‘I thought it was one of my Irish mates winding me up.’
Notes from Abbey Road, Week Two: There’s a lot going on with the band at the moment, not least recording new material. U2.Com slipped into the studio for a second week and here’s what’s been going down.
Monday, September 11th
Billy Joe Armstrong, Tre Cool, Mike Dirnt, and assorted Green Day crew members were in the studio early this morning. The plan had been for the two bands to sit down with Rick Rubin to discuss how the week would pan out. Not a long meeting as it turned out. ‘They just went straight into the studio and started playing,’ said Joe O’Herlihy. ‘Quite different bands but what they have in common is this amazing musical energy.’
Tuesday September 12th
The bands performed the track multiple times yesterday and, before they resume together today, Rick wants to record the different musicians individually. A video-shoot is also underway with Chris Milk, best known for his work with Kanye West, Courtney Love and Audioslave. Chris has flown in from Paris where he is finishing up the new Gnarls Barkley video.
‘Bono asked me to be a fly on the wall,’ he says. ‘Normally I’d bring a crew – director of photography, sound-guy, another camera – but it’s just me and an assistant. Pretty strange to be crouching on the floor in the control room as Green Day and U2 discuss the playback!’
Something else though, he adds, ‘to see these bands playing live – and in this place too!’
Garrett ‘Jacknife’ Lee is also wandering about, fresh from producing Snow Patrol and Bloc Party. He is holed up in some upstairs room … also working on U2.
Wednesday September 13th
Anton Corbijn is in the house, several cameras hanging off his lanky frame. Mainly he is shooting reportage-style while the two bands work on ‘The Saints’ but by late afternoon, he sets up the shot which will shoot round the world tomorrow. Much to the surprise of those who have been hanging around outside – and those now craning out of car windows and peering out of buses – the seven musicians meet each other on the zebra crossing immortalised on the cover of ‘Abbey Road’.
‘There was a fair bit of screeching of brakes but no crashes,’ says Joe O’Herlihy. ‘Just for a moment there, on a much smaller scale, it had a hint of San Franciso, 1987 and stop the traffic…’
Back inside Bono has news: ‘You’ll never guess who’s coming over tonight?’
An hour or so later, we’ve guessed: it’s Richard Jobson, the man who, nearly thirty years ago, as a teenager in Glasgow, wrote the song that U2 and Green Day are working on. Former Skids frontman and now successful film maker, Jobson is still pinching himself at this strange twist of fate. He genuinely couldn’t believe it when Edge called him up ten days ago to ask about performing ‘The Saints Are Coming’:
‘I thought it was one of my Irish mates winding me up, I really did!’
‘It’s true, he just wouldn’t believe me,’ adds Edge. ‘I was saying, ‘This is Edge from U2 and he was saying, ‘yeah, yeah, yeah…’
Eventually, Edge managed to convince him of his impeccable rock’n‘roll credentials, and told him the song had a special resonance for Music Rising. As he chats with Bono, and the latest version of the track plays back, Jobson can barely conceal his delight. Until a few days ago he hadn’t heard the track in decades.
‘When Edge told me, I had to go find it online and download it – just to remind myself.’
Later Anton corralls the seven musicians, along with Jobson, into a photo shoot – Bono holding up a tambourine, halo-style, over Jobson’s head.
‘I tried to get my photo taken by Anton thirty years ago,’ quips Jobson. ‘But my band wasn’t cool enough!’
Thursday September 15th
The work with Green Day is done for now and for U2 it’s the final day of the week with the whole band present. Tomorrow Bono flies to the US for the launch of a new ONE t-shirt from the EDUN range. Larry and Adam are working on a new song while Edge is working out a chord sequence while peering into his laptop. Notepad on his lap, Bono is scribbling up a lyric. It’s only about the music today – no photographers, no video crew, no guests. A couple of hours later and the singer is at the mic, experimenting with a mixture of words and vocal sounds, as the band play on.
‘What do you think ricochet?’ asks Larry, looking up towards the control room.
‘Ricochet, to the mic please,’ adds Bono from the studio floor.
In the control room, Rick Rubin looks confused. Someone explains that he has a new moniker – that he is the very same Rick O’Shea.
‘Sounds good to me,’ he replies, with a grin. ‘Fantastic ascending guitar moment towards the end. Very cool.’
Friday September 15th
A later start today and a shorter session, everyone heading home for the weekend. Adam, Edge, Larry and Rick meet up in the control room – then get down to work in the studio.
Final word on the week to the producer. ‘It was hard going into this week not knowing how we were going to record two bands at once. I had never done that before… and neither had anyone else! So there was a little feeling of deer in the headlights for a moment. But we got there, for sure, and I love what we have done!’
See our first week of diary entries from Abbey Road here.