December 1979: U2 Take On London

Original Story by Aaron J. Sams (2020-08-21)

“Father, I need a lend of 500 pounds, because we’re gonna go over to London and we’re gonna score ourselves a record deal. And when we get our record deal we’re not going to stay in London, we’re not going to go to New York City. We’re gonna stay and base our crew in Dublin, cause these people, this is our tribe. But I still need a lend of 500 pounds. What do you say?”

Bono told that story live at Slane Castle in 2001 about the band borrowing 500 pounds each from their families to make a trip to London. The band had been together for three years now, and they are getting desperate to find a record contract, and see a visit to London as a way to hopefully impress record company executives and possibly secure a deal.

These shows in London were their first outside of Ireland (although they had ventured out of The Republic to play some shows in Northern Ireland.) It was do or die time for the band. The Edge had promised his parents he will give up on the music career if the band don’t start to have success by the end of 1979 as part of borrowing 500 pounds from them to finance the trip. A publishing deal that Paul McGuinness had put together to subsidize the trip fell through at the last minute causing the band to borrow money in the first place. Bryan Morrison, a music publisher who represented Pink Floyd and T.Rex and later Wham, had originally agreed to pay the band £3000 for publishing rights to the songs. That money was intended to fund the trip to London. But after an argument with Paul McGuinness, Morrison cut his offer in half, leaving the band strapped for cash to make the trip. They turned down the lower amount offer and scraped together the money from family and friends.

IMAGE: A Map of the Venues Played in London

The shows in London were set up by Wasted Talent agency. McGuinness approached the agency about working with the band, and they agreed to set up some dates in London as a first step. The agent Ian Flooks was assigned to the band, and U2 would later sign on with Wasted Talent. Flooks not only got U2 a series of club shows arranged, he was also working with the Talking Heads, and was able to get U2 on the bill opening for that band in the middle of the tour. The tour would see U2 playing 12 shows in 10 venues around London. These would include a number of shows where they would headline and where they would open for other acts. Ahead of the trip a news story in NME listed a new band would be playing a string of shows in London. The band had previously been featured on the cover of Record Mirror magazine and were starting to pick up some press. The article stated:

“New Dublin band the U2s, featured recently on the cover of RECORD MIRROR, arrive in London in December for a series of concerts. The band, who’ve already been tipped by many critics, are beginning to attract a lot of interest from major record companies and they’ll be playing the Moonlight Club, West Hampstead on December 1, followed by gigs at: Kensington’s Nashville December 2, Clapham 101 Club 3, Islington Hope & Anchor 4, Covent Garden Rock Garden 5, Camden Electric Ballroom 7 and 8 (with Talking Heads), Canning Town Bridgehouse 11, Camden Dingwalls 14, Harrow Road Windsor Castle 15. Although U2 are currently without a record deal in Britain their CBS (Eire) single, ‘Three’, is available on import through Rough Trade.”

It was a big time for the band, and a lot rode on that trip to London. They arrived via ferry from Dublin to Liverpool. McGuinness booked the band a flat in South Kensington, where they stayed for the entire trip. The band also plan on recording in London with producer Chas de Whalley again, who had produced the first single, “Three.” Those plans were made for the end of the trip. It was a big time for the band, and we’ve taken a closer look at what the band was up to at that time, and hopefully give you a glimpse into that era for the band.

Saturday, December 1, 1979

Dolly Mixture (Headliner) / U2 (Opening Act)

The Moonlight Club, West Hampstead, London

IMAGES: Concert Listings for U2’s Show At The Moonlight Club

Although both NME and Sounds have published articles listing U2’s full slate of dates in London, they do fail to mention that U2 will not be headlining all of these shows. The band kick off their first tour of London with a show at the Moonlight Club (sometimes called the Moonlight Railway Club) located in West Hampstead on the ground level of the Railway Hotel. Admission for the show is £1.00 and the shows open at 8:30 and run until midnight.

This first show for U2 in London is as an opening act with Dolly Mixture as the headlining act. They are an all girl group, and they have been getting some radio play in the local London market, and are starting to attract a following. They are incorrectly listed as Dolly Mixtures in NME, and they aren’t the only one with an error in their name. In the same NME ad, U2 are listed as “Capital U2.” The ad over in Time Out lists the band as “The UZ’s”. Both of these can be seen above. The gig guides published in various papers also have a range of names listed. In Sounds the band is called U2’s, in Time Out they are listed as “U-2”, while NME only lists the headline act and doesn’t mention U2 at all.

An announcer tells the crowd that U2 have just gotten off the boat from Dublin as they take the stage. The Edge is wearing a plaster cast on his hand during the show and struggles to play during the show. He was injured in a car accident at the end of November in Dublin, Adam was also in the car but uninjured. On the journey to England, Edge had traveled with his hand on ice, and was treated upon arriving in Liverpool at the general hospital. The arm was placed in a plaster cast, he was given morphine for the pain, but with some practice he was able to play.

U2’s performance is reviewed in the December 8, 1979 issue of Sounds by Dave McCullough. The review mentions the Edge’s plaster cast, but is a very favourable review. “There’s a kind of naïve, young, rushing, feeling about their music, flickering at times between the Skids, Penetration, Doors, the Fall and Swell Maps,” McCullough writes, “In singer and spokesman Bono they already have a focal-point as engaging and as charismatic as a Mark Smith.” Later in the review he mentions “The effect is, three or four times in 20 minutes, having the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, startled by an elegant guitar or bass flourish or moved by the collective climactic inner tension of songs.”

The review identifies several songs that U2 are playing, including “Concentration Cramp,” “The Dream is Over,” “Inside Out,” “Shadows and Tall Trees,” “Boy-Girl” and “Out of Control.”

Bono has several routines worked out which he will use throughout the tour. “I’ve heard a lot about all your lovely fads and fashions over here, well U2 aren’t either of those” is one line from the night reported by McCullough. Bono also removes his sweater at one point of the show, and takes the opportunity to ask someone in the crowd to hold the mic for him. He’ll use both at later shows on this tour as well to interact with the crowd.

Debsey Wilkes of Dolly Mixture was fascinated watching The Edge perform with his arm plastered up from his injury and said “It was daunting to go on after them, they were so intense and powerful.”

Paul Morley of NME magazine is also at the show, and reviews the U2 performance, saying “U2 are sharp and subtle and cynical, slyly seductive in an uncompromising way like The Pretenders or The Au Pairs. A pop that isn’t pap and pad, a safe cushion of clichés and convenience, but angles, urgency, deflections. U2 are style plus spontaneity, an uncouth grace, an agile synthesis of abusive and abrasive ways to use up all that evil and inviting ’60s-‘70s tradition. Subversive pop can be so stimulating — don’t you think?”

Sunday, December 2, 1979

Secret Affair (Headliner) / Back to Zero (Opening Act) / U2 (Opening Act)

The Nashville Room, Kensington, London

IMAGES: Concert Listings for U2’s Show At The Nashville Room

The second show booked for U2 in London is also as an opening act. Although advertisements show that U2 were due to open for Fashion at this second stop on the tour, Fashion drops out of the show at the last minute. The venue books Back to Zero to take the slot now open since Fashion have dropped out. The venue allow U2 to continue as the opening act.

The show is advertised in NME and other publications and admission to the show was listed at £1.00. In the NME gig guide U2 is listed as U2’s, but in the ad placed by The Nashville Room they are listed as U2. In Time Out the band are listed as U-2.

The Nashville Room is located at the corner of Cromwell Road and North End Row in the Kensington area of London. The venue was operated by Fuller’s Brewery and was born as a location to see Country music acts from the United States, but those had fallen out of favour, and the pub was now focusing on punk acts. These days the pub is still standing, now known as the Famous Three Kings.

Dave Fanning, a long time supporter of U2 in the radio business in Ireland had caught this show at The Nashville Room. He told Hot Press, “I do remember their second gig in London, at a place called The Nashville Rooms. They were third on the bill, with Secret Affair as the headliners. This is going to sound ridiculous, but the most incredible thing happened: the venue’s soundman had his dog with him, so it was literally a man and his dog watching the show. Paul McGuinness was never more happy to see myself and some friends walk in the door!” Fanning spoke about the atmosphere that night, “U2 were first on and the number of people in the crowd was probably not even in double figures. It had the atmosphere of a non league football match, an impression that was reinforced by the solitary dog skulking around by the mixing desk. Despite this, they played like their lives depended on it, with Edge in particular producing some amazing new noises from his guitar and by the sets end, McGuinness was beaming with relief. There was no encore – the audience was a bunch of pretend Mods with no interest in U2 whatsoever – so we all piled back to somebody’s nearby flat with a bunch six packs.”

“I remember the gig at the Nashville,” says Paul Slattery in Uncut. Slattery is a photographer who had been working with the band during the tour. “They were supporting Secret Affair or someone, and when U2 came on there was fucking nobody in there. Just a load of mods propping up the bar. They played to 20 people, I suppose.”

Sam Burnett of Back to Zero confirms that it was them that took one of the slots from Fashion that night. “We had been hauled in at the last minute after the main band cancels. Life was pretty exciting. We had been riding on a wave, the Mod movement being in full swing.” Burnett remembers showing up and meeting U2 and judging the band because they didn’t look like a mod band, and they weren’t. There was also a disagreement between the two bands over the drum kits. Larry Mullen wants to use his own drum kit opening the show, but Back To Zero doesn’t want to have to deal with putting their kit together between acts, and instead tries to convince him to just use their kit.

It appears that U2 went on stage first, to an almost empty venue, followed by Back to Zero, and then the show was headlined by Secret Affair.

Monday, December 3, 1979

The Beat (Headliner) / U2 (Opening Act)

101 Club, Clapham, London

IMAGES: Concert Listings for U2’s Show At The 101 Club

The third show in London saw U2 play the 101 Club, which was located next to the Clapham Junction Station in St. John’s Hill. The club was also a label, putting out records, and was considered a sister club to the Rock Garden, where U2 would play a few nights later. The club was two levels and many acts played the club because they could also get attention from the label. The club operated under a membership fee, which was £1.50 and includes first entrance to the club. The doors that night opened at 7:30.

U2 are the opening act for this show as well. The headliner, The Beat, are better known by the name The English Beat in North America and The British Beat in other parts of the the world. Little is know about either U2’s performance or The Beat’s performance from this evening. It was Dave Wakeling of The Beat that would go on to produce the album, Alternate NRG to which U2 contributed years later.

U2 are credited as “U2’s” in the Time Out ad for the show and “U.2’s” in the Sounds ad for the show.

Tuesday, December 4, 1979

U2 (Headliner)

Hope & Anchor, Islington, London

IMAGES: Concert Listings for U2’s Show At The Hope & Anchor

U2’s fourth show in as many days takes place at the Hope & Anchor in Islington. U2 are listed as “The U2’s” in ads in both NME and Time Out, and simply “U2’s” in Sounds. The gig guides for the shows in the various publications also list “The U2’s.” Admission for the show is £0.75.

U2 play to a very small crowd at this show, and they are the headliner. It was unlikely that there was an opening act. The crowd include a number of people from the British press, as well as a number of guests visiting U2 from Dublin. U2’s guests for the night include Philip Chevron and Pete Holidai, fellow musicians in the Dublin scene. Chevron would be the lead guitarist for the Pogues, but at the time was part of The Radiators. Holidai is also a member of The Radiators. Stories say after the press, and the guests on U2’s list, there are only nine paying customers in attendance at the show.

Despite the support of friends from home, the show doesn’t go smoothly for U2. The Edge has been struggling with his hand during these early shows, and at some point at the Hope & Anchor he broke a string on his guitar and decides to call it an early night. U2 decide to finish the show early, following The Edge off stage. Uncut magazine report the incident as follows, “Meanwhile, guitarist Dave “Edge” Evans has been hurt in a minor car crash on the eve of the London dates, leaving him with a bandaged hand. In pain when he plays, Evans snaps a string at the Hope And Anchor show and storms offstage, much to the bafflement of the assembled A&R scouts. After the gig, the Dublin post-punk hopefuls have a furious bust-up with their sound man over their Christian beliefs, the first of many such conflicts between heavenly faith and earthly temptation.” Pat Gilbert tells the story in NME as “when a pain-wracked Edge broke a string mid-set and left the stage for good, much to the confusion of an unimpressed scout from Chrysalis.”

This is the last show where The Edge has his hand in bandages, and photos from the next show confirm it had been removed.

Wednesday, December 5, 1979

Dolly Mixture (Headliner) / U2 (Opening Act)

Rock Garden, Covent Garden, London

IMAGES: Concert Listings for U2’s Show At The Rock Garden

After two shows headlining, U2 return to the opening act for this show. This is the second show where they open for the Dolly Mixture on this trip to London. This is the all girl group that they had opened for on their first performance in London.

This show is held at the Rock Garden in Covent Garden, a sister club to the 101 Club where they had performed a few nights earlier. The ads for this gig published in NME and Time Out do not include a listing for U2. But the gig guide at Time Out dose include them on the listing, as “U-2”. Admission for the show is £1.50. Continuing in a line of errors in magazines, Melody Maker incorrectly lists U2 as V2. V2 are actually another band that is active at the time, a British punk band. The gig guide in Time Out lists “There are mods at Rock Garden,” perhaps a description for Dolly Mixture, but not a great one for U2.

Before the show U2 visit Record Mirror offices which are near the venue, as a thank you for placing them on the cover of the magazine the previous month. This was U2’s first time appearing on the cover of a magazine outside of Ireland. In return for the visit, Record Mirror sends along reporter Alf Martin to review the show.

Besides confirming that the band played “Twilight,” “Shadows and Tall Trees,” “Boy / Girl” and a song that Martin refers to as “Boy Meets Man” he speaks highly of the band, “[the songs] will not only make you stand bolt upright and listen but have you dancing your socks inside out. Bono had heard about our blasé London audiences but he and the rest of U2 changed that tonight. Their confidence, energy, and damn good music got to is all. Even to their manager who bought a couple bottles of champagne for everyone backstage to celebrate. Even the girl behind the bar at the Rock Garden was surprised. She’d worked there two years and had never sold a bottle.”

Martin was so impressed by U2 he returned to see them at the Electric Ballroom three nights later, this time opening for Talking Heads. It was also Martin who mentioned that the band had popped in to visit the offices, “As the Rock Garden is at the back of our office a couple of the lads popped in to thank us. They were surprised how small some of the London venues are. They hadn’t seen the Rock Garden yet.”

The Edge has the plaster off of his hand by this point, and photographs taken at The Rock Garden show him playing without.

Friday and Saturday, December 7 & 8, 1979

Talking Heads (Headliner) / OMD (Opening Act) / U2 (Opening Act)

Electric Ballroom, Camden Town, London

IMAGES: Concert Listings for U2’s Show At The Electric Ballroom

U2’s next show is a big one for them. They pick up a gig with the promoter, Straight Music, who are promoting a two night appearance of Talking Heads at the Electric Ballroom in Camden, on High Street. U2 are added to the bill late, too late for U2 to be featured on the ads for the show in the music papers, or even on the posters for the show. Both shows start at 7:30, and U2 are first on stage, followed by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, and then Talking Heads. Tickets for the shows are £3.00 each night. The Electric Ballroom is a 1500 capacity venue.

Recently on Close to the Edge on U2 X-Radio, The Edge remembered back to these shows while interviewing David Byrne of Talking Heads, “We opened for you early on, on a number of occasions. And we learned so much from playing with you guys. I think it was the first time we really played at what I would say was a fully professional grade level was opening for Talking Heads.” Byrne replies, “Was this Hammersmith Palais or some place?” And the Edge mentions the earlier shows, “But also the year before. 1979, in the Electric Ballroom. We were actually third on the bill that night. We supported OMD. But it was so great to share a stage with you and see you guys in action.”

Malcom Dome, reviewing the show on December 8 a number of years later for Classic Rock Magazine, said: “While the gig itself had sold out weeks in advance, precious few bothered to turn up for the opening band. But those who did make the effort saw a band who clearly had an indefinable charisma. Raw, at times somewhat unsure of themselves and boyishly gawky, U2 nonetheless expressed a Celtic fever in a framework that owed more to Thin Lizzy than to Stiff Little Fingers.”

Ross Fitz reviewed one of the shows in Hot Press and fills in a number of details, “A week in the smoke and already a measure of recognition – a scattered cheer goes up as U2 take to the stage. The response to their first number is a lot more positive, “Concentration” sets a lot of pulses racing and feet tapping. No pause for applause before “Speed Of Life”, Bono exulting in the scope afforded by the big stage, Edge striking the occasional guitar hero pose.” Fitz also mentions “Shadows and Tall Trees,” “Stories for Boys,” “The Dream is Over” (called a recent addition to the set), “Inside Out,” “In Your Hand,” and “Twilight – When A Boy Meets a Man.” His review finishes with “While the band have been building their musical power, and the front half of the hall is with them all the way, there are still those who are unwilling to respond. But Bono understands, he reasons with them, he and his pals entertain them, and while it may not be “cool” to clap for a support band in London, he gets them to do just that. Thus encouraged, most of the crowd respond even more warmly and when U2 leave the stage after “Boy/Girl”, the reception is nothing short of tumultuous.”

Although we don’t know what night the review above was for, the hometown review from Hot Press seems to paint a good picture of the show. With nine songs listed, that would be a similar length to OMD’s set on the 7th which we know ran for 8 songs. But we expect that “Out of Control” being the A-Side of the new EP, that it would have been played as well. The order of the songs is not known, but this was likely close to the full performance. For comparison, the set by Talking Heads on the 7th was 17 songs. Neither OMD, nor Talking Heads mention the others acts performing that night in their performances.

U2 did stick around for the shows, as mentioned by The Edge on U2 X-Radio. After the show the band were seen outside of both shows, handing out flyers promoting themselves to attendees leaving the gig. The promotion mentioned the band, and listed some of the upcoming shows in London, and plugged their single which was available at Rough Trade in London.

The shows with Talking Heads made an impact on Bono, who would later write “11 O’Clock Tick Tock” with those nights in mind as he explained to Kris Needs, in Zigzag Magazine, “I think people are realizing now the danger of hiding behind a mask. The new single is about the Electric Ballroom [where they supported Talking Heads, with poseurs present]. I saw these faces running away. It’s like the 11th hour, closing time. The image that they’re going home; they don’t want to but they don’t know where to go.” The title for the song itself came from a note from Gavin Friday that had been left on Bono’s door.

Monday, December 10, 1979

U2 (Headliner) / Medium, Medium (Opening Act)

The Moonlight Club, West Hampstead, London

IMAGES: Concert Listings for U2’s Show At The Moonlight Club

Although most of this tour saw U2 opening for other acts, this show at the Moonlight Club is the second show where U2 is the headliner. They are supported by a band called Medium Medium. The doors open at 8:30pm, and the admission for the show is £1.00. It is U2’s second time playing the Moonlight Club on this tour.

In the gig guide in Sounds the band are listed as U2. In Time Out they are listed as “U-2” and an ad for the show lists them as “U2’s”. They are called “Irish new-wavers” in the Time Out guide. Little detail is known about this show.

Medium Medium who open for U2, will also support U2 in July 1980 on their return to the UK, and a number of times on the 1st leg of the Boy tour.

Tuesday, December 11, 1979

U2 (Headliner) / Idiot Dancers (Opening Act)

Bridge House, Canning Town, London

IMAGES: Concert Listings for U2’s Show At Bridge House

U2 headline their third show of the tour, at Bridge House. The opening act is Idiot Dancers and admission for the show is 50p. Melody Maker lists U2 as UR for this show, and some posters at the venue listed the band as UT. NME gets it right in their gig guide, listing U2 as U2. Most of the shows this tour have had some variation on the name. The ad for the show lists the band as “U2s”.

The show is a small one. The owner of the pub, Terry Murphy confirmed that just 18 paying customers had taken in this show, along with a few non-paying regulars of the club. He commented on the band, “A nice band, worked really hard. No chance of making it, not different enough. I might be wrong though, have to wait and see. Yes, I would give them another gig.”

Garry Bushell of Sounds was at the show and gave a very positive review: “U2 themselves are a quality delicacy with few peers, their rich tapestry of sparkling pop, a swirling kaleidoscope of of tempos and ethereal melodies laced with neat searing guitar and Bono’s sweet vocals. The wee man nipped in and out of his fellows like the proverbial Ronnie Biggs, gesticulating all over stage, smiling, winking…a latter day Walt Disney wizard. U2 are a pop force for the future stamped with an indefinable Irish quality, an aching beauty and a wistful innocence. Such cheerfulness is catching. Such inventiveness will be rewarded.” Bushell in his review only mentions one song, “Boy / Girl.” (“a naïve but totally infectious love song”)

Wednesday, December 12, 1979

CANCELLED: The Photos (Headliner) / U2 (Opening Act)

Brunel University, Uxbridge, London

IMAGES: Concert Listings for U2’s Cancelled Show at Brunel University

U2 were scheduled to open for The Photos at Brunel University. Tickets were £1.00 in advance, or the same price at the door. The show was advertised in the local papers. But in the end the show doesn’t happen. Lead singer of The Photos comes down with vocal issues and is unable to perform. The story was confirmed by Steve Eagles of The Photos. In an interview in 1980, he mentions that he’s seen U2 for the first time just a few days earlier, before U2 opened a July 1980 show for them. U2 are out a show, but manage to pick up a replacement show, opening for Doll by Doll on the 18th at The Venue.

Friday, December 14, 1979

Straight Eight (Headliner) / U2 (Opening Act)

Dingwalls, London

IMAGES: Concert Listings for U2’s Show At Dingwalls

Before the show at Dingwalls, U2 meet with photographer Paul Slattery at their apartment in London. He attends the gig and takes photos throughout the show as well. Slattery had previously met with the band in Dublin in the summer of 1979 when he accompanied Dave McCullough for a piece that was published in Sounds magazine. On that trip Slattery had spoken with Paul McGuinness and the band about what venues should be played on the December tour of London, and now that they were here, he was once again meeting with them.

The headlining act for this show is listed as Local Operator in an ad in Times Out London, which can be seen above. This ad lists U2 as U.2. The gig guide in Sounds lists the band as U2 and list the headlining act as Straight Eight. Straight Eight is also mentioned in the gig guide over in Time Out. As the gig guides were likely prepared closer to the show, we’ve listed Straight Eight as the main act for this show. It is not known why Local Operator did not perform at this show. Either way U2 was the opening act at Dingwalls.

Not much is known about this performance. Slattery said of the performance in Uncut, “The gig at Dingwalls was great and that was fairly busy.” In Time Out U2 get a mini review in the gig guide ahead of this show, “U-2 (Dingwalls support) are a youthful four-piece over from Dublin in their first attempt to build a following here, which they could do on the strength of a lively stage presence; the music, however, is familiar post-punk.”

Saturday, December 15, 1979

U2 (Headliner) / Unknown (Opening Act)

Windsor Castle, London

IMAGES: Concert Listings for U2’s Show At Windsor Castle

Ahead of the show tonight Slattery picks the band up and shoots some photos at the apartment they are staying at in Collingham Gardens, South Kensington, an apartment owned by a wealthy acquaintance of Paul McGuinness. The band are sharing rooms, with Bono and Larry in one, and The Edge and Adam in the other.

“They were fucking penniless,” Slattery recalled in Uncut Magazine. “They were staying in this flat McGuinness knew in South Kensington, and I just said ‘Fuck it’. I picked them up the day after the Dingwalls gig, I had an old Mini van at the time. I did some shots at this flat, then I carted them down to the riverside in Chiswick and did another little session. And I was living at this house in Sunbury On Thames so I took them over there and gave them tea and bacon sarnies. Fed them up a bit. Nobody asked me to do the pictures, I just thought: fuck it, I want to do them – Bono’s got charisma and I like him.”

That night U2 are headlining a show at Windsor Castle. They have an opening act, but it is unknown who, as the band is labeled as simply “Support” in the ad. Admission is a low 50p to see the band.

Sunday, December 16, 1979

U2 (Recording Session)

CBS Whitfield Studios, London

IMAGE: Cover Art for U2’s “Another Day”

U2’s first demo session for CBS Records had resulted in the EP “Three,” and high sales in Ireland convinced CBS to let the band do a second single. CBS once again had them work with producer Chas de Whalley, and the engineer for this session in London, Walter Samuel. The sessions took place at 31-37 Whitfield Street in London. The studio was owned by CBS, and CBS agreed to use of the studios in return for the rights to the single recorded.

Chas deWhalley remembers “four bedraggled U2 boys trooping into CBS Whitfield Street to cut two more tracks.” He told Record Collector about the session: “Bono’s voice was completely shot, because of the gigs. He was croaking away, and he was on honey and lemon. I remember suggesting to him that in either the second or third verse he should whisper the lyric as well as singing it, that classic David Bowie thing – that was my prime production input, trying to get a degree of texture in the vocal. We recorded that in an eight-hour stretch, then they went back to Dublin and me and the engineer, Walter Samuel, were booked to mix it the following Wednesday. So I took instruction over the phone from Bono about what to do. I remember they had a guitar figure that happened four times before the vocals, and they only wanted three – which is again an indication that they were innately aware of not being square or conventional, of being slightly incongruous.”

Listen: U2’s “Another Day” recorded in December 1979

deWhalley worked on two songs with U2 that day. The other song was the song “Pete the Chop” which deWhalley describes as “by far the most “poppy” thing I’d ever heard them do.”

We had an opportunity to interview deWhalley and asked whatever happened to “Pete the Chop.” deWhalley told us “I thought ‘Pete the Chop’ was much the better track. Me and the engineer there, Walter Samuel, were down to do the final mixes, whilst the band had gone home, and on the phone they told me it was too poppy they didn’t want it worked on. So I said ok, fair enough, we wont. I don’t even have a tape of it, I don’t even know what’s happened to it. Basically speaking, Paul [McGuinness] wanted to get another record out for Ireland. “Another Day” And we did that – recorded it in a day in Whitfield Street.” The single would be released with a different B-side, a demo version of “Twilight” recorded earlier in 1979. The single was released on February 26, 1980 on CBS Records in Ireland. A song recorded with Lillywhite for the “War” album mentions the original song, but is a very different song than that poppy track that deWhalley thought would break the band to CBS, “I was sure it would tip the balance in the CBS boardroom.”

Tuesday, December 18, 1979

Doll by Doll (Headliner) / U2 (Opening Act)

The Venue, London

IMAGES: Concert Listings for U2’s Show At The Venue

With the cancellation of an earlier show at Brunel University, opening for the Photos, U2 seek out another gig, and this show opening for Doll by Doll at The Venue in London is their final show in the UK on this trip. The venue, located on 160 Victoria St. is a live music club owned by Virgin Records.

Unlike other shows on the tour, the audience is more business types, and more interested in the drinks than the music. Chris Westwood in Record Mirror reviews the U2 performance, “‘This is the first time we’ve done cabaret’ announces U-2 singer Bono, endearingly; the expurgation is greeted with self-conscious hum of approving tee-hees. A band at The Venue is like a band on New Faces, or at a Working Men’s Club variety nite; people performing for a studio audience, the people who laugh and clap in all the right places, but never book or fart in public, and like to eat steaks and sip elaborate cocktails while the PA flickers crisply and the ‘group’ do their ‘thing’…U-2 are aware and promiscuous; they’re warm enough, enticing enough to draw people in, yet sufficiently stubborn to deflate a cosy situation when necessary and stick their flag in the painful parts.” The review of the performance is positive, calling Bono “uniquely expressive” and says they get “polite applause flickers at the close of their set…”

In Dublin mentions some special guests who were at the show, “Blondie, who sales wise were the most successful band in Britain in 1979, were seen checking out U2 at the latter’s recent London Venue gig.”

Wednesday, December 19, 1979

Returning Home To Dublin

The band has spent nearly three weeks in London. They had arrived on November 30 by ferry and leave on the 19th to return to Ireland. They will play a homecoming show at the Dandelion Car Park in Dublin on December 23. In an interview with Joe Breen in the Irish Times Larry Mullen said, “If we don’t get a deal, we’ll come back here and work harder and just keep on trying.” They’ve also gotten a bit of added buzz around Ireland in the release of Just for Kicks which was released the day they return, and features “Stories for Boys.”

Why not just sign with CBS who was already handling their singles in Ireland? Chas deWhalley who was working for CBS at the time explains a bit about the Ireland only deal that the band had signed, “The problem with CBS, for want of a better word, they were really American-centric. So even a territory like the UK was regarded as an offshore country rather than a key country. They wouldn’t have contemplated signing any deal that wasn’t for the world. Which is why the Irish deal that we struck with Paul [McGuinness] was unusual. The Irish only situation, we conceded, because we hoped and assumed that London would like the band so much that they would step up and offer the band a proper deal.” CBS never did offer the band a bigger contract, and indeed the Irish-only contract seems to have been a rarity at the time.

The band did there best not to show their disappointment with the perceived lack of success from the trip when they returned to Dublin. They did everything they could to make it look like the trip had been a success. Bono wrote about the tour in the Hot Press 1980 Yearbook. “Our debut tour in England was an incredible success; things look good for U2 and I feel confident our February concert tour of all the major towns in Ireland will be successful too as we also release our second single here then.” But this was a front, in U2 by U2 Bono explains “Forget about playing third on the bill to ten people, the way we were telling it two hundred people turned up to see us.” But things were looking dark too, as Adam explained in U2 by U2, “We were coming home in a state of shock. Every record company came to see us and still we hadn’t managed to set London on fire. We’d run out of money. I had two bass guitars, and at the end of that I had to sell my Rickenbacker bass to pay for our boat ticket back.”

Unknown to U2 at the time, the trip to London was going to lead them places, just not right away. Rob Partridge who co-ran Island Record’s press office with Neil Storey had been at the first gig at the Moonlight club, and impressed with U2 returned for a later show with Storey. Story said “There were literally just nine people in the room. I can remember Edge breaking his guitar strings and then Bono sat at the edge of the stage and everyone gathered around and we all chattered. Then, when Edge had fixed his guitar, they just got back on with it and carried on again.”

The shows attended by Storey and Partridge would eventually lead to U2 signing with the label in early 1980. The two became fans of the band and started to push internally at Island for others to take a look. Annie Roseberry and Nick Stewart were A&R with the label and went out to investigate and became hooked as well. They would release “Another Day” on CBS in Ireland in February, but their next single would be on Island Records in the UK. While London had been fun for the young band, they realized they could make more of a splash at home, and focused on building their reputation at home and building a buzz in Ireland of the next big thing.

Additional Notes:

For anyone questioning the date of the Morley review for the Moonlight Club, there were two shows at the Moonlight club on this tour. The review doesn’t identify which one is being reviewed. But in a 2005 story in The Guardian, Morley mentions “It has the same hunger that was there when I saw them play a support slot at the West Hampstead Moonlight Club in 1980, when their immediate ambition was to top the bill in London, and then maybe get a song played on the radio, when they were a group who wanted to play like Led Zeppelin, the Band or Pink Floyd but barely had the ability of the Ruts or the Lurkers, which meant they couldn’t even do the Ramones.” Morley is likely reviewing the first show where U2 played support, and not the second show where U2 headlined at The Moonlight Club. We mention it here as it is not confirmed.

“Pete the Chop” was never released, and to our knowledge the studio recordings have never been leaked. In the liner notes for the 2008 reissue of Boy even The Edge asks about the whereabouts of the tapes from that session. But the song does survive via a February 26, 1980 concert that U2 did at the National Stadium in Dublin, playing to about 2000 people. That night they included the song, and it can be heard below via a bootleg recording found on YouTube.

Listen: U2’s “Pete The Chop” Live, 1980

Paul Slattery is mentioned a number of times throughout the article above. Slattery was the photographer who is quoted in a number of the articles mentioned throughout the article, and has taken some of the earliest photos of U2. You can find more information about Paul Slattery at CameraPress. We would also like to thank Terence Murphy, whose book The Bridge House, Canning Town: Memories of a Legendary Rock & Roll Hangout (Pennant Publishing, 2007) provided some information for the above article.

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