Bono Surrenders

Warning: long, (pointless, self-indulgent and possibly irritating) post.
Scroll on at your own peril… :wink:

I rarely read but do occasionally enjoy immersing myself in a good book.
I’ve had a Marmite relationship (love it or hate it) with the music/media of U2 and Bono ever since I was a teenager in Switzerland and pressed the red button on my cassette player, capturing Sunday, Bloody Sunday and New Year’s Day on one of my mixtapes.
There was a naïve, rebellious patriotic element to it, but I also loved the novel sound of the Edge’s guitar playing. (I have never actually listened to a U2 album, although I did see them in Brisbane ’94.)

When I moved to Ireland in ’84, they had become what I regarded as mainstream middle of the road rock outfit and I did not see what all the fuss was about. I preferred my music more ‘edgy’. My ever-sceptical eye often took a cynical view of Bono’s ‘do-goodery’, as he was simultaneously building up a financial empire and consorting with what I regarded as the dodgy conservative establishment, whilst preaching how we should look after the poor in third world countries.

He reminded me in so many ways of Sir Bob, who wrote the handbook for the Rockstar Saviour. There was another Dublin lad, whose punky music I admired as a Boomtown Rat, as well as ‘Pink’ in The Wall, catching the imagination of the world and setting up Live-aid. He had his detractors, especially as time wore on, but I did enjoy reading his autobiography Is that it? Listening to how he wanted his story to be heard was only fair enough if I was going to have an opinion on his actions.

When I read that Bono had written an autobiography, I put in my request to Mr. Claus.
It’s a fat book of 550-odd pages with some pictures in the centre and I finally closed it the day before yesterday with a feeling of melancholy.

The verdict: Still Marmite, but I’m acquiring a taste for it.

I am invariably melancholic upon finishing a book, but there was more to it than that- abundant food for thought. I’m wary of ex-pat nostalgia, of which there was plenty, reviewing my hometown through emerald glasses.

I was able to relate to Mr. Hewson on multiple levels.
We were both born in Dublin in the 60s to catholic/protestant parents.
We each lost a parent as teenagers.
We both suffer from a Messiah complex (although his is on steroids)
We possess a life-long, firm belief in Jesus/God…
We the love the views from the Vico road over Killiney Bay. (When I was in college, I used to hop on my scooter and take a spin down the road to the road, sit on a bench smoking a pipe, staring at the horizon and contemplating life. That bench is only a couple of hundred yards from Bono’s home)
We share the ability to hold the contradictory ideas of living life in privileged luxury, whilst telling ourselves that we ‘do our bit’ for others less fortunate.
We love music, although he is good at it.

Seven years ago, I learned some Danish whilst translating memoirs my father had written about the lives of his parents. Whilst briefly acknowledging some of their faults, he referred to judging people by the company they keep, going on to describe their relationship with all the movers and shakers of Denmark in the early half of the 20th century.
Mr. Hewson employs the same name-dropping tactics here, albeit in a carpet-bombing fashion.
Personal friendships with Steve Jobs (from whom he bought his Manhattan penthouse), Bill Gates, the Clintons and Obamas, the Blairs, the Pope, all the supermodels of the time, and a countless stream of rock stars, Eno, Bowie, Prince, McCartney, Dylan, just to name a few. Much of this name-dropping is in the context of his life-long ambition to change the world, alleviating poverty and injustice (in between being a rock star and building his business empire). He talks in terms of hundreds of billions of dollars he has helped raise, mainly for African causes.
I viewed this as part of the insecurity he openly acknowledges and frequently refers to throughout the memoir. Ever since the death of his mother and difficult time growing up with his father and brother, he has been seeking security/validation from the world around him.
Although the use of his fame, money, power to promote altruistic causes is laudable, he skims over how easy it is for those with wealth and power to influence policies to whatever their personal wishes might be.

The book is loosely arranged around forty U2 songs, with the inevitable lyrics both at the beginning of each chapter, as well as peppered throughout. I was surprised that I recognised no lyrics at all, apart from the occasional phrase in a hook or chorus. Now, I have tried my hand at writing a song, resulting in doggerel of the finest caliber, but I expected more than the occasional successful turn of phrase- after four decades of songwriting- from the lyricist of one of the world’s top rock acts. I found most of the lyrics bland, non-specific tripe. I accept this is my failure to recognise the art that so many others are able to appreciate.

He goes out of his way to portray almost everyone he mentions in a positive light, even when dealing with unsavoury characters or situations.

The book is well-edited and easy to read, even if I found the ink illustrations and scrawled handwriting at the beginning of each chapter a little hard work.

Winding up, I’d like to thank Bono for helping me overcome my prejudices and develop a taste for Marmite. Despite his stellar success, global admiration, his stable, loving marriage and happy family life, Bono still has not found what he is looking for…

He reminds me and makes me appreciate that I have.

Epilogue: The day after finishing the book I watched the film Rattle and Hum. I was surprised to recognise most of the songs (presumably from radio play) and was able to truly enjoy the performances.
I have Justin and this Community to thank for the ability to appreciate that :smiley:

View from Killiney towards Dalkey Island, winter solstice, 22 Dec 1994, the morning of my wedding


Hi Brian,
So,…that was a tough read for a Dutchman with a limited vocabulary of English :sweat_smile:,…but I thought it was a good read,…and I didn’t hear anything new that I should continue want to deepen, so thank you for taking on this task and sharing it with me in this way,…

That saves me buying the book :sunglasses:, … I will transfer the money to an animal shelter to be found in the area (really) …funny how thing flow :blush:



Thanks Brian, I may give the book a whirl.

Without straying into the realm of politics, I think it’s a bit sad we live in a world where you have to feel guilt doing good, if you have it good yourself. A sort of reverse ‘holier that thou’ mentality. I sometimes think it’s a mechanism for those who have and don’t give back to justify their own selfishness.

“Not allowed have a view on world poverty if you use loopholes to minimise your tax payments” say media tycoons :roll_eyes:.

“From the howling wind, comes a stinging rain, see it driving nails into the souls on the tree of pain”

Bullet the Blue Sky, for me this is genius. Where does that come from? Literally painting an image in my mind.

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Cheers Dave.
I’m quite sincere when I say that I was sceptical from the outset and came away with new insights and perspective. Changing how others feel is in my book the only true indicator of art.

I’m sure if I sat down and listened to the music with the lyrics (as the artist intended) much of it would take on a different character and meaning.
Some gems I really like eg
I was speeding through the subway
Through the stations of the cross… (Moment of Surrender)
All of this, all of this can be yours
Just give me what I want and no one gets hurt (Vertigo)

However, simply reading many of the lyrics in isolation left me untouched.

It did make me smile when they were trying to get a reluctant Brian Eno to produce their album and he enquires whether they would “be interested in doing an album without any minor chords” and felt that “Amin to D should be outlawed in composition” :roll_eyes: :rofl:

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Oops, I leap-frogged the mad hatter :roll_eyes: :laughing:
It did cross my mind as I was typing whether this would be a cut & paste job for google translate :wink:
You’re a funny, but good man.
I’ll say thank you on behalf of the animals :smiley:

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You did warn us, so anyone who read through did so at their own peril. It was entirely worth it though, if only for @roger_holland ‘s comment about transferring the funds to a local animal charity. Done. Paws for Love (Thunder Bay) thanks you both :heart:

Re Bono, I remember listening to the album Boy on repeat when it first came out, so late 1980. Apart from that one album, and Joshua Tree in 1987 (couldn’t get away from that one), I’ve never really listened to them / him. Including the free album iTunes dumped on us all. I guess that’s enough of an opinion / commentary!

But back to Mylo now. Happy New Year from us both :heart:


That was a good read Brian. I wouldn’t say I am quite in the “marmite” (super expression btw) category with U2 as I do like a lot of their stuff, but there have also been a few periods where it didn’t do it for me. Bono can be a bit much sometimes when trying to “save the world” I guess but I suppose he is trying to do something positive.
Your post reminded me of the u2 Simpson’s episode where Bono goes off on one again prompting The Edge and Larry Mullen to head down to Moe’s for a pint :beer:.

Thanks for an interesting read Brian. U2 is definitely not on my tracking list although I do appreciate some old time classics and less known tracks too. However his personality is something I am not a fan of and probably that’s why I never hooked up on his and bands music.

Thanks for this insight. Interesting read. I have to admit, that I really like some U2 songs as they are connected to a very intensive period of my live in the late 80ies…I like those songs without any deeper analysis of the “why”. They just touched a nerve during this times.
Like you, I have an ambivalent attitude to the person of Bono. Normally I’m more with the “do good and don’t talk about it” approach. E.g. I’m not a fan of charity dinners where rich people spent an evening in luxury and leave some bucks to feel like benefactors. Why don’t they just spend their money without all the (financial) effort? On the other hand, talking about it and being present, having and using connections for turning the real big wheel seems to be effective. Each to his own. Sometimes I find his benefactor’s attitude a little exhausting. Maybe, I should read the book…

Thanks for an interesting read Brian. Like @roger_holland it will save me buying the book! I’m less altruistic than him and will donate the money saved to the pub down the road. :smiley:

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Great photo Mari.

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Hey Brian, thanks for the read and perspectives, good thread. Gotta ask the question, how are you with Vegemite? I moved to Brisbane in 1981 and still can’t get use to it.

Have you hear of the music documentary “It might get loud”?

While I would say I’m a fan of U2, I never really paid attention to the Edge, this doco certainly gave me an appreciation for him.

I’ve given up (mostly) on reading biographies on famous musicians, while some have been good, a number that I’ve read have turned me off the musician in question. So I’d rather stay in my bubble of ignorance about others (mostly).

@Mari63 good to see and hear from you, Mari.

Of course that was irresistable.

Not a marmite relationship for me, more like my relationship with those vegetables that many love an extol but I eat with very much long teeth. Perhaps a little harsh as there are a few of their songs that I enjoy. As I have said elsewhere, I’ll take R.E.M over U2, at least up until Monster.

Philanthropy, super-stars, uber-wealthy … this could easily slip into undesirable territory. Hmmm, perhaps that was somewhat in mind when you posted this, Brian :laughing: … how close to the wind can we sail.

Probably totally unfairly, I lump Bono and Sting into the same box, though I enjoy the first couple of Police records more than U2s, bring on more Regatta da Blanc.

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Aww, @Mari63 that’s so sweet :smiley:
It always makes me smile when unexpected things happen as a result of someone’s actions, no matter how small. What a lovely pic! Have a great year too x

@Eddie_09 Hehe gotta love the Simpsons too. Remember the first time I saw them on the Tracy Ullman Show I think it was. It doesn’t surprise me that you like them. One of the reasons I wanted to read a bit more about them was to try to disentangle genuine criticism from good ol’ begrudgery.
I had a good friend in college who bumped into the Bono and the Edge in Bewleys back in the 80s. They gave him short shrift and told him where to go. Fair enough, but it didn’t endear them to me at the time.
My brothers kids went to the same school as Bono’s (the non-denominational Dalkey school project). His youngest was invited to a birthday party once and when he was asked how the party was, he replied “Oh fine, we went to some guy, Bongo’s house…” :roll_eyes: :laughing:

@adi_mrok cheers for the read and comment Ade. I’m kind of glad you feel this way, as it confirms the way I thought many see him/them.

@Helen0609 It’s a fine line between publicly doing the right thing, being a good role model for others and hypocritical ‘virtue signaling’. I am against charities in the UK in general. They are a way of governments to shirk their responsibilities and look after those in need. Having charitable status means you receive taxpayers money, with the bizarre result like poor peoples taxes contributing to establishments like Eton college. That’s not political. It’s a societal problem. I am on the other hand very much in favour of sharing personal time and resources with those who need it most.

@sairfingers Hehe, Gordon… I was kind of expecting something a bit more ‘robust’ from up North :wink: Save your pennies for the 21st and make a proper night of it. In fact, bring your new guitar to the pub and have a session. You can share in AVOYP if it’s still up and running :rofl:

@tony confession time: I’ve never tasted Marmite or Vegemite :laughing:
I feel positive to the name though, as Men at Work sing about it in that old Aussie chestnut Down Under
I’ve seen snippets of that movie and must keep an eye out for it. Cheers for the reminder :smiley:
I think this is only the 3rd musical bio I’ve read (along with Geldof and No one gets out of here alive, on Jim Morrison)

Ooooh, the injustice of it! Way off the mark on this one, my friend, although I shall not complain to forcefully, as I do have a reputation to uphold and being a middle-aged almost-rebel on a forum is about as close as I’ll get to notoriety :laughing:
My ‘irritating’ remark was simply because he often elicits negative responses, esp in Ireland.
It’s a far stretch to see any controversy in the discussion of a newly released autobiography of the frontman of one of the biggest rock groups on the planet, just after they’ve received their Kennedy center lifetime achievement awards. Especially when I regularly pass the dudes house whenever I’m back in Dublin.
Good to see you on your toes though, you’ll have no complaints from me.
I agree the comparisons you draw with Sting, whom I admire more for his music, but less as fellow human. Maybe I should read up a bit on him too?



I only tasted it this year for the first time when my brother and his gf visited us on their holidays and we organised a little cousines snack wars PL vs UK :grinning: marmite of course was on the table and unanimously we established that how on Earth anyone can enjoy it, must be a local thing! My brother took a small jar with him, gave it to our side of the family and his gf’s and not a single person liked it :laughing: he should be thankful he was invited to Christmas party by her parents this year! :rofl:

Enough of this marmite digression… although I do enjoy Twiglets surprisingly!

Marmite on hot buttered toast is just yum!!

The secret to vegemite, or it’s inferior cousin marmite, I suppose, is to have it on toast with a LOT of butter and a little bit of vegemite.

I enjoyed your write up @brianlarsen. I wasn’t going to read it in the first place because it was too long but you sucked me in!

I like Bono and I like U2. Can’t say I loooovvvvee him because I’m not the type to idolise - I’ve never been a raving drooling fan of anything. But I got into their music quite a bit when I was younger, probably had about 4 or 5 of their albums. I stopped listening after Vertigo. Their music was pretty good at making me feel something, which I can’t say for all music. Whatever music makes me feel I like.

It’s popular to hate on Bono. Where does all the Bono hate come from? Is it because he’s super successful and also wants to do good? They were the biggest band in the world for a while. Then Coldplay, now what - Taylor Swift or Ed Sheeran? What’s wrong with being successful, and what’s wrong with doing good?

Yeah he seems to have a big personality and a messiah complex. How many people are there that are rich and famous and don’t try to change the world for the better? Would he be more liked if he was an unknown pauper trying to change the world for the better? Or if he was rich and famous, but didn’t try to get involved in charities? One thing famous people have is a voice people listen to - he used that.

Whether he got results or not, I don’t think stuff like Make Poverty History comes from a bad place.

I’m not the only one
Starin’ at the sun
Afraid of what you’d find
If you took a look inside
Not just deaf and dumb
Staring at the sun
Not the only one
Who’s happy to go blind

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Yep, thats the secret with Vegemite. Been eating it for 50 years. All my 3 dogs absolutely love it too, and its good for them in moderate amounts.
Had an American friend who I introduced to Vegemite many years ago. He slapped it on like plaster, and then couldnt believe I ate the stuff.
As for Bono and U2 - never really been on my radar. But glad you got alot out of it though Brian.

Cheers, Shane

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Three chords and the truth. U2 kills it when they stick to that formula. I have no interest in their lives, thought processes, preferences or affiliations. It just doesn’t interest me. Their music can be pretty special though.

“When love comes to town” is some really strong songwriting. The Rattle and Hum and Joshua Tree time frame was truly inspired on a number of levels. There are also sparks on other records as well.

I love marmite, I dislike Bono and U2.

Great write up though Brian and a book I will be avoiding.

It’s like Paul Heaton once said, “it’s sheep we’re up against”. I suspect this helped U2 become so big. A bit like the Smiths, they were “the band” to like.