U2: What You Don’t (Or Maybe Do) Know
The Irish Pickers are historical treasure hunters with a rock n' roll swagger. Ian Dowling is the frontman who with his best mate Butzy travel across Ireland on the search for unusual collectables. This is rockstar antiquing at its very best.
It’s all rock n’ roll in Limerick City, in episode three where the Pickers visit a former music promoter and nightclub owner to peruse his collection of pop memorabilia from bands such as Thin Lizzy and U2.
No-one knows more about pop memorabilia than Ian especially when it comes to U2 but there are some things even he won't know about Bono and the boys.
With decades of influence within the music scene, U2 have gone beyond rock star status to become global titans. A blend of Bono’s heartfelt vocals, The Edge’s…edgy guitar style, Adam Clayton’s driving bass and Larry Mullen Jr.’s military drumming have created instant classics such as With or Without You, Beautiful Day and Sunday Bloody Sunday. This eminence has continued from studio to stage, with memorable performances including those at Live Aid 1985 and Superbowl XXXVI. Alright, eulogy done, how about we drop into some of the lesser-known of Dublin’s finest?
1. Humble Beginnings
In 1976 a 14-year-old Larry Mullen Jr. posted on the notice board of Mount Temple Comprehensive School looking for potential bandmates. Six people responded. Six became four. The rest is history.
2. Why are U2…called U2?
Well, they were originally named Feedback. Following their first gig for a paying audience in April 1977 this was changed to The Hype. They finally settled for U2 in March 1978 after being suggested by Steve Averill (A punk rock musician and family friend of Claytons). Whilst some believe the name to be linked to the Cold War era U2 programme, it was chosen for its ambiguity and vagueness, having no direct meaning attached to it.
‘We don’t really know what we’re doing and when we do, it doesn’t seem to help’ – Bono
3. Hewson and Evans or Bono and The Edge?
Bono was born Paul David Hewson. During his childhood and adolescences, he was part of a surrealist street gang with a knack for nickname giving. Hewson adopted a myriad of names before landing on Bonavox – a Latin phrase translated to ‘good voice’. This was soon shortened to Bono, which to this day remains his stage name…and a calling card for many friends and family.
Surprisingly, The Edge also wasn’t born with such a name - David Howell Evans being what you’d find on his birth certificate. The title is commonly believed to be a nod to his sharp facial features, whilst other theories note his guitar playing style or personality as reasoning.
‘It’s a real drag if you don’t like yourself ‘cos you spend a lot of time with yourself’– The Edge
4. Movies Stars
The group have ventured into the realms of TV and Film; Bono and The Edge wrote the song GoldenEye for the 1995 Bond title of the same name, whilst Clayton and Mullen worked on the theme for 1996’s Mission Impossible. The Edge is also credited with creating the theme song for seasons one and two of The Batman animated series.
5. Fake it after you make it
In the spring of 1987, the band launched an expansive North American and European tour for their newly released album The Joshua Tree. At some of these concerts, a small-time country band called The Dalton Brothers (a name inspired by the notorious Dalton Gang of the 1890s) appeared, playing in between sets. A country band who were in fact the Irish quartet themselves– just with wigs, cowboy hats, and western clothing. A site has also been created for The Dalton Brothers with the tagline ‘we play two kinds of music: country and western’.
6. Vinyl, tape, or CD? How about all three?
At a time when musical formats were at a crossroads, U2’s crown jewel The Joshua Tree was the first album to be issued on CD, tape, and vinyl simultaneously. The album has since become a critical and commercial success; in 1999 it was awarded the RIAA’s highest certification, Diamond, with 10 million units sold.
‘I didn’t join a band to be famous. I joined a band to hit things’ - Larry Mullen Jr.
7. Grammy Galore!
At 22, U2 also holds the record for the most Grammys won by a group. Notably, The Joshua Tree won album of the year in 1988 (the group are the only Irish act to win this award), with Beautiful Day seizing record and song of the year in 2001. Furthermore, their album All That You Can’t Leave Behind is the only in history to have different singles win record of the year.
8. Rock & Roll Hall of Famers
On March 14th, 2005 and on their first year of eligibility - being 25 years after the release of their first record – U2 were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. That night, a rather comedic Bruce Springsteen introduced them with the line ‘They believed in themselves but more importantly they believed in you too’.