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Achtung Baby by U2: Twenty Years in the Rear-View Mirror

It was during this tour that I had an unforgettable moment. U2 was scheduled to play in Columbia, South Carolina, when I received a call from a friend: “U2 is flying into Eagle Aviation, want to go meet them at the plane?”

Right. I had my share of celebrity near-misses. When I worked at as a rock DJ before law school, I had one particular freak who would call the radio station claiming to be Max Weinberg’s (E Street Band) sister.  She set up more than one scheduled trip by “Bruce Springsteen” to the radio station that resulted only in increasingly bizarre excuses.  So I was skeptical.

We breezed through the lobby at Eagle Aviation, a small private general aviation portal at Columbia’s airport and went straight onto the tarmac.  A wink from an employee friend gave us access.  A black limo waited on the empty tarmac as a 727 with “MGM” painted on the side landed and taxied to us.  We were the only two people on the tarmac apart from a man who pushed a stairway up to the jet’s door.   Larry Mullen, Adam Clayton, then The Edge, and finally Bono emerged from the jet.

Since we were the only two people on the tarmac, they must have assumed we were there to officially greet and guide them, so they approached us, not the other way around.  I greeted them with a Sharpie and CD cover to sign and disabused them of that assumption.  They kindly signed our stuff and shook our hands before climbing into the limo.  It was a story few would have believed except I still have the CDs and some photos of them deplaning before I ran out of film.  It was unforgettable.

 “We're free to fly the crimson sky

The sun won't melt our wings tonight”

—  "Even Better Than the Real Thing," Achtung Baby

Now, twenty years later after Achtung Baby’s release, even film is gone.  Relevant terrestrial radio is gone. So are world-dominating acts like U2, except perhaps for U2.  And along with it, we’ve lost yet another shared common American cultural experience.

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