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"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Mojo JANUARY 2014 - by Danny Eccleston
TOO TOUGH TO DIE
Fighting to finish their thirteenth album, taking flak from all quarters for their Apple iTunes giveaway, U2 are treading a rocky path, drawing on the defiance they learned from The Ramones, perilous '70s Dublin and... Adele? "We believed in punk rock. We lived it," they tell Danny Eccleston. "We're still living it."
It's midnight, and on the steps of the Casino de Monte-Carlo straggle a scruffy band, a little the worse for red wine and tequila, seeking shelter from the biblical rain that's drenched the Cote d'Azur for the past several hours. A trio of attractive young Irish women lead the way, but the doormen have eyes only for the man in the leather jacket, the rock singer with the jet black quiff and tinted spectacles.
As we stumble through the chandeliered foyer into the harsh light of the hushed gaming rooms, the singer chap beckons a pit boss over. Mojo senses the latter's frisson of anticipatory glee - a real live showbiz entourage on a slow Tuesday night! - but there's a droop of the jowls when the rock star whispers in his ear: "Can you show us the way to the cheapest table?"
Behind us, Mojo hears a gutsy chuckle and feels a prod in the small of the back.
"The cheapest table!" marvels Larry Mullen Jr, the other U2 member to have survived to the latter stage of this midweek beano. Then his eyes narrow. "You know when bands says, 'If you put that in the piece, I'll fuckin' kill you?'" Mojo nods. "Well, if you don't put that in the piece I'll fuckin' kill you."
This, we are about to learn, is highrolling, Bono-style. Generously the U2 frontman insists on funding everyone's utter but sets a limit of €100 of chips a head. "It was the same for Bill Gates when he was here," he says. "I gave him an envelope and he opens it and there's €100. It was like, What do I do with this?"
To the general disinterest of Monte Carlo's gambling hardcore - dressed-down and somewhat depressed-looking - and the increasing disappointment of the house, the U2 party sway between roulette and blackjack, where Bono tenaciously negotiates a paltry €10 ante, and back to roulette. Larry fritters his chips away before bidding a cheerful goodnight. Bono's stack dwindles slowly to zero. Mojo is slightly up, then throws everything on black and doubles up. We're all set for another crazy spin of the wheel, when Bono bundles us away from the table, with advice that it's time to cash up. "Every gambler knows that to lose / Is what you're really there for," are words from Every Breaking Wave, the song that best exemplifies U2's stance and sound in 2014, and for once it's a sentiment that Bono's inclined to heed.
Sometimes a game of chance can look like a leap of faith - or vice versa - and U2 should know. They've peppered their forty-year climb from Dublin's Mount Temple Comprehensive to World's Biggest Band status with daring moves - many contentious. In 1984 they shocked their record label, Island, smashing the muscular template of their breakthrough War album to explore arty-ambient avenues with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois. In 2009, they were upsetting licence-payers with their "takeover" of the BBC when launching No Line On The Horizon (the Beeb later apologised for their "U2=BBC" logo, a breach of their editorial guidelines). In 2014, they're at it again, stirring controversy with the delivery of their thirteenth album, Songs Of Innocence, free to seven-hundred-million Apple iTunes subscribers. U2 themselves got paid - something less than the reported one-hundred-million dollars - but at what cost?
In a discreetly posh reception room of his discreetly posh slice of France, with tea lights flickering in the gloaming (Edge: "Is it a séance?") and rain pounding the windows and terrace outside, we discover that roll the dice and damn the torpedoes is a motto U2 learned early, as Bono recounts the cheeky gambit that won the band their first TV appearance.
"The director's heard of these young Dublin guys of sixteen, seventeen, who are writing their own songs," he recalls. "So he came round_our rehearsal room. We'd been fighting all afternoon, about how to start songs, how to end songs, and what was in the middle of 'em. Then the knock came on the door and this guy came in: 'How do you do? I believe you write your own songs? Would you play one for me?' So we look at one another and I say, Let's play him Glad To See You Go. So we played Glad To See You Go by The Ramones. He said, 'You Wrote that?' And we all said, (shiftily) Yep. So We did the TV show and swopped it 'round to one of our songs and nobody noticed."
U2 owe a lot more to The Ramones. It was a show by the New Yorkers at Dublin's State Cinema on September 24, 1978, attended by three members of the protean group, that convinced them there was something in this music game. Dublin, says Edge, "didn't go through the '60s. There was no flowering in fashion, art and music. But when punk rock hit, it really did resonate. You could see it on the street, you could feel it in the air. The Ramones show gave us access to a completely different world..."
"It was the words and melodies," says Bono. "And the firepower."
"Dee Dee looked so cool," remembers Adam Clayton, "and it looked pretty simple what he was doing. I identified with that."
Later, the compliment would be repaid, as Joey Ramone tracked U2's rise from clubs to arenas and beyond. According to Joey's brother Mickey Hyman, he was listening to U2's plaintive 2000 song In A Little While when he passed on April 15, 2001. "The internet wasn't as big then as it is now," says Bono, "but even then it was: 'U2 - they killed him. Those fuckers. They killed Joey Ramone.'"
U2's formative years - the Dublin of punk and junk, teenage grief and confusion, hope and violence - are front of mind just now, a response to Interscope and Beats exec Jimmy Iovine's challenge to "ask the important questions about our motivations: who we are and why we are the way we are." Bono had been toying with a Quadrophenia-related concept for Songs Of Innocence but diverted into a full-on quest for the spark that ignited what he calls his "rage", the motivating force that continues to propel him and his group. "Then you get to the really embarrassing stuff," he says, "like singing about your dead mother. Not very punk rock."
With unforeseen implications for future pop culture, Iris Hewson collapsed with a brain aneurysm during the funeral of her own father in September 1974 and died shortly afterwards. Bono has pondered the impact of her passing before, notably on the saturnine Pop LP track Mofo ("Mother, you left and made me someone"), but never so directly as on Songs Of Innocence's lyrical Iris (Hold Me Close).
"We don't remember much about it," he says, meaning himself, aged just fouteen at the time, and older brother, Norman. "The way our family was, the way Irish males tend to be, you don't talk about that. It was too painful. So we lost the memories that we had."
Recently, he read the letter dictated by American journalist and Syrian ISIS hostage James Foley shortly before his execution: "The remarkable thing was the one-line memories. Like, of his brother Matt - 'I remember chasing you around the garden dressed as a werewolf.' And I thought, That's how we're all gonna be remembered - not for anything important we've done or anything profound. Just the little stupid stuff we do. So I started trying to see what I could remember about my mother, and it was things like her burying me in the sand on the beach up to my neck. Being told not to be afraid of the dark. That thing that Dublin mums all say: 'You'll be the death of me.'"
Stalking his rage back to its source, through Songs Of Innocence tracks including Cedarwood Road (named for the north Dublin street he grew up on, with future Virgin Prunes co-singer Derek 'Guggi' Rowen a neighbour), Bono returns to the shadow of the Ballymun flats to paint a gritty chiaroscuro of U2's '70s milieu.
"Some of the strongest memories I have of my teenage life are the hidings I received and the hidings I gave out," says Bono. "The sense of civil war being imminent. And then, the violence that was hidden. My dad used to sleep with an iron bar under his pillow..."
He tells of a recent encounter in a Dublin bar while he was giving an interview to the New York Times. Two men approached, keen to confess to historical burglaries at his late father Bob Hewson's house: "'All right Paul?... All right Paul? Cedarwood, yeah? The house opposite the Grove, yeah? Your da' lived there on his own? The telly went, a few times? The stereo? One acoustic guitar and a leather jacket? But you know we never made a mess, right? I was banging up a bit of the old gear, and we figured you could afford it.'"
Songs Of Innocence's time-travelling swoon is most intense on Raised By Wolves, an electrifying recreation of the May 17, 1974 bomb attack on Talbot Street, one of three Dublin explosions (plus one in Monaghan) that left thirty-four dead and shocked one of the witnesses, Guggi's brother Andy Rowen, into a spiral of hard drugs that turned him into the subject of U2's 1984 anti-smack epic (and Live Aid apotheosis), Bad. If Bono had taken his usual route by bike that day he'd have been among the casualties.
"Sometimes I feel like I'm still on that street," he says. "I still need an enemy. And it's like that line in Cedarwood Road, 'The worst ones I can't see.'"
Momentarily, fists clenched, he resembles the welterweight he never was: Paul 'The Scrapper' Hewson, an antidote to the Smooth Bono it's easy to collage from Forbes interviews and photo opps in Davos.
"Maybe it's time to correct this repetition of behaviour," he says, "but I'll always find myself in an argument. People say, Oh God, U2 are divisive. But I feel comfortable around that kind of aggression. That's probably not good," he frowns, then grimaces. "But I would say that growing up in Dublin is a great preparation for the interweb."
The internet is U2's friend and foe in 2014. Friend because, on September 9, it allowed them to provide their new album gratis to all those Apple iTunes users - a previously inconceivable digital-age marketing coup. Foe, because U2-haters immediately turned to social media to protest the intrusion - specifically, the "technological blip" (Bono's words) that allowed devices to auto-download the album, unbidden, from the cloud. In the wake of the initial uproar, Apple clarified the process whereby the album could be expunged from users' libraries - firing speculation that this might be the first music product whose success would be measured not by acquisitions but by deletions - yet failed to issue anything that resembled an apology. Left to find their own way through this uniquely twenty-first century minefield, U2 appeared to veer between slightly stung defiance and somewhat flip deflection. Were they upset by the scale of the negative reaction?
"Not really," says Bono. Cross? "Not really. Look... We wanted to deliver a pint of milk to the front door of five-hundred-million people." He pauses, grins. "But it didn't just slip into their fridge... It turned out it ended up on a few people's cereal... And they were lactose intolerant.
"I mean, come on," he pleads. "Of the great crimes against mankind...? This is an honest mistake, and we're just not going to lose sleep about it. And there's probably a part of me - I'll admit that it's not the most evolved part - that's thinking, Did it get into their box? Were we on their cornflakes? Ha!"
Much of the flak came from opportunists probing a weak spot in a band whose music they dislike and status they resent ("Everybody's got an angle," Larry Mullen tells me later. "Nobody really cares"). But U2's freebie-insertion plays also to genuine concerns around digital privacy. Have they reaped consumers' growing unease about the power of tech giants like Apple and Facebook - the "Computer Putins" decried by Iggy Pop in his recent John Peel lecture?
"That maybe true," concedes Bono. "But y'know, these are the good guys! Apple is a company dedicated to making beautiful objects that are sweated over like we sweat over songs. I know [Apple design guru] Jony Ive. Jony Ive could be The Edge!"
But if Apple got it wrong... "Look, in the last few days I was with the UN Human Rights Rapporteur [Ben Emmerson] who's been charged with dealing with these privacy issues online. So I'm not being flippant about the fact that it ended up in people's record collections. What I'm saying is that of the mistakes that are being made on the interweb, and there are some grave and gross violations, is this so bad? And if this was a Steven Spielberg film, would there have been the same fuss?"
Could Apple at least apologise for the "technological blip"? If Songs Of Innocence had stayed in the cloud, to be accessed voluntarily, would this fuss exist?
"Ahhh!" Bono reaches over and squeezes Mojo's shoulder. "Why don't we go give Santa Claus a bit of a fucking kicking? Goaaan, Santy you big fucking..." He leaps to his feet, kicks an imaginary Santa to the ground and starts laying into him. "I never wanted that fucking present anyway. Go-on Santy. How do you fit down the fucking chimney?"
Stripped of PR gloss, this is probably the closest we'll get to U2's truest feelings on the matter. Well, nearly. Over dinner that evening, the group's straightest-shooter has an even more distilled message for the critics.
"I don't give a shit if you don't like U2," growls Larry Mullen Jr, chewing on a steak. "So you can type? Well done. Get over it."
There's at least one sense in which Apple's intervention has been all good. It's possible that there wouldn't even be an album - at least, not yet - without it.
"Would we be finished if it wasn't for the Apple deadline?" ponders The Edge. "That's a very good question. I'd like to think we would but I don't know." For all the U2 guitarist's aura of preternatural calm - in the group's stage-front double-act he's Spock to Bono's Kirk - you sense he shoulders much of the angst of U2's process. As he sits upright on one of his singer's sofas like a still portrait of himself - the trademark black beanie a kind of second scalp - he recalls the morning after he was obliged to let go of the album.
"I woke up, put it on, listening in the house," he says. "I couldn't really hear it for what it was. I was only hearing it for what it wasn't. It was a horrible, horrible experience. I had to have a stiff drink, leave the room for a while. We actually had a party that night, like a Wrap party. It was the strangest feeling. It was not a triumphal feeling."
Songs Of Innocence has been a long time coming, with roots in 2009 and subsequent, freewheeling 2010/2011 sessions with Brian Burton, AKA Danger Mouse, followed by work with old U2 hand Flood, then Paul Epworth and Ryan Tedder, catholic modern producers with a reputation for song-honing pop smarts exemplified by their work with Adele. Four years on, there was a feeling that a New York mixdown in late summer 2013 might be final. False dawns and red herrings included the autumn 2013 emergence of Ordinary Love, U2's theme song for the biopic Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, and the February 2014 release of a synthy post-punk bauble, Invisible, debuting on Superbowl night. Free for twenty-four hours, each download of the song was matched by a dollar from the Bank Of America to benefit The Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria.
U2 are as renowned for the convolutions of their record-making as for quixotic announcements of release dates, but this seemed more than usually doubt-ridden. "Mixing the album in New York, we found the songs falling apart," says Edge, ruefully. They hadn't fully arrived. We'd allowed ourselves to think that 'interesting' was enough."
In judging the material they nearly put out but didn't, U2 remembered advice imparted by Rick Rubin in 2006 before producer and band parted company during works-in-progress for No Line On The Horizon.
"Rick Rubin has a larger looming presence on this album than his 'thank you' deserves," says Bono. "He asked, 'Why can't more people cover U2 songs?' And it's because, with all the great sounds and arrangements, you can forget that there isn't a song there." He clicks his fingers. "The word is eternal: it's the song that lives on when you've long since snuffed it. Rick was saying, 'How many of those do you have out of your hundred-and-fifty? Have you twenty? Have you ten? How many?'"
All four members of the group independently describe the realisation of their shortcomings in the area of songcraft as "humbling"... "For U2 it's always, who are we comparing ourselves with?" says Bono. "Who are we going to go up against? What's going to make us nervous, nauseous, uncomfortable? Well, it's OK to feel a little queasy next to Paul McCartney. People will be singing those songs in hundreds of years time. It's like Bach. He's no different."
Bono sings the praises of Hozier - the young Wicklow singer-songwriter whose debut album currently nestles near the top of Billboard's Top 200. He's also having a moment with The Hollies' version of Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood's The Air That I Breathe. "And Adele!" he whoops. "When I heard Chasing Pavements I had to lie down. It was that good I couldn't believe it. Now maybe that might upset the hardcore rock'n'roll side of our audience, that U2 are listening to Adele. But she's more rock'n'roll and soul and everything I love than a lot of the people that we get to hang with. I don't care what category she's put in."
"We come from rock but it doesn't define us," says Larry Mullen. "Melodies define us. Melodies define everybody."
"No Line was fucking miserable," says Larry Mullen Jr, wringing every ounce of feeling from the word. "A miserable experience. From beginning to middle to end, it just didn't work. Brian [Eno] and Danny [Lanois] were on board and credited as songwriters - and this is with respect to them - but that's an impossible scenario. You can't have four people in a band plus two extra songwriters who are also producers. It's not possible. Perhaps we should have made an obscure record. Maybe it would have been a great obscure record."
What U2 did was take their obscure record and graft on some attention-grabbing prosthetics. They added the galumphing Get On Your Boots and I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight, with input from Black Eyed Peas' Will.i.am. In context, the gorgeous but fragile Moment Of Surrender sounded beached, abandoned. "It wasn't an easy fit," admits Adam Clayton. "We disappeared up our own arse in a way. I've grieved the train wreck of certain directions we went in."
With his gentle English accent reinforced by his current city of residence - London - and sympathetic bedside manner, Adam Clayton is the obdurate Mullen's alter ego. Ironically for the one stringent atheist in the band, he is the one who could conceivably pass as a priest, albeit one in trendy high-tops, zebra-print T-shirt and levitating silver coiff. Edge describes the former boarding-school boy as "always the posh one in U2", recalling a Dublin afternoon when they were running for a bus but realised they were short of the 50p fare.
"He said, 'I know, I'll get a bank loan.' Now, not only was this ridiculous, but the banks were shut. But he knocked on the door until they let him in, and fuck me if he didn't come back with the money."
As is the case with U2 generally, Clayton's current financial situation has been in the spotlight, having seen his former PA Carol Hawkins convicted in 2012 for squirrelling away £2,200,000 of his money. Following controversy over U2's tax arrangements - taking publishing income out of their native Ireland and parking it in the Netherlands, which prompted protests at their shaky 2011 Glastonbury performance - and focus on Bono and Edge's involvement in the beleaguered 2011 musical Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, plus Bono's stakes in Forbes and Facebook, their money has made more headlines than their music. Meanwhile, Bono's latest focus as an activist - that entrepreneurial capitalism is a more effective development tool than aid - has embedded him more intimately than ever with the global economic establishment. It's more grist to those with angst about U2's wealth and power, and others who just hate to see rock'n'roll and mammon openly mix. U2 sing 'Songs Of Innocence', but when it comes to the business of music, or the music of business, the scales long since fell from their eyes...
"From the beginning we had a totally different attitude to the record company to our contemporaries, maybe because we were signed to Island," says Edge. "It was fashionable at the time for artists to badmouth the label, slag off The Man. But we went into Island Records and made friends with them."
In America, U2 made allies of "the satin jackets - the hairies", where their immediate predecessors, The Boomtown Rats and The Clash, had made enemies. The latter - whose 1977 Trinity College show Bono immortalises in the lyric of This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now - were not only an inspiration but a warning.
"The Clash broke up too soon," says Edge. "They broke up when they didn't have to break up, under the pressure of having to be politically correct to a degree that was untenable."
"Sellout!" exclaims Bono. "It's the most preposterous word ever. Try using 'sellout' on any hip hop artist. They wouldn't know what you're on about."
"Y'know, I remember being outside a Joe Strummer solo gig," the singer recalls. "There were a bunch of Dublin skins and punks around him, shouting, 'We fuckn' paid ten quid to get in! We paid ten quid!' Joe Was trying to explain, 'Look, we have to pay for the lights...' He was engaging with them! I used to do that, but I stopped."
Is it possible to be worth over half-a-billion dollars and still be punk rock? Bono thinks so.
"We took The Clash's challenge at face value," he insists. "We believed in punk rock. We lived it. We're still living it. Between ourselves and what we now call our community, but what is really like a commune. The sharing of everything, the pooling of resources, the drive to be useful. Using celebrity as currency and trying to spend it wisely. That all comes from that moment. The teenage angst of the Ramones would never answer all the questions we were asking. But The Clash came close."
U2 are regularly accused of a certain unspecified corporateness. It came again on September 15, when well-known socialist Sharon Osbourne tweeted: "U2 you are business moguls not musicians any more. No wonder you have to give your mediocre music away for free cause no one wants to buy it." And yet all recording artists are businesses and plenty are incorporated. Maybe U2's sin is not making a more elaborate pretence of asceticism. They've been without original manager Paul McGuinness since November 2013; subsequently, Madonna's Guy Oseary has driven the business towards its seemingly inevitable digital future (he has investments in Spotify and SoundCloud, and oversaw a Madonna movie, secretprojectrevolution, released as a BitTorrent bundle a year before Thom Yorke's latest salvo). But, day to day, U2 employ many of the same people they've employed for years - soundman Joe O'Herlihy, tour manager Dennis Sheehan among them - and up-close the machine looks far more whimsical and precarious than you'd expect.
"You've come from the audience and you think you can maintain the status quo," says Adam Clayton, remembering the aftermath of UZ's landmark Zoo TV tour, when the band found the production had absorbed all the money and their next venture would have to be far more accountant-friendly. "But eventually the economic forces gang up on you. And those are the same forces that if you don't have a hit single on your record get you dropped from the label. All those things are somewhere in the back of your head. You're not allowed to fail."
Three weeks later, U2 and Mojo have reconvened at Stalag Later, the forbidding Maidstone TV studios where Jools Holland - who lives just up the road - records his weekly multi-muso shindig. Buzzing around backstage beneath wonky portraits of broadcast legends (Dale Winton in his Supermarket Sweep pomp) are U2's dangerous wardrobe women and long-standing matriarch Sharon Blankson, plus former Virgin Prunes singer Gavin Friday, on hand to dispense wit and wisdom. Interpol guitarist Daniel Kessler wanders past, looking slightly lost.
"They lock all the acts in here," condes Bono, "so we all have to stare at each other. Sam Smith terries me - I mean, he's a proper soul singer."
U2 are rehearsing a handful of selections from Songs Of Innocence in preparation for tomorrow's live recording: a chance to further test the credentials of their new songs and brush up on some shapes. Bono attempts a backhand mike-grab with a high degree of difficulty. You can almost see the thought bubble above his head: not trying that again. Meanwhile, an exquisite piano and strings performance of Every Breaking Wave effortlessly outstrips the version on Disc 2 of the physical album and California (There Is No End To Love) achieves vertical take-off with its spine-tingling guitar filigree and ecstatic drive. Then the earth-moving, bass-led judder of Volcano underlines that for all of U2's talk of the challenge of pop songcraft, they're a rock band after all.
"There isn't a great U2 song that doesn't have a lead role for the bass," says Bono, sidling over on a break. "That's where we come from: Paul Simonon, Peter Hook, Burnel... Y'know, we supported The Stranglers once in the early days. I tried to persuade to wear one of our badges: U2 CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE. He said 'fuck off', and rightly so. But I took it badly and we robbed their dressing room - totally cleaned it out."
The weekend's U2 news is mixed. Songs Of Innocence is Number 6 in the UK album charts on release, stuck beneath Ed Sheeran and Jessie J - but not a terrible performance for an album everyone already owns. First week US sales are twenty-nine-thousand-plus. With the U2 album now in an analogue phase, and traditional channels like TV and radio playing the songs, interest in the music is picking up. Bono removes his specs and rubs his eyes - looking very much like a man who's just flown to Miami and back for a day of non-stop US promo. By comparison, his companion on that trip, Larry Mullen, seems positively energised.
"Radio's buzzing," he declares. "You know, we're forever being told how everything's broken. Well maybe everything isn 't broken. I met a lot of people who are excited about music. Maybe the music biz won't last twenty years, but who cares? I'll be retired by then."
Not quite resolved, at least temporarily, is UZ's latest stance on the Apple question. In a Facebook video Q&A the previous week, Bono said "sorry" to user Harriet Madeline Jobson who asked: "Can you please never release an album on iTunes that automatically downloads to people's playlists ever again? It's really rude." His tone was emollient and the internet reported it as an apology. But days later on Graham Norton's BBC TV chat show, between stirring versions of The Miracle Of Joey Ramone (electric) and Song For Someone (acoustic), Bono reprised his Santa-shoeing routine. So are they sorry now?
"I'm already working on the apology...." issues Bono slowly, "for the apology. Because I'm very proud of what we did. It's one of the proudest moments in U2's history. I was apologising to a young woman on Facebook, who thought we were rude. That's all."
"Think about this," he adds, "nearly thirty million people have this album now, have taken it into their lives. What took thirty years for The Joshua Tree to achieve happened in three Weeks. That's amazing."
Unprecedented, certainly, but how do U2 measure the success of their gambit? Merely on exposure? Ticket sales will hardly be an indicator. When U2 announce their next tour (rumours suggest it will start next May) it's likely to sell out; and if U2 can follow No Line On The Horizon - their wobbliest, most compromised album - with U2 360°, the biggest-grossing rock tour of all time, then surely their show sells itself. What have U2 gained apart from a load of grief?
"There was an article written by an Irish journalist," says Mullen. "He wrote: 'I don't really understand why U2 are doing this. Why would you put yourself in this position? All you have to do is retire, reform, do a Greatest Hits tour and just keep on doing it. That's the sensible thing to do.' And do you know, he's not wrong. It would certainly be easier."
But U2 are not doing that. Instead, they talk of a companion volume to Songs Of Innocence called Songs Of Experience ("I think we're quite a way along," says Edge). Bono is talking up a new format he's scheming with Apple that will revitalise the album in the digital age. They all mention using their leverage with Iggy's Computer Putins to drive transparency in terms of digital sales and ensure musicians other than U2 get paid. But more than anything, they're itching to test their songs of innocence in the best arena they know.
"It's always the same," says Larry Mullen. "Success is when you take the songs out and you play them live for an audience. That's when we'll know if we've achieved what we set out to achieve. That's when you know if you're in or you're out."
A PLATE WITH ELVIS
The Songs Of Innocence cover features Larry Mullen's eighteen-year-old son, Elvis - a surprise move from the drummer, previously so protective of his home life...
Larry Mullen: "We did the photo session a year ago, and Bono sidles up to me like he does, 'Where's Elvis?' I think he's out with his mates. 'What do you think about doing a photograph with you and him?" I rang Elvis, he came over and we did this photograph - never thought we'd see it again. An experiment - trying out this thing about innocence.
"The original photograph shows his face, but I couldn't do that to him. I've spent all my life protecting my kids from this. So there's a certain irony to my kid ending up on the cover of an album. It's a powerful image, but it's confusing for some people. In the era of social media, you have to withstand the headwind that goes with something like this. It's so innocent, uncontrived, but some of the vitriol that goes with that... you might ask me, How do I feel about that? Well if I cared about something like that I might just curl up in a ball and never come out again."
TUUUNE! U2'S 'ETERNAL SONGS'
LIVE FOREVER - Noel Gallagher, from Oasis's Definitely Maybe, Creation 1994
Bono: "The verse is better than most people's choruses. The chorus is better than that. Each section is better than the next. In life, you seek eternity though friendship, relationships, art, and this song is that. It's defiance. Defiance is the essence of romance."
WISH YOU WERE HERE - Roger Waters/David Gilmour, from Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here, EMI 1975
Larry: "'S.T.F.U!' I hear you splutter over your porridge... 'Prog rock, my arse!' But obviously you don't have to be a musical genius to know that a great song is a great song, no matter what genre, no matter what the era... 'House Music' as Mr Jimmy Iovine calls it... If you write great songs... you know the rest."
AIN'T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH - Nickolas Ashford/Valerie Simpson, single by Marvin Gaye & Tammy Terrell, Motown 1967
Edge: "Just astonishing melodic development from the verse to the chorus. When it hits the chorus it blows your head off. And it's so sophisticated, with the chords on the top end played by a xylophone or something, while the bass runs up and down. The Motown writers were unbelievable."
WHAT'S GOING ON - Marvin Gaye/Al Cleveland/Renaldo Benson, from Marvin Gaye's What's Going On, Motown 1971
Adam: "Great performance by Marvin, and a wonderful political lyric, but what about James Jamerson's bass line? it just pulls it all togetherfor me."