- 24 Oct 17
There's another significant U2 anniversary, with 'I Will Follow' released on this day in 1980. Niall Stokes has the story behind the classic...
I WILL FOLLOW
Iris Hewson died on September 10, 1974, following a brain haemorrhage. It was a terrible twist of fate, coming as it did just after her own father’s funeral at the Military Cemetery in Blackhorse Avenue, Dublin. Bono was 14 at the time, and the experience devastated him. Even now – over 20 years on – he admits that he finds it difficult to remember what his mother looked like. It is impossible to imagine what he might have become if she had lived.
His friends on Cedarwood Road remember Bono as a kind of stray after his mother died. He’d turn up at Gavin Friday’s house one night, and Derek Rowen’s the next, just in time for tea. “He was calling around as much to be with my mother as he was to be with me, I have no doubt about that,” Gavin recalls now.
“I think it’s coming from a very dark place,” Bono says of the band’s first major single. “Pop music at its best seems to have a duality. Whenever it’s one thing or the other it’s flat, but if it has two opposing ideas, pulling in different directions, it achieves a different kind of power. ‘I Will Follow’ has both anger, real anger, and an enormous sense of yearning.”
The band’s performance was suitably urgent. In particular, The Edge careens in on the kind of treble high that became his trademark. It is, as a result, concentrated and hugely powerful. “Most of the early rehearsals were just rows,” Bono recalls. “It was just one long argument. I remember picking up Edge’s guitar and playing the two-stringed chord for ‘I Will Follow’ to show the others the aggression I wanted. It was his riff but I wanted it to have an edge to it.”
The journey had begun. U2 were going in two different directions at once. Not much has changed.