- 18 Aug 20
40 years ago today, U2 released 'A Day Without Me' – the lead single from their classic debut album, Boy. The single marked U2's first collaboration with producer Steve Lillywhite, as well as their first release outside of Ireland and the UK. To mark the occasion, we're revisiting a 1980 piece Bono wrote for Hot Press – in which he reflects on being in a band on the cusp of international success.
"Where were you last night?" asked the ol' man. "We played a concert in Trinity College." "How did it go?" "Well," I said, '"we had a bit of trouble from a few 16 year olds in the audience." "You weren't very polite, yourself at sixteen!" he replied.
Yeh, I know at sixteen boys turn into men and get confused, I do remember. I remember I felt bullied by the need to succeed, to find a good job, and a pretty girl. Forming U2 was a way out - it was also a way in to expressing how I felt constructively, as opposed to banging my own or somebody else's head off a wall. The fact that neither Bono, Adam, Larry or the Edge could play or sing was but an obstacle to overcome. (It hadn't bothered Lou Reed, Bob Dylan or Bob Geldof). Just do it!
Dublin in 1977 was not as receptive to a new rock group with new rules as was London Town - the old story of Dublin living in the shadow, failing to make its own mind up. Even the music scene (man!) was loathe to jump up and down to what must have seemed like their little brothers. No, the group that sprayed "The Hype" on their Mount Temple comprehensive school-bags and shouted 1,2,3,4 at the Celebrity Club, were to say the least, a threat to one's cool. How dare they enjoy themselves.
A manager was needed before we learnt our next lesson. Paul McGuinness was his name and he wasn't very good at football! He told us not to over-expose ourselves while we were still underdeveloped and not to rely on gigging and our status in Dublin (which wasn't very high at the time). He also arranged for Barry Devlin to produce our first demo and organised record company interest. Yes he's quite useful around the house! (in between sueing various non entities).
This was a foundation - it was up to the music to build the rest. Musically we were trying to combine the energy of the new wave with an added sensitivity and emotion. For this reason I feel we have more in common with, say, the Who than the Pistols or the Clash.
Progressing, though, is the name of the game and if you don't know how, then find someone who does. Myself and bass player Adam in particular sought as much advice as we could from both established musicians and music "biz" people. Stephen Rapid of Radiators fame was a great help, as were the three Bills, Bill Graham (Hot Press), Bil Keating (RTE) and Bill McGrath (Stagalee+ Atrix). Abroad, people like Johnnie Fingers, the Rats, the Lizzies were also glad to lend a hand. And we pushed a little too far: there was one incident where Adam got Phil Lynott out of his bed to answer a few questions about the universe. Philip was helpful but nobody's at their best at 7.30 am.! The point was and is "make allies before you make enemies".
Originality is the keyword. In terms of presentation, on stage, I try to catch people's attention, like an actor I try to get across the atmosphere of the words and the setting. Sometimes I fail, sometimes people don't want to know, sometimes I don't even know myself.
In the end it's up to you the audience to decide for yourselves, is it relevant or irrelevant, can you see the potential in U2 or not? So far you have decided yes and put our first record in the charts, "U2 three". Thank you.
Our debut tour in England was an incredible success; things look good for U2 and I feel confident that our February concert tour of all the major towns in Ireland will be successful too as, we also release our second single here then.
In March we undertake a second English tour in time for our first record release over there. Yes, it's an important time for me.
It's also time for tea! "What are you doing?" asks my ol' man. "I'm writing a piece for the Hot Press". "The who?", "A music paper". "How's it going?" he continued. "Well", I replied. "I had a bit of trouble ..."