- 10 Nov 20
Gemma Hayes shares her reflections on U2's legacy, as part of our 'Voices on U2' series.
It’s hard to know where to start when talking about what makes U2 unique. I was only four years old when Boy came out in 1980, but because of older siblings, this album seemed to be part of the soundtrack to my younger days.
When I listen to it now, it sounds almost innocent – in the best possible way. But it was an album that showed that these boys were passionate and unafraid.
The Joshua Tree was the album that seemed to cut through the ribcage, bypass the heart and shake my soul to its very core. The sound they made together as a band was epic, exciting and majestic.
Theirs wasn’t the music of tortured souls, which was the type I usually connected with as a disillusioned youth: instead, U2 were reaching for higher ground in their music. The ethereal delay and reverb from the Edge, the metronomic drive of the drums, the sheer potent delivery of each song sung by Bono. He wasn’t trying to reach the people at the back of the room but the people on the other side of the world. It was magical. They still are magical.
The 80’s were a tough time in Ireland economically and socially. There was a feeling of being utterly downtrodden. Then U2 sang ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’ from a roof top in Los Angeles and all of a sudden from a small bedroom in Tipperary I felt inspired, moved, hopeful.
Millions of people around the world felt the same way. The Joshua Tree was an incredible gift to the world.
Indeed, U2 as a band are an incredible gift to the world. Musically they remain un-jaded and fresh. Their humble beginnings, their friendship through thick and thin, their collective desire to connect with the world through music, their individual talent coming together as a whole to create music that stirs the soul.
U2 are probably the only band on the planet that are deserving of every known superlative. We haven’t even touched on all the good they have done with their privileged positions in society.
What makes them special? They’re Irish, they’re one of us, and among us – but they have helped us all to dream bigger.
Listen to Gemma Hayes perform 'Comfort You' for Rave On, Van Morrison.
With two anniversaries rolled into one, 2020 is an important moment for U2 – marking 40 years since their extraordinary debut album Boy, and 20 years since their marvellously resonant All That You Can’t Leave Behind. To celebrate, we released the Hot Press U2: 80-00-20 Special – out now!