Tuned In

Leftover Day with Bono

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This one’s just for the other people who have to work today. The rest of you, go off somewhere and stuff yourselves with turkey-cranberry sandwiches or buy one of those 12-packs of Xbox 360s that Sam’s Club has on sale or whatnot.

For my working people, whiling away the time on Tuned In on your boss’s dime, a Leftover Day TV Tip: HBO debuts its new music-interview show Off the Record tonight at 11 p.m. E.T., with host Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics, sitting down with Bono and the Edge of U2.

U2 are kind of the Italian food of pop music–nobody doesn’t like them. But the band is so universally praised, admired, sanctified and loved, or at least kind of liked, that I suspected there was nothing interesting left to hear about them. But even though I’m merely in the kind-of-like category–the last time I had any serious interest in them, I was in college and growing a Robert Smith haircut somewhere around the Joshua Tree era–I was pleasantly surprised.

Stewart is not exactly a put-’em-in-the-crosshairs interviewer: his idea of a rigorous question is "Tell me about Bad," or "Talk about when you were in Berlin," but something about the relaxed, musicians talking to musicians atmosphere elevates it above Inside the Actors Studio. True, most of the conversation involves Bono and The Edge each telling the other how great and overly modest he is. Yet it does result in an interesting dissection of why the band sounds like it does. For instance, The Edge explains that he developed his distinctive ringing, percussive style of guitar playing in part in reaction to Adam Clayton’s aggressive bass playing–because Clayton plays so much more melodically than the typical bassist, The Edge considered himself and drummer Larry Mullen to be the rhythm section of the band.

The interview focuses surprisingly heavily on the early half of the band’s career–up to around Achtung Baby–which I would say is fitting because that’s when the band stopped being interesting and became megafamous. But you could just as well say is simply canny marketing to aging, I Love the ’80s Gen Xers like myself, who will be intrigued by hearing Bono reveal that the man described in "Bullet the Blue Sky" ("
This guy comes up to me/ His face red like a rose on a thorn bush/ Like all the colors of a royal flush/ And he’s peeling off those dollar bills…") is Ronald Reagan.

Not to mention, bless him for ending poverty and human sadness or whatever he’s currently doing, but it is simply a blessed freaking relief to hear Bono talk about music for a change. Praise God and pass the cranberry sauce.