(This is the script of my Pause For Thought with Owain Wyn Evans on BBC Radio 2 on September 15, 2023. The them was The Power Of Coming Together)
I’ve always wondered about the greatest rock bands. The miracle of 4 people from the same place at the same time, finding each other. All brilliant on different instruments. A shy bass player. A charismatic singer. A songwriter. The power of coming together.
I mean The Beatles. Mercy. One seismic moment in a neighbourhood or two of Liverpool. The melodies, the looks, the personalities, the harmonies, Harrison’s sweet guitar riffs, the long hair shaking to the catchiest choruses ever written. All great but there is no way that they could have shook the 60s as solo artists. It was a perfect pop coming together to create something explosive.
U2. Dublin’s version. None of them could have made it alone. It’s maybe why they have never broken up. Solo careers are unlikely. Again it was their coming together. One school. One time. One ad on the noticeboard. One rehearsal in the drummer’s kitchen. A coming together of naive teens that became the biggest rock band on the planet.
I was watching them live in Vancouver in 2005. I had just started a sabbatical. I was actually finishing a book on the band and needed to see them on the Tuesday night and have the final chapter written about it by Sunday.
I remember during the concert thinking how do they do this. How can just four people, only three of them playing instruments fill this huge Arena and capture the attention of 100os?
Then I sensed they were playing on this coming together. The way they showed the band on the big screens. Individual shots but together. That song of theirs where they sing, “we are ONE but we are not the same.
This particular tour was Africa centred. All the African flags appeared in a magnificent back drop. I was convinced their message was about a coming together of humanity and I was even more convinced it was based on the South African word Ubuntu. That Xhosa word Ubuntu that means I cannot be fully me without you.
U2 seemed to be preaching in their songs that humans are always better as human beings when we come together. Love our neighbour. Serve each other. As that U2 song goes… “One but not the same, we get to carry each other”.