Bruce Springsteen on the band with “the most beautiful” sound in rock

Rock and roll is never meant to sound pretty. Many bands like The Beatles or The Beach Boys may have built their legacy on heavenly harmonies that floated above the music, but the origin of the genre points to music that sounded mean. While Bruce Springsteen didn’t like sugarcoating any of his songs, he knew that pure beauty emanated from U2 when he heard them.

Before Springsteen had even gotten a record contract, he was still looking to create beauty through his stories rather than his rustic voice. He knew he didn’t have the same vocal chops as a Brian Wilson figure, but Springsteen’s strength was always in the grit he put into his songs, singing about characters on the wrong side of the tracks as if he knew them all personally.

As soon as Springsteen started garnering massive success, though, the punk revolution garnered significant momentum. Taking a hatchet to every insincere rock star that came before, the biggest names in rock were now focused on bringing the genre back to basics, with Sex Pistols and Ramones trying their hand at making simple songs done up in glorious spiky hair and denim jackets.

While U2 didn’t start until post-punk was in full swing, they quickly understood the power behind their music. Though they may have adopted the kind of dad-rock mentality that afflicts so many bands to this day, Bono always focused on what could happen if you internalise the music, making songs that were focused on the freedom that can come from music.

If Bono was the holy preacher of rock and roll, The Edge was his choir of angels. Being a fan of progressive rock as well as punk, The Edge was always focused on making musical works of art whenever he went into the studio, eventually pioneering his signature delayed guitar sound that sounded like the sounds of the future when fans picked up The Joshua Tree.

Springsteen already had his eye on U2 at this point, but he still wasn’t prepared for what he heard when hearing The Edge play. Compared to the years that he had spent working with his E Street Band, Springsteen knew that what the silent guitarist at left centre stage had created was beyond anything he had imagined.

Inducting the band into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Springsteen said that there was still nothing he could think of that measured up to that guitar sound, saying, “They’re the keepers of the most beautiful sonic architecture in rock and roll. The Edge, The Edge, The Edge. He’s one of the subtlest guitar heroes of all time. If you’re playing those two-note sustained fourths drenched in echo, you’re going to sound like The Edge, my son. Go back to the drawing board, and chances are you won’t have much luck.”

The Edge didn’t just find a sound and stick with it, either, going from one different guitar sound to the next on every track on the band’s electronic-tinged pivot Achtung Baby. No matter what was going to come after U2 in the rock world, the guitar community was in a different world the minute that The Edge broke ground with those delay pedals.

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