Bono Remembers U2’s Boy

Rolling Stone (2008-08-05)

Rolling Stone, August 05, 2008

This could be the greatest comment on ever: U2’s Bono was reading David Fricke’s review of the new reissue of Boy, and was moved to respond. Unfortunately, he maxed out our word limit in the comments section, so we’re just going to post his text in full here. We’re not going to attempt to boil it down, except to say that he does mention that the band is presently attempting to finish their most “complete and radical album yet.” Without further ado:

Entering the blogosphere, a review of BOY from the singer who was one at the time of recording… We the members of said post punk combo are very complimented by DAVID FRICKES 4.5 star review of our debut, an album we always believed in. I remember now a generous JON PARELES review from the VILLAGE VOICE in 1980, a line something along the lines of “this is peter pan, I hope they break up before they grow up”. Anyway, as my band mates and I attempt to finish our most complete and radical album yet, here’s my why and what i think is right and wrong about BOY having listened to it for the first time in over twenty years if you start from the pseudo british accent and the little reported fact that the singer sounds like a girl, things don’t look too promising …the annoying gene is present in self consciousness and self immolation… you do want to give the singer a slap for lots of reasons but let’s start with the pretentiousness….the singer has obviously been listening to SIOUXIE AND THE BANSHEES, JOY DIVISION and a few others whose combined archness and artfulness was just too much for the freckled face teenager from northside of DUBLIN…. neither fully protestant or catholic, IRELAND had left the boy with a face like a baked bean and in search of a nonregional identity…a theme that continues to the present.

As for the non lyrics that Wunderkind STEVE LILYWHITE had begged him to no avail to write… well….the excuse is that in the manner of another POP idol, IGGY, they were for the most written live on the microphone ..this was noble in its search for authenticity but a very flawed idea that almost gauges the eyes out of the albums open face but alas, the strengths way out weigh the weaknesses…maybe because it was an album about vulnerability.. BOY eschews the usual subject matter of rock and roll’s hurry to deface its own innocence through knowingness, sex, drugs etc in favour of a refusal to grow up …think GUNTER GRASS’s Tin Drum VOLKER SCHLONDORFs film of the novel released the same year as BOY…

if ninetynine percent of rock and roll is about sex this one percenter is about virginity and not wanting to lose it…maleneÿss is more elusive here and I can see now why the album had such a connection in the gay community with songs like TWILIGHT and STORIES FOR BOYS.

Then there is the galling religious audacity of writing a song about agape love at eighteen years old….that alone deserves some gold stars as well as the custard pies.. I WILL FOLLOW is still a rush and a marker for innovation (the percussion in the drop was a bicycle spinning, wheels upside down and played like a harp with a kitchen fork…)

ADAM CLAYTONs bass is a revelation to me on this listen, and up there with JOHN ENTWISLE and PETER HOOK in its inventiveness… LARRY MULLEN too is jumping through hoops to create a circus of tom tom parts and spectral spectre like snaring…. giddying up and clearing the fence every time…. I agree with DAVID FRICKE that they are not yet a rhythm section in the traditional sense but maybe something more interesting … the ‘weight’ of U2….Steve LILYWHITES production deserves a lot of credit here for its sonic prowess, big music in little hands..

But the star of the show is THE EDGE some guitar credit must be shared with the groups that helped shape us,
people like PINK FLOYD, PIL and TELEVISION… guitar players like STUART ADAMSON VINNIE REILLY etc but there is something happening here that is truly special…EDGEs genuine genius developing on the blank and bleached
photographic paper…. avoiding all the obvious blues scales that blind every other guitar player that ever heard LED ZEPPELIN …THE EDGE finds some new colours for the spectrum of rock. Colours he now owns … owning a colour, wow .. imagine owning the colour yellow like VAN GOGH… EDGE owns, well im not exactly sure what colours they are… indigo or violet or crimson?… but you sense an emotional colour temperature that is unique to him… its his palette we’re painting from. he’s following the jazzmen’s maxim to “own your own tone and you will become contagious ” and as a result you can hear him show up in lots of rooms hes not in, isn’t that right…?

Surely this is the most influential guitarist since the great composers JIMMY PAGE, PETE TOWNSEND,NEIL YOUNG but remember he doesn’t have the history of the blues to plumb, these are unchartered waters…was to the English psychedelic revival we were also inspired by and plundering .. THE TEARDROP EXPLODES and ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN…they were better than us no doubt about it…with ECHOs CROCODILES a better debut on pretty much
every level… that and their next album HEAVEN UP HERE having the same effect on their moment as RADIOHEADS BENDS AND OK COMPUTER. It was all there… songwriting, playing and standing in front of the mirror type coolness but of course the pursuit of coolness is rarely the same thing as the pursuit of art. This was obvious to a lot of our contempories too BUT maybe not not not talking about Teardrops or the Bunnyrabbits or Wah Heat! but for many of our peers, the most important bit was lifestyle and the fashion piece which we clearly were not very good at. And it is very very important…An almost essential companion to greatness… From ELVIS to THE BEATLES THE WHO to THE STONES THE CLASH to PRINCE, STYLE has been part of rocks revolution and evolution…. our only addition is comedic failure to fit into the grey or vivid clothes of rebellion and the crime of thinking no veneer was the utterly radical way to look and sound…and then there’s the other thing, the lifestyle….of course the life of the artist is always more compelling than being an artist. To live in the garret with a knife in your hand and a bleeding ear is more romantic than the fragility that leaves open the wound … Bohemia is more attractive than suburbia but maybe you don’t live there, maybe you live on a street which is like any other street where the opera that goes on behind parted curtains is more than enough…..It was briefly for U2.

you can have everything the songs, the production, the face, the attitude but still not have “IT”…U2 had nothing really, nothing but ‘IT’… For us music was a sacrament …an even more demanding and sometimes more demeaning thing than music as ART, we wanted to make a music to take you in and out of your body, out of your comfort zone, out of your self, as well as your bedroom, a music that finds you looking under your bed for God to protect your innocence…

…i’m proud of this little Polaroid of a life I cant fully recall. As well as the ability to make embarrassing mistakes, the demands of a great debut might be fresh ideas, fresh paint and sometimes for its canvas, a fresh face.

I miss my boyhood.

Bono, 3rd August

© Rolling Stone, 2008

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