U2 were surrounded by the people who have been instrumental in their career as they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this week. Among those supporting the band as they were ushered into the prestigious music organization were the band’s wives; manager Paul McGuinness with his wife Kathy Gilfinnan; many from Principle Management’s team (both past and present), including Keryn Kaplan and Ellen Darst; “band consultant” and friend Gavin Friday; producer Steve Lillywhite; concert promoter Barry Fey; sound engineer Joe O’Herlihy; and Until the End of the World author Bill Flannagan.
U2 owned the night, even though it wasn’t solely their party. Also inducted into the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame with U2 were Percy Sledge, The O’Jays, Buddy Guy, and The Pretenders. Sire Records exec Seymour Stein and talent agent Frank Barsalona were honored with the lifetime achievement award in the non-performer category.
In rebel style, U2 played by their own rules for the entire induction ceremony. They skipped the red carpet arrivals, disappointing the paparrazi and mob of fans who hoped to catch a glimpse of them. (They had arrived at New York City’s Waldorf-Astoria, where the event was held, earlier in the day to rehearse and avoided the arrival hoopla.) Instead of playing the three songs they were scheduled to perform, they threw in a fourth — and, as usual, Bono couldn’t be contained on stage while they performed.
Cindy Trickel and Ruth Barohn report for U2log.com
(Includes full transcripts of speeches. Click on images for enlargements.)
Friend and contemporary Bruce Springsteen had the honor of inducting U2 into the Hall of Fame. In his speech, which was both moving and funny, Springsteen recalled the first time he saw U2 perform.
“It was the early 80s. I went with Pete Townsend, who always wanted to catch the first whiff of those about to unseat us, to a club in London,” Springsteen remembered. “There they were: a young Bono (single-handedly pioneering the Irish mullet), The Edge (what kind of name was that?), Adam, and Larry. I was listening to the last band of whom I would be able to name all of its members. They had an exciting show and a big, beautiful sound. They lifted the roof. We met afterwards, and they were nice, young men.”
Springsteen outlined what makes U2 special among bands and described the talents of the individual members. Of The Edge, Springsteen said, “There are only a handful of guitar stylists who can create a world with their instruments and he’s one of them. The Edge’s guitar playing creates enormous space and vast landscapes. It is a thrilling and a heartbreaking sound that hangs over you like the unsettled sky. In the turf it stakes out, it is inherently spiritual. It is grace, and it is a gift.”
Springsteen credited Larry Mullen and Adam Clayton as the “great rhythm section [in which] the band finds its sexuality and its dangerousness.” Of Clayton, Springsteen said, “Adam always strikes me as the professorial one, the sophisticated member. He creates not only the musical but physical stability on his side of the stage.”
After detailing Mullen’s unique drumming style, Springsteen had fun by calling him “the band’s requisite good-looking member” and joked about how his own band had overlooked the importance of having such a member and had to settle for charismatic members instead.
In his description of Bono, Springsteen nailed the singer’s true talents: “He is gifted with an operatic voice and a beautiful falsetto rare among strong rock singers. But most important, his is a voice shot through with self-doubt. That’s what makes that big sound work. It is this element of Bono’s talent, along with his beautiful lyric writing, that gives the often-celestial music of U2 its fragility and its realness. It is the questioning, the constant questioning in Bono’s voice, where the band stakes its claim to its humanity and declares its commonality with us.”
“Born in the USA, my arse! That man was born on the northside of Dublin!” joked Bono about Springsteen.
In his acceptance speech, Bono acknowledged the people who contributed to the band’s success, speaking at length about Island Records’ Chris Blackwell and his unwavering belief in U2 in the early years. Bono also thanked the “really gorgeous women that have worked for us for a long time” from Principle Management and RMP, as well as Interscope Records chairman Jimmy Iovine, Universal Music CEO Doug Morris, and manager Paul McGuinness, whom he described as U2’s bodyguards.
In closing, Bono offered the audience three touching “Kodak moments” that provided insight into how he feels about his bandmates. The first moment took the audience back to 1976 and revealed how much Bono respects Larry Mullen’s “brutal honesty.” The second moment detailed the skills and no-nonsensibility of The Edge. The third moment described the true friendship and utter trust Bono feels for Adam Clayton.
The Edge’s acceptance speech focused on the serious and ridiculous nature of rock and roll.
“It’s so hard to keep things fresh and not to become a parody of yourself,” Edge told the audience. “If you’ve ever seen that movie ‘Spinal Tap,’ you’ll know how easy it is to parody what we all do. The first time I ever saw it, I didn’t laugh, I wept. I wept because I recognized so many of those scenes.”
“Rock and roll, when it is great, it is amazing. It changes your life. It changed our lives,” Edge acknowledged, before thanking the people who have worked with U2 over the years.
Larry Mullen, always the minimalist, kept his speech brief. He paid tribute to the artists in U2’s “Hall of Fame,” mentioning the Sex Pistols, Television, Roxy Music, and Patti Smith. He credited those artists for U2’s existence.
Mullen expressed how U2’s journey to the Hall of Fame seemed unimaginable to him. “I feel like we’ve cut the line or jumped the queue along the way, someplace along the way and never got out of my kitchen in Artane, Dublin,” Mullen shared.
In his acceptance speech, Adam Clayton recalled the band’s history and shared how being in the band saved his life.
“Yesterday it was my 45th birthday. That’s a fine age to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” said Clayton. “That means 25 years ago, we released our first recording. That means 29 years ago, we all met and formed our band. Thirty years ago, I got my first bass guitar or, as I thought, the guitar with only four strings. I had no idea what a bass was…I just knew that I had a weapon and a shield to take on the world.”
Clayton acknowledged the band’s management team and crew, and ended his speech by thanking all the band’s wives and girlfriends, as well as his bandmates.
Grand applause followed the band’s acceptance speeches. Bono then joked about what was next that evening. “About 35 songs to play. It won’t be long,” he promised the audience, who were sitting through their sixth hour of the induction ceremony.
U2 began the performance part of their induction with “Until the End of the World.” “The next one up is a little pop ditty,” said Bono, introducing the song. “It’s a conversation between Jesus and Judas. I’m not kidding.”
Not content to perform on the stage, Bono went into the audience and sang to actresses Carey Lowell (aka Mrs. Richard Gere) and Catherine Zeta-Jones before grabbing a bottle of champagne off a table, popping the cork, and spraying it into the air. At the end of the song, Bono motioned for everyone to get up out of their seats, and they complied.
“Pride (In the Name of Love)” was the band’s second song performance. Bono added lyrics at the end of the song to pay tribute to the man who had inducted them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Bono sang:
No, I ain’t a boy; no, I’m a man, and I believe in a Promised Land.
No, I ain’t a boy; no, I’m a man, and I believe in a Promised Land.
The lyrics are from Springsteen’s song “The Promised Land,” released on the 1978 album Darkness On the Edge of Town. The lyrics were a fitting homage to Dr. Martin Luther King, the man who inspired U2’s song.
Over The Edge’s opening chimes of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” Bono again honored Springsteen by saying, “When I say that America is not just a country but an idea, I’m thinking about people like Bruce Springsteen.”
At the end of the third chorus, Bono shouted, “I’m looking for The Boss!” Hearing the call, Springsteen walked out on the stage with a Strat in hand and joined the band’s performance. Before the last verse began, Bono cued Springsteen to sing the verse. The two singers traded lines and then sang the chorus together.
“Vertigo” was the band’s final song performance for the evening. Bono introduced it by describing it as a “Spanish lesson for Bruce.” Several minor lyric changes were made throughout the song — one being “your eyes are blind” instead of “your eyes are wide.”
Following their induction and performance, U2 participated in a Q&A with the media backstage, where U2log.com asked the band about their relationship with their audience. See video of the band’s answer to our question:
Another journalist asked Bono to comment on the rumor of his becoming World Bank head and the possibility of his winning the Nobel Peace Prize. See video of Bono’s response:
Highlights of the induction ceremony will air on VH1 this Saturday.
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