Monday, April 21, 2014

All-Time Top 40: U2

Country Artists Count Down Their Favorite Artists

Get More: 

Globe-trotting rockers U2 may seem out of place on CMT All-Time Top 40: Artist's Choice, but country stars have strong reasons for placing the band at No. 35 on the list of their favorite artists ever.

Each influential musician or band is ranked based on an artist poll conducted by CMT among the biggest stars in country music. The ballot isn't limited to just country artists, so over the course of 2014, CMT All-Time Top 40 highlights artists from all genres that influence country's biggest names.

Formed in Dublin, Ireland, in 1976 by four schoolmates, U2 rose to international fame on the strength of personal but culturally-insightful songwriting. Over the years, the band tailored its rock-based sound to the current trends in pop music.

After the release of their landmark 1987 album The Joshua Tree, members Bono, the Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. became household names in the U.S. Songs from that album -- including "Where the Streets Have No Name," "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and "With or Without You" -- continue to receive radio airplay to this day. The band's star power has grown exponentially, giving lead singer Bono a platform to promote social change around the world.

Still touring and recording regularly, U2 is renowned for their massive live concerts. Their 360° tour from 2009-2011 required hundreds of tractor trailers to transport the largest stage construction ever built, nicknamed "The Claw."

Despite their European roots, U2 did seek out a country music education. John Carter Cash described the famous ties between the band and his late father, Johnny Cash.

"My father, he created a kinship with Bono," Carter Cash revealed. "First from writing letters. Bono had a vision for writing a song, and he and my dad wrote lyrics back and forth, talked on the telephone. ... They had an instant connection because Bono and my dad were both like scholars.

"My dad never judged an artist based necessarily on their music. I mean, yes, he loved their music. But he judged an artist based on their integrity -- you know, who they were in spirit, whether he could honestly relate to what they believed in. He would stand up for artists that you maybe wouldn't think Johnny Cash would. It was normal for him to do that because he believed in who they were as a person."

Country stars Dierks Bentley, Darius Rucker and LeAnn Rimes were among those agreeing that U2 deserves a spot on CMT All-Time Top 40: Artist's Choice.

"I really love the energy of U2, not only in the writing but the live show," said Bentley. "It just such an intense experience, and I guess the one thing that I really love about that band is their roots and ties to country music. You know, their relationship with Johnny Cash and guys like Cowboy Jack Clement and just their respect for the genre and the songwriting."

Bentley enlisted The Del McCoury Band and the Punch Brothers to record U2's "Pride (In the Name of Love)" for Up on the Ridge, his bluegrass-influenced album released in 2010.

"U2 is just a band that was perfect when they came out," Rucker said. "I just remember hearing Live at Red Rocks: Under a Blood Red Sky, and I was just blown away. I couldn't believe that a band could sound that powerful on record. ... I just remember hearing that and going, 'This band's going to be the biggest band in the world.' There was no way there was going to be anything different. Their songwriting, for themselves, is perfect. It's one of the reasons I wanted to be in a band."

"I love U2," said Rimes. "I love Bono. I love everything about them. Their stage show is absolutely insane. I've always been so amazed by their hooks in their songs. It's so simple, but they have such a message behind them and they've always been so positive. They've always stood for something that was important to them."

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Mojo's U2's 10 Best Albums

Blood, sweat and tears from the globe-bestriding Dublin quartet. Plus their 10 greatest albums. By Danny Eccleston.

One man’s gauche is another man’s heartfelt; one man’s art another man’s pretention. And so it is with U2, loved and loathed in equal measure almost from the moment Larry Mullen Jr pinned a musicians wanted ad to the noticeboard at Dublin’s Temple Mount school in 1978 and shanghai’d Paul “Bono” Hewson, Dave “The Edge” Evans and Adam Clayton. From the start, rock’n’roll for The Larry Mullen Band (as they were originally to be called) was an opportunity to bite off more than they could chew.

At first, with pals the Virgin Prunes they provided a provincial beach-head for post-punk, The Edge’s frigid guitars providing a platform for Bono’s unfettered hollering. Then Ireland-only singles (Three, and Another Day) tempted Chris Blackwell’s Island label to the table; cue a run of chiming albums that soundtracked their inner struggle with a brand of charismatic Christianity that Edge, Bono and (less enthusiastically) Mullen had embraced back in Dublin. By the commercial breakthrough of 1983’s War album (New Year’s Day became their first UK Number 1 single that March), they’d been born again, but this time in red-blooded rock…
Thematically, a struggle between the sacred and profane, the earnest and honest, would define their progress, while periodic sonic reinventions would save their skins. The Unforgettable Fire (1983) saw the debut of Brian Eno behind the faders, and the ethereal result horrified a label hoping for another War. But it was only when U2 resisted change (as they did on 1988’s über-trad, half-live Rattle & Hum) that they disappointed. Bono called the subsequent Achtung Baby (1991) “the sound of four men chopping down the Joshua Tree”, and the complicated, eclectic result set them fair for the complicated, eclectic ’90s.

n the new century, they’ve thrived (’04’s How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb debuted at #1 in America, toppling Eminem) and their “wobble” (mixed reviews for ’09’s No Line On The Horizon) was followed by the biggest-grossing rock’n’roll tour of all time. Why so durable? Because, alone among their contemporaries, U2 move at the same speed as contemporary popular culture. “Spending time with Bono [is] like eating dinner on a train,” wrote Dylan in Chronicles Volume 1. “Feels like you’re moving, going somewhere.” Strap yourselves in; it’s a bumpy ride.

According to Mojo:

10- October
9- Zooropa
8- Pop
7- Under a Blood Red Sky
6- All That You Can't Leave Behind
5- The Unforgettable Fire
4- How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
3- Boy
2- Achtung Baby
1- The Joshua Tree

Read more.

Oliver Jeffers: 'The U2 thing just came together by chance'

Jeffers last year directed the video for U2's single "Ordinary Love". "The U2 thing just came together by chance," he says. Bono's wife used to read Jeffers' books to her children, and one day he and Bono met for a drink. "And one thing led to another. That's the way I work. Nothing's really planned – it's organic."

In Jeffers' self-defined three categories of work – "the books I make, the paintings I do, and Other" – the U2 video counts as Other. For a long time, he supported his own art by taking on commercial illustration work, but he's now in the fortunate position of being able to pick and choose what Other stuff he wants to do. "I make art for love rather than money," he says. "The difference is, now I'm able to make money by making art for love." After years of exhausting effort – he suffered for a time from insomnia – he's also now worked out a fine work‑life balance. His wife acts as his manager. "There's no way I could manage this amount of work without help. I'm basically running two or three careers at once."

Saturday, April 12, 2014

U2 pay surprise tribute to The Alarm’s Mike Peters at concert last night

The Irish rockers surprised the singer with a special message during the performance with BBC National Orchestra Of Wales.

Irish superstars U2 were the surprise guests as Mike Peters recorded a special concert for BBC Radio Wales at Hoddinott Hall in Cardiff last night.

Alarm frontman Peters joined forces with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the Acquire Choir from Rhuddlan in North Wales for a performance to be broadcast on BBC Radio Wales Music Day.

The concert also marked 30 years since The Alarm’s debut album Declaration was released and Swansea-based conductor John Quirk worked with Mike Peters to orchestrate the celebrated Welsh band’s back catalogue for the first time.

And it was Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullen and Adam Clayon who were keen to join in the celebration – recording a video message from their studio in Dublin for a musician who they admire greatly – ending their heartfelt message with an impromptu rendition of Declaration fan favourite, Blaze Of Glory.

In the video, Bono starts off by saying: "Congratulations, 30 years..."

Both bands have history and have built up a firm friendship forged through playing and touring together in the early ‘80s, when both groups were starting out their illustrious careers in rock ‘n’ roll.

Running through a set list that including many of the rousing anthems from The Alarm’s debut album that included 68 Guns, The Deceiver and Where Were You Hiding When The Storm Broke reworked to a stunning effect by BBC NOW, there were also a selection of the band’s classic songs such as A New South Wales, Rain In The Summertime and Spirit Of 76 which similarly pulled at the heartstrings on a night of great emotion for everyone in the Hall.

You can hear the concert in full on BBC Radio Wales on Friday, April 25 at 9pm.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

'Starting From Scratch'

North Side Story, the definitive account of the emergence of U2 in Dublin, is a limited edition publication which comes with a subscription.  Among the scores of revealing interviews is one with Paul McGuinness and in this extract he recalls his earliest days in the music business - and first meeting U2. 

'I first got involved in the music business managing Spud, who I suppose were a kind of a poor man’s Horslips. This was in the mid ‘70s. They didn’t write their own songs. They did bluegrass and a bit of trad, which was never going to be easy to sell internationally. Initially they didn’t have a drummer and that meant that they were only able to do cabaret gigs and pub gigs – so there was no future in that. And so when I started to manage them I encouraged them to get a drummer, which was pretty obvious really. But it meant that they could do concerts and it helped me to get them gigs outside Ireland.

One important thing I learned managing Spud was this. They were about the same age as I was. They were in their mid twenties and they had started to get married and have kids and so their attitude to touring was pretty limited and lacking in ambition. They didn’t want to spend too much time on the road. They needed to get home and be with their families. And so I realised that at 25 or 26 or whatever, they were too old to make it. It needed a level of commitment that they couldn’t give. One place where we did get a bit of traction with Spud was Sweden. That was a little bit to do with the exchange rates, so that you could actually go there and make a bit of money. And so for a while I became a sort of agent, booking tours in Sweden. I also managed the Thom Moore band, Midnight Well, but I knew they were never going to be a really big band internationally. So I was always looking for something else, ideally a baby band, with youth on their side, that you could start with from scratch and aim to take over the world with.

I always felt that the Horslips model was a good one. I knew the guys in the band and their manager Michael Deeney was a friend of mine. What they did in business terms was very significant. They based themselves in Ireland and had their own record label – and so they controlled the recordings and they licensed the records for release outside Ireland. So they showed that a band could be based in Ireland and run their operation from here, which was what we eventually did with U2. When the punk thing started to happen in the UK, The Boomtown Rats came along and they were very determined to get out of Ireland as quickly as they could. They were very aggressive in their approach to getting a deal. They were very good at generating publicity and at selling themselves, so there was a lot to be learnt from them. So I was observing the business and how it operates – and doing things like reading Billboard magazine. And all the time, I was on the lookout for a young band that
would have the potential to become internationally successful.

U2, of course, were very young when they started out. They formed at Mount Temple which was a very liberal school in terms of its music policy. The music teacher there Albert Bradshaw was a remarkable man and they actually encouraged bands to play. The most important thing, I would say, was that they allowed the band to rehearse there, which was of huge significance, because a place to rehearse is the hardest thing for a young band to find. They won that talent competition in Limerick – at which Jackie Hayden was one of the judges. And the prize included studio time to do a demo, which they recorded in Keystone Studios. So they had begun to make things happen.

Adam had been managing the band up to that point and he got Bill Graham of Hot Press along to one of their rehearsals, I’m not sure where. They played some songs, which Bill immediately spotted were Ramones songs, which was a bit embarrassing! But he was impressed all the same. It is well documented that it was Bill who subsequently introduced me to the band and told me that I was going to manage them. The first time I saw them was in the Project Arts Centre, in June of 1978, supporting a band called The Gamblers – who as it happens were managed by my 16 year old sister Katy. I didn’t like to say it to her, but U2 were clearly the better band.

What struck me most about U2 that night was that they had presence. They weren’t shy in the way a lot of Irish bands were shy. The Radiators From Space had come through a little bit earlier – they were sponsored to an extent by Eamon Carr of Horslips. But they were rather shy and quiet. U2 were very different in that respect. Bono was always at the front of the stage, trying to engage with the crowd, getting them to look into his eyes. And even if they were a bit unsophisticated at that point, they had an energy and a confidence about them. They looked like a proper band on stage. And when I spoke to them, I could see immediately that they were smart. They were ambitious. And they knew that you had to work hard if you were going to become successful. And they were prepared to do that, in a way that a lot of other bands weren’t.  

They were also interested in every aspect of the process. They were interested in photography. They were interested in design. And so they were good at finding people who could become collaborators. Steve Averill, who of course had given them their name,  was working with them. And though Bill Graham wasn’t a collaborator as such, he was a very big influence at that stage. So they were very intelligent and tuned in. They wanted to know how everything worked. I started to manage them that night – at least I told them that night that I would and we spent a few months skirting around one another trying to work out who was going to do what and whether we were on the same wavelength. And, it turned out, we were.'

Commissioned from the Hot Press team in Ireland, North Side Story  covers six formative years from 1978 to 1983, from the first single, 'U23', to the live album, Under A Blood Red Sky.  Running to 274 pages, this heavyweight book of rare photos, original interviews, diaries, letters and profiles comes with 'North & South Of The River, Wandering In U2's Dublin', a poster-size map charting U2's Dublin.

African Well Found: there is no them, there's only us

From April 1 to May 10, the African Well Fund invites U2 fans and others who are inspired by Bono's tireless activism on behalf of Africa to donate to the 12th Annual Build a Well for Bono's Birthday fundraiser in honor of Bono's 54th birthday. This year's campaign will benefit a community-based water and sanitation project in the Ebo municipality of the Kwanza Sul Province in Angola. The project aims to increase access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation for more than 12,000 people living in these communities. Complete project details can be found here.
The 11 previous campaigns have raised over $225,000 in Bono's honor to fund the construction of clean water and sanitation projects implemented by AWF partner Africare that are benefiting more than 60,000 people in Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Liberia, Mali, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Your donation will help give the people of Ebo the tools and training needed to improve public health in their communities.

To Donate and  Sign 2014 Birthday Card go to

Every year, AWF collects messages and signatures from donors that are compiled into a birthday card and sent to Bono via Principal Management along with the total amount raised. After donating, please click the button to add your name.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Why U2 once mattered, and why U2 matter still

by Cahir O'Doherty  for @irishcentral
U2's Edge and Bono performing in Washington. Decades of Irish art and history contained in their songs. Photo by: Getty Images

They were solitary Irish upstarts, a fledgling rock band in the post-punk new wave era - which they only lightly reflected – because they were pursuing their own signals from the outset. 
 Because they were Irish they were ignored at first, which gave them enviable space to learn and to grow. In the early 1980’s U2 were in search of something. 
Greatness, obviously, but their appetite was so insatiable it made you look twice. Compare an early 80’s interview with U2 with any other rock band of the time and you’ll see how distinctive they were. 
 Hailing from a Republic on life support they were consciously and unconsciously in search of some grandeur. The saw how the romantic Irish landscape could encourage you to dream, but they also saw how quickly Irish society could throw its nets around you. Their sound grew out of the contrast, I suppose. Edge’s big booming messianic chords, the band’s calling card, were there almost from the beginning, fueled by their hunger and also fueled by their less discussed interest in born again Christianity. 
 Like a lot of young Irish people of that era U2 were looking for a future, they were also looking for parole, and they were looking for a song to guide them to a new plateau. No previous generation had done it. At the time I thought they were the strangest rock band I’d ever seen. 
To me Bono looked like a mix of bug eyed religious maniac and mountain goat. In those days he always seemed to be in search of a flag to raise and a summit to taper on. I was instinctively leery of his mullet and his ready answers. U2 was the band that your older brothers liked. I would watch Bono’s odd physicality (he seemed to either dart about or more often move in slow motion, a trick I think he learned from the other great Celtic band Simple Minds) and contrast it with the other stars of the 80’s. 
 I don’t think I really understood U2 until I heard the wall of sound guitar of Pride (In The Name Of Love) the week it was released. That song drew a line under the past. It became a national event in Ireland at the time. It quickly became a mission statement of the Irish youth of that era, who knew it the moment they heard it. It also became a sort of national anthem even before the album it came from, The Unforgettable Fire, was released. The black and white video that promoted Pride (In The Name Of Love) was a snapshot of the band and of all the young Irish of the era: all hesitation and defiance. Rarely do you see such a confluence of art and life. When the helicopter flies up over Dublin city at the end of the song it looks as if no one really lives there and nothing is going on. That was about right, frankly. 
 Although they have often listed the bands and singers who have inspired them, it’s hard to find a trace of U2’s influences in their early sound. That’s because in the end U2 have always been best at being themselves, their forays into alternatives (avatars and sounds) have rarely paid dividends. There are so many things to criticize. Ireland’s small and you could argue U2’s juggernaut hurt emerging acts. Ireland has a band, you’re not it, go home, was and to some extent still is a common attitude there. The band’s power chords and the big rousing choruses became less and less convincing over time too. 
To this day it’s still their reflex even when the mighty dreams the band once dreamed have long ago been tempered by experience. Formed by the era they erupted in, the shockwaves have carried on for twenty-five years in ways that to tell the truth have sometimes been as imprisoning as they were inspired. Certainly the bands ironic embrace of corporate symbols like the golden arch in the PopMart tour wasn’t all that ironic. 

They’re not who they were, and none of us are, but U2 are even less so. Facebook deals worth millions, speed dials to the world’s top leaders, homes in France and elsewhere. Rock stardom brings you riches if it doesn’t necessarily bring you your dreams. But the reason that U2 still matter now, the reason they will always matter, is that just like an angels trumpet blast they heralded a great change. 
They embodied that change too. Their history is inseparable from the nation they sprang from now. They were trailblazers – artists often are – but they were the shape of things to come too. It worked both ways. For years Bono looked for a messiah but ended up deciding there’d already been one and that one was enough. That was one of his early and most heartfelt quests, but U2 is bigger than Bono, thankfully. The point of every great journey is come to home and finally understand the place.