Like Beth, obsessions are for me synonymous with adolescence.
My first obsession was with U2. I was briefly infatuated with INXS, right before U2, but I think I was actually just in lust with Michael Hutchence, rather than obsessed with the band, because it passed. In contrast, I dedicated several years of my life to U2. I mean, really dedicated.
It started when I bought Achtung Baby on cassette when I was in Year 7. By Year 8 I owned their entire catalogue, including most singles, on multiple formats. I subscribed to the official fan magazine “Propaganda”, and bought every single music magazine that featured them, even only in passing. I combed through back issues of old Q magazines and NMEs at Lawson’s on Pitt Street looking for further reference material for my archive. Like all good fanatics, I knew all the band members’ personal details, and drew pictures of them in felt-tip pen in my spare time.
My obsession extended to include any matters of only peripheral connection to U2. I remember having to order in a “Learn Irish” cassette from Dymocks. I remember looking up the word “swagger” in the dictionary because Bono had used it in an interview. I watched Wim Wenders films, and read William S. Burroughs, as they were connected to U2 in some way I now forget.
Looking back, the obsession is both incredibly impressive and massively embarrassing. Unlike Beth, who had the common sense to be obsessed with a halfway decent band (who, interestingly, I despised when I was a teenager) with an enduring catalogue, I feel entirely disconnected from U2, their music, and the person who was obsessed with them. I think even at the time I was more into the actual process of being obsessed than I was into the band. I remember distinctly feeling uneasy about their Christianity, their posturing, and some of their lyrics seemed even to a teenager to be, well, bad. I think teenagers just need an outlet for their natural obsessiveness, it doesn’t really matter what it is. They’re such good little researchers and archivists, they should be put to work in the law courts.
By the end of Year 10, the obsession had completely passed. I don’t even think I bought the album they produced after Zooropa. This was because I had replaced my U2 obsession with my all-encompassing Brit Pop obsession, which at least had broader scope.
My friend Jonathan has a pretty embarrassing tattoo from when he was sixteen. He says he’s a walking lesson in why sixteen year-olds shouldn’t get tattoos. When he said this, I realised that if I could have, I would have, at that time, got an enormous tattoo of Bono’s face. I remember seeing pictures of people who’d done just that in the fan magazine. Something like this:
OH MY GOD I AM SO GLAD THAT DID NOT HAPPEN.