Boy at 40: Edge and Adam Clayton

Original Story by Aaron J. Sams (2020-12-13)

For the 40th anniversary of the album Boy U2 reissued the album on limited white vinyl for the recent Black Friday Record Store Day Event. The release uses the 2008 master of the album, and is packaged with a lyric insert, and a double sided poster. The booklet from the previous 2008 issues is not included.

A few notes on the release for those still looking for a copy:

  • Stores were allowed to start selling the album online at 6pm London Time on the day of release. This was a change from previous events where stores would have to wait a week.
  • A large number of imperfections are being found with this pressing. The most common are bits of red or black vinyl embedded in the white wax of this pressing. If you are lucky these are inside the white, and cannot be seen without holding up the record to a bright light. Some copies do have these visible on the surface of the white vinyl. Far less common? A few copies show red swirls throughout one side of the vinyl.
  • For our readers in Canada, yes, like usual, there was a delay in getting these to Canada. Stores are still getting their shipments, and many Sunrise locations have reported getting stock this past week, with the remainder of stock expected next week.
  • In the UK sales were strong, strong enough to put Boy at #2 on the UK Record Store Chart (compiled from the best selling albums at 100 of Britain’s leading independent music shops.)

To celebrate the release, Rocky O’Riordan hosted a discussion about the album with two people who were present for the creation of the album, Steve Averill who designed the cover, and Steve Lillywhite who produced the album. That special is still airing on SiriusXM for subscribers to the station. It’s a great conversation.

That wasn’t the only special content for Boy‘s 40th anniversary on the station. Adam Clayton and The Edge also recorded a short conversation about the album. This was chopped into pieces and aired throughout the day that the album was on sale. It was cut up into small pieces, at least 15 smaller segments. Many of these segments aired multiple times throughout the day. At no time did it air as a continuous piece, nor does it appear on demand. A few seconds of conversation was played before songs from the album. We have done our best to piece that conversation back together below.

Adam: One of my vivid memories of that period, was Bono always had the title of the album.

Edge: Yep.

Adam: From way back. That was going to be the title of the first album. So when we were recording it there was no kind of discussion – that’s what it was. He even had the idea for the image.

Edge: Yep.

Adam: The image of that boy, and it still stands up today.

Edge: The one thing we couldn’t quite crack in the early recording was the drum sound because the studio we worked in in Dublin, called Windmill Lane, was designed by a designer called John Starrack, who made studios for music that didn’t want any reverb. So the big bands at the time obviously were the Bee Gees, a kind of soft rock music…

Adam: The Eagles.

Edge: The Eagles, all that stuff. Great, I mean beautiful music. But we were looking for the opposite. We want the noisy reverberant sound of four guys in a big room. That studio just didn’t have that space. It took us about a week to figure out that if we dragged the drum kit into the hallway, which was a three story, vaulted, central staircase, up three floors, it just happened to sound perfect for that big drum sound. All of the drum tracks on the Boy album were recorded in the hall of the studio. But what was difficult was all of the bands that came subsequently they’d set up the drums in the main room, and they’d start playing, and they’d be scratching their head. Eventually they’d turn to the engineer, ‘man, do you remember that U2 drum sound?’ They were plagued from then on by having to try to recreate that sound. The drum kit in the hallway was kind of a feature from then on. So bad was this, eventually they decided they had to build a stone room as an extension so that they could get their hallway back.

Adam: (Laughs)

Adam: Do you remember what that place we used to rehearse? The little gingerbread cottage?

Edge: I do.

Adam: I Will Follow came together in there. Twilight came together in there. Shadows and Tall Trees.

Edge: Yeah, and some of them we are still playing, “The Ocean…”

Adam: “The Electric Co.”

Edge: “The Electric Co.,” “I Will Follow”, yeah it particular moments. That little place…it’s the same vivid yellow colour it was back in those days.

Adam: Back then you only had one guitar.

Edge: That’s right.

Adam: You only had that Explorer.

Edge: I remember the joy of actually making that album. Because I think, because we had the songs, we could concentrate on the process of recording and the sound, we knew what the tunes were going to sound like being played live, so it was being true to that, but also then developing them in ways to give them a bit more dimension.

Edge: There was a kind of desperation to those early songs. Born, exactly of this thing, it took so much willpower, belief and a kind of doggedness to get a record deal, to get out of Dublin, to make it happen. We didn’t have swagger, we just had intensity. We had determination, and a ferocity almost. You can hear it in those songs. “The Electric Co.” and “I Will Follow”. That energy was survival.

Adam: The Electric Co, one of my favourites from our debut album, Boy. When we used to play it back then, there’s this breakdown in the middle, where Bono would disappear off and we’d be looking around. Edge and I would be checking each other and saying ‘where’s he gone? where’s he gone?’ Usually we’d find him halfway up a piece of scaffolding, waving a flag, or smoking a cigarette, or just interacting with whoever he could find. And then we’d wait until he came back to the stage and then power into the outro, it’s always been fun, it’s always been fast.

Adam: They were always songs that as we played them live they had to be able to stretch, as we only had 12 songs to play. So we had to stretch them this way and that, and they leant themselves to that. Very few overdubs. The sound is raw. And it’s still very exciting.

Edge: Yeah the Boy tour was absolutely a kind of extended rabbit in the headlights experience for all of us. But we had a secret weapon, which was the fact that college radio had really taken to our band. Even though it didn’t appear like we had made much impact, when we got to college towns during that tour there was real excitement.

Adam: We crammed a lot into those days. We would come in on that tour bus, it was our first tour bus experience. We’d come into town, go off and do some radio interviews. We’d then do a sound check, and then get ready for the show. It was a short show – we only had 10 songs.

Edge: That’s right. We made friends with a lot of fans. That was the fun part about that. We would finish the show, and then climb down off the stage, and we’d mingle with the people in the crowd who had stayed.

Edge: The were actual shows on the Boy tour where we were told we could not leave stage, because if we crossed the line and had gone into the venue itself we would have been potentially arrested, or the owner of the bar would have lost his license for having underage people in his bar.

Adam: Seemed innocent back then.

Edge: Yeah! And playing all the songs at least twice!

Adam: Twice! (Laughs)

Edge: At least. I think “I Will Follow” got played three times some nights. (Laughs)

Adam: Yeah I think it did.

Edge: If the audience half wanted it.

Edge: We ended up going out in clubs. Some of them made us dinner. We just got to know people. And that was always our instinct in those days, to try to break down the barrier that existed between band and audience, because we had come from the audience…

Adam: We were the same age as the audience. That was unusual. On the “Boy” album we were 20 year olds.

Edge: We were being asked by the record label to do things like in-store signing sessions which seemed so not-punk rock, so not the right thing to be doing. I remember being deeply embarrassed on one occasion in LA, where we are ready to do an in-store signing, and it turns out the record label have sent a stretch limo. We were so embarrased we actually said to the driver ‘no no stop here so we can walk around the corner’ and he didn’t stop in time. We were not wrong, we were absolutely not wrong. I remember as we walked up to the store one kid going ‘they arrive in a motherfucking limo.’ (Laughs)

Adam: Yeah!

Edge: That much instinct we had. We knew that this was not the cool thing for a band coming out of punk rock.

Edge: I think that album got reviewed pretty well, but there was one review in New York that said that it was a perfect album. And that the band ought to break up because they could never, ever achieve anything as good. They described the album as Peter Pan, in a sense that it explored that kind of childlike state. Anyway glad we didn’t take that advice.

Many thanks to SiriusXM for celebrating the 40th anniversary of the album. More coverage on the U2 X-Radio Station such as episode guides and schedules can be found in our discography and in our recently launched statistics portal for the station.

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