About U2: The Unforgettable Fire Still Burns: U2's Longevity* - U2 Feedback

Go Back   U2 Feedback > 'Zine (archived) > Content > About U2
Click Here to Login
Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Old 03-26-2004, 11:52 AM   #1
love, blood, life
HelloAngel's Avatar
Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: new york city
Posts: 14,534
Local Time: 01:40 PM
About U2: The Unforgettable Fire Still Burns: U2's Longevity*

By Maja/U2girl with Carrie Alison

Recently, there was a lively discussion in the Interference Feedback forums about the myriad reasons for U2's near 30-year success. With over 100 million albums sold worldwide, many factors have gone into driving the U2 machine through the twists and turns of long-term stardom. Below are some widely cited reasons from fans and critics alike.

Live Performances

U2 is one of those bands that made it the “old school way” – first making a name for itself as a live band, with everything else falling into line afterward. The young band were most noted for the dynamic energy of its singer, Bono – throwing drums off stage, pushing over PA stacks, climbing balconies, jumping into the crowd was all a part of the show – and it was during one of these early shows (that became legendary later on in U2's career) that their later manager Paul McGuinness first saw them. As U2 became more renowned, they would continue to make tremendously entertaining live shows and tours. Not only did they fill the biggest venues of the world, they also had all kinds of additions to their stage set up – from having a gospel choir and BB King sing live (during the “Joshua Tree” tour), to the rafter-dangling Trabants and huge screens (of ZooTV), to the lemon and the biggest video screen ever used (for PopMart), to the heart-shaped stage of the more recent Elevation tour. With all that said, it should be noted Bono is considered one of rock's preeminent performers/singers and the band is regarded as [arguably] the best live band in rock, with two of U2's most high profile performances – the Oscars and the Super Bowl Halftime show – happening more than 20 years into their career.


One of the many reasons U2’s songs are so popular is that Bono explores topics that are universal to the human experience, and can easily mix the bigger themes with the personal within a single song and their unique sound. U2 were able to work and improve this craft, so one could say they have more “classic” songs than any active (and relevant) band does. Perhaps even more interesting, is to look at the songs that didn't make it to be singles but are still widely enjoyed by fans: “Bad,” “Until the End of the World” and “Kite.” Also fascinating is the fact that many of U2’s songs seem to only improve in a live setting (see the above songs) and often get very imaginative rearrangements (the stunning ZooTV version of “Running to Stand Still”), defying the usual electric-song-goes-acoustic live version of the song method that most bands employ.

Manager (and fifth ‘member’ of U2) Paul McGuinness

U2 never forgets to mention Paul McGuinness’s role in their long-time success, as he not only landed them a lucrative record deal, but also made sure the band owns the copyrights to their music, gets royalties from the albums, and has final word in the record making - right down to the album sleeve.

Gradual Success and Breaking the US Market

Most young rock bands surrender to the standard rock and roll cliché early into their career, which leads to the inevitable burn out, or they never ‘break’ in the US. Luckily, U2 has had plenty of time to get used to the success, which surely made it easier on them to gain entrance to, and later retain [and maintain] their top billing in rock’s pantheon. Even in today's fast paced industry, it's hard for non-American acts to make it big in the US – something that is generally crucial in every world superstar's career. With U2 charting a Number 1 album and two Number 1 singles seven years into their career (something surely unimaginable in today's music industry), it became clear who was to be the new favorite [and biggest] rock band.

The Professional Relationship Between Band Members

Many bands break up over money or ego and drug problems – it bodes well for U2 that they (obviously) decided to share the profits equally, maintained a healthy lifestyle (save for Adam Clayton’s past woes with addiction) and that Bono would be the unofficial official spokesperson for the band; with that, it was became clear that he would be the lighting rod for most of their criticism. (How many times have we heard people say they've got a problem with U2, and it's got to do with Bono's outspoken ways, and not really with their music?)

The Brotherhood of U2

While it's true most rock bands start with a friendship/songwriting chemistry and foundation between singer and guitar player, not many bands can claim they're still with original line-up and still with the initial friendship intact, steady relationships and families (no doubt a good support for the band members) and, perhaps most favorable, without any public relations scandals all too common in rock world. U2’s innate friendship/brotherhood survived the early religious endeavours by most of the band members, Adam's drinking problem, the personal and creative tensions during the recording of “Achtung Baby,” and Bono's social activism. There are well-known stories of how they have helped each other out (Bono's support of Larry when he lost his mother, Bono having Adam as his best man at his wedding, Larry letting Edge stay at his house during his divorce, Larry convincing Adam to go into therapy, Edge and Larry not only attending Bono's father's funeral but also serving as pallbearers and most recently, other members attending Edge's wedding.)


Very few rock bands go through as many [successful] ‘changes’ as this band has image-wise, (Madonna is probably their only competition here) and musically - only the Beatles come to mind. From the atmospheric sounds of “Unforgettable Fire,” to the sound landscapes of “The Joshua Tree,” to the bluesy roots of “Rattle and Hum,” to the electronica, industrial and dance influences of the 90's, to the pop and soul influenced “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” – U2 never seems to draw influences from outside, changing and challenging themselves and us.
Not to be forgotten, it has to be noted Bono also changed his lyric style a lot since the early days – going through honest, almost naive lyrics of earlier albums (think “Boy” and “October”), to subconscious/dreamy writing of “The Unforgettable Fire,” to exploring America on next two albums, to entering new themes of sexuality, infidelity and deeply personal stories (as opposed to the broad themes in the 80's) in the 90's, to the mature, hopeful, spiritual and optimistic nature of their latest album.

Relationship with the Fans

More so than other bands, U2 seems to be keen on rewriting the book on maintaining the distance between star and fan. From letting fans on stage to play guitar or having a dance with Bono during “With or Without You,” to letting the audience take over the chorus of a familiar song (“40”) and even outside of the show, many stories prove these guys are always ready to give an autograph and, if time allows, a talk one-on-one. Many fans choose to visit the band's studio in Dublin, and there are numerous accounts of all the members being more than willing to sign an autograph, have a picture taken and exchange a word or two.

The Humble Nature of the Band

Considering all the success and fame they have garnered over the years, U2 are also known for their kindness and down to earth attitude among their music peers. Unlike so many of today's stars, they don't resort to putting down women in their videos/lyrics, or mudslinging vitriol with other bands (if anything, they've been known to praise certain younger bands) or some sort of shocking PR actions to sell their albums. They are also, according to the people in their organization, very nice “bosses.”

So what’s left to say in the end? With a new album and tour around the corner, and the likelihood of a Rock and Roll Hall of fame induction in time for the 25th anniversary of their career, we can be certain there will be plenty more of U2’s music, magic and passion coming our way.

HelloAngel is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-26-2004, 03:38 PM   #2
Forum Moderator
The Goal Is Soul
spanisheyes's Avatar
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Miami, New Orleans, London, Belfast, and Berlin
Posts: 861
Local Time: 09:40 AM
Great reading Maja and Carrie...all of the above and many more reasons are why I have loved, love, and will always love this band...thank you again for a great piece of writing and for sharing the U2 love.

"The truth is when that singer is saying something that comes from right down within him, and it affects you right down within you. That's when you start talking about great music, as distinct from nice music." -- Bono
spanisheyes is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-26-2004, 04:45 PM   #3
Rock n' Roll Doggie
Diane L's Avatar
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Freaked out in a Moonage Daydream, oh yeah!
Posts: 8,864
Local Time: 01:40 PM
This was a wonderful essay! Maja & Carrie, you did a great job of putting why we love these guys into words.
Diane L is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-26-2004, 05:34 PM   #4
Blue Crack Supplier
kellyahern's Avatar
Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: 8 years and I still can't think of anything witty to put here
Posts: 34,698
Local Time: 01:40 PM
Thank you Maja and Carrie. That was a wonderful article to read
kellyahern is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-26-2004, 10:18 PM   #5
Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: Edmonton, Ab, Canada
Posts: 1,800
Local Time: 06:40 PM
"burning guitars on stage" - did bono really do this? when? could someone explain this to me.
marik is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-26-2004, 10:53 PM   #6
Blue Crack Addict
Moonlit_Angel's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: In a dimension known as the Twilight Zone...do de doo doo, do de doo doo...
Posts: 20,774
Local Time: 12:40 PM
Originally posted by Diane L
Maja & Carrie, you did a great job of putting why we love these guys into words.

Very nice essay indeed.


Moonlit_Angel is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-27-2004, 07:53 AM   #7
love, blood, life
HelloAngel's Avatar
Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: new york city
Posts: 14,534
Local Time: 01:40 PM
Originally posted by marik
"burning guitars on stage" - did bono really do this? when? could someone explain this to me.
You are completely right. I missed that in my edits. Thanks!
HelloAngel is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-27-2004, 12:25 PM   #8
Blue Crack Addict
U2girl's Avatar
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: slovenija
Posts: 21,096
Local Time: 07:40 PM
Glad you liked the article everyone!

(there is an interview with Bono on atU2.com from '89 where he says he used to burn guitars on stage)
U2girl is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-27-2004, 04:51 PM   #9
follower's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Porto Alegre/Brasil
Posts: 2,302
Local Time: 02:40 PM
Very nice article indeed girls I remember that thread, it was a good one. The point I highlighted was their friendship or brotherhood, as you said.

follower is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-29-2004, 12:11 PM   #10
Rock n' Roll Doggie
Jamila's Avatar
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Texas
Posts: 5,454
Local Time: 11:40 AM
Thanks for a wonderful synopsis of why U2 is #1 with all of us here!

Let's continue to have MORE positive posts - it's the BEST way for us to show our Love and respect for U2!

Jamila is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-30-2004, 08:01 AM   #11
Blue Crack Addict
Join Date: Jul 2001
Posts: 17,927
Local Time: 12:40 PM
Thanks girls! This was something I really wanted to write. I'll add to it some of the things I wanted to say and post them here.
U2Kitten is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-02-2004, 08:25 AM   #12
Registered User
Hanover's Avatar
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Ireland
Posts: 297
Local Time: 05:40 PM
Excellent! Together you've captured the very essence of U2, if I'm ever asked about U2 and what they mean to me personally, then what you've so eloquently and poignantly written shall be the manifesto I refer to. Thanks!
Hanover is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-02-2004, 10:40 AM   #13
New Yorker
EPandAmerica's Avatar
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Texas
Posts: 2,633
Local Time: 11:40 AM
Great job Carrie & Maja!
EPandAmerica is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-14-2004, 12:23 PM   #14
Blue Crack Addict
verte76's Avatar
Join Date: May 2002
Location: hoping for changes
Posts: 23,331
Local Time: 05:40 PM
Great article--thanks!

verte76 is offline   Reply With Quote

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 12:40 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2023, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
Design, images and all things inclusive copyright © Interference.com