- 08 Nov 18
Guggi has known Bono since he was three, which gave him more than just a walk-on role in their iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour
“I saw what I knew was our family house...”
Bono will tell you that we’ve been friends since we were three and lived close to one another on Cedarwood Road, but the first time I realised that U2 had something truly special was when they played Croke Park in 1985. I went a good bit down the stadium, away from the stage, that day, and I witnessed first-hand that the other people at the back were as deeply affected as I was. It dawned on me then, really, that this is not a pub band. The truth is that they have something very rare, but that was the first time that I saw it to that extent, or in such a profound way.
I knew there was a song called ‘Cedarwood Road’, when the Songs Of Innocence album was in the making. I had probably heard rough takes of the track, before the vocals had gone down, but it wasn’t until the first iNNOCENCE + eXPEPRIENCE show that I saw the graphics that accompanied it. I saw what I knew was our family house with the flowering cherry tree, which back then was the only one in the area, and the phone-box out front. Our house was identified by that phone-box outside, and I listened to Bono talking about it when we met. I didn’t realise I was actually in the song until I was seeing it all live, and listening to the words properly. It was very emotional.
Different images crop up above the houses on Cedarwood Road, during those visuals, and one is of me on a horse. That comes from a childhood memory. I wasn’t allowed to call for Bono on a Saturday morning before ten o’clock, because his parents wanted to get a lie-on – his Dad worked very hard in the post office. At the same time, I was kicked out of the house early ‘cause I was one of ten, so I just wanted to call for my mate. Back then, around Finglas and Ballymun there were herds of wandering horses owned by the travellers. The saying was “never, ever get caught on a traveller’s horse.” You’d get what was known as an “auld fella’s hiding” – they did not go easy on you.
Anyhow, there was a horse with rope on him on the green at the end of the road – I gently managed to hop on his back and rode him into Bono’s garden thinking I’d earn a little leeway. I got his two front-legs into the porch and rang the doorbell sitting on this horse. Bob, Bono’s dad, answered the door. The horse’s face was only about three inches away from him, and he said: “I told you before, young Rowan, never before ten o’clock on a Saturday morning!” and he closed the door.
‘Raised By Wolves’ comes from the story I told Bono about my Dad and my brother Andy, and the Dublin Bombings in 1974. They got into the back of my Dad’s van on Parnell Street, and the loudest bang – louder than they thought was possible – happened. The door of the van was blown shut and that protected them. Nobody was ever done for those bombings. It’s widely believed that British intelligence were in some way involved. But that bloody event had an incredible impact on our family.
I also have very vivid memories of Bono’s mother about whom the song ‘Iris’ was written – which was such a central moment on that tour. She preferred sending me to the shop for messages because Bono would lose the money, and he’d come back with either no cash or no groceries. He wouldn’t spend it – he would genuinely lose it and it would never be seen again. Or he might pull a fifty pence piece out of his pocket three months later. He still loses money, but I suppose if he loses the price of a half-pound of sausages now, he might not notice.
I saw the iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE tour in Miami, and in Barcelona, and I was also there for the rescheduled shows in Paris after the terrorist attacks. I went to it with the late Dave Kavanagh, the two of us with Paris Saint-Germain scarfs around our necks, so that’s one I will always remember. But seeing the iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE show in the 3Arena, on the Northside of Dublin, was very, very special and personal to me.
Guggi – Broken, an exhibition of sculpture and new works on paper, runs until November 11 in Château La Coste, Provence. chateau-la-coste.com/en/guggi