- 21 Jul 22
As part of our 45th Birthday special – in which we celebrate the 45s that shaped our world – some familiar musical faces select their favourite single since the launch of Hot Press in 1977...
I’ve kind of mashed two singles together in my memory. In 1980, U2 started getting played on the radio shows that I was listening to growing up in London. I was 15 and ‘11 O’Clock Tick Tock’ was getting airtime, and I loved it, but I wasn’t quite prepared to save up my pocket money and buy it, because Echo and The Bunnymen and The Mighty Wah! had records out, so there was a lot of competition.
Then in December, I was in Kensington High Street at the record store there – an old Virgin Megastore or Archives, one of these olden day record stores – and there was a little poster up on the window saying ‘From Ireland: U2 will be doing an in-store signing’.
Whatever date it was on, I had my mock O level that day which is like the Leaving Cert, so I mitched school, bunking my exams to get my record signed. When I was queuing, I noticed that some of the fan’s copies of ‘11 O’Clock Tick Tock’ were in these gorgeous blue picture covers, but by the time I was ready to buy it, all the picture covers had sold out.
When I saw all these people with the gorgeous blue cover, I was very jealous, so I said to The Edge, as you do, “Hang on, look at all these cool blue picture covers, my one just came in this sleeve.” He says, “We’re signed to Island Records. Write to them – and say that you bought the single, but you’d like the picture cover. Tell them I said this to you and I’ll send it to you.”
This was literally the first single they had released in the UK. They were a brand new band as far as anybody knew. So that whole span of about six months is all smushed into one thing in my memory: their first UK single, ‘11 O’Clock Tick Tock’, and their second UK single ‘A Day Without Me’. And then The Edge saying, you tell our record company to do this for you. There was a whole other thing after the signing where Adam Clayton took a bunch of us to McDonald’s and fed us.
Another aspect to ‘A Day Without Me’ was that it was somehow disseminated that it was about Ian Curtis, who’d died that year, although U2 had already been performing the song before Ian died. But that was just another lesson, these kinds of Chinese whispers about the meaning of songs, and that they can be about what you want them to be about. These are all lessons that I brought with me from those few months and those two singles. They taught me a lot, just those two little bits of vinyl, and everything that went with them.
Read the full 'The Track That Changed My Life' feature in the special 45th Birthday issue of Hot Press – out now: