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Old 09-21-2005, 10:48 PM   #1
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They were hobbits

They were hobbits. They were pot smokers. In 1981, they were just kids called U2.

Minneapolis/St. Paul City Pages, September 21, 2005

Jim Walsh


At some point during U2's concert at the Target Center Friday night, Bono will talk about the first time the band played the host city, as he has at almost every stop on this "Vertigo" world tour. He will invoke the words "First Avenue" (or "Uncle Sam's," as it was) and, in doing so, remind himself and all gathered that U2 may have started in drummer Larry Mullen's cramped kitchen in Dublin, but their roots are in tiny clubs all over the planet.

It was April 9, 1981. U2's first record, Boy, had been released the previous year. I had read about it in New Musical Express and ordered it from Ryan at Hot Licks on Hennepin Avenue--now a parking lot. The day the import-only vinyl arrived, Chico brought it out from behind the counter, looked at the photo of the wide-eyed child on the cover and said, "Cool cover, man. Who are these guys?"

I only had a vague idea. Bands were sprouting up everywhere and everyone was inspiring and competing with everyone else. U2 was "one of us, just like us," according to Man Sized Action drummer Tony Pucci, who was working stage crew that night. "We were young punks in bands, too. I told Larry, 'Hey, man, I'm a drummer, too,' and he let me hit his drums. They were just another bunch of guys going through town."

When U2 hit Minneapolis, some lumped them in with the so-called New Romantics, along with the likes of the Psychedelic Furs and Echo and the Bunnymen--albeit with a powerhouse single in their holsters, "I Will Follow."

Matt Wilson was the 16-year-old drummer for U2's local opening band, the Panic. The future Trip Shakespeare leader and his mates spent the month before the show reading about U2 in Rolling Stone, listening to Boy, and getting pumped to play in front of their new heroes from across the pond.

"We hadn't been around very long, and we were so excited to play for these guys. We envisioned them standing there, taking in every note," recalls Wilson. "We played this incredible set, even faster than we usually played. We were sweating when we were done; it was like the show of our lives. And then we watched them walk in through the back door next to the stage as we were tearing down our stuff. It was crushing."

Former Sam's/First Avenue booker Chrissie Dunlap recalls that tickets were "probably 10 dollars" (top-end tickets for the sold-out Target Center show go for $160) and most who were there agree that no more than 500 people were in attendance.

As for the show itself, former Hüsker Dü and Sugar leader Bob Mould recalls that "they didn't have enough material, so they did 'I Will Follow' twice." Wilson recalls, "I don't think I'd ever seen that much concentrated dry ice before. I just remember them moving in and out of the mist, and there was this sort of sense of a religious happening."

U2 was on the second leg of their Boy tour, which took them to clubs such as the Paradise (Boston), the Ritz (New York City), Park West (Chicago), Merlyn's (Madison), and Ol' Man River's (New Orleans). Longtime Sam's/First Avenue DJ Roy Freedom recalls, "They asked me and [fellow DJ] Kevin [Cole] to come back to the dressing room, because they hadn't met any American kids on their tour. I think they thought this was going to be their only shot in America. We smoked pot with 'em and talked about music and had a good time."

"They were like the nicest Catholic school boys you could meet," recalls Wilson. "They talked about chess; they were really into chess. They gave us their beer. They didn't drink."

While the Beatles' visit to Minneapolis in 1965 was thoroughly documented, U2's exact itinerary 25 years ago is only hazily remembered. Legend has it that the band pulled into town the day before the show and rehearsed--an account that varies significantly from the scenario of Friday's reported fly-in, fly-out timetable. Longtime U2 watchers contend that much of their sophomore album October was cooked up on the First Avenue stage during practice, including "I Threw a Brick Through a Window."

A bootleg exists of that Boy-era Sam's show, the title of which comes from how Bono introduced the band that night: "We're called U2."

Like many such beginnings, precise memories of the night now require a gong to ring a bell. "Let's see...it was a really nasty night, really cold, but warm and electric inside," says Tony Pucci, who will attend the Target Center show with his sons, John and Mike, and his wife, Rita, who was up front for the Sam's show in 1981. "All I remember," she says, "was Bono had his foot up on a monitor, and it slipped down and stomped on my arm. I had a huge bruise for days."

The day of the show, photographer Greg Helgeson and Sweet Potato music scribe Martin Keller hung out with the foursome. The band lounged on beds at the now defunct Normandy Hotel, and Keller and Helgeson accompanied them to sound check. Helgeson shot a portrait in the southeast corner of the club.

"They were very confident," says Helgeson. "Marty's Catholic, so the conversation was about Catholicism and world politics and religion, which, in the long run, fits in."

Keller's memories of his brush with what might be the biggest rock band in the world are not unlike the article he wrote after the fact--in a box somewhere, and difficult to access. "They were all little," he says. "They were Hobbits. Who knew they'd get as big as they did? They were very young. They struck me as kids, like, 'What are these guys doing on the road? They're a long way from home.' But they owned the stage once they got on it."

©2005, City Pages Media, Inc.
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Old 09-21-2005, 10:50 PM   #2
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Anyone that's going to the MN show, be sure to walk past First Ave. It's right across from the Target Center. The whole building has stars on it and each star has the name of a band that has played there. U2 has a star
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Old 09-21-2005, 10:55 PM   #3
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it was dark out and we were in the car when this was taken. Maybe I'll have to take a better picture this weekend....
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Old 09-22-2005, 02:15 AM   #4
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Old 09-22-2005, 03:24 AM   #5
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It does seem unexpected that they'd smoke pot before drinking beer, especially considering I thought at least a half of the band was anti-drug back in those days.

More surprising and cool to see a Bob Mould comment, though.
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Old 09-22-2005, 09:23 AM   #6
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And what is a Hobbit?

Hobbits are little people, smaller than dwarfs. They love peace and quiet and good tilled earth. They dislike machines, but they are handy with tools. They are nimble but don't like to hurry. They have sharp ears and eyes. They are inclined to be fat. They wear bright colors but seldom wear shoes. They like to laugh and eat (six meals a day) and drink. They like parties and they like to give and receive presents. They inhabit a land they call The Shire, a place between the River Brandywine and the Far Downs.

quoted from "The Hobbit" by J.R.R. Tolkien


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Old 09-22-2005, 09:50 AM   #7
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I have also seen Hobbits taking a toke or two off a pipe.
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Old 09-22-2005, 03:37 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by Bono's Doll
I have also seen Hobbits taking a toke or two off a pipe.
And so it begins!!! You are the funniest gal I around!!!
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Old 09-22-2005, 09:40 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by Bono's Doll
I have also seen Hobbits taking a toke or two off a pipe.

Remember they also have sharp ears and eyes.

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Old 09-22-2005, 09:45 PM   #10
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I'm still waiting for someone to post the picture of Bono as a hobbit.
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Old 09-24-2005, 08:15 PM   #11
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I think the info about smoking pot and not drinking beer is inaccurate. They DID drink back then, because Bono said in VH1 Legends that they liked Paul McGuiness because he "got them served alcohol." This article also implies that they are/were all Catholic, which isn't true, either. So it makes me wonder if the whol pot thing is really true.

There's something about this in atu2.com's blog. They don't believe it, either.

I don't mean to start a debate about whether or not they smoked pot back then or still do; I'm just stating my opinion that this article seems a little fuzzy.
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Old 09-25-2005, 01:59 AM   #12
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Yeah, I do remember watching that VH1 episode as well. Though I also remember reading an earlier issue of Uncut - I think it was October '99 - that other than Adam, they were all very anti-drug during the early eighties - virtually during their whole career, with some exceptions. It does seem pretty strange.

Mind you, I have nothing against marijuana at all, actually, I usually prefer it to beer most of the time.
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Old 09-25-2005, 08:46 PM   #13
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Thanks for posting that, Biff!
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Old 09-25-2005, 10:07 PM   #14
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Old 09-28-2005, 05:30 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by The Sad Punk
[B]Yeah, I do remember watching that VH1 episode as well. Though I also remember reading an earlier issue of Uncut - I think it was October '99 - that other than Adam, they were all very anti-drug during the early eighties - virtually during their whole career, with some exceptions. It does seem pretty strange. [B]
That's the impression I've always gotten, especially after seeing 100% U2 on Fuse, where Bono said that early on, they made a promise to each other that they wouldn't "die stupid" and that they would go out of this still sharp. I assume he meant that they wouldn't allow themselves to get into drugs like most bands do (or have a reputation of doing).

For the sake of argument, I honestly believe that if they were/are heavily into drugs that they would either be dead, bankrupt, broken up, or burned out like Ozzy Osbourne. But I also think it's unreasonable to think that they've never done drugs. I'm sure they've tried it, but I don't think they've made a habit out of it.
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Old 09-29-2005, 01:11 AM   #16
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mick jagger and keith richards are still in an amazing shape!
not great looking.. but still rocking

well about pot - I am not sure about back then, but many people do not place it next to cocain and stuf.
rather next to alcohol - considering the heaviness of the drug.

I certainly do believe that they did try it at some point in their lives (well, dunno - maybe not larry). Would not be the end of the world
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Old 10-02-2005, 11:27 AM   #17
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Meanwhile back at Hobbiton...some additional info.....

"Daily hobbit meals include Breakfast, Second Breakfast, Eleveneses, Luncheon, Afternoon Tea, and Supper, supplemented with plenty of snacks in between. They are cheerful, settled, well-ordered, and clanish folk, priding themselves on their plenty, their ancestry, and their good common sense; and are therefore most unadventurous by nature: preferring the prospect of a good smoke of pipe-weed with their feet up in front of the fire at the Green Dragon Inn to gallivanting around the world {with the notable exception of one Bilbo Baggins.

taken from The Lord of The Rings Complete Visual Companion.

carol
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Old 10-03-2005, 09:35 AM   #18
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After a few pints--I guess Bilbo could start sounding like Bono.
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