Interview: Sal and Sorge, Authors of ‘U2itude’*

June 26, 2006

By Devlin Smith, contributing editor

Salvatore Petronella and Christopher Sorgie have been best friends since high school, bonded by a shared love of U2. Like most U2 fans, the friends often debated the merits of various U2 songs. What sets Petronella and Sorgie (better known as Sal and Sorge) apart is they created a system to determine what the best U2 songs are.

This five-category, "scientific" system is spelled out in the new book "U2itude: The Ultimate Handbook for U2 Fans." In it, Sal and Sorge methodically and objectively rate each U2 song, sometimes with surprising results. The pairs also created playlists and listed their own personal top 10s. recently spoke with the authors and found out about U2itude, the compass and getting the guys in U2 to rank their own songs.

How long have you been U2 fans?

Sal: I’ve been a U2 fan since high school. It’s kind of in the book, since 1983, as soon as I heard "New Year’s Day," that’s when I became a U2 fan.

Sorge: Sal and I met in high school kind of over and through U2. We both became fans around the same time and used to sing and hum U2 songs in a couple of classes we had together. It’s been a friendship ever since, really.

Sal: It was sorted of like I think one of us heard the other singing U2 and said, "Wait a minute, is that U2? You know who they are?" "Yeah, they’re your favorite band." "They’re your favorite band? They’re my favorite band." That’s how it all began.

Sorge: If you had a copy of our high school yearbook, you would see Sal was the "U" and I was the "2" in the group shot of the 600 of us in front of the school.

What do you think it was about U2′s music that drew you to it originally?

Sorge: The music just got inside my soul, just that when you heard "War" and you heard that drumbeat and this electrifying guitar and Bono’s voice, it was something new, something fresh, something exciting and it was, like we say, kind of like love at first listen. We just fell in love with it, at least I did.

What do you think has maintained that passion for the band?

Sorge: Every song, every album has kind of marked a point in my life. I can go back through my high school years to my college years to my working life, my marriage; U2 has been there every step of the way. My wife and I, our first dance was to "All I Want Is You," "Mysterious Ways" was playing in the hospital with my first daughter. They’ve been there, kind of like the soundtrack of our lives. It’s just been there every step of the way, through ups and downs, through tears, through joys, happy times, sad times. If there’s a mood you’re in, there’s a U2 song for it.

Sal: I think the key has also been what we mention in the book, it’s the staying power, that they continue to produce quality music and that’s what’s kept it going all these years. At some point they could have turned into a mediocre band and not given 100 percent and not made soul music but they continue to deliver and that’s what’s kept it alive for me, also.

Sal holds the U and Sorge holds the 2 in their senior class high school yearbook photo.

As you’re talking about going through the band in different steps of your life, do you feel connected to the guys individually because you were growing up around the same time they were growing up, going through all these things, getting married, having kids?

Sal: I think we’re all on our own spiritual journey and I feel, at some level, a kind of connectedness to Bono. I know that’s kind of crazy but what I’ve noticed is, for example, for a while I was very much into Charles Bukowski’s poetry and some of the films of Wim Wenders, at the same time or later on I noticed that U2 was making references to Charles Bukowski on the "Pop" album and I just thought, wow, this is really interesting because we’ve never met but somehow I’m reading the same thing that Bono’s reading and I’m being influenced by the same artists that he’s reading. That’s just one of those strange things, connectedness that I’ve kind of discovered. I hadn’t thought about how their lives had been kind of, I guess they did get married around the same time, before us, but I hadn’t really thought of that.

Where did you guys come up with the term U2itude?

Sal: I think I was probably driving home from work, or in the shower. I guess U2itude just means to me, it’s kind of the attitude, it’s really hard to explain. From a writing standpoint it just clicked, it was one of those epiphanies.

Sorge: It’s a play on attitude but when we said it, it was like, "That’s it, that’s what this book is about." It’s kind of neat, it’s kind of fun, the book has an attitude, has a certain attitude about it.

How did you guys get the idea to get together, sit down and write a U2 book?

Sal: I guess from a couple of different levels. It’s always been my dream to be a published author and one thing about me when I write, I usually listen to music while I’m writing. One night my wife had noticed it and said, "How do you do it? How do you write and concentrate with music in headphones in your ear?" I had always known that music moved me and I would listen, sometimes if I was working on a piece I would listen to the same song over and over. Then I thought, "This is the music that I’m listening to, why not write about the music that inspires me the most?" That’s kind of where the idea came to me.

Sorge: To be very specific, Sal and I always, being friends, we never could agree on what our favorite U2 song was. The book was really a way for us to settle our debate. So we said, "What are the top 10 U2 songs?" You have "I Will Follow," "I Still Haven’t Found," all these great songs but there needed to be some criteria, some, what we called, scientific rating system to determine once and for all what are the best U2 songs. We got together one night and said it’s about the music and it’s about the energy and then there’s a message, the lyrics, then this kind of intangible that pulls it all together, which we called U2itude. If you rated every song on those five criteria, you would then have some objective measurement to say, you know what, this song has it all—it’s a perfect five on music, a perfect five on energy, and across the board. Thus we came up with this ranking system and, like we say, the compass does not lie. If you really sit down and put this to the test, you sit down and you judge the songs on these five criteria, you do, we feel, come up with somewhat of an objective measurement of what the best U2 songs are.

It’s helped us in some ways. We still debate it because we’re not claiming to be right, it’s our opinion, but you do it, you sit down with a pen and pencil and rank them. We think most people will rank them kind of similarly but if they don’t, that’s OK. It’s how it relates to you and your life and your personal experiences.

Sal: That’s why we included our own personal favorites lists, too, because we’re not claiming to be right. We show that even though "Bad," for example, we rated as the No. 1 U2 song of all time, it doesn’t show up on our personal favorite lists. That doesn’t mean that we don’t love the song but it’s not my personal favorite but according to our system, and the compass doesn’t lie, that is the best U2 song of all time. That’s why we give space for people to score along as well because your best song might be something else but we thought it was a really fun way for people to listen with a new ear. How many listen to just the music or tap into just the energy of each song?

How long did it take you, after creating this system, to go through and score each song?

Sorge: We started writing after "All That You Can’t Leave Behind." It’s not like we sat down every night and did it. If added up the total hours, I wonder how many hours that would be Sal?

Sal: We wrote it in between raising our kids and going on with our lives, we didn’t sit down and block out a month of time. It’s been since right after "All That You Can’t Leave Behind" came out when we started writing it, until now.

Sorge: If you compressed the time, it took us a year to write the book, over a five-year period.

How long would you spend on each individual song?

Sorge: Some songs we’d have to play two or three or four times. First you listen and you listen to the music and, "What’s the lyrics? What’s he saying? What’s the message of the song?"

Sal: That was one of the hardest things but we had a blast doing that. We would debate back and forth on almost every single song, I don’t think we ever agreed totally. And then we would really analyze it and say, "OK, let’s listen to the lyrics," or, "Why do you score it a five, Chris? Why am I scoring it a four?" and then we would zone in on those areas and then we’d say, "Yeah, you’re right, it’s a four or five on music or lyrics."

Sorge: We scored them individually and then debated them.

Sal: That’s how we went about it. We scored each album. We would say, "By Tuesday we have to score ‘The Joshua Tree’" and then we’d come together and we’d go over the songs. And we went rating by rating, too, we didn’t go by total score, so we went line by line. "You came up with a 20, I came up with a 20, but how did you get to a 20?" That was a blast.

Sorge: We agreed as much as we disagreed, I think.

What did your wives and children and family and friends think about all this time that you were pouring into analyzing all of these U2 songs, creating this system and everything?

Sorge: Everyone, and we know a lot of U2 fans, both diehards and nuts like us and other more casual fans, everybody has responded very favorably to this idea. Our friends and family couldn’t wait to get their hands on the book. We’ve shared with them bits and pieces over the time and they’ve said, "’I Will Follow,’ how can that not be a top 10 song?" Total support from my wife, I’m sure Sal will say the same, and everybody’s been, "What a cool idea, I think I would love that book. I would buy that for a U2 fan. I know U2 fans who would love that book." We’re excited about the reaction that we’ve gotten.

Sal: It has been support and I think another key part of that has been the passion that Chris and I have always brought to U2. We mentioned in the book, when people think of us, they think of U2, it’s been going on for 20-plus years. That just made it a perfect fit, too. Like, "Yeah, you guys should be writing a book about U2."

As you were going through and rating, what was the most surprising final score that you came up with? Like a song that rated way higher or way lower than you originally thought it would.

Sorge: I think what will be surprising to reader, we come back to this "I Will Follow" example. "I Will Follow," we have it in the book as the No. 1 U2 anthem of all time, I don’t think anybody would ever argue with that, but our score from "I Will Follow" was a four, three, three, five, five—four on music, it’s great music but the lyrics and the message, this was early U2, Bono wasn’t at his best vocally and he hadn’t matured as a writer. So while those threes are good scores, the total score is a 20, which ranks it No. 36 out of 50, there are 35 better songs than "I Will Follow" but you cannot deny that "I Will Follow" is one of the all-time most popular U2 songs. I think that’s the one where people say, "Where’s ‘I Will Follow’ on your list?" It’s not in the top 10, I’m sorry, but the compass doesn’t lie.

Sal: We even went back to it, after our high school reunion we said maybe Larry is right, our friend Larry, a U2 fan, and we looked at it again but we tried to stay true to the compass and we tried to stay true to this method of scoring and we tried to keep our emotions out of it in order to really come up with this objective list of the best songs.

Sorge: Does it get a five for U2itude? Absolutely. Does it get a five for energy? Absolutely. It’s a great song, a 20 is a great score by this system, it’s a solid number.

Were there any moments or pet songs that you just, you knew that it was coming out to maybe be a three in one area?

Sorge: There are songs that we fought over. Two classics are "Walk On" and "The Fly."

Sal: I think those two were the key ones that we really, I was real passionate about "The Fly" and Chris was real passionate about "Walk On." Both of us probably over-scored them originally and then we just went back and forth on them and I think sometimes we tried to sell each other on our ideas and then, in the end, on "The Fly" in particularly, we finally decided that, you know what, this really is a perfect score, you can’t deny. If we stay true to the compass, it gets a five on every category. Those are the two that stuck out, I think.

It was great reading this book and it felt like coming in on a conversation that any group of U2 fans would have sitting together before a show, after a show. As you’re trying to have this scientific scoring method, it’s really hard to take out all the personal moments, especially with a group like U2. Was that coming into your minds at all, like, "This is the song that they played at my prom or my wedding," or, "Remember that road trip we took," or anything like that? How did you keep yourselves from being clouded by your personal connections to the songs?

Sal: I think we made a real conscious effort to do that and that’s why we’re careful to explain in the book [that] we’re not claiming to be right about the songs. We used the studio versions, that was a key to our ratings also because, as you know, U2 is the live experience it’s almost like a religious experience. A song like "Gloria," for example, maybe would score higher if you used a live version of it but we stayed true to the compass and to this rating system in order to force ourselves not to let our emotions affect the scoring and that’s why we included our personal favorite lists.

Sorge: That’s exactly right. That’s why when you read our top 10 lists there’s only one that’s common between the two of us, "Where the Streets Have No Name." Hands down the song that, for me, when they play that live, the Garden is rocking and the crowd is going nutso—how can that not be U2′s No. 1 song? That’s the song for me live. That’s why we felt so passionate about including our top 10 lists and writing something special about those songs for each one of us.

Sal: Everyone is going to score it differently, every fan will score their songs differently and that’s why, again, this is according to our rating and that’s why we give you space to score along. We had a ball doing this, even just sitting around after the book was done, we sat around in my living room with our wives and we were going over the different songs, the top 10 best, the top 10 worst, and it was just so much fun, just kind of laughing about the process and how each one of us would score it. We just think U2 fans will enjoy the experience.

Now that the book is finished and you’ve seen it in print, are there any scores that you wish you could take back?

Sorge: No, I don’t think so.

Sal: I don’t think so either. We deliberated over every song. I think what happened is the book started to take on its own life. The other side of that is the scores will probably change over time. If we go back and rescore the songs in five years, well, who knows where we’ll be in our lives and how a song might take on a different meaning over time?

The friends celebrate the publication of "U2itude."

How difficult was it to choose your own personal top 10 lists?

Sal: That’s how the book started because that has been the hardest thing for us all along is deciding on your top 10 favorites. It’s almost an impossible thing to do. That’s really genesis of the book is coming up with own top 10 favorite U2 lists.

Sorge: I think we both were able to get the 25 songs but what’s the order of the 25 songs? How do you get it from 25 to 15? Then, as Sal says in the book, it becomes the need factor—which songs do you need—and that’s ultimately how we decided the ones that made our lists. It’s like, "I have to have this song. I can’t go on with my life without having that song."

In the book you also talk about how now that you do have children that you’re raising them up on U2. How important is it for you to have your children know U2, appreciate the band, be fans?

Sorge: I don’t know if important is the right word. We’re excited for them to be excited about the band, they are. When a U2 song comes on in the car, they know and they listen. "Turn it up, Dad." It’s so cool. Or to be at a family party, "Julia, go request ‘Mysterious Ways’ so we can dance. This is the song you were born to, this is our song." My dream is one day when she gets married that she’ll select "Sweetest Thing" or "Mysterious Ways" as our father-daughter dance. It’s those kinds of continuing progressions that I know I look forward to. U2 will always be there. The kids, mine are seven, five and three, and they’re U2 fans.

Sal: As Chris said, it’s not as important but it would great. I hope that my kids enjoy the band as much as I do. I think the key is that our passion is contagious. It’s hard being in a house with Sal Petronella and not liking U2. I’m not forcing it on my kids but I think my passion for the band is just contagious because I love this stuff.

Sorge: It’s like my kids are also Mets fans and Sal’s kids are Yankees fans and those things will never change either.

Sal: That we force on them, that’s different.

Now you have your website up explaining this whole idea of "U2itude." Have you started getting feedback from people who have rated the songs themselves based on your system?

Sorge: Yes, quite a few people enter in their top 10 songs and rank their albums and some people provide their comments. There’s no list that’s alike and there are some songs that show up that you wouldn’t expect, some that aren’t even on the top 50 list that other people feel are their favorite songs and that’s the fun of it. Someone ranked "Lemon," "I love ‘Lemon,’" there was a time when I liked "Lemon." We rank it kind of low but there’s a guy out there who had it on his top 10 list.

Talking about songs that you ranked low and disagreements and such, I was kind of surprised at "Miami" being the worst song. Before you came up with this, what was your feeling for "Miami"?

Sal: I guess I felt that the song was kind of weak. The line "Miami/My Mammy," my goodness, what are we doing here guys? Did I know that that would end up being the lowest scoring song? No. I don’t think we knew how any of this would turn out.

Sorge: It wasn’t predetermined but I know there are a few songs that you put that album on and skip, I can’t even listen to that song. We did it the other day, we sat down and listened to the whole song and it was like, "My God, yes, it is the worst song, there’s no doubt about it."

That’s how I feel about "Sweetest Thing."

Sal: This is what we love; we love to hear U2 fans say that. I love to hear U2 fans say, "I totally disagree with you." That’s what’s so fun about this, that’s why "U2itude" has its own life because, absolutely, you love it, that’s fine, we’re not going to argue with you. We keep saying over and over, the compass doesn’t lie, if you score them, you’ll come up with your own score. We’re not claiming to be experts, we didn’t analyze the music, we just went on pure passion for the band and pure reaction on the criteria that we created.

When I went to see U2 in November, my brother and I were eating with some friends of ours, talking about what songs we did and didn’t want to hear and it was that same thing. Someone would say, "I want them to play this." "Oh, not that one, I’d love for them to play this." "That one? You like that one?" No one will ever agree but it was just so fun because it’s like you’re discovering something totally different about a person when you learn that their favorite song is "Lemon."

Sal: My dream is to have people getting together and having little U2itude parties in their house and having a ball with this book just for that reason.

Have you done that, gotten people together to have those kinds of discussions?

Sorge: It’s on the plan. We haven’t done it yet but we’re thinking about doing one at a bookstore.

Sal: For our book launch party we want to have this whole fun scoring session.

Have you passed along the book to Principle Management or the band?

Sorge: There are a number of outlets. We have like three or four different ways where we’re a couple of degrees away from Bono.

Sal: We got to be one degree away from Bono, we think. We did get the manuscript before the book was published in the hands of someone within the inner circle who said, "I think Bono will love this. Have you given it to Bono?" And we said, "We really haven’t had the opportunity." "Why don’t you give it to me? I’ll give it Bono."

Sorge: We don’t know if any of the band members have seen the book but we have, on three different occasions, with people who are connected, closely associated through various means, have tried to give them the manuscript, and we’ll continue to try to do that. One of our dreams, honestly, is to meet them. If the book results in us sitting down and having a Guinness with Bono and The Edge and Larry and Adam and talking about their lists and our book, boy.

Sal: That would be really cool if we could get them to score their songs, their top 10. What’s Adam Clayton’s top 10 favorite U2 songs?

What do you hope to accomplish with this book?

Sal: A couple of things. The main thing is we hope to be able to donate some money to the Global Fund [to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria]. If the book really takes off and we’re able to make a really significant contribution, that’s the big goal. Another goal is to meet the band, that’s something we’d like to accomplish. I’d like to check that off on our life’s checklist, "Yeah, met U2."

Sorge: Just to provide a tool, a source for people to continue to debate and discuss the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band, hands down, U2. Here’s another way to talk about the band. We haven’t mentioned it yet but we put together these playlists, which include songs that don’t immediately come to mind, songs for the beach, songs for a road trip, songs for drinking a Guinness. Sometimes you go for "The Joshua Tree" because that’s a great album but there are some great songs on some of the other albums that people sometimes forget about. When you go through those playlists it’s like, "Oh yeah, ‘Exit,’ great song for a guys’ night out. Let’s crank it up and have some fun with it."

It ended up that the No. 1 album based on this system was "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb." Was that any kind of surprise for you guys?

Sorge: Yeah, I think that was, that an album surpassed the almighty "Joshua Tree." I even got a comment like that yesterday from a friend who got the book and said, "Chris, I don’t know that I agree that ‘How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb’ is better than ‘The Joshua Tree." It’s basically a tie, the scoring is so close and time will tell if it will have the staying power that The Joshua Tree" has. It wasn’t predetermined, it was by the system, by the numbers.

Sal: We really looked at that closely. We went painstakingly over the numbers over and over again to see are we over-scoring, and it just worked out that way.

For more information on "U2itude: The Ultimate Handbook for U2 Fans," visit

Many thanks to Salvatore Petronella and Christopher Sorgie!

Featured Cause: Keep a Child Alive*

June 12, 2006

By Ali Ficklin

Keep a Child Alive was founded in Mombasa, Kenya, in 2002 by Leigh Blake after a mother and child walked into the AIDS Research and Family Care Clinic, a center funded by one of Blake’s previous campaigns, seeking anti-retroviral medicine. The mother knew that without such treatment her son would die but, unfortunately, due to the high cost of the medicines, the clinic couldn’t supply the drugs he needed. The mother had no intentions of leaving the facility without treatment for her ailing son.

Blake had compassion for the strong-willed mother and offered to personally pay for her son’s medicines. Word soon spread about Blake’s good deed and her friends and others, including Alicia Keys, wanted to help sponsor children as well. Not long after that, Blake and Maz Kessler co-founded the Keep a Child Alive campaign, allowing anyone to donate a dollar a day to provide the anti-retroviral drugs to the children at the organization’s treatment sites.

On November 3, 2005, Keep a Child Alive held its annual Black Ball fundraiser. Bono joined Keys via satellite to duet on a special rendition of Peter Gabriel’s "Don’t Give Up" called "Don’t Give Up (Africa)." The song was released exclusively on iTunes on World AIDS Day with all proceeds going to benefit Keep a Child Alive and was co-produced by Keys, the charity’s global ambassador, and longtime U2 producer Steve Lillywhite.

Of the song, Blake, who serves as the organization’s president, told, "It felt like a song meant to be recorded for Africa and I had been thinking about it for years. I knew this duet was going to be something special but true magic happened in that studio when Alicia and Bono came together. It came from their hearts directly to the African people and you can really hear that compassion in the song."

Keys shared her feelings on the song and charity with, saying, "I love this song. And I love Bono. I really respect what he has done for Africa and how he has used his fame to do good in the world. I hope I can do half as much in my life. Keep a Child Alive is my passion and my heartfelt mission. I believe AIDS is the most important issue we face, because how we treat the poor is a reflection of who we are as a people. I urge everyone to recognize the extreme disaster Africa is facing and step up for the Motherland."

Other musicians such as Dave Matthews, Coldplay, 50 Cent, Simple Plan and Rod Stewart also support the Keep a Child Alive campaign and can be seen on the foundation’s website, as well as voicing their support in the organization’s commercials that can be seen on MTV and various other cable networks.

For more information on Keep a Child Alive, visit the organization’s website.

Fan Experience: I Lost 76 Pounds to Dance with Bono*

June 6, 2006

By Erika Sorensen

I’ve struggled with my weight for years. It has affected my self-esteem and body image for a long time. When I had a routine physical done, my blood work results indicated that my insulin level was elevated. My doctor told me that if I didn’t lose weight I’d eventually develop Type 2 adult-onset diabetes. This frightened me. That was when I knew I had to lose weight in order to live a long healthy life.

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