Monday, 26 May 2008

1991 May - Dalkey Dreaming.....

Another trip to Dublin and this time I'm meeting up with a new friend called Jane and her friend Bee. I had met Jane previously in the UK and we got along really well so I was looking forward to this first holiday with her in Dublin. We met up in the city and went to Dockers for a sandwich and drink, it was nice to see that Dockers was unchanged and that the doorstep sandwiches were as delicious as ever! Jane was chatty and good fun and had lots of U2 stories to share, Bee was very quiet and didn't say very much.

We had heard that U2 were recording (this album was to be Achtung Baby) at a house in Dalkey, a very upmarket village just south of Dublin. So, the next day we got the DART to Dalkey, we easily found the house as the village is not big and because we heard them - and there was no doubt it was U2! They were recording in a beautiful white Victorian mansion that looked out over Dalkey Island and Dublin Bay, a lovely place to inspire the creative juices!

We waited opposite the house, it was quite pleasant waiting as the weather was warm and sunny. After a short while all band came out and walked down the road, we stayed where we were as we felt that it was best to leave coming over to them, then it's on their terms and they haven't been forced into a meeting by being pounced upon. They chose not to come across, though Adam waved and said hello, Bono too acknowledged us. We guessed they were going to the Dalkey Island Hotel (now long gone unfortunately) which was just a short walk away.

Another fan arrived who at first I thought was Sinead O'Connor! She had very, very short hair and big eyes, she wandered past a few times before plucking up courage to speak to us. It turned out that she was an American who had been living in Ireland for a few months, she was a U2 fan and had heard U2 were recording here and decided to come to see what was happening as she was going home for good in a few days. She was called Cameron and was really nice and we all got along with her really well.

We had barely arrived at lunchtime the next day when Bono arrived in a car driven by Ali, he wound down the car window and said,

"Hello, how are you doing?"

We said we were ok, he added with a smile,

"What are you doing?"

"Sunbathing" Bee said.

A bit lame yes, but it was more than the rest of us managed to say!

"I'll be out later", said Bono and then he went through the gates of the house.

We were buzzing now, and only about ten minutes later the gates opened and Bono came out with a mug of very strong coffee in his hand. He looked very different to the last time I had seen him. His hair was much shorter and layered, it was a dark auburn colour that looked better with his pale complexion than the previous black hair.

We all said hello and then went quiet, lost for words . Jane opened the conversation again with,

"You look tired."

Talk of being to the point, but it was true! Bono smiled wearily and looked at her with bleary eyes and said,

"I am, I am, feeling a bit sorry for myself I think."

Then he sat down on the pavement so we did too, I could see why he had such a strong coffee! I think he'd just got out of bed.

Jane asked how the work on the new album was coming along. Bono gave a big sigh and said,

"We've all got our heads up our arses at the moment. There are some very strange men walking around that house at present!"

That really broke the ice and we all laughed, as the years went by I grew to recognise that Bono often uses humour to help fans relax when they meet him, and it certainly works. Despite his tiredness he looked well and relaxed, the new hairstyle took years off him. I noticed once more how blue his eyes are and all the freckles he has, his eyes seem to look right into you, but not in a threatening way. He spoke very softly and as he spoke he looked from one person to the next, never leaving anyone out even if they did not say much - he has excellent social skills!

He asked where we were all from, and homed in on Cameron when she said Arizona - I suppose it is more exciting than Cumbria and Yorkshire! Bono said that he'd been back to Arizona a few times since the '87 shows, just touring around staying in cheap, small places,

"You get allergic to fancy hotel lobbies when you've been in as many as me," he said with a laugh.

He noticed the books some of us were reading,

"Jane Eyre is a long way from Arizona," he said to Cameron and to Jane that he hadn't read the Maeve Binchy book she was reading yet. Trust him to notice our reading matter!

Cameron told him she had been studying psychology at Trinity and Bono pretended to be shocked and wary, and said something about being analysed

"You have to watch how you fold your arms in front of them!" he said, I didn't dare tell him I was a Staff Nurse in psychiatry! He seemed much brighter now, think the coffee must have woken him up.

He chatted on, quite happy just to sit there with us, sipping his coffee every now and then. He seemed to have all the time in the world for us I couldn't believe our luck. Then, out of the blue, he asked,

"Have you seen anything of our bootleg?"

He was referring to the now-named Berlin tapes. These were illicit cassette tapes taken from the sessions the band had at Hansa Studios in Berlin a few months previously. Somehow they had been leaked and were hot stuff on the bootleg scene. He had addressed the question to Jane who said she's heard about it etc. We didn't tell him we all had copies of the tapes, in fact I had one in my bag at the time! We all felt very guilty because he was clearly upset about it.

"I don't mind ordinary bootlegs," he said, "once the album has come out I don't mind if people tape it. But this is as if someone has stolen your diary and read it out loud, you know what I mean?"

With this he looked at us all and inwardly we squirmed with guilt. I managed to say in reply,

"Yes we do."

To which he nodded and sighed deeply. To change the subject we then asked if he would sign as few things for us, he said he would. I gave him the well-known "Blue Bono" postcard to sign, he wrote on it Bono get a haircut. I commented,
"I see you have had a haircut"

"Yeah," he replied, "I got so sick of it the other week, I wanted to shave it all off."
I said that I was glad he didn't go that far and he laughed. I then asked him to sign my fanzine, Eirinn. He asked what it was and I told him it was a fanzine that I edited. He then asked if this copy was for him, I said that I'd like that one signed, but that I had more copies in my bag and he could have one.

He then signed Cameron's journal, he just wrote and wrote, in all he filled two pages, writing about psychology, Arizona, Zen and more with a humourous twist. It was really nice watching him as he wrote, he kept stopping to think what he could write next and would give a little smile and chuckle when he thought of something. Cameron has something very special there.

I then gave him his copy of my fanzine, he immediately looked at it and asked,

"Is it about Irish music in general?"

"Yes," I replied, "Irish music, U2 and Ireland itself."

"Great," Bono replied, "Do you put addresses of places where people can stay?"

I said I didn't and he suggested it would be a good idea then people could easily find good places to stay when they visit. It was a good idea and I was chuffed that he was interested enough to make the suggestion. He continued leafing through the 'zine and stopped at a page with photos of him from April the previous year,

"Who's this drunken reprobate?" he said laughing as he looked at photos of himself.

"They were taken outside Docker's," I said.

"Ahh, the bad old days!" he exclaimed, still smiling.

Jane and Bee got what they wanted signed too. As Bono was showing no signs of leaving we also asked if we could have our photos taken with him and readily agreed. He got up off the pavement, he had leaves on his bottom but we resisted the temptation to rub them off! . When it was my turn I stood beside him and he wrapped his arm around me and pulled me in close to him, I almost melted!! I noticed that he wasn't that much taller than me, the best things come in small packages! The photo turned out really well and, even after all the years, when I look at it the warm memories of that special day come flooding back.

After the photos he said he'd have to go, he had been with us for at least twenty minutes, we had been so lucky to have him to ourselves for so long. Just as he was leaving a group of school children came along, and he stopped and chatted and signed things for them for a few minutes, he is so patient and friendly.

We were high as kites afterwards, we left and went into the city and got drunk in Dockers, a great way to end a brilliant day!

Friday, 23 May 2008

1990 July - A Fanzine Called Eirinn

Before the Internet and being able to know almost everything instantly, being a fan was very different. We got most of our information about U2 from music magazines, including U2's Propaganda, TV programmes and other fans. We never got to hear songs from new albums before their release, so it was really exciting on release day to rush out and buy the album and then hear it all for the first time. I quite miss that excitement - nowadays we seem to find out about things pertaining to U2 so easily.

Another way of sharing and gaining information about the band was via a fanzine. These were very popular in the late 80's and 90's. They were homemade magazines made by fans and they were very popular and were quite an important part of U2 fandom in those days.

In the summer of 1990 I decided to start a fanzine of my own, I called it Eirinn, an old name for Ireland which I pinched from the title of a Runrig song. The 'zine was dedicated to U2 and Ireland. Initially it was really a labour of love as I was literally cutting and pasting it which took a long time. After a year or so I got a word processor so it was a little easier then and around 1995 I got my first computer and it was so much simpler to create and publish.

I really enjoyed doing the fanzine, it was nice to share my love for U2 and Ireland with other fans and it was also an outlet for my creative side. But towards the end of the 90's fanzines were becoming obsolete. Glitzy online fansites were taking over and the lovingly made paper fanzines couldn't compete. I stopped producing Eirinn on it's tenth anniversary in 2000.

There was something to be said for fanzines though, it was always special to receive a 'zine in the post, to open the envelope and to turn the pages, it was something tangible, that you could touch and feel, a bit more personal than cyberspace.

Monday, 19 May 2008

1990 April - New Friends, More Dublin, Dockers and My First Photo With Bono

I'd heard very little about u2 since I saw them on tour in Germany in late 1989. At a concert in Dublin on New Year's Eve Bono had talked about going away to "dream it all up again". Many people thought this meant that U2 were going to split up. I didn't really have that worry, I took it at face value, Rattle and Hum had not been particularly successful, and maybe the band had to sit down and really look at where they were going in their musical career. It was one of those crossroads that U2 have reached every few years, where they need to re-evaluate, and take a new path. As I write this in 2008, U2 are at another of those moments where they need to dream it all up again too.

My second trip to Dublin was in April 1990 and I had arranged to meet up with two U2 fans from the UK, Jeanette and Angela, who I got to know through my American friend Pat. Our meeting place was Docker's Pub, which I had previously walked past but had not been inside. The walk down the quays was cold and blustery to say the least!

The pub was amazing, I'm pretty sure anyone from a hundred years ago could have come back and not found a lot different about the place. It was quite dark inside, the only windows were on the front aspect and they had a dark tint. Straight ahead when you came in was a snug - even in 1990 it was rare to find a proper snug still in pubs. We turned right and into the pub which was a mixture of wood panelling and nicotine stained cream walls of embossed wallpaper. The bar was amazing, a clutter of bottles, cards, money notes from all over the world, U2 souvenirs including gold and silver discs given to the pub by the band. The ladies toilet was full of U2 grafitti which was interesting to read as you did what you had to do in there!

I liked Dockers right away, it had a sense of a past, of old Dublin and had lots of locals drinking in there - it was a real pub. The atmosphere was friendly, and Paddy, the pub manager, made us very welcome.

My new friends were already in the pub and we started to get to know each other. Jeanette and I got along brilliantly, we were so alike - in fact to this day I have never met anyone who was just so like me in taste and viewpoint. Angela had her 18 year old daughter Stephanie with her, they were both nice but I sensed a tension in Angela, she did not seem comfortable and struggled to make conversation. We sat in the snug chatted and had a laugh. This was brought to an abrupt halt by Angela saying that she wanted to go for a walk in the city centre. I didn't really want to go out into the wild weather, it was nice and snug in the snug and not really a night for walking. But to be sociable I went and we walked around the city centre for a while in the freezing wind!

The next day was spent doing the usual Dublin sightseeing as it was the first time the others had been to the city. We did the usual places in the city centre before we went to Killiney and did some beachcombing on the beach and then walked up the hill to admire the view. Angela and Stephanie then decided to go back into the city for a burger while Jeanette and I opted for a meal in Jades a Chinese restaurant beside the Druid's Chair pub. It was wonderful and we ended up staying there for three hours!

We walked down the hill to the DART station just in time to see the last train pulling out of the station! Stranded. We decided to walk and look for a phone box (no mobile phones then) it took ages to find one. Then we didn't have the right money, a young man passing by took pity on us and gave us the correct money. We'd walked so far that by now we had no idea where we were so the man told us where we were so we could tell the taxi firm when we ran! We called and sat on a convenient bench beside the phone box to wait. It was blowing a gale, cold and raining but all we could do was laugh. After a long wait the taxi came we could barely move by then as we were rigid with cold, the cab was deliciously warm and we were glad to be on our way.

Again next day it was exploring more of the area and we got the DART down to Bray in County Wicklow. It had that feel a lot of UK seaside towns have too, a sense of past glories, you could imagine throngs of people there enjoying the beach and shops, "kiss me quick" hats and candyfloss. But people had long deserted places like Bray for their package holidays and head off to sunnier climes.

We went back into the city and walked to Windmill Lane to look at the messages. Then we all wrote messages on the wall as is the tradition for fans to do.

Later that night we all headed to Docker's again, it was a windy and cold night. the pub was much busier than the previous night and we could tell the snug was full by the loud chatter coming out from it so we went into the main area of the bar. I was at the counter getting our drinks and glanced at the doorway between the bar and snug. A man was sitting on the end seat and I could just see the nose of the person next to him. I knew that nose , it was Bono's. I thought,

"No don't be stupid, it's just wishful thinking."

But in my heart I knew it was him. At first I didn't say anything to my friends, just in case I was wrong. But I wasn't wrong and it wasn't long before my friends noticed him too. We were all excited, what do we do? Bono was on a private night out and we didn't want to disturb him in the pub. I was the only one who had met him before and the others really wanted to meet him too. So we decided to go outside and catch him when he was leaving the pub. So we trooped out, passing another group of people who were clearly fans who were buzzing with excitement too.

It was bitterly cold outside, and I felt very silly standing there on such a night. A group of lads went into the pub and said,

"Bono must be inside."

They must have seen it all many times before. We were all trying to get out of being the one to actually ask for an autograph when he came out and in the end Steph offered to do the deed, the bravery of youth! We jumped everytime the squeaky door opened and waited for what seemed like an eternity. In reality it was not that long before Bono came out. Suddenly he was there, moving very quickly, Steph jumped in and asked if he would sign her album cover. Bono teetered to a halt on the kerb and looked round as if he wondered where we all came from.

"I'll be back in a minute", he said before running across the road to a car parked on the quayside. We thought he was going to get in and drive away but he didn't, he just got something out of the car and then came back over.

He signed our album covers, mine was The Joshua Tree, and chatted away, completely at ease with the situation, very down to earth and friendly. It was hard to equate this small, softly spoken man with the larger than life Bono we know from TV and gigs. But it was certainly him! I can't remember much of what he actually said, I was too excited to remember! The only thing I do remember him saying something about just having flown in from America. Eventually he said,

"It's so cold out here, I'll have to go back inside girls".

Poor man he had no jacket on, just a shirt, he must have been freezing! As he was going back inside the other group of fans was coming out they asked for autographs and he said to them he was leaving soon and he would sign stuff for them then.

We also went inside to warm up ourselves. We all reacted in our different ways to the meeting. Angela and Steph were in tears, Jeanette was struck dumb and I was as high as a kite!

True to his word Bono left not long afterwards, now wearing a leather jacket, and the other group of fans and us followed him. There was a lot of excitement and chatter outside Dockers, I stood back and watched and, after asking if it was ok with him, took photos. His social skills were amazing, he had the ability to make everyone in the group feel special, he seemed genuinely interested in us.

Eventually I found my voice and asked if I could have a photo taken with him and he looked me right in the eye and said yes. As I moved beside him for the photo someone tried to push inbetween Bono and me which I wasn't very happy about, I still managed to get my arm around his waist though. People kind of kept getting themselves into the photo and a smiling Bono said,

"What's this, a team photograph?"

I laughed as I saw that there were about six people in front of us lined up with their cameras ready to snap the moment.

A car drew up outside Docker's and it was Bono's lift, he got in and was whisked off into the night. We all went back inside and sat in the snug and proceeded to get drunk! It was our last night in Dublin, so it was a perfect ending to the trip for us all.