By Wallace Wylie
I still remember where I was 10 years ago when I first heard that it had been 20 years since U2 released their sophomore effort October. I was in the middle of a high-stakes poker game involving Eddie Vedder and Flea. (Though I don’t want to go into the whole boasting game, let’s just say Eddie lost a few Pearl Jam gold records that evening). Flea, shirtless and fretless, turned on the radio and I don’t think anyone in the room that night will forget how they felt when they first heard the DJ mention how long it had been since October had come out. Eddie wanted the DJ to say it again. I thought of The Beatles line, “It was 20 years ago today”, probably because it really had been 20 years ago to the day. Flea was just muttering to himself in the candlelight. A lot has happened since then but the impact of October‘s 20th anniversary is still being felt today, though sometimes you need to look at how times have changed before you can fully grasp that impact.
In 2001 so many classics had not yet reached their 20th anniversary: Nevermind by Nirvana, Out Of Time by R.E.M., God Fodder by Ned’s Atomic Dustbin. Nowadays every album seems to celebrate its 20th anniversary, so much so that people forget how ahead of the game U2 were. October‘s 20th anniversary changed how I thought about album anniversaries. In a lot of ways it changed the music industry as we know it. In a personal conversation I had with Bono just a few days ago even he had no idea how much of an impact the October anniversary would go on to have.
To me it had just been 20 years since four lads had tried to scratch their name into the resin-coated edifice of modern music, but to a lot of people it made them realise that 20 years had passed in their life and when they looked back and thought of the things they had been doing when October was first released it then made them want to listen to the album, and from there it was only a matter of time before they bought it again. That blows my mind. I think it blew a lot of people’s minds, especially the members of U2.
So, 10 years later, how has music changed? The chances are you’ve already bought the Nevermind reissue, and you’ve probably already pre-ordered your Achtung Baby Uber Deluxe edition. In other words, the answer to that question is all around you. Every year more and more albums reach their 20th anniversary and as the years go by I predict that this will become a very regular occurrence. So regular, in fact, that it will often be forgotten who started this trend. While many albums can lay claim to being the originator, I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that the 20th anniversary of October was a true game changer. The 10 years since then have flown by, but even for members of the group in question, the album’s anniversary can still feel like yesterday. As Bono says:
We may have been touring All That You Can’t Leave Behind at the time, but we knew we were onto something special by celebrating October‘s 20th birthday. Good things age like wine, and that anniversary has just gotten sweeter. Maybe I didn’t think it would be this big of a deal, but I still knew 20 years was a pretty amazing feat. It turns out there really are some things you can’t leave behind, and it’s good to know I’m not the only one who thinks so. Here’s to another 20 years.
Music fans of every generation would find it hard to disagree with that sentiment.
The 20th anniversary of October was 10 years ago this week. More Jeff Pollack here.