- 14 Jun 17
The man who introduced U2 to Paul McGuinness, Bill Graham joined U2 on their first run round the UK.
The year was 1980 and the good ship U2 (or U-2, as they were still stylised) was gathering momentum - they’d packed out the 2,000 capacity National Stadium in Dublin and been signed to Island Records off the back of it.
With Ryanair just a twinkle in Michael O’Leary’s eye, the band harnessed that energy to hop on the ferry to England for a crack at the London crowds. Hot Press’ legendary Bill Graham, who played such a crucial role in U2’s development by introducing them to manager Paul McGuinness, came along to lend a watchful eye/ear.
They arrived in London before their first show at the Clarendon in Hammersmith - “rather like a miniature version of the Trinity Examination Hall, with the same high ceiling and echoing acoustics,” as Bill put it - encouraged by a feature in Time Out.
But they’d forgotten to publicise the date of the show and the result was a half-full room.
“I feel small clouds of bemusement in the atmosphere… the empathy needed for shared euphoria was absent,” Bill wrote. “Bono just can’t feel the audience.”
New songs 'An Cat Dubh' and 'I Will Follow' rescued the gig though, with Bill taking exception to a fan in a Sid Vicious tee joining them onstage - “a man whose manipulated inauthentic self-detonating implosion represents all U2 stand against,” he scoffed. Overall though, “a small stubborn step forward for U2”.
The tour’s other dates went altogether better. Bill was there to take in U2’s first sold-out UK show at the Half Moon Club in Herne Hill - which they attempted to celebrate by hotfooting it to the Belgravia Carnival.
“We’ve been misinformed,” Bill wrote, “it finished the previous night.”
Indeed, the band’s reputation as “early risers and early sleepers” was partially down to such ill luck - as Bill told of their failure to get into a party hosted by the Lookalikes.
In the Earls Court apartment they’d rented for the sojourn, the band had plenty to get off their chest about their schooldays and their drinking habits.
Bono recalled growing bored of rebelling in school at Mount Temple - Ireland’s first comprehensive, free of Catholic “emotional suffocation” as Bill put it - “they weren’t oppressive so what was the point?”
Adam Clayton, who boarded at St. Columba’s, gave his experience of the other side of the coin: “To be perfectly honest I rebelled against the privileged society (in St. Columba’s) even though I was part of it, which was totally hypocritical.”
On the band’s hard-working reputation, Bono said, “All of us drink occasionally, but I don’t think we’re involved in what I call rock ‘n’ roll masturbation, which is that you’re in a band, you get wrecked with other members of other bands and it gets in the papers and everybody laughs.”
You can also see all of U2's Hot Press covers in the flesh as part of our 40th Birthday Exhibition in the National Photographic Archive in Meeting House Square, Temple Bar, Dublin. Open seven days a week, admission free!