NEW YORK, NY--Sources from a parallel universe where all the members of Irish rock band U2 died in a plane crash during their 1987 Joshua Tree Tour reported today that Rolling Stone's annual "Greatest Bands of All-Time" listed the late band as the third greatest, behind The Beatles and Led Zeppelin. Sources confirmed that eliminating 25 years of the Dublin group's career was enough to catapult the band ahead of such luminaries as The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and Pink Floyd.
"While not as earth-shattering as the news that John Lennon had been shot, anybody who was a serious music fan in September, 1987 could tell you where they were when they heard U2's plane was reported missing off the coast of Greenland," reads the opening line of the piece. "A day later, search teams confirmed the worst: rock legends U2 had died in a plane crash en route to start the North American leg of their hugely successful Joshua Tree Tour."
"The disaster went on to catapult The Joshua Tree back to No. 1 on the charts for the rest of the year," continued the magazine. "All five of the band's albums were back in the top 40 by January. And not much has changed since. Since 1988, U2 has been the highest-selling posthumous band; if it were a person it would be second only to Elvis."
The article went on to offer commentary on the brevity of U2's career and speculation on where it ultimately might have gone. "U2's candle burned fast and bright, sadly extinguished just after they had broken into the American market. It's difficult to imagine where U2 would be today, but without a doubt all the members would still be rocking it up--legends like Bono and The Edge don't exactly go quietly in the night."
"Realistically, The Joshua Tree was an album that U2 probably could not have topped," the magazine opined. "With the exception of Abbey Road and Electric Ladyland, a better final album has never been produced. Obviously, they never got the chance to prove us wrong, but it never hurts to go out on top, even in tragedy."
"It also didn't hurt that their posthumous rockumentary Rattle and Hum was the most fitting epitaph the band could have given itself," read an analysis from the publication which in our timeline refers to the film as "bombastic and pretentious." "The band played tribute to the century's greatest artists, while at the same time proving themselves to be their equals. If there is a more indelible concert moment than when Bono announces he's stealing back "Helter Skelter" from Charles Manson, I've never seen it."
An analysis of the band's musical history noted such songs as "New Year's Day" and "Sunday Bloody Sunday" as a "rugged middle finger to the synthpop that dominated the charts" in the '80s. "U2 found itself the heir to The Who at a time when bubblegum infested the music landscape. It hurts to dwell on what heights they could have reached had they survived."
The world which mercifully never saw Pop or "The Saints Are Coming" also offered praise for U2's political activism. "U2 accomplished the rare feat of promoting political awareness without making it a self-promoting spectacle, and neither did they ever become heavy-handed. Their opposition to the violence in Ireland and poverty worldwide was the first legitimate political stand by a musician since the early '70s."
"A lot of artists today could take their cues from Bono on how to spread a message without alienating half the audience," the magazine concluded. The work also designated the lead singer as the "conscience" of the Forever 27 Club.
For all of its praise for the band, the article did end on a somewhat sober note. "Unlike Paul McCartney or The Rolling Stones, U2 never got a chance to be embarrassing middle-aged stars desperate for the adulation and success of their younger years. Would they have turned into another once-relevant band now willing to do anything for five more minutes in the spotlight? Possibly. Fortunately for us, it never came to pass that way. U2 will forever be remembered as the way they were in 1987-the coolest goddamn rock band on the planet."