Dom and I are about the same age and grew up listening to the same stuff, only with an actual ocean between us. So after meeting him at a White Sox game and talking music, we’ve kept in touch. We often have conversations about how different groups fared on the other’s continent. For instance, he might tell me about how bad EMF was live and I might try to explain why in the US, Hispanic people love New Wave at a disproportionately high level. All this is to say, Dom was one of the first people I reached out to about this project and he did not disappoint.
I was 14. Achtung Baby was released November 1991, and from September to album release day (November 18th) BBC Radio 1 had an exclusive song-by-song play to promote the release, scattered throughout the days, where you kinda tried to piece the album together yourself. It didn’t sound like these songs belonged together! The Fly – One – Mysterious Ways; they sounded completely separate from each other. You needed to hear the whole album to find out how the story ended.
I first heard the album in its entirety Christmas Day 1991, 5 weeks after release, when I got the cassette for Christmas. I listened on my Sony Walkman, reading the album artwork/notes for almost the whole of that Christmas and New Year. Album artwork was as much part of the event as the music itself then. I was instantly obsessed by the whole thing.
How often do you listen to it?
Maybe once a month on average, in its entirety. It’s a fucking heavy album, lyrically especially, with massive sentimental value to me … so I have to pick my moments. I don’t listen to it, I hear it.
Why is this your favorite album?
It’s still fascinating to me 30 years on. When you grow up with a great album, that great album grows up with you.
As a kid it was the production and structure of the songs that hooked me – Eno, Flood, Hansa Studios, Berlin; that industrial crunch, with the most unique vocal and guitar on top, giving that gritty noise underneath a purpose and direction. It created a great sound.
As I grew up I started hearing – and I guess understanding – the lyrics more, and just how heavy they are. Songs like ‘One’, ‘Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses’, ‘So Cruel’, ‘Acrobat’, ‘Love is Blindness’.. this was basically Edge’s divorce on record. A personal and introspective examination of love and betrayal. Heavy stuff.
It’s not all grim; ‘Even Better Than The Real Thing’, ‘Mysterious Ways’, and the hope of ‘Ultraviolet (Light My Way) give you a break, some relief. ‘Zoo Station’ and ‘The Fly’ are fun, almost flippant… but at the same time they’re also important landscapes to which the sound of the whole album was built on.
The one thing these songs all have in common? They’re all great songs, and somehow they all fit together perfectly in one hour. They shouldn’t, but they do.