Dubliners: U2 Give Themselves Away
Musician, May 1987, page 80
By Bill Graham and Niall Stokes, photos by Anton Corbijn
"It's one of my ambitions," Bono admits, "that if I'm around Dublin long enough, people won't even notice. I love this city.
I love it and I hate it and I love it and I hate it. What I hate is how much they have destroyed Dublin, to see them pulling
down the buildings. The closest I ever came to throwing a large brick through a window in the last two years was outside the
Royal Hibernian Way. I had to be dragged away. I mean- the rage I feel inside me when I see the pillboxes they have planted
outside Christchurch Cathedral!
"Well, Larry just says to me, 'Come on. When you're worried about the way a city looks,
you know you're okay. There's a lot of people out there who can't afford to worry about what the city looks like."'
are home again.., for a little while. Their fifth album, The Joshua Tree, is finished and they are laying plans for another
international tour. Like every U2 tour, it will be bigger than the one before. At the band's new rehearsal studio, Larry Mullen
patiently scans a tape of Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready," working out the lyrics to the song U2 might cover in their
American concerts. The band- Bono, Larry, Adam Clayton and the Edge- toy with the tune at the end of an exhausting day of
rehearsals. The song is demonstration of how U2 are
excavating old roots for their latest music. In 1985 Bono and his wife
Allie spent a month working as volunteers on an educational relief project in Ethiopia. Returning from Africa, he traveled
to New York to add vocals to Steve Van Zandt's "Sun City." That led to a meeting with Peter Wolf and the Rolling Stones (detailed
in Musician #91) and the beginning of Bono's exploration of the blues.
U2 finally recognized that there was musical life
before 1976. Formed in the slipstream of punk, the band were typical teenagers of that era- fixated on Television, Patti Smith
and the Ramones. Their first chaotic demo session in 1979 was literally out of time, out of tune and out of control. A fellow
Dubliner looking at them now is filled with protective Irish pride and a desire to pinch himself hard. Have the fresh-faced
makers of the beardless Boy really matured so quickly into such influential rock power-brokers?
They are still familiar
figures on the Dublin landscape. Adam drinking in a cramped nightclub; Larry slipping into the shadows to watch some unknown
local band; Edge on the street, shopping with his pregnant wife Aisling; Bono swapping Dublin stories with an elderly stevedore
in his local bar. It doesn't seem very long ago that U2 weren't even old enough to buy a drink.
But they have received
the torch; they are the last remaining band of their generation to breathe new life into old rock ceremonies and revive abandoned
dreams. And Ireland hasn't quite digested it yet. Unlike earlier generations of Irish artists- from James Joyce and Samuel
Beckett to Van Morrison and Bob Geldof- U2 have stayed at home. They have not been forced to decamp to London, Paris or New
York. They formed at a time when pop music was finally being allowed a place on Irish radio, when international tours were
finally crossing the Irish Sea from Britain. Their rise reflects the ideals of a maddening country. Finally Ireland has a
hometown team to cheer.
During his early trips to America Bono was pained about being a "Stranger in a Strange Land." Now
he is a familiar figure in the Promised Land. The Joshua Tree crosses many different Americas in its ethical and emotional
journey. The Irish don't view America as the English do. The continuous tides of immigration have created intimacies. U2's
early and enthusiastic courtship of America had natural cultural roots. They could not understand or be bothered by the Anglo-American
competition that had been an undercurrent in rock for twenty years.
But for all their affection for America, U2 are Irish,
and the Irish have been shaken by the rise of Reaganism in the U.S. So long under the heel of Britain, the Irish instinctively
side with the Nicaraguan government against Washington. Bono recently visited Nicaragua and was moved by what he saw as a
noble people struggling against a powerful aggressor. Other Irish bands have been playing benefits for Nicaragua, and in Galway
a Catholic bishop- the most accurate barometer of national opinion- refused to share a platform with Reagan.
Tree reflects that Irish ambiguity toward the United States. U2's new songs draw on the American music they love to carry
criticisms of American foreign policies. Bono jokingly casts himself as the American of the group and Edge as the European-
a reference to Edge's initial reluctance to embrace older forms at the expense of the sonic dreamscapes producers Brian Eno
and Daniel Lanois brought to The Unforgettable Fire. Finally Joshua Tree emerged as an amalgam, in which the individual song
was the top priority, taking precedence over the old U2 virtues of theme, sustained mood and experimentation.
had to serve the songs," is how Edge explains the new strategy. Though the guitarist was the most hesitant of the four to
step out from Unforgettable Fire's aural web, he soon brought his own unprecedented aggressive contributions to "Bullet The
Blue Sky" and "Exit," the latter worked up and recorded on the very last day of the album.
Concerned as it is with great matters, The Joshua Tree does not ignore the bleak or the personal. "Success
had a hollow head," said Bono, and 1986 reminded U2 that every triumph has a dark side. The group's personal assistant, a
Zealand Maori named Greg Carroll, was killed in an Irish motorcycle accident. The group dedicated the album to
his memory, and wrote a song called "One Tree Hill" about him.
On a more mundane level, U2 were attacked for their part
in Self-Aid, a program to raise money for the Irish unemployed that also featured Elvis Costello, Van Morrison and the Boom-town
Rats. Self-Aid raised a million Irish pounds, but U2 were singled out for a front-page attack by In Dublin, the Irish equivalent
of New York's Village Voice. To the leftists at the paper, U2 were just liberal hypocrites.
From there the band embarked
on Amnesty International's Conspiracy of Hope tour, a summer extravaganza that brought awareness of human rights abuses to
stadium audiences across the U.S. That tour also gave U2 a chance to travel, make music and spend time with older peers like
Peter Gabriel, Lou Reed and the Police. It continued two parallel trends: U2 became more socially active and U2 moved into
ever bigger venues.
The Irish can be possessive. If The Joshua Tree puts U2 into the pop stratosphere, how will Ireland
react? Their history makes the Irish suspect of sweet dreams and happy endings. In a fatalistic country, the urge to celebrate
The new album is both U2's most ambitious and their most troubled. With a new emphasis on the poetic
power of language, they place less reliance on faith. This new celebration is less buoyant. With The Joshua Tree U2 are asking
tough questions of themselves and their audience. They know there are no easy answers.
MUSICIAN: Can you explain the motivations behind the album?
EDGE: As with much U2 work,
it's reactionary in a sense. Whereas War was a reaction to the weak, placid music we saw everywhere, I think this was, in
a funny way, our reaction to The Unforgettable Fire, in that while it was our best record up to then, we had experimented
a lot in its making and done things quite revolutionary for us- like "Elvis Presley In America" and "4th Of July." Well, we
felt on this record that maybe options were not such a good thing. That limitation might be very positive and conducive. So
we decided to work within the limitations of the song as a starting-point. Let's actually write songs. We wanted the record
to be less vague, open-ended, atmospheric and impressionistic. Make it more straightforward, focused and concise.
Also we were away from the big production number of doing tours and were off the road, hanging around town, going to local
gigs. I think there was a need for clarity in what we were doing. It is just eight notes. It shouldn't be difficult or complicated.
We wanted to simplify what we were thinking.
MUSICIAN: Were Eno and Lanois the necessary referees?
EDGE: The funny thing about Brian
is, having been responsible for the European textural sense in music which came in through the back door with Bowie, his passion
is folk and gospel music with a spiritual aspect. So he was much more radical than we were.
BONO: Brian's two
favorite songs were "Red Hill Mining Town" and "I Still Haven't Found In a funny way, he's very unacademic. He's a real song
man. Brian's one of those guys who gets up at six o'clock. He drove us mad in the morning, singing "Where Were You When They
Crucified My Lord" at top volume when everyone had just gone to bed.
EDGE: A producer for U2 is very important
because we are self-contained so, every so often, we arrive at decisions that are very contentious and split. With a producer,
it's easy to cast him as the devil's advocate you rely on to help you out of it.
BONO: Brian always puts his cards
straight down on the table. Dan's bias is towards songs, He thought what makes a rock 'n'roll group is the songs they play.
He's also the finest musician I've ever met. I've kept myself ignorant in the studio. I was listening to the vocals of "Red
Hill Mining Town" coming back in the mix and I was asking, "Why does the singer sound like a rich man with pound notes stuffed
in his pockets when it's a song about unemployment?" And the engineer was scratching his head. Dan Lanois walks in and says,
"God almighty, stereo plate echo! I keep telling these people. They've been using it since they invented it not because it's
right but because it's available." So he said, "Turn it off. Put it in mono and edge it to the left," and there it was again.
often in the room when we're playing. He plays tambourine with Larry. I think the reason this record is more rhythmically
adept has a lot to do with Dan Lanois.
MUSICIAN: Bono, before you went to New York for the Sun City sessions, had you any prior notion of
what the new record would be like?
BONO: The album I had in the back of my head is the album we ye yet to make.
It has been put aside for this. You see, I was then writing songs U2 almost can't do. U2 can't do blues or gospel. So I thought,
"Why can't U2 do these things?" I started to see U2 in some straitjacket we should break out. from.
MUSICIAN: How did the other three respond to these new angles?
BONO: Adam has always
been the roots man in the operation. On tour, it'll always be reggae, Aswad or Black Uhuru blasting out of his hotel room.
Larry's more interested in songs and simple structures. It's speak up or shut up, write a song, three chords, say what you
have to say. So he liked the directness of blues and something like "Trip Through Your Wires."
MUSICIAN: And The Edge?
BONO: [pause]... How can I put this?... [further pause}... Early
on, Edge was less taken up with it but later, he really came through when he saw that the songs were good. Put it this way,
didn't own a copy of Blood On The Tracks. Edge's collection started in '76 at the New Beginning. His interest was in European
groups like Can and music back to Eno. So this was opening a new world or [laughs] a new can of worms. And yet the spontaneity
of this new kind of music really excited him.
MUSICIAN: There's this idea of yourself as the American and Edge as the European.
BONO: Yeah and Ireland's
right in the middle. There's a tension between the two but it's the right kind of tension. And it's funny because at the end
of the record, I was arguing for the more atmospheric songs and he was going for the rock 'n' roll. We'd swapped places along
the way, much to our amusement.
EDGE: We approached arranging and producing each song like it was unique. We just
hoped the album would have a sonic cohesiveness based on the idea that we were playing it. There was definitely a strong direction,
but we were prepared to sacrifice some continuity to get the rewards of following each song to a conclusion. I hate comparisons,
but, like the Beatles at their height of unusual production techniques, we wanted to do what was right for the song.
I think we've come up with songs where there was a whole process of music inspiring lyrics and the lyrics then feeding back
on the music and the whole thing becoming intense. We found that because Bono had time to produce lyrics that really did work,
it was much more satisfying. We feel the songs are deeply personal even if they might not sound like U2.
I used to think writing words was old-fashioned, so I sketched. I wrote words on the microphone. The time had come to write
words that meant something out of my experience.
MUSICIAN: To what extent did writing a bleaker album reflect personal experiences?
Well, there's still hope. I think this record's bleak because that's what we're seeing, but there's a positive side.
You could say this is forbidden ground for U2 because we're the optimistic group. But to be an optimist, you mustn't be blind
or deaf to the world around you. "Running To Stand Still" is based on a real story. I don't even know what the act is in "Exit."
Some see it as a murder, others a suicide, and I don't mind. The rhythm of the words is nearly as important in conveying the
state of mind. The album's real strength is that though you travel through these deep tunnels and bleak landscapes, there's
a joy at the heart of it, and I can't explain it.
We were afraid of it. Something special about U2 was that we were holding
our heads up, when everybody else had their heads between their legs. I found this last year a time of reassessment in my
own life. I think Dylan said: "When you reach the top, you're at the bottom."
MUSICIAN: Greg Carroll's death confronted you with something completely outside the band's control.
How did that affect you?
ADAM: It showed me that there are more important things than rock 'n' roll, that rock
'n' roll is important in the picture of those things, that you don't know how much time you've got with your family, your
friends and, indeed, the other members of the band. I'd rather go home early than stay up all night mixing a track.
I feel the same.
ADAM: For a long time, we did deny those simple things that give you pleasure- seeing your brothers,
sisters, wives, children- to keep the band going.
BONO: The emphasis among family and friends when we had a number
one record and were a big band was how much you've got- I'm not talking about money- not how much you've lost. The sense of
loss came through losing Greg Carroll. But the sense of loss has continued. I feel it even now, having made a record and not
seen friends and family for the last three months, and now not being able to see them again because of the tour and everything.
Because U2 work on everything. Larry is working his butt off on the merchandising, making sure the T-shirts- and this might
sound insignificant- are made out of cotton and at an affordable price, So we're sitting on all these things. For the first
time, I begin to see the value of being irresponsible, of not giving a shit. Because giving a shit costs a lot. That's serious.
MUSICIAN: How did Greg, somebody from New Zealand, get involved with an Irish band?
We met Greg in Auckland. There are five volcanic islands which make up Auckland and the tallest is One Tree Hill. And my first
night in New Zealand, Greg took me to One Tree Hill. He'd worked around the music and media scene and [manager] Paul McGuinness
thought this guy's so smart, we can't leave him here, let's take him with us to Australia.
Greg Carroll's funeral was beyond
belief. He was buried in his tribal homeland as a Maori by the chiefs and elders. There was a three day and three night wake,
and your head could be completely turned around and ours were again and again.
MUSICIAN: "With Or Without You" and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" remind me there
was a time when U2 wouldn't have been remotely considered a dance band. EDGE: We never thought about that side. They used
to say about U2 that we had an anti-dance stance, music to fall over, which I thought was funny. I remember in an American
club on an early tour, Bono, after a few bevvies, was persuaded to go on the floor and the DJ put on "Out Of Control." Not
only did everybody leave the floor but he couldn't dance to it either.
MUSICIAN: How do you think a heavy metal fan will take "Bullet The Blue Sky"?
in an idiom reminiscent of an earlier era of rock, but I don't think it's metal. Bono had this thing about fear and exorcism
by guitar. I'm not ashamed of how it sounds. It's the spirit and creative motivation that counts.
MUSICIAN: Recapturing the spirit guitar rock used to express?
EDGE: I think the sonic
reference points are there. When Jimi Hendrix was playing, it meant so much more than the post-blues yawn when guitar players
rehashed something that once was potent and it became a total clichŽ. My background is much more Tom Verlaine and John
McGeoch but, in this case, I thought there should be no limitations. I wasn't going to hem myself in because it might be controversial.
MUSICIAN: Bono, have your attitudes toward singing changed?
BONO: For three years, I
didn't really know if there was a place in rock for U2 or whether I wanted a place in U2. I think I was quite uptight. Sometimes
people saw in the songs, a self-righteousness- because I was like the scared rat in the corner who attacks. As I worked out
where we wanted to be, I loosened up, and loosening up discovered other voices. I became interested in singing. Whereas before
if it was in tune and the right time, that was enough. And this is the same guy who was thrown out of U2 in 1977 because he
couldn't sing. I find it hard to listen to the first three records because of my singing.
MUSICIAN: There's now a greater sensuality.
BONO: Yeah, you just stretch it out and realize
a whisper c~n be louder than a scream. You learn that there's a time for letting go and a time for holding back.
MUSICIAN: To what extent does that come from being more at home with yourself?
I suppose I'm happy to be unhappy. Anyone who really knows me knows that, as they say, I'm never going to be at peace with
my pipe [laughs].
MUSICIAN: How does this process of personal maturation relate to the artistic vision of U2?
We grew up in an odd way as people. From eighteen or nineteen, we were pushing the van to Killamey and then on a bus in America
and then it's a plane to Australia and Japan. And we were completely occupied with things spiritual. After Boy, the next two
albums were almost made in our spare time. We weren't even sure we wanted to be in a band. So we were interested in growing
on spiritual levels, but we were actually quite retarded on other levels. And even musically. Our musical life began again
with Unforgettable Fire. It wasn't even a priority. I think we must own up to that. For two years, we were writing songs and
going to the studio for October and War, but that wasn't where we were at, it only reflected where we were at. We came through
that and realized we are musicians and we want to be in this band, U2.
EDGE: And after this album, I'm more interested
in playing guitar than I have been for the last three years. I'm having to learn again because I've forgotten how a bit, honestly.
MUSICIAN: Both water images and the notion of surrender stand out very strongly in your lyrics.
BONO: I used
what I thought were very classical and therefore accessible images and symbols, almost biblical. Really simple things so that
whatever culture you come from, they mean something. Like water.
"Surrender" is not what it used to be. Everybody else
in the group knows what that song means when it says, "And you give yourself away." It's about how I feel in U2 at times:
exposed. Lou Reed said to me, "What you've got is a real gift. Don't give it away because 'people might not place upon it
the right value. "I think if I do any damage to the group, it's that I'm. too open. For instance in an interview, I don't
hold the cards there and play the right one. I either have to do it or not do it. That's why I'm 'not going to do many interviews
this year. And that means there's a cost to my personal life and a cost to the to the group as well.
Going back to the
song "Surrender," I always believed in the biblical idea that unless the seed dies, is almost crushed into the ground, it
won't bear fruit. Lou Reed' was telling me about how he grew up in the 50s when machismo was a way of life and you did not
give yourself away. In fact the opposite. He said he found the 50s idea of cool a real straitjacket in his life.
MUSICIAN: Why is it that you've become more closely linked with figures from the previous rock era
than other bands from your generation?
BONO: Well, this boy from Ballymun was actually on tour with Lou Reed,
and be used to stand every night on the side of the stage and watch U2. He seems to care so much about U2 and I learned so
much from him. One night, I said to him [whispers], "Berlin's my favorite album," and he said, "It's mine too." He thinks
it's the only one he got right. He says so much and he has a perspective on rock 'n' roll. We find that also in our business
life. We're attracted to people like Frank Barsalona who brought the Beatles .and the Who to the States, and Chris Blackwell
who. I was there with Bob Marley. Our record collection began in 1976. We weren't there when rock 'n' roll began. We are attracted
to people who have the perspective we don't have. Like Pete Townshend is a guy you can ring up.
MUSICIAN: On a personal level, do you get annoyed by newspaper gossip? The local Irish papers seem
to be searching for you in every night-club in town.
BONO: My father, who I love very much, is one of these guys
who believes what he reads. He'll say to me, "I hear you were throwing your weight around in some record store when they hadn't
what you wanted and you were telling them you were Bono and they'd better have it." And I was laughing, wondering where this
one had come from. So I sort of told him off and said, "Da, you cannot believe what you read." Then one night he said, "Some
fella's going around saying you own a hearse and you were driving around Donegal in it." Fact and fiction just get blurred
in a city like this.
I live in Bray but the people in Bray are protective about myself and Allie. They don't bother us.
The people we get hassled by are those from abroad calling the house. Some of it is okay but it's a place where, as Allie
likes to put it, she lives also. She says, "I don't want you watching me put some washing on the line." I've got to back her
up. I don't mind inviting people in the ,house but I've got to honor her. But we get some amazing things. I remember a whole
party of French people who applauded me outside the door. I'd just got out of bed and I said, "No thank you. I'm the wrong
I don't know how this will sound but there was this one girl in the bushes. She was Italian, eighteen, very beautiful,
sitting there in the flowers. And she said, "I just wanted to come to Dublin and meet U2 before I died." And I thought, "They
always come up with an angle but this is a good one." I didn't know whether to laugh, just in case. So I talked to her, didn't
take it too seriously and went off. The next day, two BMWs came along and out came all these Italian men in designer suits
with flowers and flowers, presenting them to me because we had looked after their sister and daughter.
That was almost
shocking. How could I live up to that responsibility? God Almighty! I just can't come to terms with that. The. bottom line
is that music means a lot but they haven't separated the music from the musician. The musicians are only ordinary people.
It's the music which is extraordinary.
ADAM: There's a weird process which I've just begun to understand. Particularly
when you get the letters from fifteen-year olds. They ask questions as if you're the second line of defense for their heads.
They've become disillusioned with their parents and they think their teachers are assholes.
BONO: And they haven't
yet found out we're assholes.
ADAM: They're trying to contact you to see if you can enlighten them or be responsible
for them and, of course, you can't. But when you read a letter, you.think, can I reply? Do I shatter this person's illusions?
Do I say, I'm just a normal guy? That's what life's about. You've got to get on with it.
MUSICIAN: At Live Aid, when Bono jumped off the stage, you must have thought, "Jaysus, what's he
ADAM: If you don't like it, you put down your instrument and walk offstage, that's your choice [laughter].
Live Aid could have been a classic shooting in the head. I was as high as a kite after Live Aid because Linda 'McCartney kissed
me. And later, I was sharing a microphone with Paul McCartney. But when I got home and watched a video of Live Aid, I was
so desperate and depressed. I really believed I had made a big mistake. I couldn't sleep. And I drove down the Southeast and
I met a sculptor who was making a bronze piece which was meant to be the spirit of Live Aid, a naked figure called "The Leap."
He called it "The Leap" because I had left the stage and this image connected with him. The figure wasn't me. It was meant
to be the whole spirit of it. I felt he understood what I was trying to do. And he was a man in his late fifties. But there's
no question about it, I'm not 'doing that again. And I still don't understand why I did it.
ADAM: I think if those
things were done in an ego way, the audience and the public would pick up on it.
MUSICIAN: What did you feel onstage at Self Aid?
ADAM: Humble, I guess.
The people who believe in U2 are very ordinary people, working-class people. The only flak we get for being in a privileged
position is from the middle classes. I felt, "How can I write a song about being unemployed when in fact, I am fully employed?
How can I stand onstage at an unemployment benefit when I know U2 are not short of cash?"
But one guy came up to me afterwards
and said, "I'm really pissed off about what you said onstage. You said you don't know what it's like to be unemployed. We
didn't need to hear that, because we know you know what it's like even if you don't." It was the last thing I expected to
hear. And then I heard about people singing "Maggie's Farm" on the dole queue the next Monday morning, which I found funny.
I don't know whether they were slagging us off or just enjoying the song.
MUSICIAN: There was a blackness to that performance which set it apart from the rest of your live
BONO: It didn't seem the right time. There's a side to U2 in Ireland where the Mammies and Daddies are proud
that U2 are an Irish group doing well in America. And there was a sense, too, that maybe some politicians had pigeonholed
us: "There's U2 now, a good example of young people playing their music and getting off their lazy backsides." I knew there'd
be certain politicians watching the program and I didn't want to let them off the hook. Because the truth of it was that a
lot of people were on the hook because of their policies. I allowed that anger to be a part of the performance. Plus I probably
overreacted to In Dublin magazine's story. They said, "How can U2 be part of the solution when they're part of the problem?"
MUSICIAN: What was the practical impact of the Amnesty international "Conspiracy of Hope" tour?
Well, Amnesty doubled their membership in America. But the best news I had all year was a letter from one of the U2 fanzines
telling me that all over America now, they're setting up these U2 clubs. They're not exclusive to U2. They're also an appreciation
of Peter Gabriel, the Waterboys and groups for whatever reason. I was looking at this U2 fan club poster and it had an entrance
fee of three dollars. At first I felt, "What's this about? Charging to hear U2 records?" But then I discovered this money
was going to Third World concerns. And that all over America, they had set up these clubs where they listen to U2 records
and actually write cards for Amnesty. If you can inspire something on that small scale, that's everything I could ever ask
for. All, in fact, I would ask for.
MUSICIAN: Is "Running To Stand Still" about heroin?
BONO: I heard of a family, both of
whom were addicted. And such was their addiction that they had no money, no rent. The guy risked it all on a run. All of it.
He went and smuggled into Dublin a serious quantity of heroin strapped to his body so that there was on one hand life imprisonment,
and on the other hand riches. Apart from the morality of that, what interested me was what put him in that place. "You know
I took the poison from the poison stream! Then I floated out of here." For a lot of people, there are no physical doors open
anymore. So if you can't change the world you're living in, seeing through different eyes is the only alternative. Heroin
gives you heroin eyes to see the world with. And the thing about heroin is that you think that's the way it really is. That
the old you who worries about paying the rent is not the real you.
MUSICIAN: Sexually, U2 has a very clean image. How have you reacted to gender-bending pop and glam
BONO: I am interested in that aspect of sexuality. When I look at my lyrics, I'm obsessed with borders,
be they political, sexual or' spiritual. It's not a subject I've broached yet but I wouldn't rule it out. I'm interested in
the new Victorian era because of AIDS. I know a lot of homosexual men and most of them I get on with. Some overtly camp men
I don't get on with.
To be blatant, how can anyone attack love? That doesn't condemn or condone homosexuality or any kind
of sexuality. I could never attack love.
MUSICIAN: Sexuality is traditionally associated with rock and rebellion. But how does it relate to
U2's ideas of subversion?
BONO: I think there's nothing more radical or revolutionary than two people loving each
other. Because it's so hard to do it and keep those feelings going. In a sense, U2 are owning up to those feelings and emotions
that have been swept under the carpet of rock 'n' roll in favor of cartoon things.
EDGE: In America, gay rights
and gay liberation have suddenly been put back ten years. AIDS has suddenly become an excuse for anti-gay feelings.
MUSICIAN: Where would you be now if U2 weren't formed?
BONO: Hmmm, that's an interesting
one. God Almighty. Whoo, get me another beer..
ADAM: I think Dublin wouldn't have contained you. I think, you
would have been off somewhere.
BONO: I don't know. To be honest, U2 saved my life because I am literally unemployable.
There's nothing else I can do. I think I would have imploded, as distinct from exploding in my musical life. I mean, I worked
as a petrol pump attendant. Can you imagine me as a petrol pump attendant?
MUSICIAN: Are you worried about playing football stadiums in America?
BONO: I admit I
believe in U2 in up to 20,000-seat arenas. Our music is a big music. It can get through in a way a lot of other musics can't.
I'm uptight about playing outdoors in football stadiums. The argument brought against me is that the concert we did in Dublin
at Croke Park was one of our best. It was 55,000 people and it felt like a small club. The other argument is that the alternative
is to be elitist and play in small places where the scalpers' ticket price goes through the roof. We attempted this at Radio
City in New York and people were paying 100,150 dollars. Also certain fans were sitting on the shoulders of somebody, blocking
the view. It's very easy for frenzy, violence to break out.
So we have some responsibility to cater to the demand for tickets,
yet I don't want to go all the way with that. This is a real question. The other thing is to play a small venue for two weeks.
More than anything, that can kill off a good group. Ask the Clash about Bonds in New York. It can be a lot like going to work.
There's a kinetic energy about being on the road. Part of the trance, the momentum, is going city to city.
MUSICIAN: How's your stage presentation evolving?
BONO: U2 will be much looser. We'll
take a risk of falling on our face doing a new song. We want to be relaxed enough to make mistakes because sometimes making
mistakes is the most interesting part live, discovering something new in a song.
MUSICIAN: Is there some hope of denting American political apathy?
BONO: Well, your first
reason for being onstage is not to effect change in the political climate of a country. I like to think that U2 have already
contributed to a turn around in thinking.
EDGE: And if we have, it's not even the point, is it really? You don't
write a song because you think it's going to change somebody. You write a song because that's the way you feel.
You write a song because something hurts. Look at social change within America; that came from the Delta areas, the plantations.
A lot of the change in America is rooted in just blues music. That was what people listened to and it was the protest music
of the time.
BONO: You see, I don't think it's up to I bands to have their politics and point of view worked out.
I don't think it's up to me as a singer to have answers. I just I think it's important to put questions. I don't know of a
rock 'n' roll band that ever offered up answers and I think it's wrong for pop stars to be politicians. I like the idea of
Jim Morrison calling the Doors "erotic politicians." I thought that was kind of funny because you're put in a position where
because you have made music that means something to people, your politics or point of view is given far too much importance.
What comes to mind is Elvis Presley who meets with Nixon and is made an anti-drug marshall and the man is loaded out of his
brains with the badge on.
I'm more interested in the man as opposed to men, one man as opposed to a crowd of men. That
mainly explains the spiritual side of my writing. I think in a funny way the country almost gets the political party it deserves,
that it has choices. I had a row with Paul Weller about this at Band Aid, about the old argument that it's the system. I just
don't go, "It's the system." I think men choose the system the live under in our age.
I'm more interested in what you might
call- if you were that way inclined- a revolution of love. I believe that if you want to start a revolution you better start
a revolution in your own home and your own way of thinking and of relating to the men and women around you. I'm trying to
come to terms with global ideas like Live Aid, Artists Against Apartheid and Amnesty International. These ideas are great
ideas. We believe and belong to them. Yet for me, the future lies in small-scale activity. For instance, commitment to a community,
like U2 are committed to Dublin, commitment to the people in your place of work, commitment to relationships and the ones
I told you in a night-club about a year ago I was sick of being reasonable. I learned to come out as an unreasonable
man. "Red Hill Mining Town" is a song about the miners' strike and the only reference to Ian MacGregor [the coal board chairman]
is "through hand of steel and heart of stone! Our labour day is come and gone." People beat me with a stick for that, but
while you see in the newspapers and on the television that another thousand people have lost their jobs, what you don't read
about is that those people go home and they have families. They were trying to bring up children and those relationships broke
up under the pressure of the miners' strike. Those men and women lost pride in themselves, and that affected their sex life;
"The glass is cut, the bottle run dry, our love runs cold in the cabins in the night! We're wounded by fear, injured in doubt/I
can lose myself but you I can't live without! 'Cause you keep me holding on." I'm more interested in the relationship at this
point because I feel other people are more qualified to comment on the miners' strike. It enraged me, but I feel more qualified
to write about relationships. Because I understand relationships more than what it's like to work in a pit.
MUSICIAN: Townshend said you take too much on your shoulders.
BONO: Oh, "Leave the social
work to older people like myself." Yeah, I don't think we make very good social workers. We're much better writing songs and
singing them. We make mistakes but then I'm one of those fools who believes anything is possible. It's probably a real innocence
or stupidity on my part. I think, "Make a movie. Yeah, I'll make a movie! Write a screenplay! Save the world. Oh good, I'll
save the world." I wouldn't go that far. Hold on a second. But with U2, I suppose we're dreamers and so far, our dreams have
come true. This can give you a false perspective that the impossible is always possible. I'm just understanding the value
of being limited.
MUSICIAN: When you get to U2's level, do you get isolated? Is that possible in Dublin?
It was awkward coming down to earth in dirty old Dublin with the people we know and love looking at us with a look we hadn't
seen in their eyes before. Like, "Have you grown two heads since you've been away?" And us realizing we had! [laughs] Of course
we have changed and I want to change. The real question is, is it change for the better or the worse? It's taken us a year
to come down from the high of the last tour. Probably this week. But now we're about to step on another up escalator.
U2:The Joshua Tree (Island)
Love And Friendship And You're All Invited
Bono is the best folk singer going right now; The Joshua Tree proves it. In 1987 the local folk music is rock
'n' roll, so rather than simply play an acoustic guitar Bono is accompanied by bass, drums and electric guitar. Rock 'n' roll
bands have usually found their fire in tension and competition: instruments daring each other to top this, individuals matching
talent and egos, yet how remarkable to find a great rock 'n' roll band born of musical cooperation and unselfishness.
Clayton, Larry Mullen and the Edge play like one person- the web of sound on The Joshua Tree gives equal weight to rhythm,
melody and harmony, to top, middle and bottom. Just like an acoustic guitar. Much of the time the three players hold down
a steady throb, and let Bono's voice add the tension and dynamics. It's less minimalism than subtlety- if Bono goes from a
whisper to a wail, there's no need to start pounding and cascading behind him. And when the whole band does cut loose- as,
they do on 'Exit"- it hits twice as hard.
This is the group's second collaboration with Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno, and
their sound is very much a continuation of 1984's The Unforgettable Fire; the same misty moodiness, the pings and pangs of
Edge's guitar over sheets of drone chords. The prototypical U2 song may turn out to be 1984's "Bad," which contained- as many
of these songs do- both passion and gentleness, and was constructed as these are over (what sound like) triggered drums and
a blanket of ringing eighth-notes. In the two and a half years since Unforgettable Fire so many groups have copied U2 that
a stylistic departure seemed likely this time, yet Joshua Tree is more a refinement. Like Dylan and the 'Stones, U2 has' found
a musical base that can contain all sorts of songs; rather than abandon it, they are moving further inside the sound, examining
U2 has always proposed a world vision, and their experiences working for Amnesty International have
only expanded their ability to connect the dots between different cultures, to find common ground. A lot of songs on The Joshua
Tree could be loosely called "political" or "religious" but that would miss the point, just as reading U2's lyrics can distract
one from the points made by Bono's voice. What is important is the sense of dignity and potency- that the world is a beautiful
place, and the greatest injustice is not to cause another pain, but to deprive another of that beauty
There's a wonderful
moment here, on a song called "Trip Through Your Wires," when Bono takes a raggedy harmonica solo. As a mouth organist this
guy is never going to threaten Lee Oskar or Toots Thielemans, yet he blows his harp with such joy and abandon that it's hard
not to. be caught up in his en- [rest of this review is missing]
U2 CAN PLAY
Bono sings and plays his Hohner and ProHarp harmonicas into a Shure SM 58 microphone. He plays his
custom-made Fender Telecaster into a MESA/Boogie amp and also plays a Washburn acoustic.
Edge also has a Washburn
acoustic in addition to a Fender Stratocaster, a Gibson Les Paul Custom and a Fender Telecaster. His onstage keyboard is a
Yamaha CP 70B. His offstage set-up includes a Yamaha QX1, a Yamaha QX7 sequencer, a Yamaha DX7 and an E-Max Sampling Keyboard.
Amps include a Vox AC30 and a MESA/Boogie. Effects include a t. c. 2290 digital delay, Yamaha REV7, SPX 90 and Korg digital
delay. All of this is controlled with a Boss Sound Center Control and a Photon MIDI converter.
Adam Clayton's basses
include three Fenders: a Precision, a Jazz, and one that's custom-made with a graphite neck. Adam also has a Zon bass with
Bartolini pickups. It's all driven with a BGW amp into four Harbinger speakers and a Yamaha crossover, and sweetened with
Boss SCC 700, Ibanez V 4000 and Yamaha SPX 90 multi-effects units, and an Ibanez DM1000 digital delay. For mobility Adam and
Edge use Nady wireless systems.
Larry Mullen's Yamaha drum kit includes a 24-inch bass drum, 14-inch rack tom,
2 floor toms and a 14-inch piccolo snare. Add two Latin Percussion timbales, Rude and Paiste cymbals, and Pro-mark 5A sticks,
and you have it.