Monday, October 05, 2009

u2 conference: keynote Neil McCormick

One of UK’s best known music critics and author of Killing Bono: I Was Bono’s Doppelganger and U2 by U2.

I went to school with Bono. It’s an accident but it brought me here. You chose U2. I did not choose U2. I love them like you love your family. So who were U2 growing up in the 70s?

Greatest band of our times. Most ambitious, both in terms of sound and social progress. Always had, channelled through Bono, of making intimate epic and epic and intimate.

Bono is psyche of U2: drives them forward. Feels like something is done once he’s thought of it.

Edge is musical genius: concentrated, focused. He would have been great in any band.

Larry is very complicated but likes to be seen as simple.

Adam is like a wandering point. The wildcard. Social lubricant. Very ambitious. Rock star or nothing.

A band creates it’s own myth. It’s in a bands own interest to believe in destiny. It takes responsibility away from band. God has served U2 well (in a healthy way) because it helps them move around the dangers of ego.

Mount Temple School of the 70s was primed to launch a band. No big music venues in Dublin and British bands rarely visited. School was progressive in sense of being non-denominational, so free of influence of official churches. School encouraged cf repression that was very much part of Ireland at the time. Teachers at school were very important for U2 development and can’t be overestimated.

Importance of religion in U2. Can’t understate the importance of faith for U2. First, it bound them together and second, it kept them steady. It meant they didn’t burn out “on the road.” Lot of bands break up around 2nd album because of temptations.

Noone at school had seen a rock band. It must have been bad, but it was like an electric shock. None of us knew anything. Ireland was so cut off, so were making a 2nd hand version of what they saw on TV.

The bond between Larry and Bono holds U2. Both share death of their mother. Responded in different ways, Bono out ahead and Larry dragging heels and that is the yin and yang of U2.

For a band, they keep working insanely hard. They don’t need to keep making music, or dragging a “shapeship” around on tour with them.

They are an Anglo-Irish group: a mix of reserved pragmatism and melancholic flair. In America bands learn to play and you can make a living play live. In UK you got accelerated attention. In Ireland there was nowhere to play. U2 were saved by punk. But it was secondhand, what they had read about.

Bill Graham first person from outside to support U2. He was most important rock critic in Ireland and he really liked U2.

Dave got this echo unit and what he did with that was phenomonal. The band gathered around that.

A multi-media show: even back then. Had theatrical performance – a cigarette lit by crowd.

So here are some of U2’s first songs:

And The Fool:

The fool is still part of Bono’s repertoire. He is optimistic, over-enthusiastic, generous. Uses his tool (his fame) to get his message across. Bono’s character drives them forward.

Being in Ireland, isolated, they were allowed to develop at their own time, rather than hot-house of London.

Paul McGuiness picked them because they were the best band in Ireland. It needed Paul to make their vision come true, a vision of going to America. In America, the passion and uncoolness of U2 didn’t matter. Going to America was not part of anyone’s language. An incredible piece of “luck.”

Loyalty is very Irish. Friendship so important. By being Irish, they are always outsiders. So they always look at each other and see 4 Irish boys who got very lucky.

For other posts on U2 conference go here.

Posted by steve at 10:05 AM

1 Comment

  1. G’Day Steve,
    I hope you’re enjoying the Conference… many friends still can’t believe I am not there…
    Thanks for the insights and allowing me/us to experience it all vicariously!!

    Rob H

    Comment by Rob Hanks — October 6, 2009 @ 3:25 pm

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