Week in Rock History: U2 Rocks a Kmart

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February 14, 1986: Frank Zappa guest-stars on Miami Vice
One of the premier innovators of avant-garde rock, Frank Zappa loved toying with the more surreal elements of life. Naturally, when he found himself with some time to kill and his taste for the spotlight unwhetted, he turned to one of the most bizarre spectacles of Eighties pop culture: Miami Vice.

 Zappa appeared on an episode of the extremely popular crime drama in 1986 as the kingpin of a drug ring that dealt "weasel dust." His theatrical turn mainly required him to stroll menacingly on a yacht and ride in a speedboat with pastel-clad lead actor Don Johnson. Of course, for all his intimidation tactics, Zappa's character was eventually brought to justice for his cocaine-dealing ways.

Sadly, Zappa's dialogue did not include the line "Weasel dust ripped my flesh."

February 12, 1997: U2 hold a press conference in a New York Kmart to announce their Popmart world tour
When U2 decided to stage a world tour to accompany their 1997 album Pop, they chose an unlikely location to announce the news: the lingerie section of a Kmart discount store in downtown New York City.

Flanked by hundreds of reporters and music industry staffers, the band took to their makeshift stage to perform the b-side "Holy Joe," then announced the specifics of their world tour. They also answered questions for half an hour, during which they explained that the store stunt was meant to further the upcoming tour's satirical take on materialism and consumerism.

The PopMart Tour was a tremendous moment in U2's career: over 90 shows and nearly 4 million tickets sold across North and South America, the Middle East and Africa. The set design included dozens of television screens, as well as a moving mirrorball, a racetrack of trucks and bikes and an LED device that cost millions of dollars to create.

In 1998, for the 200th episode of The Simpsons, the PopMart tour even stopped in the family's fictitious Springfield. The real-life tour remains one of the most successful concert events in modern rock history.

Last week: The Beatles Land in New York

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Song Stories

“Long Walk Home”

Bruce Springsteen | 2007

When the subject of this mournful song returns home, he hardly recognizes his town. Springsteen told Rolling Stone the alienation the man feels is a metaphor for life in a politically altered post-9/11 America. “Who would have ever thought we’d live in a country without habeas corpus?” he said. “That’s Orwellian. That’s what political hysteria is about and how effective it is. I felt it in myself. You get frightened for your family, for your home. And you realize how countries can move way off course, very far from democratic ideals.”

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