Happy Birthday to The Edge, turning 54 today.
If Adam and Larry are the rhythm section holding the songs together, and Bono is the front man trying to go in every direction, then Edge is the basis of the sound of the band. It is more true of Edge than of any of the others to say that if he wasn’t there, then the band would not exist as it does. Now, you could say that about each of them, that the band would be different if any of them were missing, but I think Edge is probably first among equals. He is the source of the band’s sound, the alchemist that makes things go as Bono says, and I think that if the music were different then the band wouldn’t be nearly as successful as it is.
When you listen to the early stuff, the Innocence part of the band’s history, you hear Edge standing out more than anything else. It is mostly basic stuff in the early days, clear and simple things, but then you stop and listen and realize that it’s not as simple as it sounds, but rather than there are layers of music even then. And if you listen to the band going forward, you hear those layers growing, such that nowadays you can listen to the song ten times and hear ten different things in it. It really is that complex. I have tried playing some of the songs on my guitar, and each time I end up being amazed that he is able to make the sound he does. Now, I’m nowhere near as talented as Edge - his little finger has more guitar talent than me (seriously) - so that might not come as a surprise to you. But even just trying to get a slightly similar sound is difficult. Take I Will Follow, an early song so relatively simple, but even the basic eight note sound of the song has a different little twist each time it goes through.
There are people who say Edge isn’t a great guitarist, that it’s all tricks and mirrors, that he wouldn’t be who he is without a bunch of pedals. That last part is actually true, Edge’s sound comes out of the pedals that he uses, but he uses them very effectively to make the sound unique. Saying it’s not a great way of doing it is crazy, that’s like saying someone isn’t a great writer because they use a computer rather than pen and paper.
The amazing part is how much he does and how little he does. Take Elevation, which I mentioned from It Might Get Loud the other day. He plays a few notes, and his effects turn it into this amazing sound. I just don’t know how he manages to come up with that, a whole lot of work playing with different sounds and different effects pedals to get the outcome he wants. Patience, one of those things I don’t have near enough of to be able to come up with something like that, let alone to be able to play it.
Of course he does have duds now and then, the most spectacular being Numb, which let’s face it sounds terrible (although appropriate for the time it was made), and the video for the song which is amusing in a cringeworthy kind of way.
His singing is much more important than it seems at times. I sometimes hear him singing something and realize that I didn’t know he sang that part, and I’m pretty sure there are many chunks of songs that my wife doesn’t realize he sings. That’s a great talent, to be able to fill in those parts in a good way, but without people skipping a beat to think about him doing it. Just an extra bonus he brings to the band.
Overall I love Edge, I would probably say he’s my favorite member of the band (although tomorrow I might say something different).