U2: The Definitive Biography

U2: The Definitive Biography

by John Jobling

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250027900
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 10/07/2014
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 759,924
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

JOHN JOBLING is a British film and music journalist. He is the former music editor of the UK lifestyle website Mansized and has also contributed to DotMusic, Total Film and Playstation Sports, among others. Over the years, he has interviewed such personalities as Michelle Pfeiffer, Gillian Anderson and Karen O.

JOHN JOBLING is a British film and music journalist. He is the former music editor of the UK lifestyle website Mansized and has also contributed to DotMusicTotal Film and Playstation Sports, among others. Over the years, he has interviewed such personalities as Michelle Pfeiffer, Gillian Anderson and Karen O.

Read an Excerpt



Ireland in the 1970s was a grim and depressing sight; a far cry from the picturesque snowdrops, daffodils, and early-morning dew cited in the country's Eurovision-winning entry 'All Kinds of Everything' at the dawn of the decade. Ireland was dreary, oppressive, and bereft of hope; ravaged by nationwide inflation, endless public-sector strikes, high unemployment, and high emigration. Dublin's north inner city was the epicentre of Ireland's crisis. There the buildings were dirty and decrepit, with over 70 percent of the old Georgian tenements without hot running water, according to historical data. You could literally smell the abject poverty. Speaking at the launch of Combat Poverty's twentieth anniversary in 2007, Father Peter McVerry recalled that the tough inner-city area of Summerhill, for example, was 'crawling with rats — rats the size of little kittens and immune from every poison ever invented. Parents would tell you of waking up in the morning and finding a rat on the baby's cot. Some blocks of flats had to share an outside toilet and the children had to be washed in the local Sean McDermott Street swimming pool, as they had no baths or showers'.

It was an era when the Catholic Church still exercised powerful influence on government policy and the lives of everyday people, particularly in terms of anything that concerned sexual morality. Sex before marriage was a sin and a social evil. Contraceptives were banned. Homosexuality was a crime. Divorce and abortion, also illegal. Even the slightest 'morally dubious' reference found in the media, such as the imported feminist magazine Spare Rib showing women how to examine their breasts, was blue-pencilled into oblivion as the Church and State sought to hold back the tide of liberalism surging in from Britain and America and preserve and strengthen Catholic moral teaching in the Irish population, 90 percent of whom attended Mass every Sunday.

Meanwhile, the political struggle in the North was a continual presence in the news. Belfast was Baghdad. Walls and fences divided religious sects. Soldiers patrolled streets. People got tortured. Death piled upon death.

In this period of social and economic crisis and sexual repression, many young people turned to hard drugs in an effort to escape. Coke and heroin replaced acid and hash on Dublin's inner-city streets, and plunged entire neighbourhoods further into darkness. And the authorities didn't seem to care; that is until the spread of heroin led to an upsurge in property crime in more affluent areas as users searched for ways to finance their next fix.

Irish music struggled to find its voice amid the soul-destroying oppression in the South and the fatal bomb blasts in the North. There were very few venues or professional recording studios for the rock bands brave (or stupid) enough to make a noise, and no music press or rock radio existed for much of the decade. The smartly dressed show bands reigned supreme, and made a decent living performing their polite covers of contemporary pop hits and traditional country favourites. But their lack of ambition was crippling. Youth culture's only glimmer of light came from the outer world: NME, Sounds, pirate radio, and, at least in Dublin, the BBC, which broadcast Top of the Pops and The Old Grey Whistle Test. True, Ireland had whipped Thin Lizzy and Rory Gallagher into fighting shape, but they both had to move to London to get noticed. Ireland was a cultural backwater that drowned anyone who stayed there for too long.

It was against this hopeless backdrop that a fourteen-year-old boy called Larry Mullen pinned a note on the bulletin board at Dublin's Mount Temple Comprehensive School looking for fellow students to form a rock-and-roll band. The note read: 'Money wasted on a drum kit. Anyone done the same on guitars?'

Lawrence (Larry) Joseph Mullen was born on October 31, 1961 in Artane, on the north side of Dublin. His namesake father was a civil servant at the Department of Health and Environment, having previously considered a life in the priesthood, and his mother, Maureen, was a housewife. He was the middle child of three, and the Mullens' only son. Larry was a good-looking lad, but physically small and painfully shy around people he didn't know very well. At the age of nine, his parents thought it would be good for him to express himself through music and enrolled him in a piano course at the College of Music in Chatham Row, near St. Stephen's Green. His teacher was, in his own words, 'a really nice lady', but within a few months she pulled him aside and told him that he was probably wasting his time learning the piano because his heart didn't seem to be in it. Larry agreed; he didn't practice much at home and hated studying the scales. But as he was leaving the college that day with his mother, he heard the sound of drums being played in an adjacent room. He immediately turned to her and said, 'You hear that? That's what I want to do.' His mother agreed to let him, but only if he paid for the lessons himself. So Larry washed cars and mowed lawns until he had saved enough money to attend a weekly class at the college under the tutelage of Joe Bonnie, a veteran of the Irish theatre world who specialised in military-style drumming. Larry instantly fell in love with the instrument, but again demonstrated little interest in going through the rudiments of music theory. The little drummer boy was far more interested in doing his own thing, which was tapping along on a drum pad to the music he heard when tuning in to Radio Luxembourg on his pocket radio or watching Top of the Pops, specifically glam rockers The Glitter Band, Sweet, and David Bowie.

Tragedy befell the Mullen household when Larry's little sister, Mary, died in 1973. She was nine years old. Larry continued to attend the drum lessons, albeit halfheartedly and less frequently, until 1974 when Bonnie died of a heart attack and his more demanding daughter Monica inherited the class by default. Larry's father and older sister, Cecilia, rewarded him for sticking with the course for so long by buying him his first full drum kit (which was made by a Taiwanese toy company) for seventeen pounds.

In many ways, Larry and his old man had a typical Irish father-son relationship. His father was a tough man, a disciplinarian, and Larry, subconsciously or otherwise, challenged his authority at almost every turn. His father was well educated and hardworking, and he expected his son to follow in his footsteps. But Larry showed little interest in school or education in general. However, father and son had at least one common bond: Gaelic football. Both were supporters of the Dubs and regularly attended games together at Croke Park, and it was there Larry first saw the Christian Brothers–run Artane Boys' Band, dressed in their distinctive blue-and-scarlet uniforms, entertaining the spectators at halftime. Before long his father had signed him up to the junior marching band, but Larry left after just three days when the Brother in charge ordered him to chop off his shoulder-length golden locks — Larry's pride and joy. Eventually, Larry settled on the Post Office Workers' Band Union, which was a more relaxed outfit and afforded him the opportunity to goof around with friends. He spent two blissful years with them, playing in towns up and down the country.

In the autumn of 1974, Larry joined Mount Temple Comprehensive School after failing the entrance exams to St. Paul's College and Chanel College. Mount Temple had opened its doors just two years earlier and held the distinction of being Dublin's first co-educational, multi-denominational school under Protestant management. It was considered a place that encouraged expression and individuality, free from the sexual, physical, and emotional abuse prevalent in the Catholic-run institutions. Here, it almost seemed as if the old world had died, and the new one was fighting to be born.

Larry was well liked at Mount Temple, especially among the young ladies in his year. 'He was quiet but popular,' recalls Janice Bearman, an ex-classmate. 'I must admit I did not see the attraction, but two of my friends were very taken with him and you were aware that Larry had a lot of female admirers, though he was modest and did not seem to be aware of it. If he was, it did not go to his head.' One such admirer was a chatty blond- haired girl called Ann Acheson, and soon she and Larry were spotted holding hands in the schoolyard.

However, life at Mount Temple wasn't all blushing teenage girls and budding romance for Larry. Because he was quiet and short in stature, he was bullied by a number of older children. His bus ride home, for example, was often a bumpy one. Recalls a former pupil: 'We used to get a bus from school that went up Malahide Road and he used to get off at the roundabout in Artane, the same as us. I feel quite embarrassed about it now, but we used to give him a clip over the head. He'd be sitting near the back and everyone who went by would just clatter the poor kid.'

Bruised head aside, Larry relished the relative freedom of Mount Temple, which in turn sparked an improvement in his schoolwork. He became particularly adept at maths and art. But the drums remained his true passion. Always the drums. And in September 1976 — at the suggestion of his father — he plucked up the courage to put out a call on the school noticeboard for guitarists to join a new band. 'You are not going to get anywhere,' Larry Senior told him, 'if you continue playing on your own.' Although no one paid much attention to his ad to begin with, Larry was determined. He had heard Mount Temple's new arrival Adam Clayton was a mean bass player, and approached him in the schoolyard. 'I got so excited when I saw him,' Larry said later, 'because he had bushy blond hair, he was wearing tinted glasses and a really long afghan coat. He looked so cool and I just said, "I want to be in a band with him!"'

Adam Charles Clayton was born on March 13, 1960, in his grandparents' home in the quaint English village of Chinnor in Oxfordshire. His father, Brian, was a pilot for the RAF, and his mother, Jo, was a rather glamorous-looking housewife and part-time air hostess. In 1964, the Clayton family — Brian, Jo, Adam, and his younger sister, Sarah Jane — upped sticks and moved to Nairobi when Brian landed a job with East African Airways. It was an incredible place to live: the heat, the smells, the servants. But within a year the threat of ethnic violence amid a tribal conflict had become too great, and affluent white families were encouraged to leave. Brian promptly accepted an offer to work for the Irish airline Aer Lingus and the Claytons settled down in Malahide, a middle-class coastal town ten miles north of Dublin city. Another child, Sebastian, was born there.

Adam attended St. Andrew's National School until he was eight, after which his parents enrolled him at the preparatory school Castle Park in south Dublin, where he boarded through the week. But Adam hated every minute of it. He was chubby, bespectacled, and allergic to every sporting activity outside of cricket, and from day one he exhibited a total lack of interest in the value systems of getting a good education or working hard in a nine-to-five job. Adam's defence mechanism was to be the class clown and push the boundaries of what was acceptable in an antiquated schooling system. He was a rebel, but a charming rebel. He spoke with a posh English accent and was invariably polite and well mannered. Nevertheless, he often found himself hauled in front of the principal for being disruptive. 'What's going to happen to you?' the exasperated principal asked him one day. To which Adam replied: 'Well, sir, I'm obviously going to be a comedian.'

Pop music and television were frowned upon at Castle Park, but Adam found a small window of escapism in the Gramophone Society, which got together twice a week to listen to classical music. An outgoing teacher also played him the soundtracks from Andrew Lloyd Webber's rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar and David Greene's screen adaptation of Godspell on an old tape recorder. This inspired him to experiment with piano lessons, but he soon gave them up when he realised that he had neither the hand coordination nor the discipline to do the instrument justice.

At the age of thirteen, Adam was on the move again, to another boarding school in south Dublin, St. Columba's College. It was cold there, terribly cold. There was no heating throughout the old buildings, and the enormous dormitories housed around twenty-five to thirty shivering students. Adam shared a bunk bed with an English boy called John Leslie, and the two of them became close friends. 'I think it [St. Columba's] was a shock to both our systems', recalls Leslie, 'and we immediately hit it off. Adam was a much more outgoing character than I, and he was up to hijinks literally from the minute he hit the ground there. He was always up for a laugh in the nicest possible way. Never nasty.'

Adam and Leslie fell in love with classic rock in a big way when Leslie's brother in England began to ply them with cassette tapes of bands like the Grateful Dead, The Who, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Later, Adam persuaded his father to bring him back sacks full of tapes whenever he was on pilot duty in Singapore. Then he would make copies and sell them to other students to fund the purchase of cigarettes and alcohol. 'By the time Adam was fourteen or fifteen he had the most enormous library of cassettes,' says Leslie. 'He was absolutely riveted by rock music really from as soon as he and I could get our hands on it.'

Leslie had started playing guitar when he was around twelve, and spent hour after hour practising in the music room to stave off the boredom of boarding school. Adam occasionally joined him on a secondhand acoustic guitar, and even took a few classical guitar lessons at the school. Eventually, Leslie sold him on the idea of picking up a bass guitar, saying that he thought it would be 'quite good craic to make some noise together'. It was then that Adam formed a cunning plan and presented it to his parents: buy me a bass and my grades will improve. His parents took the bait and handed him fifty pounds to obtain his weapon of choice. 'I remember we went off down to McCullough Piggot's, which is a well-known music store in Dublin, but decided they were far too expensive,' recalls Leslie. 'We ended up in a tiny little guitar shop to the left of Dame Street where we spied a brown Ibanez bass copy and that's the one he got. Then we just messed about. I didn't really teach him. Adam was a typical rock-and-roll bass player right from when he started in that he wasn't that much interested about playing it. What he was interested in was having a good time, and that's what he did!' Indeed. Adam grew his hair, wore hippie clothes, and skipped classes. He was regularly put in detention.

Soon the two friends roped in a young drummer called Paul Newenham and started fleshing out a rock musical Leslie had begun to write. 'I suppose loosely speaking we were a band, the three of us together,' says Leslie. 'We rehearsed together in a place called the Concrete Sock, which was an old pig house in the farmyard that was attached to the school beyond the science block. That was our first attempt at playing with other people.'

But, alas, the trio's bid to become the heirs to Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical throne was cut short in the summer of 1976 when St. Columba's asked Adam to leave due to his awful grades and taste for the absurd. The mood in the Clayton household was one of anger and shame. Not wanting to stick around for it, Adam agreed to visit Pakistan and Afghanistan for a couple of months with another St. Columba's castoff, George Petherbridge, whose father, John, was the Australian ambassador there. It was during this period that Adam discovered two other abiding fascinations: pretty women and drugs. 'That summer was a wild and mind-expanding time, two months of sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll that determined that whatever I would do in future, it had to be creative,' he told the Observer in 2011. 'There was a lot of incense, patchouli oil, and smoking pipes with big lumps of black stuff in them, all the things you associate with the seventies and the hippie trail. I bought an Afghan coat, heard Bob Marley for the first time and was drawn to the freedom in his music.' Upon his return, Adam, now sporting an Afro hairdo and the aforementioned tinted glasses and Afghan coat, was sent to Mount Temple, where he prepared himself for an uncertain future. Yet again, he found school life intolerably dull and would do anything to alleviate the boredom. The more eccentric and antiestablishment, the better. He took to wearing a yellow hardhat and kilt as he strolled through the school corridors, drank coffee from a flask during lessons, and hung out with the dope smokers at lunchtime. Yet again, detention became like a second home to him.


Excerpted from "U2"
by .
Copyright © 2014 John Jobling.
Excerpted by permission of Thistle Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction ix

1 Into the Heart 1

2 Street Mission 19

3 Fortune Favors the Bold 39

4 Boy Meets Man 60

5 A Kind of Religion 75

6 The Battle Cry 92

7 The Professor and His Students 113

8 The Rising Flame 131

9 The Two Americas 143

10 The Ground Beneath Their Feet 167

11 Standing on the Shoulders of Giants 192

12 Achtung, Berlin! 209

13 Under an Atomic Sky 223

14 Staring into the Flash 241

15 Billion-Dollar Dreams 259

16 The Goal Is Soul? 278

17 Love and Money or Else 296

18 The Ecstasy of Gold 313

19 The Wrong Compromise 330

Bibliography 349

Acknowledgments 355

Index 357

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U2: The Definitive Biography: The Definitive Biography 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love U2. Reading their history and about their humble beginnings as a band makes me love them more. Wish the book contained more pictures, especially of the early gigs.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Umm... its kinda personal, but ill tell you. I was at a club party. No alcohol, since most of the people who were invited were underage. I was wearing the typical partygirl attire: black miniskirt that goes down to midthigh, red spaghettistrap tank top, and black ankle boots. My hair was spilling out from under my knit hat. So i looked pretty good and like i belonged at that party. Well, i was chattting with Will and eating chocolate cake at the appetizer table when we heard screaming and then, suddenly, a gunshot. Will shoved me protectively onto the floor where we were safely under the table. Or so we thought. We heard boots clomping towards us in the middle of the chaos and then a guy said, "Out from under the table, or i shoot." Will just scooted me farther under the table. The guy reached under and grabbed my wrist, dragging me out. I struggled and got free, and Will yelled,"Run!" at me. I ran, only to fall victim to the guy's perfect aim. My shoulder was dripping blood, and i ran outside, Will miraculously but safely behind me. There was a police car and five ambulances already outside, and i was shoved into the back of one. I was immediately rushed to the hospital. I blacked out. Woke up in the hospital. Turns out i had the worst. The other three partyers who were shot had grazes, but i actually had a bullet in my shoulder. They took it out. I was in the hospital for weeks. So thats what happened. And i hope you somehow get your dad out of jail. It sounds like he changed. But be careful and very cautious. If he shows any sign of hurting you, call 911. Pronto. I just want you to be safe, kk? But i really hope he has changed. Answer back to pokemon girl :) TO HR! URGENT!!!: GO TO RESULT 12! ~ pokemon girl