U2 Experience: A book by Brian Boyd

Original story by Harry Kantas (2015-10-17)

U2 Experience is a book by Brian Boyd, published by Carlton Books Ltd., released in September 2015.

Brian Boyd is an internationally acclaimed writer/journalist, with a weekly music column at The Irish Times, and contributions to BBC, RTE, as well various radio stations both here and abroad, among other things. Brian has been closely following and covering U2’s career from the days they would play the car park at The Dandelion Market in Dublin.

U2 Experience is part of the Music & Entertainment series of books from the Carlton Publishing Group. Other artists included are The Beatles, The Who, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones and Nirvana, to name a few. All books seem to be following a similar layout, documenting the artist’s life, changes and achievements, along with a collection of rare photos and memorabilia. So far, U2 Experience appears to be only book to have separate re-prints of memorabilia, and not just embedded in photos.

The book itself reads very pleasantly, and feels equally suitable for fans that recently discovered U2, as well as the hardcore older ones, there is something new in there for everyone.

Brian was also kind enough to answer a few questions for us:

You have been covering U2 stories for a good while now, I have been living in Dublin for almost a decade, and I remember your name from very early on. Not to mention the refreshing lack of U2 puns in your articles! Based on the above, what is your favourite Nabokov poem?

(Hint: Brian’s Twitter profile, as well as a Google Search for “Brian Boyd” should answer any Nabokov-related questions our readers may have at this point. grin

All I know about Nabokov is that he was a famous Russian writer. Just recently I did find out though that he was also an acclaimed lepidopterist. And that is an admirable trait in any man.

Yes, I have been on the U2 beat for quite some time now. They are sort of hard to avoid if you are from Dublin and are a music journalist.

I actually was at the Dandelion Market gigs. A song called “Shadows and Tall Trees” was their big song back then – they never play it live though. But who knows, it might get an outing in Dublin during the November run.

Oddly enough, I was talking about that particular song to Bono when I met him in Turin last month.

The book looks and reads very nicely. I held some of the items next to my originals, and these are some great quality re-prints. Are you happy with the result yourself? Could you perhaps briefly tell us what sort of quality control went in to the final product, were you overseeing the project from start to finish, or was this left up to Carlton Books to live up to their (great) reputation?

Thank you very much! Carlton were such a pleasure to work with. My job was to provide the text, their Art/Graphic Department did all the good stuff. I wasn’t involved at all in the lay-out/presentation. Anything good in the book is their work. I know Carlton went deep into the corners to find photos/memorabilia. They unearthed some great stuff – particularly from the early days.

The memorabilia re-prints included in the box are credited to a Private Collection. Was this your own collection that was used, or the publisher’s? Care to guide us through the selection process for the items that made it in, and the ones that did not? Was it an easy choice to make?

I have really no idea who owns the Private Collection. Is it you?

The selection process – I believe – was just to amass as much as possible and use the visuals in an appealing way. I know we struggled a bit trying to get early Dandelion Market shots – they are quite rare. As regards choices, I think everything was used in the book. Certainly since the Joshua Tree album and the band becoming a global musical entity, there is a lot out there. So the older stuff works better I feel.

Do you have a favourite era from the band’s history to write about? Record/Tour-wise, but also artwork? What is your favourite piece of U2 memorabilia?

The early days! As I said, since The Joshua Tree the band have become pretty much public property in the music world. There was an awful lot of drama in the first few years – Edge leaving the band, the constant (and very real) worry of being dropped by their record label (after the October album didn’t sell). On both a musical and personal level, I think The Unforgettable Fire era is the most interesting in the band’s history as that really saw them leaving behind their Dublin New Wave band strait-jacket and looking at the bigger picture musically. Also, you hear echoes from that album on most every single thing they’ve released since. The Unforgettable Fire is the key that unlocked their subsequent multi-platinum career. And as four individuals, they were really changing during this era.

Record wise it was best writing about Boy because it just seemed weird for us in Dublin at the time who knew them from their Dandelion Market days to be signed to Island Records (a big deal at the time) and having the famous Steve Lillywhite produce it. 35 years later they’re still playing the songs from Boy on tour. It’s very much pre-Stetson Hat, pre-Trabant U2. It’s them first thing in the morning without any make-up on.

Tour wise it was Zoo TV. Such a audio-visual adrenaline rush. The band always identified more with European music growing up and after the Lovetown tour it was good to get them back in European mode again.

My favourite visual in the book is the picture of the band with Bono’s best friend, Guggi (also from Cedarwood Road!) standing in for Larry Mullen in a promo shot. Larry was the only member of the band ever to have a real job and when he wasn’t available, Guggi would take his place.

Also Adam’s hair configurations in the early days is always a thing of wonder …. mind you, The Edge wasn’t far behind – he went through the whole A-Z of hair looks before reaching for the hats.

Will you be catching any more shows on this leg of the Tour? Any Belfast or Dublin shows for you? We are obviously excited about Dublin and playing to a home crowd, but I have a feeling Belfast will also be extra special.

I saw both shows in Turin and really don’t know what I’ll be doing in November as of yet. I would think the Belfast show will be something special – specifically because of the subject matter in the first half of the show.

You can find U2 Experience at your local record store, or online:
Carlton Publishing Group Amazon UK Amazon US Amazon CA Amazon ES – English Amazon ES – Spanish Amazon FR Amazon DE Amazon IT

We found the Spanish translation of U2 Experience at FNAC in Barcelona while there for the U2 shows. FNAC Staff told us that the book was selling very nicely these days, with the band in town.

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