The Culture Show: U2


Bono of the pop combo called U2

It’s easy to mock Bono. Everybody’s at it. Whether it’s his hat’s journey by jet engine, his pious preaching at Labour party functions, his forcing African kids to sing With Or Without you in a PR piece to promote his band or just outright laughter at the lyrics to his latest single, Get On Your Boots – only the creepiest U2 obsessive could really object.

This very defensive interview piece was fully aware of the public profile of the band’s frontman and seemed, from the start, to be an attempt to redress the balance. A good angle to come from, but royally ballsed up by Bono himself in protracted, oblique soundbites that did little to dispel how much of an oaf the man is.

Geldof didn’t help. He opened proceedings by insisting that ‘they’re not wankers’ – which, coming from a wanker as monumentally self-pleasuring as Bob, didn’t really help the cause. Later, when talking about how prolific U2 are, he said that those outside the industry might not realise that ‘great bands have to work at it’ which carried the implication that he’d ever been in a great band. ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’ was alright, but don’t overdo it, Bob.

After an amusing clip of the fledgling band mucking about on Irish telly in the late 70s or early 80s, a parade of talking heads talked the band up, one of them asserting that ‘every band wants to be U2’. This statement is incorrect.

I’ve no problem with U2 the band – I like bits of Achtung Baby, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. But when Bono ever appears outside of his day job it’s impossible not to wince at the man’s nerve. One man’s arrogance is another man’s genius, but for me his pomp and self-belief reek of smugness. He’s unbearable when he starts talking and by the time he’s finished you’re surprised nobody’s ever set fire to him.

He was sitting next to Adam Clayton in his set of interviews, whilst Larry and The Edge were cross-examined separately. It’s easy to imagine that Adam’s the only one who can actually bear the frontman, what with him having had the mental strength to cope with being around Naomi Campbell. The man must be coated with asbestos when it comes to fiery egos. Where Bono dealt in pseudo-enigmatic rhetoric when answering questions, Clayton was gnomic and as bland as skimmed milk.

Bono’s interviewee style was to patronise Laverne whenever she asked a question. ‘You’re right to ask that’, he assured her. ‘Geez, this girl is good’ he proclaimed, as though she landed the job based on blackmail. He was remarkably restrained but still indulged himself in that special line of bollocks he specialises in – the self-aggrandizing statement disguised as humility. One choice anecdote concerned a non-fan of the band who happened to attend a gig saying that the hairs stood up on the back of his neck when they played. Bono, keen to ground himself whilst simultaneously and paradoxically raising himself to Christ level, replied: ‘you know what? That happens to us too’. Because he’s merely a prophet, see? And the music is the message. Man.

Later on, he said they continue doing what they’re doing because their job is to ‘derail the rock n’ roll mythology’ – referring to his belief that U2 are put on this planet to prove great artists don’t have to kill themselves and leave a romantic myth to truly be great. Considering the likes of Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Johnny Cash, Christ – even Paul McCartney have already sorted that one out, the statement falls redundant to the stadium floor.

To finish, Geldof explained to us thickies that people are wrong to think of Bono as cliched in his political dabblings. He said ‘expressions only become cliches because you have to repeat them again and again’. He’s right – but only if the expressions are valid in the first place. If they’re trite and simplistic then they’re cliches from the start. Real insight only needs mentioning once, and can be revealed at any time – even when a new release isn’t scheduled for months.

Get on your boots, indeed.

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53 Responses to “The Culture Show: U2”

  1. daveselectricblanket Says:

    I still remember cycling around my neighbourhood, collecting all the morning Independents and burning them.

    (brackets) RED!

  2. Nick of the T Says:

    These great rock monsters just bore me. It’s the same old same old.


    And the posturing, good grief.

    I think the phrase “takes himself too seriously” is the one that comes to mind when I think of Bonio. I think all the politicos think the same but don’t have the heart to tell him.

  3. Quincy Phd Says:

    Bono is a genius. You know why? Because he wrote the following lyrics:

    “Hello hello / I’m in a place called Vertigo”

    and somehow convinced 3 other musicians, an enormous record label and millions of people that it was a real song, and then made hundreds of thousands pounds out of it.

    A santicmonious, pompous twerp he may be, but he’s the master of writing god awful music and lyrics and convincing people that it’s brilliant.

    See also: Coldplay, Jay Z.

  4. Swineshead Says:

    Your knowledge of hip hop extends as far as the beastie boys then, Quincy?

  5. Napoleon Says:

    I love Bono. I like the way he wears sun glasses indoors and tells me I should be ashamed of myself for making Africa all poor. I’d give him a knighthood.

  6. ugeine Says:

    That chris morris thing where he rings up Peirs Morgan pretending to be bono: class, pure class.

  7. Mel Says:

    Ha! yes i agree, I like U2’s earlier music, but i cannot listen to the man himself.

    I really like the phrase “He’s unbearable when he starts talking and by the time he’s finished you’re surprised nobody’s ever set fire to him” thank you SH. I may have to borrow that one.

  8. indy Says:

    …and now that we got the credit crunch nobody gives a rat’s about africa anymore. next thing we know bono will do charity gigs for icelandic bankers…

  9. vones Says:

    I’m pretty sure I’m stealing the sentiment/idea from Brooker – (sorry) – but does anyone actually like U2 or know anyone who likes them? Not in the ‘they’re alright I guess’ sort of way, but those who fork out hard cash to go to their overblown circle jerks with lights they pass off as gigs? How are they this popular? HOW?

  10. Ashby de la Launde Says:

    To pick you up on three points:

    You’re misquoting Geldof slightly, he was talking about bands ‘working at’ staying together, as a unit, not being ‘great’.

    When Bono said ‘this girl’s good’ it was clearly meant in jest, since Laverne had asked if they went to Fez because it was ‘hot’.

    And Bono may be ‘pious’ and preachy, but he has been instrumental in changing important aspects of US foreign policy under the Bush administration, which hasn’t been as widely reported as his supposed chumming up to world leaders.

    Minor points these may be, but if you’re going to kick some truth you have to be prepared to kick it in a pernickety way.

    I love the fact the band refer to Bono and The Edge as ‘Bono’ and ‘The Edge’, rather than, say, Paul and Dave.

  11. Swineshead Says:

    I just watched that section back to check, and Geldof was talking both about a band’s success and staying together. So I’m actually not wrong. Besides, Geldof is no expert on either, is he?

    The ‘this girl is good’ comment is open to interpretation, I’d say. I found it as cheesy as a blue cheese cheesecake.

    And Bono may be ‘pious’ and preachy, but he has been instrumental in changing important aspects of US foreign policy under the Bush administration, which hasn’t been as widely reported as his supposed chumming up to world leaders.

    Seriously? An example…? I’m happy to be proved wrong so long as you justify the peace fingers as he walked alongside George Bush… it’s not like America pulled out of Iraq or Afghanistan as a result of ‘Vertigo’….

  12. Napoleon Says:

    I wonder if The Edge (a middle-aged man) wakes up every day cursing his younger self for childishly insisting he be referred to by a silly name? Or is he still infantile enough to think it makes him still sound cool?

  13. Swineshead Says:

    Get on your boots
    Get on your boots…

    Every time I switch to a BBC channel I hear that bloody song.

  14. Napoleon Says:

    The BBC’s gone U2 mad. That bloody advert where they’re all walking along in slow motion gets on my nerves. It’s DARK, Bono! Take off your sunglasses, you prat!

  15. Mel Says:

    Tsk, you should complain to OFCOM. the BBC are not allowed to advertise, and this could be seen as a blatant plug for a well-know high street chemist.

    Plus, it does not make sense. *grammar Nazi*

  16. Swineshead Says:

    I’m not the type to complain to OFCOM, Mel… it’s best to let these things go…

    *puts on sunglasses and walks round front room*

    *trips over coffee table*

  17. Napoleon Says:

    People who wear sunglasses indoors or when it’s not sunny are fuckwits.

    I complained to the ASA about the DFS adverts from last year. In January, they brought out an ad that said,

    “At DFS we only have two sales a year …”

    Then advertised a sale in spring, winter and at the end of the year. That’s THREE sales, DFS, you bastards.

  18. Mel Says:

    Did you get anywhere nappers? I complained to them once about a toy they were advertising as “for girls” but theu dismissed my claim by saying “we have only received one other complaint about this issue”. I wrote back asking them if the number of complaints somehow makes the substance of the complaint any more or less valid. They failed to reply to me on that one.

  19. Napoleon Says:

    Mel – I’ve not heard from ’em about this one yet. They didn’t uphold my Burger King ‘Dark Whopper’ complaint, mind. I argued that the burger, which was originally advertised as ‘inspired by’ Spiderman 3, couldn’t then be ‘inspired by’ The Dark Knight, seeing as it was exactly the same thing. They decided a product that had already been ‘inspired by’ one film, manufactured and sold to the public could be then withdrawn from sale and then re-advertised, made and sold as being ‘inspired by’ something completely different. At this point I called them idiots with no grasp of logic, and failed to receive a reply.

  20. Mel Says:

    ASA – should be called the Advertising Excuses Agency.

  21. Nick T Says:

    Theedge, that’s what I’d call him.

    “Lemon” was my favourite tune of theirs.

    The guitar solo in the live version of “Party Girl” is hysterical.

  22. Ashby de la Launde Says:

    Re: Bono proof. Hither.

    In the United States … Bono argued Senator Jesse Helms, who was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, out of his view that Aids was God’s judgement on homosexuals, drug-takers and prostitutes. Drawing on their common Christian background, the Irishman prompted the influential arch-Conservative into a U-turn on his previous position. “Helms publicly repented,” said Buston, “something it is unusual for a politician to do.” Helms was then pivotal in legislative changes. “Bono built a bi-partisan coalition between the Democrat Congress and a Republican White House.” The Bush administration increased US programmes to combat Aids five-fold.

    In the UK, Geldof’s work with the Commission for Africa set the blueprint for the G8’s 2005 Gleneagles deal. And though the world’s top politicians have yet to deliver on all the promises they made at the summit in Scotland, what they have already coughed up constitutes 400 times more than Geldof raised through the original Live Aid.

  23. Nick T Says:

    He moves in mysterious way……

  24. Swineshead Says:

    I stand corrected on that score… good sourcing skills, Ashby.

  25. Napoleon Says:

    I don’t believe a word of it. I know loads of journalists, and they’re usually so drunk they wouldn’t be able to tell you their own name. The Independent? That’s your evidence? Balls!

  26. Ashby de la Launde Says:

    Don’t you work for Rock Sound or Mojo or something? Of course they’re drunk, they’re not proper journalists. To quote Capote:

    ‘That’s not writing, that’s typing.’

  27. Napoleon Says:

    I also know dregs from newspapers too. If anything, they’re worse. Face it, you Bono ‘evidence’ sits on rocky foundation, Ashby. A rocky foundation that’s hollow and full of all booze.

  28. Badger Madge Says:

    Aw, She Moves and Lemon… I remember the good old days. Ish.

    Thanks to Radio One (and the rest of the BBC in fact) I now have “Get on your Boots” going round and round and round and ROUND and FUCKING ROUND in my head today.

    Fuck’s sake. I’m actually going to have to put on some Lily Allen to rebalance. She’s the Alkaline to U2’s acid I find.

  29. Badger Madge Says:

    There’s a fondly held belief in my family that my mum is related to Geldof. It’s kind of a long story (probably bollocks) and I’m sure I mentioned it on here before. But basically her uncle shagged his mum (who was a dancer at the time in the theatre he ran).

    And my mum DOES bear a striking resemblance…


  30. Swineshead Says:

    Your Mum looks like Bob Geldof?

  31. indy Says:

    tell me why you don’t like momdays…

  32. Badger Madge Says:

    yeah she’s got the same nose as him and kind of dopey look! But she’s really fit, my mum. All my mates fancy her (even the ladies).

  33. Nick T Says:

    I wanna sho sho sho shoot the whole day down.

  34. Steve Says:

    The Edge? The edge of what exactly?

  35. indy Says:

    steve: he was named “the edge” in order to produce silly oneliners like:

    “don’t push me! i’m close to ‘the edge'”

  36. indy Says:

    badger madge: so your mum looks a little bit like bob “gandalf”. does your father have any celebrity-look-like as well? (i am trying to visualise your appearence)

  37. Mel Says:

    My dad has George Best sideburns…

  38. Badger Madge Says:

    My dad doesn’t really look like anyone but he does remind me (personality-wise) of a cross between Stephen Fry, Richard Whitely and John McCrirrick off of Ch4 racing. I suppose of those three he looks like Whitely most…

    Doens’t really paint an amazing picture of me eh? Maybe I was adopted? Maybe my real parents are Jolie and Pitt…

  39. Badger Madge Says:

    Altho my mum DOES look JUST like Sally Fields, so…

  40. ugeine Says:

    Lunch time points:

    @ People who wear sunglasses indoors or at night are usually domestic abuse victims and druggies.

    @ I can’t stand U2, think all of their output is turgid and crap.

    @ Quincy, listen to Reasonable Doubt and eat your words.

  41. indy Says:


  42. indy Says:



  43. Swineshead Says:

    My Dad’s like a cross between Peter Sellers, Larry David and that bloke off The Bill with a big nose (runs in the family).

  44. indy Says:

    my parents looks like extras from the wallander series.

  45. indy Says:

    is everyone else over at np’s place?

    mr randall? mr lewis? hello?

  46. Badger Madge Says:

    wendy richard rip

  47. Mel Says:

    According to Popbitch, U” will be appearing at the top of Regent’s Street tomorrow.

  48. Matt Harding Says:

    “It’s very easy to mock Bono.”

    You’re quite right it is. It’s very easy to mock successful people and in Britain we are the world’s masters of cynicism and seeking out people’s faults.

    I hope, however, that those who easily mock him also acknowledge that he has done more than most people on this planet to address third world poverty and the AIDS crisis. In this case, surely the ends justify the means.

    Like him or loathe him or his music (and how many other bands have the longevity and success of U2? 9 million people can’t all be wrong…), he deserves a modicum of respect at least for the way he has used his success and influence for the greater good.

  49. Napoleon Says:

    I reckon he’s done fuck all, Matt. All he does is ponce about in his big sunglasses singing songs about boots and flies. The man’s an arsehole.

    And, yes, nine million people CAN all be wrong.

  50. Matt Says:

    If nothing else he persuaded George Bush to commit to giving $70 million extra towards cancelling 3rd World Debt. He’s set up a massive charity focussed entirely on eliminating AIDS in Africa and raised awareness of these issues in a way few other people can.

    You may hate his music but he’s done some very worthy things.

    And ever considered that maybe you’re the one in the wrong?!

  51. Napoleon Says:

    Never, as it happens. Not even when I am wrong. Swear black was white, I would. …

    And Bono’s an arsehole.

  52. indy Says:

    …are they getting worse, or is it only me…

  53. Mel Says:

    Well Indy, i would probably say that you are getting worse. Not sure if it is only you though


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