In 1987, U2 released The Joshua Tree and pretty much changed the face of popular music. The album not only propelled them to superstardom but made the marketplace safe for hyper-literate rock anthems, influencing the work of both contemporaries like R.E.M. and descendants like Coldplay.
This was my first U2 album and I went nuts over it, playing it nonstop in my bedroom that whole summer. It was also right around the time Paul Simon’s Graceland and Peter Gabriel’s So came out, and those three albums formed my holy trinity of new music.
But I write about The Joshua Tree (and my selected track, ‘In God’s Country’) not just to sing its praises 21 years later, but to reflect on the geeky association it forever carries in my mind.
You see, 1987 also marked the release of The Lurking Horror, the latest role-playing game by Infocom.
Now, Infocom is to today’s video games what a caveman beating a series of sticks against a rock is to an iPod. These were entirely text-based games, sort of glorified ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books. They’d give you a description of a place and you would type in a command like “Pick up rock” or “Go east” or “Pull lever.” The stories were rather complex, the puzzles often ingenious. And if you ask this old fogey (in computer gaming years), they rewarded the imagination far better than the Grand Theft Autos of the world.
So I spent much of 1987 playing The Lurking Horror (an average game by Infocom’s standards) and listening to The Joshua Tree. And I can’t hear three bars of any song on this album without being transported back to that second-floor bedroom in Northern Virginia, a 15-year-old boy in geek heaven.