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U2 – Then & Now


In the year of 1976 a then 16 year old school boy answered a news notice that was displayed in his school at the Mount Temple Comprehensive School that a band forming in the school were looking for a guitarist. Paul Hewson, a then 16 year old, answered the notice and became one of the once 7 piece group, which used to practice in one of the lads house in the kitchen area, then over time 3 of them left to pursue other subjects. The 4 that remained were Paul Hewson, Larry Junior Mullen, Paul Evans, and Adam Clayton. Today – U2 – as they are better known, have taken Irish groups where hardly any ever Irish groups went, and in my own personal view, opened up a world to any other possible Irish groups’ path ways that were to follow U2’s footsteps.

Up till the 1970’s Irish rock groups didn’t do extremely well in the UK market. There was a well known fact that there was a stigma attached to being Irish, mostly due to the troubles in the North of Ireland, which had a huge impact not only in the music business. The nearest any performer in my own view who even got as close was our Legend Phil Lynnot (aka Thin Lizzy) who tragically overdosed in the 1980’s. U2 had to not only prove themselves to the Irish, but also to the English, and then to the rest of the world. The only other Irish artist who had a number 1 hit in the 80’s in the English Charts was Cris De Burgh with the Lady In Red.

U2 chose their name after been previously been called Feedback & the Hype. It was suggested by a friend to write down 6 names of a band and pick out a name. They settled on U2 because it was the name they liked best, and it had a bit of history to it. It was the name of an airplane that fought in World War 2. Within leaving school U2 had been signed up to a record label after they won a talent competition in 1978 in Limerick. Their prize was a £500 1st prize plus a chance to record some music in a recording studio. In May of that year they went in to Keystone Record Studios here in Dublin and recorded their 1st studio album, titled: Three. The Hot Press Irish music magazine gave them some much needed mention and at that same time Paul McGuinness agreed to be their manager.

Three was the first studio album to be offered by u2, to the Irish people only. In 1979 U2 preformed in London. They didn’t get to much attention as I mentioned below this could have been one of the English gigs where just 7 people turned up. In February 1980 they released their second offering from the Three album titled ‘Another Day’, which again was just for the Irish Market. Island record signed U2 in March of 1980 and in May of that year they released  11 O’clock Tick Tock, as their 1st international single. Their album ‘Boy’ was just released and 11 o’clock Tick Tock was taken of it, Boy was produced by Stevie Lilywhite and it did get noticed. Their 2nd offering off the same album, ‘I will Follow’ was the bands first USA hit and this was followed by Boy’s world tour, traveling across Europe and the USA.

The shows where highly noticed thanks to Bono’s stage performance as he was dubbed the clown of the stage. After their 2nd Album ‘October’ in 1981, the group went on their War tour selling out gigs across the states and in mainland Europe. When Sunday Bloody Sunday was been played, Bono would march across the stage with a white flag which became famous. It became one of U2’s ironic moments. While on that tour U2 recorded their Live alum titled ‘Under The Blood Red Sky’, and they had a mini film out titled Red Rocks, a concert film. This took U2 to a much larger audience across the globe, and also that year, U2 managed to get to keep all their song rights and this helped them greatly with their wages.

They got plenty of radio coverage along with regular slots on MTV, and then in 1984 U2 released their album ‘The Unforgettable Fire’ which had a single released with the same title, plus the single ‘Bad’ in which Bono made it very famous after he and the band appeared in the Live Aid concert. When Live Aid played in Wembly in 1985 they had very little knowledge about Bono’s sets so when they went on stage and sang Bad what should have been a 4 min set actually went on for just over 14 minutes.

This is the famous Live Aid Concert which happened when U2 were only starting to break out into the English market. Half-way through the song Bono hands the microphone over to one of the stage producers then jumps down to where the pit was and invited 3 women up on to the stage from the audience, while Bad’s music played in the back ground. The 1st women up actually gets to dance with Bono the security are milling around them. The camera people are gobsmacked and haven’t ever seen this done before. They danced for a good 2 minutes and then he jumps back up where he is joined by another 2 ladies, kisses both of them, hugs them as they were going back into the audience, then he gets the microphone and grabs another of these ladies and sings, as if he was performing epically for her, before kissing her and jumping back up on to the stage, with the audience going absolutely mad for U2.

Some people say the group Queen who played their greatest hits were the cream of the crop that day, but I don’t think they were. I think Queen did it for England, and U2 did it for Ireland. Their 5th Album ‘The Joshua Tree’ became the fastest selling album in the States and it went to the top of the Billboard charts and stayed there for 9 weeks. U2 where also on The Times’ front cover making them the 4th Rock group to do so. The ‘Joshua Tree’ provided two big hits in the States with ‘With Or Without You’ and ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’. In October the following year U2 released ‘Rattle and Hum’ and had a mini video that was released in the cinema. The album had some decent stuff on it including ‘When Love Comes To Town’ with BB King, and work with Bob Dylan.

U2 are one of the best rock/punk groups in the world, and in my opinion they opened up the doors for other groups to follow such as The Cranberries, The Corr’s, The Hot House Flowers, Sinead O Connor and Mary Black, Also Clannad and Sharon Shannon, plus most recently The Script to name a few. I’m not saying U2 done it for them but I am sure if they could of helped they would have. Did you know Bono’s daughter appeared in the Scripts video for the 1st time? Did You?

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