Tangent Sunset

The History of Conscious Music by Alex Cosper

Angels and Devils


One of the biggest rock bands of the decade would be U2, who were at first said to be a Christian band. Songs on The Joshua Tree seemed to move with this image such as "In God's Country" and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," which talked about having experience with angels and devils. As it turned out, they weren't really fundamentalists and were closer to the spirituality of rock and roll than any organized religion. In the sixties and seventies it seemed that rock and roll had its own spirituality.

A lot of MTV artists began wearing crosses around their necks to reveal their allegiance. It was unclear where religious beliefs were going but it seemed like there was a growing fear that "judgment day" might be coming in "1999" as described by Prince. An actual Catholic hymn topped the charts in 1986 with Mister Mister's "Kyrie." But most of the pop music that touched on religion did so in a very shallow way and had little to say about spirituality or the universe, as in "Heaven Is A Place On Earth" by Belinda Carlisle. A more curious song about the concept of eternity was "Forever Young" by Alphaville. While the sixties and seventies raised questions, eighties pop culture began to move more in a direction of simple answers.

U2 became the most popular leaders in message music throughout the eighties. Whatever their take on religion was, their songs were more about spirituality and the human condition and not about a specific denomination. Despite the mad rush for bands to start focusing on videos while the song became almost secondary, U2 kept the Bob Dylan spirit alive in music with a lot of social commentary songs album after album. "Pride (In The Name Of Love)" became a peace anthem that saluted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The Joshua Tree album became the modern rock genre's most monumental album of its time and was full of songs that spoke of life's journey in a chaotic world. "Bullet The Blue Sky" looked down at the relationship between greed and war.

In 1988 U2 offered a movie called Rattle And Hum, which documented their concert adventures and finally showed the band's humorous side. The film featured the song "Desire" which lyrically was a montage of cultural images and talked about "the year of election." Many of the other songs on the album had been recorded before by U2. One of those songs was the very outspkoken "God Part 2," which clarified the band's position on a lot of issues - that what they really stood for was the same thing The Beatles kept singing about - which was a love for humanity.

Continue to "Lost Messages"