Thursday, March 23, 2017

More on U2's Q & A

Larry's first experience with the Foxtrot, how Adam once 'smelt Betty Dalton's perfume in a corridor' and financial advice for Edge from a country music legend: 'There's no money in rock...'

After the FaceBook Live Q&A earlier this month, the cameras kept rolling while the band took a few more questions, these ones just for subscribers.

Will The Daltons make their own 30th anniversary appearance? The song from another album that would fit on The Joshua Tree? Why the 1987 tour opened with a cover version - and what it was.

It's going to be some tour this summer. As Bono says, 'I've never sung The Joshua Tree before in sequence… it's quite a ride.'

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

U2 and the question which won’t go away

An interview with their ex-manager Paul McGuinness is a reminder of new realities in the ticket selling business

I’d kind of forgotten about the fact that U2 were blanking me until I came across a transcript of a recent interview with Paul McGuinness. The band’s ex-manager spoke at length to former Dire Straits manager Ed Bicknell about the ins and outs of the music business at the International Live Music Conference (ILMC) in London the other week.

One of the many issues covered in what sounds like an entertaining session at the annual get-together for agents and promoters was ticket selling and touting. It was the mention of allocations for fan clubs which reminded me that I’m still waiting for the band to answer a simple question about the number of tickets sold in the fanclub presale process for their upcoming Croke Park show.

I’ve now asked U2′s Irish spokesperson for this information three times and I’ve even tweeted the band (#journorequest) and am still none the wiser as to the answer or, indeed, why the band are not answering the question. I was kind of hoping that one of those fanboy hacks that the band only talk to these days might do a solid for me, but they’re far too worried about access to dare ask a tough question.

But McGuinness was certainly happy to comment about fan club allocations and he uses the word “unfairness” to describe the situation around such allocations. “I know there’s a sense of unfairness in the air, he told Bicknell. “People go online to buy a ticket and think they have an equal chance of getting that ticket. If two minutes later they see the same tickets being scalped, it’s a miserable feeling. It has to be acknowledged that certain promoters, certain managers and certain acts connive at this. You could say it’s unfair that members of the U2 fan club get a two day jump on the rest of the public — knowing as they do that many members of are bot operators.

The fact that McGuinness acknowledges that many members of are touting their tickets is, as far as I can work out, one of the first times anyone on that side of the house has acknowledged this dirty little secret. It stands to reason that touts are making merry with fan club memberships. They can make back the cost of the sign-up fee many times over by upselling the tickets on sites like Seatwave and Get Me In. If a tout gets fan club memberships for a bunch of people, he or she suddenly has easy access to possibly hundreds of tickets for a sellout show. Profits ahoy.

The question now is just how many tickets go on sale to the public in these situations. Take U2′s Croke Park show, for example, which sold out in about six minutes when tickets went on general sale. You’ve got the fanclub allocation – while I’ve yet to hear from the band’s rep about this despite several requests as outlined above, I’ve heard figures from inside sources indicating “tens of thousands” – and you’ve got the allocation for sponsors, venue holds and the like. Add those figures up, take the total away from the venue capacity (78,000 per the band’s rep) and what are you left with? 20,000? 30,000? 14,500? All that fuss and buzz and hype and anticipation for a sale of a quarter or less of the stadium? No wonder people were fuming that they couldn’t get their hands on tickets.

All of this part of a much bigger issue, which McGuiness also acknowledged. “I don’t really know what to do about it. There’s good scalping and bad scalping. If you sell four tickets at face value to a college student at $100 each and when the gig takes place six months later the market value for that ticket is $300. Who is going to say to that college student, “You’re not entitled to sell that ticket and make a profit?” It’s very hard to address fairly. It’s a market that defies regulation. I have never seen a comprehensive proposal to deal with this fairly and where do you stop? Will it then extend to Wimbledon and football matches? Are you going to clean up the whole of the ticket economy?”

Regular readers will know that ticket touting is something covered at length on OTR – you’ll also find a great selection of recent pieces put together here by Matty Karas at MusicREDEF – and it is a complex area, especially now that various government agencies and bodies (and attention-seeking TDs) have got involved.

However, it is also an area where it would be very easy to overlook the involvement of the some key parties and that includes the artists. Remember that it’s the artist who has the final say in all of this, especially when it comes to who reps them. After all, as mentioned in that earlier U2 piece, there are issues when “the same corporate entity is promoting the U2 tour, managing the band, flogging the tickets and operating two of the biggest secondary ticketing markets“. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Trip Through Your Words

Trip Through Your Words: Bono and the books that became the seeds for The Joshua Tree

Having once memorably sung “Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief”, BONO has never been shy when it comes to acknowledging his artistic influences. Norman Mailer, Truman Capote, Flannery O’Connor, Sam Shepard and Raymond Carver were amongst his literary reference points when it came to penning the lyrics for The Joshua Tree. By OLAF TYARANSEN

In 2014, twenty-seven years after its seismic release, U2’s fifth studio album The Joshua Tree was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the US Library of Congress. The Dublin band’s bestselling, game-changing, (maybe) magnum opus was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry. A fitting home for a work of musical art that was described by Bono at the timeas “our most literate record so far”.

The singer was talking about the music as much as the lyrics, but both the melodies and the words were very much inspired by all things American. Following on from the sophisticated, stylistic European atmospherics of 1984’s The Unforgettable Fire, U2 had gotten all down and dirty, donning cowboy hats and deeply immersing themselves in American roots music, folk, gospel and blues.

Looking for insights into the vast country that had already somewhat embraced them (and was set to seriously make them ‘Rock’s Hottest Ticket’, as their debut Time cover story put it), and with the conscious ambition of creating the aural equivalent of the Great American Novel, Bono had gone west in his reading: later name-checking the likes of Flannery O’Connor, Truman Capote, Sam Shepard, Raymond Carver, Saul Bellow and Norman Mailer in interviews.

“We had all fallen under the spell of America, not the TV reality but the dream, the version of America that Martin Luther King spoke about,” Edge explained in the band’s autobiography, U2 by U2. “Bono had been reading Flannery O’Connor and Truman Capote. The language of the American writers particularly struck him, the kind of imagery and cinematic quality of the American landscape became a stepping-off point.”

In the same book, Bono wrote, “I started to see two Americas. The mythic America and the real America. It was an age of greed, Wall Street, button down, win, win, win, no time for losers. New York was bankrupt. There was a harsh reality to America as well as the dream. So I started working on something which in my own mind was going to be called The Two Americas.”

Apparently it was Bruce Springsteen who personally recommended the work of southern author Flannery O’Connor to his fellow rock star. Like the Dublin singer, O’Connor was deeply religious, although her own brand of faith eschewed that of fundamentalism and fanaticism. Bono has cited her 1952 debut novel, Wise Blood – described by its publishers on its original cover as ‘A Searching Novel of Sin and Redemption’ – as a serious influence on The Joshua Tree.

In her introduction to the tenth anniversary edition of Wise Blood, O’Connor herself stated that the book is about “freedom, free will, life and death, and the inevitability of belief.” Themes of redemption, racism, sexism and isolation also run through the novel. As they did throughout the album.O’Connor’s delight in aphorisms would also undoubtedly have appealed to Bono. Indeed, some of her sayings sound uncannily like quotes from his own mouth: “The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” She also wrote: “Where there is no belief in the soul there is very little drama. Either one is serious about salvation or one is not. And it is well to realize the maximum amount of seriousness admits the maximum amount of comedy. Only if we are secure in our beliefs can we see the comical side of the universe.”

Bono later told U2 fan magazine Propaganda, “I’ve never felt such sympathy with a writer in America before.”

O’Connor’s work, along with the short stories of Sam Shepard and Raymond Carver, helped the songwriter in his quest to understand “the ordinary stock first, and then the outsiders, the driftwood – those on the fringes of the promised land, cut off from the American dream.”

Monday, March 20, 2017

U2 On 'The Joshua Tree,' A Lasting Ode To A Divided America

The members of U2 are preparing a new tour to play some old songs — 30 years old, to be exact. Paul Hewson and David Evans, known to the world as Bono and The Edge, will be the first to tell you their band isn't normally fond of looking back.

"Usually Edge, when we have a greatest hits collection coming out, has to struggle to get me to listen to it, because it feels dead to me," Bono says. "Plus, I don't like the sound of the singer very much, especially the one with the mullet in the 80's."

The hairstyles of that era of U2 may be dated; the music, they feel, is not. The Joshua Tree appeared in stores in 1987 and sold more than 20 million copies, making it one of the major pop culture events of that decade. On it, these Irish musicians were writing about the America of the moment: A time of social change at home and the climax of the Cold War abroad.

"Ronald Reagan was in power, and Maggie Thatcher in Britain. The miner's strike was a big issue in Britain, a lot of unrest," The Edge says. "I think we all realized that things had almost come full circle — like the environment in which that album was written is more similar to the political environment we are in today than it has been since."

Bono and The Edge spoke with NPR's Steve Inskeep, who asked the singer and guitarist to explain the mood The Joshua Tree was made to capture. 

Steve Inskeep: Is it true that this album was going to be called The Two Americas at one point?

Bono: Yeah, it was. There's two Americas: There's the mythic America and the real America. We were obsessed by America at the time. America's a sort of promised land for Irish people — and then, a sort of potentially broken promised land.

If the Declaration of Independence is like the liner notes of America, we're like annoying fans that follow politicians into the bathroom and say, "But it says here, 'We pledge our sacred honor.' What's that about?" And people suffer us talking about America because we love it so much. Rather arrogantly, we don't think you own it. We think America is an idea that belongs to people who need it most.

Inskeep: One song that really sticks in my head from hearing it years ago is "Bullet the Blue Sky." What is happening in that song? Is there a real event back behind it somewhere?

Bono: As well as Live Aid and a trip to Ethiopia, to try to figure out how poverty can exist in a world of plenty ... I went to El Salvador, trying to understand the conflict there.

Inkseep: There was a conflict there, and in Nicaragua as well. This is during the Cold War, where the US supported wars to push back against what was seen as the communist threat to Central America.

Bono: And I witnessed some things in Salvador which were really unspeakable. We witnessed a firebombing in rebel-backed territory, watching people's livelihoods get exploded and feeling the ground shake, even though we were safe enough ourselves. It was something that made, as you can imagine, a bit of an impression: Seeing bodies thrown out of cars on the side of the road, terrible stuff that was going on. Watching foreign policy work itself out in a small country. That's where "Bullet the Blue Sky" came from.

Edge: It's actually a great example of U2 working as a band. I had a guitar part, and Adam and Larry started playing along — and they played against this guitar part in half-time. I remember being quite frustrated and a little annoyed at them: "Why are you playing half-time?" The engineer and Bono were in the control room going, "Wow, that was amazing!" And I was like, "No, you don't understand — that was wrong. That was not what it was supposed to be." [But] it was a great lesson for me: We rewound, hit play, and heard this bass part that Adam had come up with that was so wild, so brilliant, and not what I would have ever put on that guitar part.

Bono: It was in a different key!

Edge: From that, we built the rest of the music. And as Bono's describing, he had some words that he'd started working on based on these experiences that — and it was clear that the mood of this music suited the experience that he'd had.

Inskeep: I'm looking at the lyrics to "Bullet the Blue Sky," and there's a spoken word-verse that feels, to me, like a dream sequence. It begins, "I can see those fighter planes," and at the end you're in a room listening to a saxophone. It feels like you're moving from one scene to another. Do you know what's happening there?

Bono: "This guy comes up to me, his face red like a rose on a thorn bush, like all the colors of a royal flush. And he's peeling off those dollar bills, slapping them down — one hundred, two hundred — and I can see those fighter planes."

At the time that was Ronald Reagan in my head, and the reason was that I'd [seen a mural in El Salvador with Reagan in it]. I was standing in this church going, "Wow, what's Ronald Reagan doing there on the chariot?" And they said, "It's Ronald Reagan as the Pharaoh, and we are the children of Israel running away." Really, the image in that dream sequence is the stuff that happens behind oak doors, down marbled corridors, that works its way into the everyday lives of good people who get caught up in a conflict.

Inskeep: Now that you're revisiting these songs, and you'll be playing them on tour, do you feel an urge to revise or rewrite any of them?

Bono: I change the lyrics all the time. Not just because I don't remember the original ones [laughs], but because I felt the first ones were just sketches a lot of the time. I'm proud of the thoughts behind the material, but sometimes not the expression of the language. So I do change all the time.

Inskeep: I'm curious now, have you ever been like Ella Fitzgerald in that famous "Mack The Knife" rendition where she just has no idea what the words are anymore, and she's just kind of making up things?

Bono: That's how we write songs! I've been making s*** up on the microphone since we were 17 years old. Sometimes it turns into words, sometimes it's just like sound paintings. I've only got semi-literate recently. But then, there's an age old tradition, isn't it: "A-womp bop a-looma, a-womp bam boom." I mean, it's just ... sound is everything.

Producer Gabriela Saldivia and web editor Daoud Tyler-Ameen contributed to this story.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


U2 bassist will be honored at the MusiCares MAP Fund benefit concert in New York on June 26 in support of MusiCares' addiction recovery programs

MusiCares has announced that the 13th annual MusiCares MAP Fund benefit concert will honor 22-time GRAMMY winner Adam Clayton of U2 at PlayStation Theater in New York on June 26. Clayton will receive the Stevie Ray Vaughan Award in recognition of his dedication and support of the MusiCares MAP Fund as well as his commitment to helping others with the addiction recovery process. Performers will be announced shortly. 

MusiCares offers a variety of addiction recovery services, including their signature MusiCares MAP Fund. Developed as a pool of resources to address addiction and recovery needs, the fund provides addiction recovery treatment and sober living resources for members of the music community, regardless of their financial condition. The MusiCares MAP Fund acknowledges that a vital part of recovery consists of ongoing support aftercare services.

With 22 GRAMMYs, U2 are among the top GRAMMY winners of all time. The quartet — comprising frontman Bono, bassist Clayton, guitarist The Edge, and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. — are the only group in GRAMMY history to earn Album Of The Year twice, winning for The Joshua Tree for 1987 and How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb for 2005.

"We are extremely pleased that our annual MusiCares MAP Fund benefit concert is returning to New York City, and paying tribute to such a genuinely talented and influential artist as Adam Clayton," said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy and MusiCares. "Adam is a hero to fans and music creators around the world, and he is also a hero in the world of recovery for his fearless determination to give voice to the issues of addiction that affect — and all too often devastate — our music community."

"MusiCares does such vital work in helping vulnerable people across our industry," said Clayton. "I know from experience the importance of an accessible, supportive environment in times of need and I'm always happy to do what I can to benefit this important organization. I'm very much looking forward to the event in June."

U2's 'Pop': A Reimagining of the Album 20 Years Later

U2's 'Pop': A Reimagining of the Album 20 Years Later

U2 are going all out to celebrate the 30th anniversary of The Joshua Tree this year, complete with a new super-deluxe box set and a stadium tour where they'll play the 1987 LP straight through. Lost in all the hubbub is another major U2 milestone. The 20th anniversary of 1997's Pop came and went this month without a peep from the U2 camp, but that's not really surprising. The electronica-influenced disc polarized fans and critics when it came out. With the exception of the soundtrack to their 1988 film Rattle and Hum, it was their first album that was seen as a disappointment, and it forced them to retreat back to a more traditional U2 sound for 2000's All That You Can't Leave Behind.

Looking back years later, U2 said the album was marred by their foolish decision to book a stadium tour long before it was ready. "Deadlines were looming ominously," Bono said. "Pop never had the chance to be properly finished. It is really the most expensive demo session in the history of music." But during the course of the PopMart Tour they made heroic efforts to fix the thing, releasing new mixes of the songs as singles and fiddling with the live arrangements as the tour progressed. The work continued in 2002 when they released The Best of 1990–2000, which featured new mixes of some Pop songs. If you piece it all together, they practically made an entirely new version of the album. The band never did piece it all together, though, so – as promised on a recent Rolling Stone Music Now podcast – we did it for them. Here's a new version of Pop in the original sequence. It's not better – it's just different.

To be clear, we're not saying here that Pop is a bad album. We love it. (The poster has proudly hung in this writer's childhood bedroom for the past 20 years.) This is just a way to hear what it may have sounded like had U2 had a little more time to work on it.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Happy Birthday!!!

Happy birthday to our fave bassman!!!! heart and soul of the band!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Celebrating the 30th anniversary of The Joshua Tree

Last  Thursday it was thirty years to the day since the release of The Joshua Tree and Adam, Bono, Edge and Larry were live online to answer fans' questions about this iconic record.