- 24 Nov 17
10 Hot Press writers share their favourite U2 moments as we get set for the release of Songs of Experience on December 1. On our eighth day, Liessa De Decker talks about early U2 memories, chance encounters, and the bitter glory of 'Sunday Bloody Sunday'.
Music has and always will be a constant presence in my life. It has allowed me to chase certain dreams that I never even knew I dreamt of and it continues to drive me into unknown territory, encouraging me to explore possibilities in a world that contains such mysteries and fascinating adventures.
As a little kid, my dad’s record collection was something we wouldn’t dare to go near, let alone reach for a record to have a sneaky look at the cool artists gracing the sleeve. We were never forced to play music, but my siblings and me were schooled in music in a way that goes from generation to generation in my family. We were trained to recognise songs by their first note, to sum up every band member and their instruments, and to name their albums. Bonus points if we could tell the year of release. The one band my mum introduced to me and not my dad was U2.
Two bands changed my life and one of them was U2 when I was 8 years old. They’re the band that taught me how to listen to music in a different way, teaching me how to single out certain instruments and try to play along with their music. A sense of wonder and frustration accompanied my efforts, because my guitar didn’t sound like The Edge at all. They were the first band to make me curse my youth, wishing I had been born in the sixties, so I could have been a teenager when ‘Boy’ was released. I read everything I could about them, telling some of the stories behind the songs to my friends to convince them of U2’s brilliance. I didn’t even care if they didn’t want to listen; they were my favourite band and I was going to tell the world.
Last summer when they toured with The Joshua Tree and landed in Brussels, the first band to change my life walked on stage to the sounds of the second band that changed my life. When they kicked off with Sunday Bloody Sunday and I heard the iconic fiddle accompanying the anthem in my head, I felt like all the pieces finally fell into place. This was what music was all about, that feeling of exhilaration and freedom you experience when a certain songs hits you at the right time. As if you’re looking at your life from a distance and you feel such intense happiness that you can’t help but laugh out loud, because at that moment in time your life is perfect.
About a month later I had the pleasure of hearing the story behind that song from the Fellow Who Fiddles himself.
When you’re a journalist, it’s easy to ask certain questions under the guise of informing other people. But what if you’re not a journalist and one of your favourite artists is sitting right next to you? How can you pick someone’s brain without trying to sound too much like your average, geeky fan?
I was on the road with Mr Wickham when I casually mentioned U2 walking on stage to ‘The Whole Of The Moon’. A gentle smile lit up his face. “Yeah, I heard”, he says. I hadn’t finished, “They played Sunday Bloody Sunday straight after, which is the song you played on.” He simply nods. Idiot, I think, you ruined the beginning of a good story by stating the obvious. But there was nothing else I needed to say, because out of nowhere came the well-known story of The Edge waiting at the bus stop and the casual meeting between the two of them resulting in one of U2’s biggest hits and the wonderful ‘Drowning Man’. Every U2 fan knows this story, but to hear it first-hand from the man who was actually there, is something else entirely.
Chance meetings gave my life the musical direction I was looking for, in the same way that a chance meeting gave us Sunday Bloody Sunday. A happy coincidence and a lifetime of remarkable stories.