Monday, September 15, 2014

The sights and sounds of 'Songs of Innocence' - top 10 locations that influenced the evolution of U2

by Ed Power

U2's latest album, Songs Of Innocence, may be their most personal yet. The record is suffused with the sights and sounds of seventies Dublin – to an unprecedented degree, Bono bares his soul as he sings about growing up on the northside of the city, losing his mother at age 14 and the traumas he experienced at a time when Ireland was still a depressive and sometimes violent place.

To mark the LP's release here are some of the locations name-checked on the record as they exist today, alongside several other landmarks that have played a part in U2's story.

Casa de Bono en Dublin cuando era joven en Cedarwood Road

Cedarwood Road, Glasnevin

Internet searches for 'Cedarwood Road' are estimated to have increased one gazillion percent since the release of U2's 13th album. "You can't return to where you never left," croons Bono on the brittle dirge of the same name, "It was a war-zone in my teens/I'm still standing on that street."

The singer grew up at number 10 Cedarwood Road, several houses down from life-long friends Gavin Friday and Guggi Rowan (to whom the tune is dedicated). The street hasn't changed much since Bono's adolescence. On radio this week, old neighbours recalled the future global star as a polite young man with a considerate disposition. “I grew up just a few doors literally from the Hewsons," neighbor Bob Conway said. "On Cederwood road we started hearing Bono and the three boys practicing in the garage.”

A memorial to the victims of the Talbot Street bombings

Talbot Street, Parnell Street, South Leinster Street

On May 17 1974, three UVF bombs ripped through central Dublin (a fourth detonated in Monaghan an hour and a half late). Thirty three people were killed, including the mother of an unborn child at term. The atrocity is addressed on the new LP on the track Raised By Wolves.

"On any other Friday I would have been at this record shop, but I cycled to school that day," said Bono in an interview. "The bomb tore apart the street. I escaped but one of my mates was around the corner with his father, and it was a very hard thing for him to witness and I'm not sure he really got over it."

Des Kelly Interiors

The State Cinema, Phibsborough

A cutting edge movie house when it opened in 1954– replacing the beloved Phibsborough Cinema – The State today endures an afterlife as Des Kelley Interiors show-room. In the seventies cinemas often doubled as live music venues. On September 1978 The State hosted a gig by New York punks The Ramones. In the audience, Bono was deeply moved by their passion and work ethic (they toured practically all year). He reflects on the concert, its impact on him as an artist, on The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone), the opening number on Songs Of Innocence.

Mount Temple Comprehensive, Malahide Road, Clontarf

In September 1976, 14-year- old Larry Mullen Jr posted a missive on the notice board at Mount Temple Comprehensive School seeking band-members. Several fellow pupils responded, among them Paul Hewson, Dave Evans and Adam Clayton. U2 were up and running. A rare example of a socially progressive school in an era when Irish education was still in many respects in the dark ages, at Mount Temple students were encouraged to explore their creativity. It remains open today – other past pupils include former Miss Ireland Amanda Brunker and comedian Andrew Maxwell.

60 Rosemount Avenue, Artane

Rosemount Avenue, Dublin

Larry Mullen Jr's family home, it was here the proto-U2 (then without a name) held their first band meeting. In fact it was more 'audition' than meeting. A skilled drummer, it fell to Mullen to decide who was in and who was out. Several neighbourhood friends were politely rejected. Dave Evans and Adam Clayton made the cut (everyone was impressed by Clayton's Afghan coat). Then a slight-looking young man turned up – he couldn't play an instrument and yet everyone was struck by his charisma. "I was in charge for the first five minutes,' Mullen remembered. "As soon as Bono got there, I was out of a job."

The site of the old Dandelion Market in Dublin's city centre

Dandelion Market

In an era when much of Dublin resembled a mouldering bomb-site, the Dandelion Market offered a whiff of cosmopolitan glamour. Opened in 1970, it became a haven for counter culture in the city. You could buy dyed t-shirts, flares, studded leather watch-straps – most anything , in fact, so long as it was legal. In the twilight of its existence the Market became synonymous with U2. Through May and June 1979, the band delivered a six week Saturday afternoon residency. The admission was 50 pence and the shows were all ages, giving many teenagers their first experience of rock and roll. "People talk about these gigs as being legendary," Mullen later recalled. "They were. The Dandelion was where we really hit our stride."The Market had shuttered by end of year, to make way for St Stephen's Green Shopping Centre.

Bonavox Hearing Specialists, North Earl Street

Bonavox, Dublin City Centre

Still in business, this hearing aid store played an unwitting part in the transformation of shy, awkward Paul Hewson into global rock star Bono. In his teens, Bono and friends had a habit of bequeathing absurd nicknames on each other. Early monikers applied to the young Hewson are said to have included 'Steinhegvanhuysenolegbangbangbang' and 'Houseman'. It was Gavin Friday who came up with "Bonovox", inspired by the store the teenagers regularly tramped past on their excursions to town. At first Bono rejected the moniker – upon learning Bonavox was latin for 'good voice', he changed his mind.

McGonagle's, South Anne Street, Dublin

The old indie-rock dive off Grafton Street is today a Hackett men's clothing store. U2 played the venue in 1978 and received one of their earliest reviews, from Hot Press journalist Bill Graham. In his write-up, Graham seemed cautiously smitten: "U2 are impressive contenders with the appetite and talent to improve beyond their already creditable status".

Project Arts Centre, East Essex Street

Project Arts Centre, East Essex Street, Temple Bar

In May 1978, Paul McGuinness, a well-heeled Trinity College graduate, was persuaded to attend a Project Arts Centre gig by U2. He wasn't sure about the songs – the band were very much in their 'embryonic' phase. However, he was struck by their enthusiasm and dedication. Accompanying him was Hot Press journalist Graham, who had campaigned for McGuinness to oversee the group's affairs. Last November, after 30 years, McGuinness stepped down as U2 manager.

Sandymount Strand

One of U2's early, iconic photoshoots was on Sandymount Strand, with the 'twin towers' of the Poolbeg Generating Station in the background. Clearly the chimneys meant something to U2 – they would subsequently feature in the video to Pride (In The Name Of Love).

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