Keane’s Hughes Talks Touring With U2 and What’s Next

August 29, 2005


By Carrie Alison, Chief Editor
2005.08

As evidenced by the popularity of Keane’s soaring "Hopes and Fears" album and its immensely popular singles "Somewhere Only We Know" and "Everybody’s Changing," the place where the band belongs is no question—opening for U2 on several dates of its blockbuster Vertigo Tour this summer in Europe and, newly announced, in Boston and New York City this autumn.

Known for its graceful and moving live shows, and equally passionate fan base, I recently caught up with drummer Richard Hughes of the wistful English threesome to discuss Keane’s Vertigo Tour jaunt and what’s up next, including an Elton John cover and a new album. A fun trivia fact: Hughes counts U2’s “Achtung Baby” as the album that has influence him the most over the years.

Keane unfortunately had to pull out of the August 14th show in Lisbon due to illness. How’s everyone feeling now?

We’re really sorry we missed it. Tom [lead singer Chaplin]‘s on the mend, thanks, but still too ill to answer these questions so you’ll have to make do with me.

Looking back on your Vertigo Tour stint, any cool stories or anecdotes you can share?

I saw U2 play for three nights—that was probably the highlight. Playing three enormous stadiums was mind-blowing—it really felt good and we were amazed at the positive reaction we got at all three gigs. Bono wrote us a note, signed with a really cool drawing of himself—we’d been onstage in Munich, came back to our room and it was just sat there, waiting for us.

Keane and U2 are not that far apart sonically: you both favor melodies, anthemic tunes and soaring vocals. Where else do you find a similarity with U2?

Good-looking drummers? We both use the CP70 piano—I think it was hearing it in "New Year’s Day" that inspired Tim [pianist Rice-Oxley] to track one down. I’d like to think we try to put on a good show, much like them, but on a smaller scale. We’re recording our second album at the moment, and we definitely want to let the music develop—like U2 have always done. They have been quite an inspiration in that way—they had so much to lose but put it all on the line and made the records they felt they wanted to make, rather than taking the safe option.

You are no stranger to doing big shows, whether on the festival circuit or now with U2, and smaller venues on your headlining tours. Which performance atmosphere do you prefer?

We find it varies from night to night, so we never know what to expect—I think that’s one of the reasons why it’s fun to go out night after night.

The British Phonographic Industry recently announced that Keane outsold U2 on the UK charts in 2004, an amazing achievement for a young band. How does that feel?

I think that’s a statistic rather than anything particularly meaningful—we released our record a few months before them so we had longer. For us the biggest thing was finally getting to release an album and everything that’s happened since then, including going on tour with U2, has been amazing. Tim and I went to see U2 at Wembley on the ZooTV tour and to think we’ve supported them is almost too much to take in.

You are soon to record a version of Elton John’s "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" for a new Warchild LP. Were there any special reasons for choosing this song?

Elton’s cool and it’s an amazing song. We are all massive fans and War Child is a great cause [helping children affected by war] … so please click on http://www.warchildmusic.com/.

What’s up next for Keane in 2005?

Finishing a new record—I’m typing away in the studio while Tim is recording a few new keyboards. It’s fun but we don’t want to release anything until we are very happy with it. Then we’ll hit the road again. That and a bit of football.

A million thanks to Dan and Richard Hughes for their help with this story. To get more information on Keane, please be sure to visit the official website and check out Interference.com’s profile of the group here.

Opinion: Why (and How) U2 Should Reissue ‘Pop’*

August 29, 2005


By Kal Carpenter
2005.08

"Pop" is a good record but it could have been great, it should have been a masterpiece. Recently when I was checking over the daily U2 rumor mills on the internet, I came across a few posts about U2 pondering a re-release of the 1997 album "Pop." It’s the album that has probably been the most debated among U2 fans ever since its release. As we know, the 1990s were a time of both playful and serious experimentation for U2, not only musically but also on personal level. Beginning with "Achtung Baby" in 1991, U2 was saying that it was a band capable of so much more than three chords, the truth, and self-indulgent concert films. Right through "Zooropa," "Passengers" and finally to "Pop," U2 became the greatest band in the world at keeping everyone guessing and then shocking the hell out of everyone, not just with the new music but a new persona as well. To me the band members were still good guys, they just carried themselves with a bit more swagger and all donned the coolest sunglasses they could find for public appearances.

"Pop" is my favorite period of U2′s ’90s experimentation. Everything from the album, to the videos, to the mind-blowing world tour that was PopMart was, and still is, unlike anything U2 has ever done. But it’s the album itself that remains the most controversial subject of the era. I was a sophomore in high school when "Pop" was released and I was just getting into U2 during the summer of 1997 when the tour was in full swing. My first U2 purchase was "Achtung Baby" because I fell in love with the opening riff of "Even Better Than the Real Thing" that was played on all the PopMart commercials on the radio, plus "Mysterious Ways" and "One" were on it, two songs I loved as a kid. That album became my soundtrack of the summer but looking back now I wish that I’d bought "Pop" instead and saw at least one PopMart show. But in the end, the album and tour didn’t actually do as well as U2 had hoped. Due to the immense cost and production of the tour, the album was finished in a rush to allow the band time to rehearse before the tour began. Since then the band has conceded that it was the biggest mistake it has ever made, booking a tour of that magnitude before the album was finished. And it shows on the album.

While "Pop" is one my favorite U2 albums to this day, it also breaks my heart every time I listen to it. Some of my favorite songs sound so rushed and fall short of greatness. Songs like "If God Will Send His Angels," "Last Night on Earth" and "Please" don’t even begin to realize their full potential. Bono keeps saying, "if only we had another month." He may be right. I think "Pop" could have used another three or four months by how incomplete and hurried it sounds. The "Pop" sessions were a very experimental time for The Edge as he introduced a whole new slew of sounds and tones on his guitars, with some hits and some misses. Bono’s vocals left much to be desired on certain parts of the album. The majority of U2 fans have always dubbed Bono and Edge the driving force of the band but I would argue that over the years it has always been U2′s rhythm section that "drives" the music and makes you tap your feet, bob your head and clap your hands at concerts. As far as individual performances go, Adam Clayton’s clearly the unsung hero of "Pop," his provocative and driving bass licks are the highlight of most the songs on the record. In many ways, "Pop" was the album where Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. finally caught up to Bono and Edge’s love affair with dance and underground and, in many ways, surpassed them.

Another problem with the album, besides the songs themselves, is the running order. This isn’t the only time U2′s faced that problem. I feel the band blew the order on "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" even worse. In fact the only times U2′s really nailed the running order was on "The Joshua Tree" and "All That You Can’t Leave Behind."

With recent talk of U2′s plans to reinvent "Pop," let’s tackle the album now, song-by-song, in a running order that would be much more effective and enjoyable, in my humble opinion. I actually programmed the following order into my CD player one day and immediately liked the album more than ever.

1. "Discotheque”: This is still the obvious and best choice to open the album, not because it’s the best song on the album, though it could be for all it’s untapped potential, it should still open the album because it was the leadoff single in ’97 and provided an exciting and accurate indication of what kind of album to expect. As I made a case for earlier, this was Larry and Adam’s album, and Adam’s opening bass line on "Discotheque" still gives me goose bumps, it’s the core of the song. However, his bass and Larry’s kit should be brought out front on "Discotheque," I’ve always felt that the rhythm section was too muffled behind all of Edge’s fuzzy guitar tones. Edge almost goes a little overboard with the barrage of guitars on this one. Bono’s vocals are pretty solid but all of the backing vocals are somewhat distracting, so they should be scaled back a little bit. The Mike Hedges remix of "Discotheque" on "The Best Of 1990-2000" was much improved and I think the band would be wise to build off that mix. I’ve always liked this song but have never loved it and I really want to.

2. "Mofo”: What a great live one as this was the opener of choice for the world tour. The song captures the band’s underground leanings of the period better than any song on "Pop" and is another personal favorite. However, I immensely enjoy the live version, particularly from the Mexico City concert film. I think that if U2 could somehow capture the raw power of Edge’s expanded guitar riffs from the live show and mix it in with the sonic energy of the album version, it would have a real gem. I love Bono’s performance on this one, his throaty whisper on the verses that became frequent and quite affective during the ’90s really helps accentuate that contemporary, underground feel that makes "Pop" so unique and exciting. I have only one major complaint with "Mofo," title is slang for "motherf–ker" but on the album Bono croons, "Mother-sucking rock ‘n’ roll," instead of "mother-f–king." I’m guessing he left the "f-bomb" out even for the live shows. I never understood it because the religious ballad "Wake Up Dead Man" has a loud and clear "f–k" in one of the opening verses. I think "mother-sucking" is cheesy. Go with the slang this time guys, it will appeal more to the younger crowd, too, and U2 is always looking for fresh blood to stay iPod- and MTV-worthy.

3. "Staring at the Sun”: This was supposed to be the big golden single of the summer of ’97 but it fell short when all was said and done. Bono and the boys will be the first to admit that they never quite cracked this one the way they wanted, and I couldn’t agree more. I loved the song when it first debuted that summer but it has fizzled on me as time has passed. The first thing that jumped out at me when it came out was the familiar "bubbly" or "wavy" guitar sound of Edge’s, or, as I often refer to it, the "One guitar" reminiscent of the guitar sound from "One" off "Achtung Baby." When I listen to it now, that guitar effect sounds overdone in "Staring at the Sun." The Mike Hedges remix did little to bring the song up to par. I know the band has probably exhausted themselves on this one but I think could still make it special. I say start by stripping it down, since U2 has become so popular again for that, and basically begin at its core—the contagious melody by Bono. I always liked the naked acoustic performance of this song live but, obviously, the record would need more. I say Edge should stick to one guitar and blanket the song with some of his good old-fashioned sonic architecture.

4. "Gone”: This song has become a personal favorite of the band’s, as was obvious when placing it on the latest greatest hits collection, despite not being a radio standard or overwhelming crowd pleaser. It’s definitely one of U2′s best rockers (live and on record) and should be moved up in the running order to keep the album’s first-half momentum going. Plus it goes great after the laid back "Staring at the Sun." This was also the best Mike Hedges remix from the greatest hits, equally as good as the original version. Adam’s swooping bass line in the beginning should stay and the guitars could come out more too. I think a mix of elements from the original, the Hedges remix and the live version (particularly from Elevation in Boston) and U2 has it.

5. "Please”: This is a big jump from 11 on the original running order but it’s necessary. This is one the best songs from the album but, unfortunately, U2 didn’t even come close to finishing it for the album. The band has made huge strides on the single and it’s a shame for those who only have the album to have never heard this version. Edge’s guitar sounds much more exciting (like the fuzz tone of the guitar on the chorus) on top of Larry’s jaw-dropping drum performance and Adam’s frantic bass showcase at the end. I think adding the acoustic guitar touches from the Elevation Tour could mix in well, too. Overall, build only a little from the single version but don’t overdo it.

6. "Last Night on Earth”: My favorite from "Pop," and the best nighttime cruising song ever, is left in the same spot. Despite these accolades, there’s still great room for improvement. As the story goes, Bono was laying down vocals for this the morning "Pop" was mastered. It shows, especially in the main chorus where Bono’s voice is really struggling. Edge is louder than ever to cover for Bono, not that there’s anything wrong with that because Edge always sounds great. However, Bono redeemed himself on the chorus for the tour, just listen to the Mexico City show. I’d love to hear that vocal interplay between Bono and Edge explode on the album as it did in concert. The single mix was good, too, but I enjoy the messy guitar opening on the album version better as it makes the anticipation for the arrival of Adam’s rollicking bass line all the more exciting.

7. "If God Will Send His Angels”: This song moved down in the pecking order because I always felt it reared its "angelic" head way too early for what is arguably U2′s heaviest and darkest album. I think "Please" fits better as an early mellower than this one because of the subject matter and tempo. One thing that hurt the album version was the final mix arrangement. As with "Please," you’ve missed out if you haven’t heard the single version of this song, as the band finally had all the verses and choruses in the correct flow. One thing I do like from the album cut is the extra verse in the beginning and the horn section that plays in the background. I also love the little "angelic" harmony from this song that comes in at the trail end of the verses, which you can barely hear. That should be brought out more because it’s genuinely serene.

8. "Do You Feel Loved”: This is where the second-half of the album begins and I couldn’t think of a better introduction to it than this one. Another great song to cruise to, day or night, it’s another bass clinic by Adam and I love the intro, one of U2′s coolest ever. However I feel like it loses steam a little bit as the song goes on. I think Edge ran out of ideas on this one. The Morse Code-esque guitar blips become redundant and I think a rare Edge solo could have been effective for this track. This song had great potential, especially in a live setting, but apparently rehearsals for it stalled and it never really made the PopMart rotation. It’s unfortunate because a great driving song like this really fit for the drive-in movie, which PopMart essentially was.

9. "Holy Joe”: Huh, you say? Yes, "Holy Joe." I always liked this song and never understood why it didn’t make the album, especially after being played at the infamous PopMart press conference at K-Mart in New York. If you’ve ever heard the "Garage Mix" of this song from the "Discotheque" single then you may know what I’m talking about. While it’s slow to get moving, once Edge kicks it into high gear, I get the goose bumps that Edge is so good at giving me. Bono’s melody could be developed much more and some more guitar textures by Edge to get the song moving along faster would help, too. Really, the possibilities are endless as the band hardly scratched the surface on this one. The main reason to add this to any re-release is because it’s the only song left that I’m familiar with from the "Pop" sessions to not be released on an album. It would make a good single if dressed up nicely to help promote the re-release.

10. "Miami”: The weakest song from "Pop," hands down. I don’t know where U2 was going with this one but it’s safe to say the band never got there. Very stale performances by Bono and Edge leave you wanting so much more on this one, you just don’t know what. I couldn’t even begin to make suggestions on what to do to salvage this song, so I will leave this one alone. I say just let Edge get his hands dirty and have fun with it. I hope U2 can fix it, if only for the fact that lyrically, it’s one of Bono’s best texts on the record. Even beat poet Allen Ginsberg was impressed.

11. "If You Wear That Velvet Dress”: U2 gives "erotica" a whole new meaning with this devilish yet soulful little ballad. Bono, in one of his most memorable vocal performances from the album, takes advantage of the years of wear and tear on his voice and sings way down, so naked and vulnerable that you almost want to cry. Of course Adam again is the core of the song and Larry’s gentle percussion is perfect. I think Edge was solid here, too, but some new guitar overdubs could be beneficial. I’ve always liked "Velvet Dress" but feel a little tune up could finally earn it the recognition it has always deserved.

12. "Playboy Mansion”: A catchy little number that, perhaps, could have been a single had it not fallen apart two minutes in. Again, I may ask too much of my beloved lead guitarist Edge but I’d love to see him do a little more with this one. The melody is there and it’s strong, and Adam’s bass is gorgeous again. Larry’s drums could be spiced up, too, I think.

13. "Wake Up Dead Man”: Still the album closer because there can be no other place for it. While there’s a lot going on with Bono’s words, I feel like the performance of the band let the words down in a big way. I can’t put my finger on it exactly but it just doesn’t give the album the fitting climax it deserves. That’s evident in how anti-climactic the song was as a closer for the tour. It was usually just Bono and Edge alone, leaving out the other half of the band that had just played for two hours as well. A good closer is there in the lyrics but I think a big overhaul is needed for the music.

If U2 is going to re-issue "Pop," the band should do it soon. In fact I think U2 should begin work on it once the tour is over, before starting another album.

Also, if U2′s going to do it right, the band needs to bring back the other people who originally worked on the album in order to recapture the mood and feel of a record that U2 has been away from for a long time—Flood and Howie B, of course, but also Steve Osborne, Mark "Spike” Stent, Rob Kirwan and whoever else was influential to the album. No Steve Lillywhite or Daniel Lanois please, otherwise the album will just sound like the next “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” or “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.” Although Jacknife Lee is from the “Atomic Bomb” production team, it seems like he’s somebody who could add some of the new flavors the album desperately needs. Also some new cover art could be used, I always thought the cover of their four faces was rather bland. And to go along with the grand re-release should be some added bonus content. I would include the following: a making-of documentary (including footage of both the original and the re-issue sessions), music videos for the singles (including one for new single "Holy Joe") and PopMart concert footage (maybe a few concerts in their entirety or the best live performance of each song from the album).

The main reason I want to see "Pop" re-released is a bit selfish and might not be very practical but would make me the happiest man alive—a PopMart II tour. This would allow all the newer U2 fans like me a chance to see this grand spectacle at last, live and in person. It would also give the band a chance to redeem itself for all the problems "Pop" and PopMart had and actually make a profit this time. It was truly an incredible artistic statement and should be seen again. Maybe this time the disco ball lemon won’t hit a malfunction junction.

There has been talk for years about whether or not U2 could be a stadium band again, particularly in the United States. If the band brought back a brief PopMart tour, it sure as hell could! I want to relive the summer of 1997 when I spent every waking hour listening to "Achtung Baby" as a new U2 fan, when I should have been hitching a ride to every PopMart show I could and listening to "Pop."

Two years from now will mark the 10-year anniversary of "Pop" and an album redux and world tour to mark the occasion would make for one awesome summer. No other stadium tour by U2 or any other band could top the spectacle and grandness of another PopMart. It would put to rest once and for all the doubts of the album and tour. I think one last go around, the right way, will put "Pop" back at No. 1 in the charts and No. 1 in people’s hearts—just the way it was supposed to be.

Tribute Band Interview: The Joshua Tree*

August 22, 2005


By Devlin Smith, Contributing Editor
2005.08

For those few thousand fans lucky enough to catch U2′s Vertigo opening in San Diego in March, you probably also heard, or at least heard of, The Joshua Tree. The LA-based tribute band played two shows in conjunction with the tour’s launch, including several hours performing at the Tower Records store across the street from the San Diego Sports Arena, in direct earshot of many of the fan tailgating and generally chilling in the arena parking lot.

The band also played a pre-Vertigo show in San Jose, California, in April and was one of the tribute bands playing at the first Southern California fan convention last fall, each performance bringing the band new enthusiastic fans. Fever has grown so strong for The Joshua Tree—featuring Jason (Bono B. Jones), Chas (Chedge), Mike (Lars Mullen Jr.) and Ron (Posh)–that it even has its own fan club.

The Joshua Tree is finishing off its summer playing four nights at the LA County Fair in Pomona and surely more Vertigo-related dates are in the offing as the tour makes its way to the states.

Interference.com exchanged questions and answers with the man who calls himself Chedge on stage and learned all about this up-and-coming U2 tribute band.

When was the band officially formed?

We began rehearsing as a U2 tribute in the summer of 2003 and with the addition of Mike our drummer in January of ’04, The Joshua Tree was up and running.

How did the band come together?

It really started when Jason first auditioned for the original band that Ron and I were playing in. At that first audition, we ran through a number of U2 songs and were impressed with Jason’s vocals, not to mention his uncanny ability to sound like Bono. With Jason on board, we spent the next year-and-a-half writing and performing originals, while mixing in the occasional U2 tune. In the summer of 2003, based on the response to our U2 covers and our own enthusiasm for U2, we decided to become a U2 tribute band.

How did you come up with the name The Joshua Tree?

We originally were calling ourselves One Tree Hill and then that WB show came out. We switched for an afternoon to Electric Co. After much debate, we decided on The Joshua Tree as a name that not only was clear as to what we were doing as a tribute band, but was also the album that specifically made us, at least Jason and I, big U2 fans.

What was your first memory of U2?

Being at my friend Jon’s house in 1985 and seeing two tickets for a concert at the LA Sports Arena for a band called U2 and asking him about it.

When and how did you first consider yourself a fan?

I became a fan in 1986 when I started to listen to more of the band and also started learning to play guitar. I spent many fruitless hours at home in my room trying to figure out what it was that Edge was doing.

When did you first think about playing U2 songs?

Playing U2 songs has been a part of my repertoire as a guitar player since I first started learning. Every band I’ve played in has had to cover at least one U2 song at some point because of me. In the band with Jason and Ron it was much easier because we all wanted to do it.

What is your favorite U2 song to perform and why? Is that also your favorite U2 song in general? If not, what is your favorite U2 song and why?

Favorite to perform would be "Until the End of the World." As a band, we do the Elevation Tour version that culminates in the bullfight between Bono and Edge, always a high point in our show. I also love to perform "All I Want Is You" for personal reasons.

Favorite U2 song in general would be "Bad," that’s the first song I heard from U2 that made me stop what I was doing and just listen.

What is your favorite U2 era to perform and why?

I enjoy performing the older U2 from "Boy" to "Joshua Tree." As a tribute band, we’re able to perform songs at our shows that the real U2 has not performed live in years. As for wardrobe, I like the new look, including my “Spectacular Times” shirt like you can see Edge wearing on the new album cover. I’m also looking forward to adding the ZooTV and PopMart wardrobes, including a “Mr. The [Ch]edge” shirt like Edge’s from the PopMart Tour.

What originally drew you to the U2 member you perform as?

The fact that my number-one influence as a guitar player has been The Edge.

What’s the best and most challenging parts of performing as that U2-er?

Achieving the guitar tone and extreme sounds Edge is known for, without having 37 guitars, a NASA-like rack system and Dallas Schoo. Also, the inability to grow a good goatee.

What are your favorite things about that band member?

I love the fact that Edge always seems like he’s in control. I also enjoy watching when, on some of my bootleg DVDs, Edge gets pissed off at Adam when he’s making mistakes.

What kind of reaction do you get from fans?

"We love you Chedge" as screamed by the "Chedge Girls," my very small personal fan club.

What’s your favorite performing memory?

Performing at the Hard Rock Café in San Diego the night before the opening of the Vertigo Tour. We helped raise $3,500 for African Well Fund and had the privilege of performing for people from all over the world who came to San Diego for U2′s opening night. It was a great night for the band, and it raised money for a worthy cause.

Have you ever met a member of U2? If yes, what happened? What did you say? Did they know you were in a tribute band? If so, what was their reaction?

I saw the band when they arrived for the LA Coliseum show in 1987 but did not have the opportunity to meet them.

If you haven’t met anyone in the band, what would you like to say to any of them if you had the chance?

If I could speak with them, I’d probably just geek out on guitar stuff with Edge.

What’s the best thing about being in a U2 tribute band?

The people I’ve met who’ve become like family. You’ll hear me talk often about “The JT Family,” these are the close supporters and friends who we’ve made that I believe will be in my life long after I’m done being Chedge.

For more information on The Joshua Tree, check out the band’s website.

A Story of U2 Fandom and Sisterhood*

August 15, 2005


By Robyn Parrish
2005.08

Eleven years my sister Danette’s senior, I fancy myself her friend, mentor, guidance counselor and trendsetter. Certainly I like to think this is the case on at least one very important front, that of U2 fandom. In the spring of 1987, I, in my early 20s and she at the tender age of nine or 10, would sit cross-legged before the family television with a half-filled video tape at the ready while watching MTV so as to record our favorite clips. The rule was you were only allowed to push record if you caught the video prior to or during the opening titles that appear in the lower left of the screen. After that, it was declared too late and, thus, you would have an incomplete video. Better to wait until it came on again.

You can imagine my perfectionist’s dismay when halfway through the taping of "With or Without You,” my kid sister turned the dial (yes, dial) in boredom. She had not yet heard of U2, understandably, since it was not exactly mainstream listening for her demographic. She was more interested in finding DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s "Parents Just Don’t Understand" on VH1. Great bickering ensued until the dial was flipped back to the decidedly hipper channel and the taping of "With or Without You” resumed. This, of course, wreaked havoc with my policy of video entirety.

I’m not sure, then, when her transformation occurred exactly. Perhaps it was in witnessing my extreme frustration at how she failed to see their greatness that she decided to investigate U2′s power for herself. By the time the "I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For" video would make its debut, she was already hooked. It happened that quickly in her pre-pubescent heart. We had each purchased our own copies of "The Joshua Tree" and would obsess over the cover photos and replay of the botched "WOWY" video like a couple of high school girls (which she was not yet and I was no longer).

Our mutual love affair with U2 was born and there has been no turning back since. It is impossible to determine whether our fanaticism is the result of genetic or acquired factors. We tend to share similar tastes in men, clothing and humor as well, though we often go about executing our preferences very differently.

By 1989, Danette had literally wallpapered her bedroom with posters of our beloved Irish lads, sprinkled with the odd magazine clipping of Morrissey or Robert Smith. Each night when our mother tucked her into bed, she would make mom ritualistically recite the name of each U2 member (including original monikers Paul and Dave), along with their respective birthdays. Meanwhile, I was more reserved in my methods of worship, hording every record and video in the band’s back catalog and reading up on its history via books and magazine articles. I would become the quiet expert while my sister would repeatedly win phone-in radio station trivia contests with the answers I provided because she was brave enough to call.

Eventually, we attended our first U2 concert together, during the opening North American leg of ZooTV. We purchased barely affordable B-stage seats from a neighborhood scalper and agreed the tickets were worth every penny. We have not missed a local gig together since. It’s inconceivable that one of us would attend anything remotely U2-related without the other. Although we did bring a friend of hers and my now-ex-husband to a PopMart show, I don’t think we’d make the mistake again of trying to impose our enthusiasm on others. It’s simply better when it’s just the two of us.

Over the years, we’ve attended the movie-theater premier of "Rattle and Hum," a laser show set to U2 music at a San Francisco planetarium and stood at the very tip of the heart on the Elevation Tour. In the summer of 2004, we made the long anticipated trek to Dublin to visit all the legendary landmarks for ourselves. A tolerant cab driver picked us up at the (U2-owned) Clarence Hotel one rainy afternoon and good-naturedly drove us to Mount Temple Comprehensive School, 10 Cedarwood Road and Windmill Lane for the requisite photo ops. The following day, a chatty record shop owner on Wellington Quay offered detailed directions to the Hewson house in Killiney. We had little time for this unplanned detour, but hopped on the first DART out of town and soon found ourselves on the surreal seaside path to our hero’s home. From the foot of the famed front gates, my sister, daring as she is, plucked a small pink flower and had it pressed and framed.


Robyn and Danette in front of Bono’s childhood home at 10 Cedarwood Road, Dublin

Dining at the Clarence’s Tea Room that evening was truly one of the most cherished experiences I’ve had. We felt like royalty as our delicious food was presented in tiny portions centered on large china plates. We balanced the handsome silverware in our hands, simultaneously remarking, "Just think, Bono picked this stuff out!" Afterward, ever-brazen Danette grilled one of the hotel’s employees, inquiring, "So, what’s it like to work for Bono?" "It has its moments," was the reply.

The most thrilling culmination of our shared U2 antics thus far, however, has been the day we actually met Bono and The Edge in San Jose, California. In October of last year, the boys were giving a secretive, acoustic, VIP-only performance to launch their new black iPod. An acquaintance of Danette’s, who had insider Hewlett-Packard information, tipped us off that they would be in town the following day so we ditched our work responsibilities and set off on a wild goose chase. My sister had the optimistic foresight to bring along her prized "Joshua Tree" LP, though I decided against bringing mine, thinking it unlikely that we’d even find U2 and afraid the 17-year old cardboard jacket would smudge in the drizzly weather. Through a series of detective maneuvers that would make Sherlock Holmes proud, we incredibly arrived at the publicly undisclosed theater at which Bono and Edge were performing, just in time to be told that they would soon be exiting through the back door. Outside we waited in orderly line, with about 30 other 30-something fans, until our idols emerged and were instantly swarmed like the rock stars they are. We pushed and shoved our way to the front of the heap as Danette screamed in desperate hysteria, "BONO – P-L-E-A-S-E!!" and waved her album at him. She claims their eyes met and he gently took the album in one hand while she held on to it with hers and, using the calligraphy marker I had remembered to bring ("just in case"), Bono scribbled his name across the desert sky. My sister also had the presence of mind to take clear, close-up snapshots of Bono, Edge and even band manager Paul McGuinness.

Afterward, riding on the high of that encounter, we drove to the nearest one-hour photo shop for processing, the two of us screaming and shouting and laughing and crying. We kept replaying the drama of each moment from the previous 24 hours that had led us to this chance meeting. We discussed what each of us was thinking, feeling, the excitement, led by doubt, led by promise, each step of the way. Finally I reflected at how the day’s events were a perfect analogy for the differences in the way we each conduct our lives. I’m always the cautious one, playing it safe, never wanting to expose myself or get hurt. Danette, on the other hand, is a risk-taker, she goes for it and doesn’t let fear or inhibition get in her way. She reaches for the prize, while I prepare for the worst. It would stand to reason that she’d be going home that day with an autographed "Joshua Tree" while my copy remained carefully stored in the armoire.

I couldn’t help but feel sorry for myself despite the phenomenal luck at having actually seen Bono and The Edge in person, face-to-face. As I voiced these feelings to my baby sister, she assured me that she never would have gotten there by herself. She reminded me that this was a joint effort and that she wouldn’t have even been interested in going it alone. This thawed my jealousy and helped me to see that each of us plays an important role for the other. That’s also when I recognized the true gift U2 has been to us all these years, not merely having a significant impact musically, emotionally and spiritually, it has been the glue that holds our sisterhood together. Rarely does a phone conversation or e-mail go by without one of us mentioning that we heard a particularly rare song of theirs on the radio or reporting the latest band news we’ve read. Nobody else on the planet shares our love or U2 experiences exactly the way we do and nothing can break that bond. Despite miles or marriages or misunderstandings that might temporarily divide us along the way, we will always have U2 and, therefore, we will always have each other.

The Story of U2’s ‘Boy’*

August 15, 2005


By Teresa Rivas
2005.08

"I hope the young kids will like it as well, but I’m really talking to the people who grew up with me. I’m saying here I am now. How are you? How’s your relationship going? Did you get through it all? Wasn’t the ’70s a drag? You know, well here we are. Let’s make the ’80s good because it’s still up to us to make what we can of it."
-John Lennon, in an interview with the
Christian Science Monitor about his new album with Yoko Ono, just days before his assassination on December 8, 1980

"The name U2 is ambiguous, it’s in between…like the tightrope that we’re all treading."
-Bono in a 1980 Island Records biography

1980. The 70s are over, along with disco, gas shortages and bellbottoms. A new decade dawns, one that will be characterized in retrospect by yuppies and Wall Street, acid wash jeans and awakening to the AIDS epidemic. But not just yet. This year is just the beginning of a new era, before the history and the stereotypes set in, when U2 recorded its first full-length album, "Boy." It’s before the hoards of screaming fans and the worldwide acclaim. It’s the band’s first audition tape in its bid to be the greatest band in the world.

Twenty-five years ago the oldest member of the newly christened U2, Adam Clayton, is just 20 years old and the youngest, Larry Mullen Jr., 19. Fans may wonder at the idea of a world without U2—many may have been recovering from “Saturday Night Fever” or were too young to be interested in music at the time. Others (like myself) have to count their age in negative years (-3) in 1980. But fear not, in a world erupting with war, tremendous loss of beloved cultural iconoclasts and an American Conservative Revolution, (sound familiar?) U2 was not about to let it all pass by.

In 1980 violence exploded in the Middle East, with the beginning of the Iran-Iraq war in September, though in this case the United States directed it anger at the former, cutting ties with Iran in April after six U.S. embassy aides escaped with Canadian help from the Iran Hostage Crisis at the end of January.

Ronald Reagan, the former Hollywood actor and democrat, swept the U.S. presidency for the republicans in November, making way for the "Conservative Revolution" that many young people embraced, with its message of abstinence from the abundant use of drugs and casual sex that many felt debauched the generations of the past two decades.

Ted Turner launched CNN, the first 24-hour news network on cable. Smallpox was eradicated; the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that genetically engineered organisms could be patented. Norman Mailer won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for "The Executioner’s Song" and Billy Joel the Grammy for Album of the Year with "52nd Street."

Along with John Lennon, the world will lose the French philosopher John Paul Sartre, the most influential mind of the existentialist movement, Alfred Hitchcock, the masterful director known for suspense, and Mae West, the risqué actress of the 1920s and ’30s.

"Boy" debuted in October (a month that a certain group of dejected sports fans may remember as the last time the Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series) to lukewarm critical reviews. Yet now as the Vertigo Tour seems to have brought the album full-circle, many of U2′s opening acts and other popular new artists such as Franz Ferdinand, the Futureheads and the Killers credit "Boy" as one of their muses.

To step back, he journey of "Boy" began in 1976 when the four band members got together and began practicing after school and on weekends as Feedback and The Hype. It was during these early sessions, trying to integrate the newly explosive sounds of the Sex Pistols into their repertoire, that inspired The Edge, then just Dave Evans, to later admit that "We were the worst cover version band in the world," according to Laura Jackson’s "Bono: His Life, Music and Passions."

Things really began to congeal in 1978 when Edge’s brother left the band and the foursome finally decided on a name once and for all, even if the drummer continues to prefer the name The Larry Mullen Band in private. Though it may have lost Dik Evans, the band gained an unofficial fifth member that year as well when Paul McGuinness, impressed by the band’s performance and enthusiasm at the Dublin Project Arts Centre, agreed to become U2′s manager, although, according to U2.com, he was unsure about the band’s talent despite the members’ vigor and commitment to one another.

On March 20 of that year, The Evening Press announced that "four Dublin schoolboys" carried off the top prize of £500 at the Limerick Civic Week Pop ’78 Competition. In the audience was a CBS representative who would give the band studio time. The brief article names Adam, who said that U2 came to the concert as a "last resort" because no one in Dublin was interested in the group, as the group’s leader. It also quotes an ever-optimistic Paul Hewson as saying after progressing from playing "country music to ‘doing our own stuff,’" that the cash prize will help the band a great deal financially, providing new equipment. "Now we hope to be able to buy a van," he said, according to Hank Bordowitz’s "The U2 Reader."

In a September 1980 article in Melody Maker, as the boys were playing rock ‘n’ roll for the first time in the studio, the descriptions of their characters are uncanny, almost prophetic, and serve as testament to the fact that no matter how much ego people ascribe to Bono or philandering to Clayton, these four friends have remained first and foremost true to themselves. "[W]ithin the studio the air is one of excitement, nervous tension and bubbling spirits," the reporter wrote. "Bono, our courteous host, is the epitome of this…The rest of U2 are just as refreshing. Larry the drummer is straight, unblinkered, down-to-earth…Guitarist The Edge is quiet yet firm, offset with a sly sense of humor. Adam the bassist carries himself with a nonchalant air, totally at ease with his surroundings and the people around him."

By this time there’s little doubt that Bono is the gregarious frontman of U2 and does most of the talking. Little has changed in 25 years and the Bono of checkered pants and unruly pre-mullet tresses could easily be confused with the ubiquitous shades-wearing, multi-millionaire of today. "I see it as a grid and it’s very easy to slip through that grid if you wear a suit and tie or if you wear long hair and jeans and are that type of band," "The U2 Reader" quotes him saying of young U2′s place in music. "But bands who are individual can’t slip through that easy. It is a problem on one hand because it does make it difficult to present the band to people who say ‘What kind of band are they? Who do they sound like?’ And of course we try not to sound like anything but ourselves. What I am saying is it takes a while because bands like us do get through but they don’t slip through the grid. They have to smash it."

Twenty-five years is a while but here’s Bono, once again, calling "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" the band’s first record in the press. As for the grid, well, I guess we know why U2 built the bomb in the first place.

By all accounts, when U2 was in the recording studio for the first time, the band was as fresh-faced and eager as they looked, though strikingly mature. Many fans will complain that the band has never written a (conventional) great love song but it was evident from the beginning that a spoonful of U2 was not your typical fare.

Under Steve Lillywhite’s direction, the band members for the first time felt the pressure of setting down definitive versions of songs they felt they’d played a million times and knew by heart, an especially difficult task for Bono who had to once and for all commit lyrics to the music. Despite fears that Lillywhite, an established name in the industry who’d previously worked with Ultravox, XTC and Siouxsie and the Banshees, would dominate U2′s work, he was supportive and encouraging to the band’s unique sound–listen for the bottle hitting the floor in "I Will Follow." In the end, the raw talent and training of The Edge and Larry would truly carry the album as Adam and Bono struggled to find their sound and footing while campaigning to bring the band into the spotlight. But they were enthusiastic through it all, reflecting the fact for all the tragedy and fear that had shaped their lives as young adolescents in Dublin, they were just that, young teenagers bubbling over as they embarked on this incredible journey, on life, full of struggling faith, burgeoning love and anger. As Bono said in Niall Stokes’s "U2 Into the Heart: The Stories Behind Every U2 Song," "the songs are autobiographical" and the evidence of these issues are evident in the energy of "Boy’s" songs. From the emergence of sexuality to the ultimate meaning of life, no subject is off limits to these boys, out to discover every mysterious facet of adolescent life and beyond.

The first song on the record, "I Will Follow," will represent "Boy" on the band’s first greatest hits compilation and explodes onto the scene with the real duality that will pervade U2 throughout its storied career, as Bono is quoted as saying in Stokes’s book, "’I Will Follow’ has both anger, real anger, and an enormous sense of yearning." The allusions to Bono’s late mother in the song are unmistakable and suffering such a tragic loss at the age of 14 it’s understandable how strongly both emotions must have played into his life at the time. Often Bono has credited his mother’s death with his relentless drive, a teenager who started running away from that pain and hasn’t looked back since.

"Twilight" follows, a song that the band was surprised to learn made it popular in the gay community. Because of the ambiguous lyrics and multiple meanings of slang in Britain and the United States, a large segment of the gay community lauded the band for its frank discussions of sexuality that weren’t rooted in machismo like those of every other rock ‘n’ roll band. While the band sought to be honest about the confusion that is the adolescent experience, it had no idea how the song had been interpreted by the group who were grateful to hear love from the heart of boys who would gladly admit they didn’t have all the answers. "We didn’t have a clue what was going on," Clayton recalled in "Into the Heart." "These guys used to turn up at our gigs, dressed in leather gear, with leather gloves on and so on, and we used to think of them as rich punks."

Who was "the black cat" of "An Cat Dubh/Into the Heart" (erroneously listed as two separate tracks on some U.S. editions)? U2 mate Gavin Friday assured Stokes that this song is about sex, in particular the brief relationship Bono had with another girl when he and (future wife) Ali were temporarily split up in high school. Bono likened the emotional tumult of that tryst to a cat playing with a bird it has caught. "It’s like someone has taken you, thrown you around the place and then you sleep beside them," he told Stokes, considering that he changed things around a bit for the song but in the end thinks it was he who was the cat. Yet again the lyrics, which may have been improvised, a move Bono blames on Iggy Pop’s lead, were ambiguous and universally appealing, but took a back seat to the music at that point, as they would continue to do until at least "The Unforgettable Fire," the singer recalled.

"’Out of Control’ is about waking up on your 18th birthday and realizing you’re 18 years old and the two most important decisions in your life have nothing to do with you—being born and dying," Bono told Stokes in 1979. Though he has since learned to take it more lightly, it is a song that any 18-year-old can relate to when the existential weight of existence hangs heavy over his head, with all his energy being pulled in every direction. The Edge, in Hot Press, credited this as one of U2′s most enduring songs, recently revived on the Vertigo Tour, with the patience to find your own way in a world crowded with cliché guitar solos. "If you want a particular idea, you start picking instruments and amps and effects and what have you. When you start doing that, you start to develop a sound. Then, when you have a sound, you find certain things work better on that and you get into a certain vocabulary of music. And before you know what’s happening, you’re on the way to a style, a sound and to musicianship."

"Stories for Boys," one of the band’s earliest songs which, like almost all of U2′s songs, let people read into it what they would. McGuinness was convinced the song was about masturbation. It was also another song that the gay community greatly identified with, as Bono admitted to Stokes. "This was it. For the gays in our audience, this was definitely a love song to a man," he says, conceding to the double entendres easily unearthed in the lyrics. But he also said the song was reactionary, an example of how songs almost wrote themselves through him as a conduit. It’s "a reaction against heavy advertising and television images and things like that. I remember seeing heroes on television—people like James Bond and so on—and thinking, ‘I’m not very good looking—I’m not going to get things like that’ and being unhappy about it."

While Bono’s family had a small carriage by the sea when he was younger, "The Ocean" runs deeper than just these idyllic times of his youth, which were soon turned sour when the place was demolished during a property dispute. The lyrics are ripe with the literary influence Bono was steeped in at the time, as he enjoyed authors like Oscar Wilde—hence the Dorian Gray reference, as well as references to James Joyce. A soft but powerful piece, it too would find its way back into the spotlight again for the Vertigo Tour.

In "A Day Without Me," fans may listen to The Edge coming into his own, the echoes of that great distinctive sound to come, but it is a song not born of hope. "There were no jobs to get. It was like we were all going nowhere so we decided to go nowhere together and form a band," Mullen recalled in 1986 of U2′s beginning. In such a desperate atmosphere it was no wonder that young people with energy were looking for a way out, and one way was suicide, attempted by one of Bono’s acquaintances. The idea fascinated Bono, as he said, "would it make any difference if you did commit suicide?" Hence the vantage point of a graveyard, watching and noting who did and did not come to your own funeral.

"Another Time, Another Place," also encapsulates the duality that pervaded the band’s struggle for identity. While it’s a song of hope, a song with the hint of heady teenage romance, it is also one of loss—of innocence, of childhood, of direction, that keeps young adults on the cusp of their lives, in limbo.

You wouldn’t guess from first hearing that "The Electric Co." was about a mental institution that favored electroshock therapy but, indeed, Bono confirmed that the song referred to the injustice he saw in veritable incarceration of patients at St. Brendan’s psychiatric hospital who were riddled with Electro Convulsive Therapy. Yet he said it was a great release to perform the song, which has such energy, on stage, and release that anger, to strike back, saying it had a bit of the character Alex, the violent opera-loving punk from Anthony Burgess’s "A Clockwork Orange," in the song.

"Shadows and Tall Trees" takes its title from fourth chapter in "Lord of the Flies," a book that greatly influenced Bono and his fellow Lypton Village members who shunned the endless compromise they saw in adulthood. "It’s all about war," he said to Stokes. "We’re stuck on this island of suburbia and we’re turning on each other." It was a fitting end to this album, about the transition from childhood to adulthood, with the hope and fears and beliefs and all that they couldn’t leave behind.

At the end of some U.K. editions of "Boy" there’s a hidden track, an instrumental that was a demo for "Fire," a song that would appear on U2′s sophomore work, "October." But that’s an entirely different story.

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