Updated: Sep 6, 2019
1976 - 1980
From the very beginning – How the iconic Dublin band came to be after Larry Mullen Jr’s ad on the notice board at Mount Temple ahead of Croke Park homecoming
It all started when Larry's dad encouraged him to form a band, and a few days after the ad went up in school, he answered his door to be greeted by some like-minded musicians
THE story of U2 began in September 1976, when Larry Mullen posted an advertisement on the notice board at Mount Temple High School for people interested in forming a rock band.
Born on October 31, 1961 the young Dubliner started drumming at age nine, but despite a spell in The Artane Boys Band longed to take it further.
His father suggested that forming a band might be the next step.
A few days after the ad went up in school, he answered his door at 60 Rosemount Avenue, Artane to be greeted by some like-minded musicians.
First in was Adam Clayton. Born in Chinnor, Oxfordshire on March 13 1960, the son of an RAF pilot, U2’s bass player moved to Dublin at the age of five when his dad took a job with Aer Lingus.
Educated at various expensive boarding schools, he sabotaged his schooling with a campaign of dissent and disruption which ended in 1975 when his parents enrolled him at the liberally minded Mount Temple school.
Where, permanently stitched into his hippie clothes, he became interested in music, buying himself a bass-guitar.
Next to Adam stood guitarist Dave Evans accompanied by his brother Dik. Born David Evans in Barking, East London in 1961, The Edge moved to Dublin before he had even turned two, and grew up a lonely boy, a loner even.
Originally intending to go on to university and become a doctor or an engineer, that all ended when he picked up a guitar and was christened The Edge due to his sharp mind, and guitar style which would become U2’s trump card.
For about 15 minutes Larry thought he could be the leader of the band, then a guy called ‘Bono’ walked in, picked up a microphone, and proclaimed himself the singer.
Born Paul Hewson in Glasnevin, Dublin on May 10, 1960.
The child of a mixed marriage, his mum died when he was 14, a loss that sent the young Bono into a tailspin of rage and despair.
He had turned up at the audition that day after being persuaded by a friend Reggie Manuel who told him: “You should turn up for this Paul, because you’ve always had it inside you.”
Larry said later: “From day one we were all pretty set up in those roles. Even in school, Bono was pretty much that character.
“He was always the leader, he wanted to be upfront while Dave was always the scientist.”
Although the group couldn’t play very well, they nonetheless declared themselves a band and took the moniker Feedback, which was later changed to The Hype.
The Edge remembers: “For about a year and a half we never made it to the end of a song.
“We’d get about a minute and a half in, and then the sheer strain of keeping going was too much and we’d stop.
“That’s why we started writing songs because we couldn’t play other peoples.”
In Autumn of 1977, the band played their first gig in a school gymnasium on a stage made out of tables.
After the performance, Dik Evans left the band to join the Virgin Prunes, citing a difference of opinions in the way the band was heading between him and the members.
He said: “They became very intense about it and I wasn’t, it was almost a generation gap type of gulf between us. I just didn’t fit in, the attitude more than anything”.
In the same year, the band had changed their name again, this time to U2, a name suggested by Steve Averill, the lead singer of The Radiators from space who later designed the band’s album covers.
Bono commented on the decision of the name: “We called ourselves U2 to take ourselves out of the category of the Sex Pistols, the Clash, even Led Zeppelin- so that people would hear the name and say 'What sort of band would that be then?'”.
This unusual name also provided the band with a brilliant marketing tool to promote themselves.
Reeling from Dik’s departure, the slimmed down outfit triumphed in early 1978 when they won The Harp-Lager Talent contest in Limerick.
This came as a shock to the fledgling band as Adam explained: “I think at the end of the day, it’s because there’s a spirit in the band that comes across”.
Despite the initial success, one problem remained. The band needed a manager.
Although Adam excelled in his initial efforts in establishing music contacts within the industry as well as booking gig dates, U2 needed someone more experienced and someone who will take them to the top.
Bill Graham - a journalist working for Hot Press magazine suggested Paul McGuinness.
The former film producer who would later be known as U2’s fifth member, first set eyes on his protégé on May 25, 1978 in Dublin’s Project Arts Centre.
When he followed the group to the pub next door, he found that U2 shared his ambitions to conquer and was hired as their manager.
U2 and Paul McGuinness’s first challenge was a support slot with The Stranglers at The Top Hat Ballroom in Dun Laoghaire and a demo tape recorded with Barry Devlin of Horslips.
Not long after a deal was negotiated with the Irish branch of CBS who signed them up for a single in exchange for the rights to U2 material for the next five years.
U2’s first EP single “U2-3”, was released later in December becoming their first Irish chart success.
As a result of a McGuinness strategy to ration U2 gig to special appearances , the band performed a special showcase gig to a host of visiting A&R men in The Baggot Inn on August 21, 1979,
However no one was interested and worse, a proposed £3,000 publishing deal, to have funded a UK tour, also fell though.
Fortunately family and friends stumped up the cash to cross the water.
But the reaction in London was nothing to write home about, in some cases, U2 had to be content with small crowds, one being the nine paying attendees that turned up at the Hope and Anchor pub in Islington.
Back home a second single Another Day again topped the Irish charts but without an international record deal U2 entered the 1980s in low spirits.
Not all was bad news however, as U2 still won major categories in the Hot Press reader’s poll and soon after the group were signed up to an international four label recording deal with Island Records worth £100,000 which would be split between recording and touring.
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