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Functioning as a machine that hates U2

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David Finig
functioning as a machine that hates U2

by David Finnigan

image by frosty

'After doing some of my own research I cannot seem to find any evidence of Bono or U2 being any good at all, ever.'

Degg Gordon, May 2011

Featuring contributions from: Nick McCorriston, Max Barker, the Sipat Lawin Ensemble, Lloyd Allison-Young, Jordan Prosser, Sam Burns-Warr, Rachel Roberts, Nikki Kennedy, Nathan Harrison, Simon Binns, Mark Rogers, Joseph Parry, Troy Rogers, a bunch of people on Facebook, and some other writers who get credited throughout, most especially Eamon Dunphy, author of UNFORGETTABLE FIRE: THE STORY OF U2

  • 1. U2 biography


  • 3. Reasons Why Rachel Roberts Deserves To Win The Cardinal Pell Award

  • 4. Critiquing U2

  • 5. Facebook

  • 6. Interview with Finig

  • 7. Bonus material

    • Signature moves

    • Christian imagery in lyrics

    • Bono vs The Sound Crew And The Rest Of The Band

    • Bono's Spectacular Journeys


Be U2 telling us where you came from
- Tell us where U2 came from.
- No, don't tell us: Tell us. Don't say it, live it. Be U2. Be U2 telling us where you came from.
- Why am I U2 telling you where I came from?
- Because it's a firing squad. It's U2 facing a firing squad - it's early morning just before dawn, and U2 are taken out of their cell and marched to the edge of the forest, and the firing squad are preparing to shoot, and someone hands U2 a cigarette -
- Or a cigar, if that's where we are -
- ...cigar territory - and U2 takes it, gratefully - it's a small mercy at this difficult time - and kneels by a tree to smoke it - and the young soldier who's given them the cigar crouches beside them -
- Dew beading on the barrel of his rifle, and says -
- How did this all begin? U2, how did you come to be here?
- And U2 looks up with a weary look in his lined face, and says
- It was 1976 in Dublin. We were in high school when Larry the drummer posted a sign on the noticeboard for people to join a band he was starting
- No, it's the gates of heaven - no firing squad, it's just outside heaven and U2 has arrived and the angel at the gate of heaven is like
- I... I'm U2.
- I was a band. We started out being called Feedback, and then we changed out name to The Hype, and then we signed up for this young band talent contest as U2 -
- No, it's not heaven, it's the future - it's the science fiction future - it's a cyberpunk distopia -
- You mean neon in the rain
- Neon in the rain, that's right, and a little girl walking along the sidewalk finds an old broken down robot in the rain
- Is this basically the sequel to Bladerunner?
- No, this is how you can be U2 reliving your story
- Okay go
- The girl sees this body lying in the gutter, and at first we think it's crusty wino, and then we realise it's an old Irishman, and then the camera zooms in and we see its eyes are actually red LEDs, so it's robot Irishman
- So it's Terminator
- So the little girl kneels down beside the collapsed robot Irishman in the rain and she presses some buttons on its wrist and she's all like
- Oh robot? Oh Mr Robot? Who are you? Why are you lying here all deactivated in the rain?
- And the robot's jaw cranks open and closed and it murumurs
- Little girl, I was U2 -
- In robot voice.
- Oh Mr Robot! How can this be? Tell me the tale!
- I WILL. HOLD ON TO YOUR INCREDULITY AS I TELL YOU THE STORY OF MY EARLY DAYS IN DUBLIN, MY STRUGGLES TO BE HEARD AGAINST THE ANARCHIC SOUND OF PUNK, MY FIRST RECORDING CONTRACT WITH - sorry, I'm dropping the voice - my first recording contract with Island Records, my flirtation with fundamentalist christianity, my breathtaking triumph at LIVE-AID -
- Oh Mr Robot! You're basically just reading the blurb of UNFORGETTABLE FIRE: The Story of U2, aren't you?
- It's true. Credit where credit's due. Most of the facts in this play are sourced from Eamon Dunphy's excellent biography UNFORGETTABLE FIRE: The Story of U2. I say excellent, I mean it's hilariously bad - but it's detailed.
- Eamon Dunphy's writing paints a vivid picture of the personalities and scenes behind the rise of U2, but his prose style is pretty - what would you say?
- Purple
- Vivid
- Florid
- Fucked
- Sensationalist
- Gibberish
- He's a chump
- He's a visionary
- He's a little too close to his subject
- He's got his head crammed right up Bono's ass
- It's an enthralling book, I've read it like three times.
- I can't put it down
- I can't put it down
- I can't put it down
- I can't put it down
- I can't put it down
- I need to put it down
- Help me put it down
- Help me put it down
- Help me get this monkey off my back
- Help me
- Help me
- Please help me.
- ...
- So robot Irishman cranks his way to his feet and the rain sparks and crackles as it bursts against his metal joints
- Forming in 1976 at Mount Temple High School in Dublin, U2 was always a four-piece
- Larry Mullen on drums
- Adam Clayton on bass
- Dave Evans aka Edge on guitar
- and Paul Hewson aka Bono doing vocals.
- By all accounts they weren't musically very good.
- Larry the drummer could actually drum, he'd been in a marching band for a couple of years or something.
- Adam the bass player could play a bit, but his main talent, according to Eamon 'Only A Game?' Dunphy, was that he was really cool. He wore cool glasses and he had connections or something.
- Dave Evans aka Edge was okay on the guitar but his main thing was that he had an FX pedal and used a lot of reverb and echo to do weird things to the guitar sound.
- Bono's main talent - well, according to UNFORGETTABLE FIRE: The Story of U2, Bono - well, this is what UNFORGETTABLE FIRE says about Bono:
- 'Bono oozed sincerity'
- 'Bono craved contact'
- 'Bono was a fucking eejit, some of the young men thought, why didn't he play some fucking music?'
- 'As he talked in this suburban church hall about his desire to create some kind of bond between band and audience, Bono seemed ridiculous.'
- 'Bono was weird, strangely compelling, but more than a prat, even the hardest heart was forced to concede.'
- 'U2 went out to try and blow the bastards [The Stranglers, who they were supporting] off the stage. But... a punk gang front of stage jeered and spat throughout the set. Bono fought back, but it was a losing battle.'
- '[There were] those on the scene who hated Bono's pratting around around and the Little House on the Prairie lyrics.'
- 'Bono assaulted [the London audiences], talked to them, sat amongst them, climbed on and knocked over the amps, bled, to communicate the passion and spirituality of the music [but] the Hope and Anchor, before an audience of nine, was a disaster.'
- 'Sometimes Bono had to work. He'd look early on for a vote of confidence from the audience; he'd ask them to clap and if they did he was rolling. If not, things could get desperate.'
- 'The Queen's student union now began to abuse the band in the spirit of the times. 'Play this, play that,' they started screaming. 'Stop fucking preaching and play, you can't fucking play,' someone screamed. Bono, angry and hurt, struck back.'
- 'Play this, play that,' they started screaming. 'Stop fucking preaching and play, you can't fucking play,' someone screamed.
- 'Play this, play that,' they started screaming. 'Stop fucking preaching and play, you can't fucking play,'
- 'Stop fucking preaching and play, you can't fucking play'
- Stop fucking preaching
- And play. You can't fucking play.
- And play. You can't
- And play.
- And play.
- And play.
- And play.

- with a new epilogue
- The inside story of the rock phenomenon
- by Eamon Dunphy
- First published by Viking 1987, this edition printed 1993
- Eamon Dunphy is an Irish writer and broadcaster. He played professional soccer in England for 15 years and is the author, with Peter Ball, of the classic football book 'Only A Game?' (1976) published in Penguin in 1979.
- When The Joshua Tree -
- nonono, you can't read the blurb yet, you haven't mentioned the cover image
- What do I say about the cover image?
- Describe it.
- It's hard to describe it.
- Do it do it do it
- Okay. They're photos by Anton Corbjin, who is a respected rock and roll photographer, but these are -
- These are bargain basement photos.
- That's right, these are fucked. Like, imagine it's 1993 - imagine that, it's 1993.
- Imagined.
- Imagine four dudes in a photograph
- Check
- Now imagine they're all assholes.
- Yep
- Now increase the degree to which the dudes in your imagination are assholes. Keep cranking that dial until you can no longer visualise their assholery.
- Done
- Now, keeping the other band members roughly vertical, rotate Bono clockwise until his head is at 2 o'clock and his feet are at 8 o'clock, for no reason.
- He's there.
- Right, now we can proceed to the blurb.
- When The Joshua Tree topped the charts in 22 countries, U2 became the hottest band in the world. Six years on, they remain firmly at the top.
- Half Catholic, half Protestant, they embody the conflict and anguish of a divided Ireland, but throughout the world their unique music is the voice of hope for the disillusioned, the oppressed and the hungry.
- You're probably feeling a little queasy at this point and telling yourself that this lurid writing is just the publicist getting carried away on the blurb writing, and that the language gets a little more sober and rational once you get into the book itself. Well, no.
- It's true, this is fairly representative of Eamon 'Only A Game?' Dunphy's writing style.
- This is the story of U2's early days in Dublin, their struggles to be heard against the anarchic sound of punk, their first recording contract with Island Records, their flirtation with fundamentalist Christianity and their breathtaking triumph at LIVE AID, where they stole the show from the legends of rock music and established themselves as the driving musical force for a new generation.
- 'A genuinely enthralling rock and roll adventure' - New Society
- New Society is right, this adventure is genuinely enthralling - train wreck levels of enthrallment.
- 'Unforgettable Fire is a beacon... in a cynical world.' -Time Out
- I like to imagine that those three dots separating 'beacon' and 'cynical' give that sentence some reason to exist, because if Time Out genuinely meant what this quote implies that they meant, then I can't feel at home in this cynical world any more.

The Strategy
- So to begin with, U2's default manager was Adam the bass player. Apart from having awesome sunglasses he was completely unqualified, but something about his enthusiastic incompetence is nevertheless somehow really endearing.
- Adam's strategy was to phone up anyone he could find who was remotely connected to the music business and ask them for advice.
- Passion, humility and dedication: three superb qualities for young artists to possess.
- In 1978, after a year or so flying solo, U2 acquired a manager: 27 year old film-maker Paul McGuiness
- Or perhaps, better to say, Paul McGuiness acquired U2.
- Paul was looking for a quote unquote Baby Band, to whom he could apply his Strategy
- Paul's Strategy
- The Strategy
- This is, in my mind, the key to the U2 story. This is why this band is a Big Band. It's the key, it's the door, it's the key in the door, it's the kiss on the sleeping princess' lips,
- The Strategy required a group of young men with no family attachments or, let's be honest, clearly articulated artistic ambitions of their own, and to try to break them in the US and the UK
- Paul needed a group that was at the core completely pliable and willing to do whatever they were told
- Don't let anyone tell you otherwise (why would anyone anyway?), Paul McGuiness and his Strategy is the magic ingredient behind the U2 phenomena.
- Paul's Strategy involved a few elements:
- Eyes on the big picture. The big big picture.
- The first three years are all investment. No quick rewards.
- Don't focus on local gigs. Don't pursue fame in Ireland, look outwards all the time.
- Get a major label record deal.
- Stop at nothing to get that record deal.
- Use that record deal to pay for albums and US tours.
- Focus on the US. Build that audience through any means necessary.
- Sink all profits from tours and live shows back into equipment and crew and more tours.
- But the Strategy didn't work
- Not to begin with, no
- Not to begin with, not subsequently, not even after that. The big determining factor was the record deal and they couldn't get it.
- Paul joins forces with U2 in 1978. 1978: nothing.
- 1979: nothing.
- 1980: nothing.
- This is not through lack of opportunity, mind you. U2 had a few shots at the big time, which they fucked up - support slots for big bands which they fumbled, record label executives they failed to impress, major partners put offside by the band's attitude - but the beauty of the Strategy was it didn't depend on getting lucky quickly. The band had the stamina and attitude that it was going to take time - they rejected a lot of the short-cut candybag opportunities on offer to British bands of the era.
- One nice side effect of the Strategy was that because U2 talked and behaved like they were on the verge of international success, they managed to project a buzz around themselves throughout Ireland, even though they had no realistic prospects whatsoever
- So at the end of 1980, they booked a big tour around Ireland, spending a lot of money and generally behaving like superstars - although really there was nothing else for them to do, nowhere else for them to go - their attempts to break the English market had failed, they had no money to go to America, they had no interest from major labels - so they risked it all and went all out on a kickass Irish tour.
- At the end of the tour, they were signed to Island Records, who had just gotten massive due to Bob Marley.
- Island offered U2 50,000 pounds to make an album and 50,000 for touring.
- They recorded their first album Boy and hustled to America to start touring the US.
- Here again, Paul McGuiness is ahead of the game - eyes on the prize at all times - at this point, the game has just begun - to quote from UNFORGETTABLE FIRE: The Story of U2:
- 'McGuiness asked questions. Absorbed the answers. And went to work making an academic study of American rock 'n' roll. Radio was the key medium. It was regional and specialised, each station playing its own kind of rock music. There was college radio, blues radio, heavy metal stations, rock stations, MOR stations. You name the music and somewhere across this vast continent it was played - exclusively - on some radio station. There was no one-off breakthrough on a network television show like Top of the Pops, but ten thousand guys with shows influencing their audience, promoting their personal taste. U2 would have to break through layer by layer. '
- And this is exactly what they do. Slow growth, steady sustained build, and gradually accruing the individual components of a top flight band.
- They accrue an excellent road crew
- They accrue a network of promoters
- They accrue a fan following
- They accrue live performance skills
- They accrue a work ethic
- They accrue better material
- They accrue a second album called October and tour that. They accrue a third album called War and tour that.
- They accrue enough money to hire Brian Eno for their fourth album Unforgettable Fire
- They accrue industry recognition from magazines such as Rolling Stone, who awards them band of the 80s.
- And around this time, Paul renegotiates their contract with Island Records - from now on, U2 receives $2 million an album, double the royalties on every song, including all the music they've already released, and all their publishing rights back, forever.
- At the age of 24 they were all millionaires who never needed to work again.
- And this is the point at which the story concludes for me - never mind the next albums - the really successful ones - never mind the hit singles and the massive tours -
- The critical backlash -
- Never mind the critical backlash or the millions of fans or the stadium shows -
- Never mind the 90s
- Never mind those, or the 2000s -
- The story peaks when U2 renegotiates their contract and become one of the most well-paid bands in the history of pop music. They were all winners in that deal, and the trajectory was set
- That's right, there was enough momentum from that point to carry them through whatever befell them
- This is the essential genius of Paul's Strategy - it carried the band over the humps and pitfalls of their regular mistakes
- It provided a slow growth that in the end became unstoppable
- And it's admirable
- And it's brilliant, and we have a lot to learn from it - even though that world of major record deals and a record-buying public no longer exists, we can abstract lessons from it -
- We nod our heads and cover our eyes and pay homage to the man behind the men, Paul McGuiness
- And we murmur the lyrics to the final track on Massive Attack's 1991 record Blue Lines
- Hymn of the Big Wheel, we murmur the lyrics to that
- The big wheel keeps on turning

On a simple line, day by day

- The earth spins on its axis

One man struggles while another relaxes

- The big wheel keeps on turning

On a simple line, day by day

- The earth spins on its axis

One man struggles while another relaxes

- The big wheel keeps on turning

On a simple line, day by day

- The earth spins on its axis

One man struggles while another relaxes

Wanted a baby band.

  • Went looking for christian bands - Road to Canaan, Mordechai, The Understatement, Ponder, Available At The Counter, Fahrenheit 43, Adventure Land, Genesiz

  • They approached me / I approached them

What did I want in musicians?

  • Their willingness to accept this abrupt transformation of their identity indicated that they would be ideal candidates for my brand of management.

  • I was looking for musicians with talent,

  • who could play their instruments and function well as a unit,

  • but who weren't sure where they were headed or where they wanted to be headed -

  • who wouldn't be distracted from the pursuit of fame and attention by the lure of making great timeless music -

  • who would confuse the fickle affections of their fans for real love, and predatory journalists looking for an angle as validation of their music's quality.

They were called Braidwood Memorial

  • influences cited on their MySpace included Mumford and Sons and Coldplay.

  • first step was to make them take down their MySpace and rename them FULL NATURAL BUSH


  • conical chinese peasant hats

  • grey business suits with pro-pubic hair messages scrawled on them in lipstick

  • a banner carried at all times by the drummer

1st EP Fuck the Brazilian

  • cover image of the record is the band in a tanning salon / beauty parlour holding a group of terrified beauticians at gunpoint

one band member tries to quit to pursue Christian evangelism full-time

  • I broke his nose

  • drive him to the hospital to reset it

  • wait 7 hours until he is released from surgery, walk him around the back of the hospital and break it again

I primed them for interviews with a closely rehearsed script

  • the interviewer says 'welcome to the show'

  • the band says 'shaving to mimic a pre-pubescent vulva is a sign that society is run by paedophiles'

  • the interview ends

writing and recording the EP

  • left them in a shack / yurt / tent / 8th floor apartment previously used by a ring of internet scammers who left some tech equipment behind when they fled the local Mafia toughs after failing to show a percentage

  • provided them with instruments, 115kg of uncooked bakery dough, a Mamas and the Papas record and a print-out of an online manifesto by a forgotten mash-up artist re-articulating the idea that theft is the sincerest form of flattery

  • locked the door behind me and let them figure out the rest

  • rather than send a producer in there with them, I hired a (who? ex-secret service?) to aim a shotgun mike in their general direction from across the road / a distance of 35m


  • I had the idea of a christmas thing - have FNB play free outdoor gigs at the lighting of the christmas tree in city squares

  • it not being christmas, we needed to hire / transport enormous christmas trees for each venue

  • the public were confused

Reasons why Rachel Roberts DESERVES to win the Cardinal Pell Award

Intro: Who Is Rachel Roberts and What Is The Cardinal Pell Award?
- So who is Rachel Roberts? Well rather than keep you in suspense - we'll tell you.
- Rachel Roberts is a Sydney-based theatre artist and a member of Applespiel
- And also facing a situation which - well, which we've all been in at one time or another. Owing to scheduling clashes at her university, she's had no choice but to enrol in a Theology course.
- So you're probably thinking - what's wrong with that? Who doesn't love the idea of sinking a year's worth of energy and effort into a branch of academic inquiry that peaked with Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century and petered out roughly around the time of Isaac Newton?
- That's right, who doesn't love and admire such classic texts as Saint Augustine's third century pot-boiler The City of God, or the sneaky insight employed in Pascal's crafty Wager?
- Not to mention the 20th century's most prominent Theologian C.S. Lewis, who charmed the world with his increasingly insane series of children's fantasy novels, beginnning with fauns and talking badgers and concluding in a frothing eschatalogical nightmare stuffed full of rabid anti-Islamism and strident preaching?
- That's right, who doesn't want a year's worth of lectures and essays which take as their starting point the requirement of taking this stuff seriously?
- Who doesn't thrill to the thought of listening to verbose and longwinded lecturers complain for a year about how irrelevant they've become since the Enlightenment?
- Who indeed?
- Well me, for one.
- Me for two.
- And Rachel Roberts for three. So, to make it through a year of stultifyingly dull self-confirming religious propaganda, Rachel decided to do the only thing left for her to do:
- Excel.
- Excel.
- Spectacularly excel.
- Obscenely excel. Excel so drastically that the course conveners would have no choice but to award her the... Cardinal Pell Award.
- The Cardinal Pell Award, that's right. Now, I noticed that you paused before saying the name of the award just now - do I detect that you caught yourself on the verge of saying 'prestigious'?
- I nearly did say 'the prestigious Cardinal Pell Award', you're right.
- So is it prestigious?
- Well no, not really. You see, the Cardinal Pell Award is given to the student who receives top marks in Theology, and to achieve that, well,
- Top marks in Theology go to students who traditionally, well,
- Well they're very hard workers, but
- But they're not,
- Well they don't
- They don't
- Doubt.
- They're not doubters.
- They don't possess doubts.
- And if they do possess doubts, they are exemplary at overcoming them.
- And Rachel
- I think Rachel may have doubts
- And Rachel may not have quite overcome her doubts
- I think Rachel's doubts may have at one stage in fact
- So.
- So. This is the situation. The Cardinal Pell Award goes to students who do not experience or do not succumb to doubts.
- Rachel Roberts has experienced and been - perhaps - a little swayed by those doubts.
- But we're saying that Rachel deserves to win the award.
- In fact, she might be the only student in that course who genuinely deserves it.
- Because of her doubts.
- Because of her doubts.
- Because doubt is the beginning of wisdom
- And certainty is the beginning of ignorance
- And if the Cardinal Pell Award wants to regain the slightest shred of prestige, it needs to acknowledge the critical place of doubt in the learning process
- And if the recipient of the Cardinal Pell Award wants to retain even the slightest shred of self-respect, they had better be familiar with both sides of the coin - the sensation of sincere, committed personal faith in the existence of an invested higher power, and the sensation of loss and release that comes from giving up that belief
- And this is an extract from William K. Clifford's 1875 book The Ethics of Belief:
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