- 19 Aug 04
... And it's not called Vertigo! The man otherwise known as "Bono's doppelganger", Neil McCormick, talks sounds, songwriting and stadium-sized pressure in the most revealing U2 album preview yet.
The author of I Was Bono's Doppelganger and the forthcoming U2 interview book, Neil McCormick, has been talking to hotpress.com about the band's eagerly awaited studio album.
"All the song titles and the album title itself that have been circulating are wrong," he reveals. "There’s some powerful disinformation going on there – probably coming from them! So the album isn’t called Vertigo and none of those song titles that people are probably searching desperately for on the internet are song titles on the album. I don’t know if I’m allowed to divulge the title, if they’re keeping it secret then they’ve got their own reasons to do that. It’s an interesting title, an interesting philosophical idea as a title, and quite a difficult title."
McCormick, a lifelong friend of Bono's, does however confirm that 'Vertigo' is the title of the collection's flagship single.
"The first single ‘Vertigo’ refers back to their past," he resumes. "Bono sings at one point, "Hello, hello" and I said, ‘You’ve used that line before’ and he said, ‘Have I? Where?’ and I said, ‘Well you used to use it all the time basically when you ran out of words! And on ‘Stories For Boys’.’ And that’s on their first single.
"So their new single refers back to their first. It’s like the early U2 pumped up in the 21st century, a really exciting record. It actually includes my name in it, so I definitely voted for that as the first single! At the end Bono’s singing something like, "You gotta learn how to kneel." And then he goes: "Kneee-heel!" And they were playing this in the studio and at that exact moment they all just looked up and saw me standing there and went, 'Hey Neil!'"
As for the overall feel of the record, the former Hot Press staffer proffers that, "The songwriting that you’ve seen on All That You Can’t Leave Behind, it’s that songwriting. U2 records were never so crafted in the past. I think they always had to draw too much on what Bono could do in the moment, and that’s a lot of pressure to put on one person.
"Nowadays they go into the studio with a song and then they kick it around and the lyrics change completely, and I bet you all those false titles are probably the original titles that these songs had. But really a U2 record isn’t finished until Bono sings the lyric and the lyric isn’t finished until he sings it.
"The songwriting refers to practically every stage of U2’s development," McCormick continues, "so it’s quite a backward looking album in that, but it’s got a more unified Edge-driven sound. Y’know, Edge has always been the musical genius in U2 and not given the credit with people talking of Bono all the time. Bono is the psyche and the driving force of U2, but Edge is the musical wizard, and this feels like an Edge record."
Despite Bono publicly saying otherwise, McCormick insists, "it’s not the U2 big rock record; there are maybe three rock songs on there, but there’s all the usual ambience and weird adventures, and all of the songs are about big themes.
"It’d be interesting if U2 could ever make a marginal or personal or intimate record again; in a way they can’t because they’ve raised the stakes to such a level that they have to knock a stadium monster out, they have to knock that ball out of the stadium every time.
"They spent two and a half years making this record. I heard this record, some of it, a year ago, and I thought it was finished. But you cannot criticise their way of working ’cos they do knock it out of the stadium. I don’t think they can make a throwaway record anymore. They have to make a record that speaks to the world because the world is paying attention."
Due to hit the racks next week with I Was Bono's Doppelganger - the title for it's American release (October 1) is the rather more sensational Killing Bono - McCormick is currently conducting the interviews for the 'in their own words' U2 book that's due in 2005.
"I'm only up to 1983 with Bono and 1987 with Edge," he laughs, "so there's quite a bit more work to do! It's going to make for a great read though."
Peter Murphy's full interview with Neil McCormick will be publlished in the next issue of Hot Press, in stores Thursday, August 26.