for crazy prices, I can't find it. The above image is the only one I could find, being sold on ebay. So, I guess I have found what I'm looking for. (Unfortunately the card doesn't look as cool as the image).
Track 3: With or Without You: A love song, which means I automatically think of Topps Chrome. Before Chrome went to no borders (and ended its appeal for me), I'd buy it feeling both enthusiasm and shame at the same time. Why was I buying cards that looked the same as cards already issued? And I'd look at them after I bought them and think, "why do I have these?"
However, the colored borders -- oh, the colored borders -- change everything. How can I not love that? I need that.
So there you go, Topps Chrome, I can't live with our without you.
Track 4: Bullet the Blue Sky: An overtly political song and a good example of Bono's sometimes heavy-handed treatment of such topics, although I appreciate his heart greatly. I'll stick to baseball and ask whether Giancarlo "Mike" Stanton has hit a home run today? He's been sending bullets through the blue sky on a daily basis this month.
Track 5: Running To Stand Still: A song about a heroin-addicted couple. Josh Hamilton is the only major league player I know who's had a heroin problem.
Track 6: Red Hill Mining Town: Since U2 is playing every song on the album on this tour, this marks the first time they've played "Red Hill Mining Town" in concert. Pete Gray was from the mining town of Nanticoke, Pa. He lost his right arm in a truck accident when he was 8.
Track 7: In God's Country: Bono's been quoted as saying this song could be about America or Ireland. P.J. Conlon, a Mets prospect, is from Belfast, Northern Ireland. If he makes the majors, he'll be the first Irish native to play big league ball since the 1940s.
Track 8: Trip Through Your Wires: In major league baseball, "wire" means only one thing and that's the waiver wire. Recently there was one of those lists ranking the all-time greatest waiver wire deals. The Braves snagging John Smoltz from a pennant-desperate Tigers team in exchange for veteran pitcher Doyle Alexander was named the greatest of them all.
Track 9: One Tree Hill: A gut-wrenching song that I could never match with a baseball card. However, there is a famous TV series by the same name that I've never watched. One of the creators and producers of that show is Mike Tollin, who also created a documentary on Hank Aaron in the mid-1990s. By the way, I tried to track down my Leaf card of Aaron from 1987, since that was also issued 30 years ago. But I couldn't find it. So I'm using this Donruss Hall of Fame Heroes Hank from four years earlier, that features the exact same picture.
Track 10: Exit: A song about a serial killer, so let's go with the title! I don't know a greater final card than this one. I know people like to call these "Final Tributes," but I think I like "exit card" better. That's what I'm calling these from now on. Thanks, U2!
Track 11: Mothers of the Disappeared: Another song on this album about Nicaragua and El Salvador, specifically about a group of women whose children were abducted by their own government (stuff like this still goes on in countries. And we think we have problems). The easy choice for a Nicaraguan native is Dennis Martinez. But I'd rather show Nicaraguan Porfirio Altamirano. His career was short, but not only is his name fun to say, but I adored this card when I first saw it. Still one of my favorite '83 Topps cards.
And that's where the needle comes off the record.
I think the best thing I can say about this album is how I've treated it since it was released. Music is now digested in bite-sized quantities. Songs are pulled off of albums as we consume our music digitally without any respect for the story an album tells. I'm as guilty of this as anyone. But I haven't done that with The Joshua Tree. I listen to the songs only intact with the rest of the album. It just seems like something I'm supposed to do.
I wish I could be at that concert, But I am very thankful for youtube, particularly in the last few months. It is a music-lover's dream.
In fact, thanks to a recent obsession born of youtube, there will be another Match the Song Title within the next few months. It may surprise you as it steps outside the bounds of late '70s and '80s rock/pop.
What can I say, I've come across a lot of music over 50 years.