They Rattle And Hum
Rattle and Hum has always been my favorite U2 record. Apparently it was inspired by a remark Bob Dylan made to Bono about digging for your roots. So it is the record and film in which U2 embraced American rock n roll..Americana even. Rock n roll and the feature length film is sometimes a dodgy enterprise. However when it succeeds, its a beautiful thing.
I loved the Joshua Tree record in sixth grade. Before I started playing guitar and was still a punk skateboarder the feeling of that music connected with me just like it did with everyone. I listened to those tracks over and over again and dreamed about what little I knew of the world.
When Rattle And Hum came out I was already a U2 fan and by this point had begun playing guitar. I had converted from skateboard punk to heavy metal guitarist but through both periods remained a U2 fan. Maybe it is my Irish heritage, or lyrics like “over the counter with that shotgun, pretty soon everybody got one,” but even though I didn’t feel I directly identified with them, I always dug their songs. So, I was a fan, and I was interested in seeing Rattle and Hum, but not as interested as I was in seeing another film that came out that same week.
In the town I grew up in, Somers Point New Jersey, where Levon And The Hawks once had a summer residency and where the fictional Eddie from ‘Eddie and the Cruisers’ crashed off the bridge and died (or did he die?) there was a four theater movie house aptly monikered The Point 4. My brother and I saw many a classic film here including Indiana Jones and The Temple Of Doom (by far the masterpiece of the series,) Back To The Future, and Rambo II, just to name a few. The Point 4 was not one of those grand theaters with giant screens and velvet carpets built in the 50s. It was a shitty little place that sprang up in the impoverished 80s, with little theaters and uncomfortable seats. It had small screens, frequent projection malfunctions and an ice cream store in the front. On this particular moment in time not only was The Point 4 showing U2s ‘Rattle And Hum,’ but they were also showing John Carpenters now cult classic alien movie ‘They Live’ starring pro wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.
I had already seen Big Trouble In Little China and thought it was the best thing since Temple Of Doom, so I was beside myself with excitement for the next John Carpenter film. This excitement trumped my interest in ‘Rattle and Hum, and off me and my friends went, undoubtedly transported by my mother in her white Malibu station wagon.
‘They Live’ is a brilliant bit of political commentary in which the upper class are actually aliens tricking the rest of society into complacency while they reap all the wealth for themselves. Obey. It’s as relevent now as ever. In an era of formulaic and predictable movies ‘They Live” was full of surprises. I remeber being shocked when the girl who has just been rescued by Rowdy Roddy unexpectedly breaks a bottle over his head and pushes him through and out a 5 story window. ‘They Live’ also has the single greatest man to man fight scene of all time. In order to see the aliens you have to wear these special sunglasses created by the resistance. So after already having been enlightened, Roddy tries to convince his buddy to wear the glasses too. After a brutal half hour long fight scene in an alley that rivals even Roddy’s classic battles with Jimmy Superfly Snuka, said friend decides to oblige and put on the glasses. Sure enough….aliens!
When my friends and I were leaving the theater, completely excited by what we had just scene, we began making our exit when we realised, “Rattle and Hum is still playing… maybe we can sneak in.” The single most fun thing about the cineplex movie going experience is sneaking into another movie when your movie is finished. Its something I still do and those pimply faced ushers can never seem to put the kabash on it.
I remember the jangly delayed sound of Edges’ guitar blaring out when we opened the door to the theater. I also remember how striking the black and white concert images were. Rock n Roll shows and videos have historically been full color events with rainbow light shows, so the images of U2 playing to thousands of devoted fans, all in black and white carried a certain irony. Irony that I didn’t really understand but was aware that it made the film more compelling somehow. I believe that is the first time I heard ‘Pride In The Name Of Love.’ An Anthem of anthems blaring loud in black and white in a tiny theater on the Jersey shore for a total of ten people including the three 13 year olds that snuck in from ‘They Live.’ What a night for the imagination. When we walked outside mom was waiting in the old Malibu station wagon, just like always.