Monday, April 13, 2015

Sons and Fathers

'From father to son / In one life has begun
A work that's never done / Father to son.'
(Dirty Day, U2)

Sons and Fathers, a  new collection of essays, features  53 famous sons reflecting on their relationship with their dads. Bono, Larry, Edge and Adam have all contributed, as well as Paul McGuinness, his own son Max, and Gavin Friday - and proceeds from the book's sales will go towards the Irish Hospice Foundation, and Hospice Africa Uganda.

Bob Hewson with son Bono of rock band U2
Bono and Bob Hewson 
"Bono planted the seed for this book with his gift of the tender drawings he made of his father towards the end of his life, when words had ceased," writes Sharon Foley, the CEO of the Irish Hospice Foundation, in a preface which explains the genesis of the project. Bono's father Bob Hewson had been cared for in a hospice during his final days, and the singer afterwards offered his drawings to help raise money for the foundation.

"I had taken to drawing him as he slept," Bono writes in his own essay, "... to meditate on what a special, talented man I had been given for a father."

The book itself reads like an expanded meditation on that unique and often testing bond between a father and son. Bill Clinton contributes (agonisingly, his own father died three months before the president was born; "I always missed the most important person I never met," he confesses)... along with the likes of Paul McCartney, Julian Lennon and Daniel Day-Lewis.

In a moving reflection, Sting reveals that he'd waited all his life to get a compliment from his father - and finally received one as his dad lay dying. "'We have the same hands, Dad, look.' I am a child again, desperately trying to get his attention. He looks down ... 'Aye, son, but you used yours better than I used mine.'" As Colm Tobin puts it in his introduction, "It is the job of the son to live in the shadow of his father's dreams, sometimes to fulfill them ... or indeed outshine." 

Bono describes the father/son relationship as a dance, but it's more akin to boxing than ballet. "We danced until his death, the ancient ritual of son versus father," he says.

And this dance - played out in so many intriguing contexts within the book - seems universal, which is perhaps why the collection feels as powerful as it does. For Paul McGuinness, the context was World War Two; his dad flew missions for the Royal Air Force's Bomber Command.

"What it was like," he asks, "for a kid of twenty-one to fly off in a Lancaster bomber with primitive navigational equipment, responsible for his crew's lives, responsible for finding their destination, being shot at by enemy aircraft, dodging flak, seeing other planes hit and destroyed, is unimaginable. He must have been terrified. I'm sure he was affected by it for the rest of his life," he reflects.

For Edge, the formative moments came in altogether more peaceful surrounds, in the countryside, while... fishing. "It was an important time for my father and me but the connection made between boy and nature has also remained," he recalls. "I still love to go into the wilderness to reconnect with - exactly what I don't know. Maybe the idea of a primal existence and a more natural pace of life... Maybe it's to finally catch the one that got away."

Adam's dad Brian Clayton is "a practical man", in his son's eyes. "He is not naturally affected by music or art and I think," Adam writes, "he believes that getting in touch with his feminine side was listening to my mother."

Nevertheless, when Adam wanted to get his hands on a decent bass (to succeed his first, ineffective guitar), it was Brian who - on one of his regular trips to New York - was commissioned to head into Manny's of 48th Street to track down a Fender Precision. "I often think of what it was like for him to enter that music shop," Adam, says, "and, armed with only a little information, engage with a salesman and hope to be treated fairly and respectfully. I wonder how it was for him to carry it back to Dublin explaining to work colleagues that it was an electric bass for his son Adam, 'who couldn't really play it'."

U2 and their fathers
Larry admits to struggling with his own contribution - which felt too much for him like writing an obituary, while his dad is still "very much alive" (and in his 91st year!). "Anyhow," he says, with characteristic economy of words: "I know he could write a far better piece about himself than I ever could. He still has a way with words. I still play the drums."

The cut-and-thrust between boys and men doesn't seem to diminish as these particular men grow older. (Neither does their fame prevent parental admonishment.) Larry admits that having bought his dad a laptop 10 years ago, he still receives "touching messages that usually include solid advice and the occasional well-intended blow to the solar plexus." You're never too old, it seems.

As Bono reflects in the book's foreword: "It's a mysterious thing, the relationship between fathers and sons ... " We certainly gain some telling glimpses here into the mysteries which have shaped some of these highly influential - and highly influenced - figures. As well as gaining a chance, perhaps, to reflect more upon our own.

Bob Hewson once told his boy: 'Your problem, son, is you're a baritone who thinks he's a tenor.' But Bono's own meditation on Bob yields an ever deepening conclusion:

"I have no scientific evidence to back up the claim that sometimes a close relation, in passing, bequeaths us a gift. Something to get us through. I can't explain this, but I do know that ever since my father died, my voice changed. I can sing those B's and A's with an ease I never had before. I am now a tenor pretending to be a baritone."

'The Child is father of the Man', as Wordsworth once put it. It's a work that's never done.

Sons and Fathers can be pre-ordered here

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


RTE 2fm radio DJ Dan Hegarty released a book last week in Dublin with contributions by artists including Dave Fanning, Imelda May, Glen Hansard and Larry Mullen Jr.

The book, Buried Treasure, is a collection of underrated albums that Hegarty thinks need to be remembered. Larry wrote the book's foreword.


According to, Larry mentions Richard Ashcroft's album Alone with Everybody. That's the solo debut album for The Verve lead singer. Larry revealed that when it was released in 2000, the album was one of just two he had in his New York apartment. The other was Van Morrison's Moondance. Good choice!

The book can be ordered at the Liberties Press website.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Songs of Innocence

U2 - Songs Of Innocence

So the epic tale of U2’s recording odyssey through 13 studio albums and 35 years reaches the present day — and, as ever, the only direction is forward.

‘Songs of Innocence’ finds the four lifetime friends in unfailingly dynamic form. These new songs, some of the most autobiographical of their lives, brim over with energy and inventiveness. They, and the band, are road-ready, as U2 prepare to take these new-born sons and daughters for a spin around the world, in the company of some much-loved older siblings from their incredible catalogue.

Now that the mists have cleared from the endless attention over the album’s ground-breaking digital release, what emerges is the much more important element: the sheer vitality of its content. That’s been underlined by the unprecedented demand for the iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour 2015, set to start in Vancouver on May 14.

Two and a half months of North American shows will culminate in an awe-inspiring eight dates at Madison Square Garden in New York, in late July. Then the tour relocates to Europe for a sold out itinerary of more than two months that will include six nights at London’s 02 Arena.

While other bands trade entirely on former glories, the lifeblood running through U2’s veins is the need to stay new and relevant, to themselves as well as their audience. That was central to both the creation and execution of ‘Songs of Innocence,’ as Edge explained when he spoke to Rolling Stone.

He described what the band have learned about the digital age, after the free release of their new album to half a billion people, in a month-long digital exclusive via iTunes. “We're in the dawn of it,” he said. “The thing it's easy to forget when you live in modern times is that they're modern for about another 30 seconds, more so than ever.

“In a few years we'll look back on this time like we look back on VCRs and rotary phones. When the radio arrived, everyone thought that was the end of sheet music. I think music has become devalued and disposable in the commercial world – but not to music lovers or the people who make it, and not all big tech either. Apple – and U2 – fight hard for artists to be paid.

“In the future, technology has to be a better servant of music, and not its slave master. We can take advantage of the benefits of technology, and we do, but it's also beholden on those of us who have been so well rewarded by music to figure out a way to preserve the ability for artists to create and thrive.”

There may have been a five-year gap between 2009’s ‘No Line On The Horizon’ and ‘Songs of Innocence,’ but the spectacular U2 360° Tour didn’t reach the last of its 110 shows until July 2011. The new record’s evolution took in a variety of studios, with production credits going to Danger Mouse, Paul Epworth, Ryan Tedder, Declan Gaffney and Flood.

There were no fewer than seven settings for this new experience, with sessions at Electric Lady Studios, The Church, Shangri-La, Strathmore House, Pull Studios, Assault and Battery and The Woodshed. When the album emerged in September 2014, reviewers heard a rich synthesis of all of the band’s varied influences from different times in their career, made whole by the experiences gained across four decades of invention.

“’Songs of Innocence’ reconnects U2 with the strident, searching, wide awake band of their nascency,” wrote Mojo magazine’s Tom Doyle, “reminding not only us but themselves of their against-the-odds beginnings. The result is their best and most thematically complete album since ‘Achtung Baby.’ By turning towards their past, U2 have found their way back to the future.”

Those themes of looking homeward, and of the 1970s Dublin that the group grew up in, were evident from the robust, uncompromising and infectious opener, ‘The Miracle (of Joey Ramone).’ It was a tip of the hat to the lead singer of the Ramones, one of the very reasons U2 chose their career path in the first place. “I was young, not dumb, just wishing to be blinded by you,” sang Bono in tribute. “Brand new, and we were pilgrims on our way.”

Elsewhere, there was further acknowledgement of another guiding light for the young U2, The Clash, in ‘This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now,’ dedicated to Joe Strummer. ‘Every Breaking Wave’ rolled to the shore with an assured restraint in the spirit of ‘With Or Without You’; ‘Volcano’ bubbled like lava.

‘Iris (Hold Me Close)’ was yearningly anthemic, named for and inspired by Bono’s late mother, who died when was he was only 14. Swedish pacesetter Lykke Li contributed vocals to ‘The Troubles,’ while ‘Cedarwood Road’ typified that cohesion that occurs when every individual on a record is doing something great. Again, its reference points were real and personal, with a lyric about the cherry blossom tree in the garden of the Hewsons’ neighbours, when Bono was growing up.

“It’s us trying to figure out why we wanted to be in a band in the first place,” Bono told the Irish Times. “The relationships around the band and our first journeys – geographically, spiritually and sexually. It was tough and it took years. Put it this way: a lot of sh*t got dragged up.”

This series of album essays has travelled a million miles around the world and back, on a road that continues to stretch ahead enticingly. The ‘Songs of Innocence’ track ‘Song For Someone’ contains the lyric: “There is a light, don’t let it go out.” U2 never have, and never will.

Paul Sexton

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Edge shared his thoughts on Songs Of Experience during a radio interview today on TodayFM's The Mix Up show (starts around 29:00). 

"The question of when the album gets finished is very open," he said, adding that the band is busy with tour prep right now. "We are pushing hard to try to get the album done and out within, we hope, 18 months or so, but it's so hard to predict. ... (W)e don't want to release anything that we haven't had a chance to really finish to our satisfaction. ... It's not a case of putting six weeks aside to make an album. It's that we want it to be everything we want it to be."

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Auction has The Edge with acoustic guitar sale

A simple-looking Spanish guitar that might not otherwise be worth €30 could be worth more than 100 times that thanks to the signature of its previous owner: U2’s The Edge.

The Hokada nylon-string instrument may well have been the first used by a young David Evans, but it had served its purpose by around 1980, when his mother Gwenda sold it to a teaching colleague in Scoil √ćosa in Malahide, Co Dublin.

U2 only had one single under their belts at that stage and neither party to the sale could have imagined they would become the world’s biggest rock group.

More than three decades later, and her own guitar lessons well and truly behind her, the purchaser has placed it for sale in auction later this month. The acoustic guitar is estimated to fetch €3,000 to €5,000, — helped by the fact that The Edge signed it years after his mother sold it for around the same price she had first paid herself.

Ali attended a fundraiser for Chernobyl Children International

Ali Hewson at Liz O Donnell's annual fundraising lunch for Adi Roche's Chernobyl Children International at Fire Restaurant ,Dublin.

As one half of Ireland's most generous power couple, the mum-of-four proved her generosity once again at the Liz Lunch at Mansion House, raising funds for Chernobyl Children International (CCI).

Wearing a ball black ensemble, the brunette beauty led the charge of famous faces out to support charity board director Liz O’Donnell and Adi Roche.

RTE star Kathryn Thomas, wearing an Orla Kiely summer dress, was joined by her boyfriend Padraig McLoughlin, while Morah Ryan took her 2FM DJ daughter Lottie.

Guest MC Lisa Fitzpatrick kept guests entertained and also helped raise funds for the CCI.

Ali Hewson,Liz O Donnell and Adi Roche  at Liz O Donnell's annual fundraising lunch for Adi Roche's Chernobyl Children International at Fire Restaurant ,Dublin

Picture: Brian McEvoy
The charity's CEO Adi Roche said:

“Thanks to the overwhelming support of everyone here at Liz’s Lunch today, (when put alongside the almost 30 years of work and enduring commitment of thousands of volunteer workers and donors North and South), we will be able to send a team of international paediatric cardiac surgeons to the region in the coming months.

"We are also looking at setting up a dedicated children’s cath lab in the cardiac unit atKharkiv Hospital, Ukraine," she added. This will greatly speed up the scale of the operations and reduce waiting times for these seriously-ill children."

Friday, March 13, 2015