Book Review : U2 Rattle and Hum *

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The Fly
Jul 26, 2000
By Devlin Smith


Author: P. Williams ; Contributor: S. Turner ; Photographer: S. Averill
Publisher: Pyramid Books


Approaching a U2 book post-Flanagan is difficult. In the bare-all wake of U2 at the End of the World, reading the bare-little U2 Rattle & Hum, the book about the movie, is pretty disappointing.

The point of the book, which is no longer in print, is to explain why U2 chose to make Rattle & Hum the way they did, why this was a full-fledged cinematic release and not another straight-to-VHS concert film. Having seen the movie several times, I would like to know why these choices were made but the book doesn?t really shed much light.

The book does delve somewhat into U2?s blossoming love affair with all things American, the good and the bad, the high art and the camp, the mainstream and the fringe. We?re taken behind the scenes at Sun Studios, San Francisco?s Embarcadero Center and other spots from East Coast to West shown in the movie.

The band members share feelings about America, creating laundry lists of newly-discovered luminaries - country, folk and gospel artists, and writers. It?s all pretty vague, though, like a kid listing all the things on their summer vacation, ?We did this, this and this, oh, and now I like Johnny Cash.? Reading about U2?s growing musical appreciation is interesting, most of the greatest musicians are great fans, but the small descriptions the book offers don?t offer enough to show why any of this music or literature would inspire U2 to explore new musical directions.

So the book doesn?t provide any great behind-the-scenes details from the long Joshua Tree tour and Rattle & Hum recording process, but it does provide enough technical information to make any wannabe filmmaker or recording engineer weak in the knees. One appendix outlines all onstage equipment and the PA setup. Diagrams of camera setups are also in the books.
As a documentary of a documentary, U2 Rattle & Hum works best: showing the technical and structural workings of the film. But, unfortunately, like the film the book doesn?t show much else.

On the Joshua Tree tour U2 made a journey through America, became the biggest band in the world, earning critical and commercial adulation. But how that actually felt, looked and sounded to them is, sadly, never discussed. The band must have understood the opportunity they missed in offering a true documentation of themselves; otherwise they probably wouldn?t have invited Bill Flanagan to Berlin in 1990.
This happens to be one of the U2 books I'm offering up on If you haven't read this book, visit this link:
and then send me a Private Message from my bookshelf. I will post the book to you anywhere in the world. You must be a registered bookcrosser, and willing to send the book (after you've read it) to any U2 fan who requests it, who is also a member of bookcrossing!

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