Attendance, Dave Evans, Paul Hewson, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr, Ivan McCormick, Dick Evans
Larry’s parents’ house on Rosemount Avenue, was the scene of the first rehearsal, after Larry places his note on the board at Mountemple School.
Theses rehearsals took place at Mount Temple School on Wednesdays & Saturdays, (Mountemple was closed on Wednesday afternoons). The first Wednesday after the now legendary meeting of “Feedback” in Larry’s kitchen was 29/09/1976. I am asomeing that the first rehearsal took place in Mr MacKenzie’s music on this date.Four decades to the day since a cluster of innocent Irish schoolboys with cheap instruments crammed into a back room in Larry Mullen Jr’s parents’ home, U2 sit on top of the rock hierarchy.
Those “misfits”, as their school-friend Frank Kearns calls them, included Adam Clayton, David Evans and Paul Hewson.
They had responded to 14-year-old Mullen Jr’s note on a board in Dublin’s Mount Temple Comprehensive: ‘Drummer seeks musicians to form band’.
Saturday 25 September 1976 was the beginning of what is arguably the biggest, most adored and even most despised band in the world today.
The jockeying for position took place as Mullen Jr’s drums clattered, Evans’s (later the Edge) guitar snarled and Clayton, the bassist who couldn’t play bass, stood coolly with “the best hair” out of the bunch, according to Neil McCormick, a friend of the band from back in the day.
Neil, now a music critic with the Daily Telegraph, described how Hewson, who would soon become Bono, “went along thinking he would be a guitarist… but I would note he didn’t bring his guitar”.
“Whatever he says, I think his ambition lay with a microphone.”
The four teenagers colliding that day in the Artane suburb “was the miracle of U2”.
“The luck is that in that kitchen 40 years ago, Bono met the Edge,” Neil adds.
“There’s a huge contrast between the two of them but they’re very complementary characters – they are the heart of U2.”Other people could’ve been in U2 as long as it had those two in it.
“But the two that they lucked into, Larry and Adam, were exactly the right mix of talent and personality to make that unit complete.
“When that happens, like when The Beatles added Ringo, that’s a magical accident – a great band is a miraculous thing.”
With the line-up settled, the rehearsals began.
The aforementioned Frank, a close pal of Mullen Jr, tells of watching a fearless foursome practise on Wednesday afternoons in Mount Temple Comprehensive, where “slashed jeans and punk-rock haircuts” were commonplace in the corridors.
“I’d never heard someone play an electric guitar, it was like magic,” Frank, now a musician and producer in Dublin, says.
“I knew I was looking at a chemistry – when they came together the sum of the parts was greater, emotionally, spiritually, every way.”
A short time later, going by the name Feedback, they stepped onto a stage at a talent contest in the school’s gymnasium.
With covers of Peter Frampton’s Show Me The Way and Bye Bye Baby by the Bay City Rollers, they were “raw, exciting and up-front”, especially to teenagers who had mostly grown up on a diet of run-of-the-mill folk music.”Dave plugged the guitar in and played what Bono describes as the ‘electrifying D chord’,” Frank says.
“When the guitar rang out – wraaaaaaang! – it had this natural reverb. It was like being caught in a dream-like sequence.”
Neil remembers how Bono “stamped his feet and picked up the microphone and the place went mad”.
“What electrified me was an electric guitar – I said to Bono it was the first time I’d ever seen a rock band, and he said: ‘That’s the first time I’ve ever seen a rock band!’
“I was unprepared for the lightning bolt of drums, bass and electric guitar and that’s what shook me in that moment.”
Neil and Frank had a better view than most of the fervour that helped Feedback, which soon become The Hype and later U2, to flourish.
They formed Frankie Corpse and The Undertakers, with Frank on guitar and Neil on vocals, and supported them at their early gigs.
Bono and the boys had an innocence and ambition, they say, that set them apart and propelled them to the top of the Dublin scene and beyond.
Their unstoppable velocity could have broken a lesser group, Neil adds, but the pace at which U2 achieved success actually “fortified” the four of them.
“They became a white-hot rock band in what was relatively a short space of time,” he says.
“From pretty early on, they realised they had a great line-up – if you find you have a good balance in a band, people are loyal to each other.
“With U2, that came from the school and their faith that protected them from the kind of things that wear bands down in the early days – sex and drugs, basically.”
They “were on a mission”, Frank points out, and their religious faith and self-belief right from their genesis meant they were always going to fulfil the sole, lofty goal they had set themselves.
“Bono said on a number of occasions: ‘We’re going to be the biggest band in the world.’
“That was a statement of intent and they did whatever they had to do to achieve that.
“They were like 15-year-old priests going into the priesthood – they went into the U2-hood.
“They had the strong fundamentalist streak and were bonded together with a series of tragedies on the family front.
“When you combine that with desire to make it in the music business, you feel like God is on your side.”
Image captionBono laid down an early “statement of intent” that U2 would become the biggest band in the world, Frank Kearns says
With record sales in the multi-millions and global tours selling out in seconds, U2 are a supergroup in the most emphatic sense of the word.
Their togetherness – the fact that those four fellas who took to the talent show stage in September ’76 are the same ones that stand together in stadiums today – has been their strength and given them that longevity of a full 40 years, Neil says.
“I saw them become what they are very fast – I’ve been amazed but strangely not surprised.
“It was absurd teenage dreams to think about conquering the world.
“But let’s face it – teenagers are absurd, they are dreamers and their dreams are rock ‘n’ roll dreams.” October 1976 The Gym, Mount Temple School, Dublin Attendance, unknown
Support, A play by Neil McCormick
Set; includes Show Me The Way, Beach Boys Medley, Bye Bye Baby encore Bye Bye Baby.
Interview with Frank Kearns, used with kind permission by Frank.
Frank with Bono, The Edge & Larry. Photo supplied by Frank Kearns.It wasn’t long then until the band played their very first concert at Mount Temple.
Yes, they played their concert in the gymnasium, literally on a stage that was just a foot off the ground. It was like a talent showcase day, and the band got a chance to play in front of a real audience. There was a lot of noise as amps were handed onto stage, Larry’s kit was assembled and the occasional drum hit could be heard, all heightening the excitement and expectation of something wild about to happen. Kerannng!! Edge struck the famous D chord and it was like 2,000 volts passed through my body. There were screams of delight from the girls and they were jammed in at the front with their Bay City Rollers tartan scarf’s, and even Larry had a tartan jacket on with furry collar. Teachers looked on concerned as the lads played through “Show Me The Way” and “Bye Bye Baby.” Bodies rushed to the front.
My memory of that concert was that Larry had a cast on his arm. This was my very first live concert and probably the same for most of the audience; it would be about late October 1976, around the mid-term. This show really did cause shock waves. It was a case of “What the hell just happened?” and we all knew that something was going on. There was this alchemy of sorts, and a spark had created a fire. Larry would be looking over to me, and I was giving him the thumbs up, saying this is cool, man! The teachers were getting a bit upset as it was too loud, and then it stopped, but the crowd kept screaming for more, so they came back on and played the same two or three songs again. If I remember right they also played The Bay City Rollers “Bye Bye Baby” twice! It was a great crowd-pleaser, especially among the girls.
Photo supplied by Frank KearnsThis concert was clearly important to you.
Incredibly so. The whole setup of a concert with the drums, the amps, is just like an altar and the whole concert is just like a huge primal ritual. After this show, I just said to myself, “This is it, I don’t care what it takes, this is what I want to do; I’m going to form a band.” Now, having set my intention, I didn’t have a clue how to begin! So I just carried on going to the rehearsals with Larry every Wednesday and Saturday, simply watching them play, and taking it all in. There was no one else there but me and the five guys.
At this point they were called Feedback. They needed a name for the first real show, and at the time they were plugging microphones into guitar amps, and all this noise would just come out, it was just inevitable, and so they named themselves Feedback. Each time I would go to rehearsal Edge would have a new gadget, for instance a stomp box or a distortion pedal, and we would all hear these fantastic sounds, like distortion. 11-04-1977 The Assembly Hall, St Fintan’s School, Dublin Attendance, 600
Support for Arthur Phybes Band, Rat Salad
Set; includes Nights In White Satin, Witchy Women, Heart Of Gold, Show Me The Way, Beach Boys Medley
Arthur Phybes Band are; Scamill (Paul Keogh) Volcas, Pat Hamilton Guitar, Ronnie Harkness Guitar, Gary Eglington Bass, Brian Curran (Bun) Drums
Gary Eglington I think they (The Hype) only supported us once, maybe twice, in the Baggott and then in St Fintan’s! two things I remember about those gigs, one, was Bono, being very upset (really pissed off) at the the band for fucking up led Zep’s “communication breakdown” and the that you couldn’t see the back of the hall in St Fintan’s, for the fog from the sweat of the audience! it was literally, a pea-souper!
Rat Salad are; Dave Fitzgerald, Lead Guitar, Nicky Barret, Guitar, Paul Brown (Jack Dublin) Bass, Robbie Campbell DrumsTaken from U2 by U2
Adam; The penny dropped that we weren’t getting any better rehearsing for an hour once a week and it became Saturdays as well, and that was a big shift because everyone had to give up free time, real weekends to get into school on a Saturday, so that was another level that we stepped up to. Then we got a gig at a disco in St Fintan’s, a school at Sutton in north Dublin. There were going to be a few bands playing. It was during the Easter holidays in 1977 and my parents were going away, so we rehearsed at my house. Easter Rising Hot Press, 09/04/2001 by Colm O’Hare
A Peter Frampton cover version, a flautist and female backing vocalists were all elements of Feedback’s first ever live concert performance, yet this was the outfit that would eventually become U2. Colm O’Hare recalls the event.
Almost a quarter of a century ago — April 11, 1977 (Easter Monday) to be precise — at approximately 8:30 p.m., the fledgling U2 (then trading as Feedback) took to the stage at St. Fintan’s High School, Sutton, on the north side of Dublin. They were third on the bill at a “rock concert,” organised by myself and a couple of schoolmates. The headliners on the night were a popular but long-forgotten Dublin pub rock band, the Arthur Phybbes Band with support from Howth hard rock act, Rat Salad.
It was U2’s first “real” performance before a paying crowd. Over the years, accounts of their debut have appeared in various biographies — some of which had them headlining, others which had them tagged (wrongly) as the Hype. The truth was that they were added to the bill at the last minute. Prior to the gig we had sold an impressive 400 tickets at 50p each but we needed a couple of hundred more punters to cover out costs. A schoolmate (Art O’Leary), who had defected to Mount Temple from St. Fintan’s a year earlier, mentioned this band, Feedback, who were interested in playing the gig. What’s more, he said, they had a following and would guarantee to bring a hundred fans along with them.
Not wanting to take any chances I requested to meet up with the band before consenting to their appearance. I can clearly remember the sight of an afro-headed, Afghan-coated Adam Clayton striding across the schoolyard on the Thursday before the gig. He presented me with a foolscap setlist that included a bewildering array of styles and genres. It included versions of the Eagles’ “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” the Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin” and Peter Frampton’s “Show Me The Way” — songs united only by their collective popularity at the (legendary) Grove Saturday night disco at nearby St. Paul’s School in Killester. The only vaguely hopeful number on the list was Bowie’s “Suffragette City.” I agreed to have them on the bill — but with no guarantee of payment.
On the day, Feedback were the first band to arrive, along with about a dozen hangers on (all wanting to get in for free!). The late arrival of the Arthur Phybbes Band and their PA ensured only a cursory soundcheck for the support acts.
As show time drew closer, a nervous Larry Mullen approached me and suggested that it might be better if Feedback went on second rather than opening the proceedings. They would, he reasoned, provide a contrast between the two heavier acts. (U2 as easy listening anyone?) Rat Salad, however, would have none of it and insisted that Feedback open the show. They went on in almost total darkness and played a shambolic 40-minute set before a couple of hundred followers who gathered around the stage.
Jack Dublin, then bass player with Rat Salad and later to join In Tua Nua (the first act to appear on U2’s Mother label) remembers the event. “There was a bit of a row between ourselves and Feedback over ‘Johnny B. Goode,’ ” he recalls. “We had planned to do it in our set but we heard them rehearsing it during soundcheck and we had discussions about who would do it. We felt a bit sorry for them and promised we wouldn’t do it. But we did it anyway!”
To say that Feedback were unrecognisable from the U2 of today would be an understatement of monumental proportions. The truth is, they were unrecognisable from the Hype of a few months later. To put it another way, if the Hype were the Silver Beatles, then Feedback were the Quarrymen. In that respect it seems pointless to make any meaningful comparisons with the band we’ve come to know and love.
For one, they had two female backing singers in their ranks. One was Stella McCormick, a sister of former Hot Press journalist Neil McCormick and a school friend of U2. The other, Orla Dunne, also a school friend, played the flute!
“We were all good friends,” Dunne remembers, astonished to be reminded of her part in the event twenty-four years later. “Before Feedback we had been part of a singing group in school — the Temple Singers. We had a wonderful music teacher, Albert Bradshaw in Mount Temple and he imbued us with real enthusiasm for singing. We were singing incredibly sophisticated stuff, a lot of romantic, renaissance music. We performed in big houses around the country. I’ve always felt that it would’ve influenced Paul’s (Bono) operatic style which he developed later on with U2.”
She recalls the St. Fintan’s gig as a big step for Feedback, who’d performed only a couple of times in Mount Temple for a captive audience.
“It was definitely the first proper gig we’d done and we were all pretty nervous,” she recalls. “We practised in Adam’s house out in Malahide the week before the gig. But it was all rather dull as far as I was concerned. I’d been classically trained and I thought I’d go deaf with all the noise from the guitars and amplifiers! The only other thing I remember is breaking up with my boyfriend that night after our performance. I think he got jealous when he saw me on stage.”
Shortly after their inauspicious debut, Feedback became the Hype and dispensed with the backing singers for good. However, a few years later Dunne was offered another opportunity to perform with her old schoolmates. “In the early ’80s I met Adam in Grafton Street. I hardly recognised him with his peroxide hair! He asked me would I play something with the band on their record but I turned down the opportunity.”
In any event the St. Fintan’s gig was a resounding success. All the bands were paid and we made a small profit, which we’d planned to put towards staging more concerts. But by then punk had reared its ugly head. A tragic death had taken place at a punk gig in UCD and rock concerts were banned in St. Fintan’s school hall. But not before we staged our own “punk” gig with headliners Bile, Puke and Mucus!
Where are they now?!
© Hot Press, 2001
07-10-1977 Marine Hotel, Sutton, Dublin Attendance, unknown
Image taken from U2 by U2
Set; What’s Going On, Suffragette City, Anarchy In The UK, Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment, 2 4 6 8 Motorway.
By this time The Hype have started to use a garage owned by Steve Rapid of The Radiators from Space to rehearse. Steve Rapid had left the Radiators after the Dalymount Festival gig with Thin Lizzy, & started working with The Hype. The Radiators had moved to London.Taken from U2 by U2
Bono; I wrote my first song while we were rehearsing at Adam’s house. That was interesting because it happened very quickly. I don’t know where I got the guitar or whose guitar it was, but I remember figuring out minor chords, and moving between them. It was a chord I made up; it’s not that hard.
Adam; I think the first chord would be a B major seventh and then it was followed by an A major, and he just moved between those two chords and that became the song. There was a kind of magic about them. They had a mood and tone.
Bono; I got a chorus almost immediately – “What’s Going On?” I thought that was very original!
Adam: We hadn’t heard of Marvin Gaye in those days, so we weren’t aware the title had been used before. But it just had something.
Larry; I thought it was called “Wednesday Afternoon”, because we used to rehearse on Wednesday afternoons. We got so frustrated trying to do cover versions. One afternoon Bono just started strumming away on a few chords. After a while it started to sound like music. Edge; We did a couple of gigs in Sutton in October 1977. There was one at the Marine Hotel, I think our stage was a bunch of tables pushed together. It was really basic stuff, there was no sound mix, the balance was just whatever noise we were capable of making. It was very loud. It was the beginning of our punk phase and so it was a completely different sort of intensity to the early more pastoral stage that we went through.
Larry; We did some Stranglers covers and a couple of originals. The audience was made up of friends. It was very hot and sweaty. Our friends were very generous, clapping and jumping up and down.
Bono; I cut my finger. I dropped my plectrum, but kept playing, and blood kept spraying. There was blood all over this white Telecaster, Peter Martin’s guitar, which in my head I was trying to put through somebody’s TV screen. I heard people shouting; “There’s blood on there!” It was exciting.
Edge; Bono may have been playing guitar, but I’m not sure it would have been plugged in. Dick was playing with us, so there really wasn’t any need for three guitars. Did Bono even own a guitar in those days? I don’t think so.
15-10-1977 Suttonians Rugby Club, Sutton Attendance, unknown
Admission, £0.50p Set; unknown
00-10-1977 6th Form Common Room, Mount Temple School, Dublin Attendance, unknown
Set; includes the Batman TV theme tune.
The exact date of this concert is not known. Many years later U2 would record their own Batman theme tune, Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me.
U2 are a 5 piece band called “The Hype” at this time, the Edge’s older brother Dik is the 5th member on rhythm guitar. It’s not known if Dik played this concert, as he was not a pupil at Mount Temple School. Dik will later leave The Hype and join the Virgin Prunes.
Mount Temple School as it looks today.
00-00-1977 Nucleus, RahneyAttendance, unknown
Admission, unknown Set; includes Jumping Jack Flash
Taken from U2 by U2
Edge; We had a gig lined up at the Nucleus, a little club in Raheny, but we played so badly at the school disco that the DJ who worked at the Nucleus, who also was from Mount Temple, wouldn’t put us on. He insisted on coming to an audition. We played him some songs and very begrudgingly he put us on at the Nucleus. Before the show we decided to go and get drunk, because we knew that was what you did when you were in a rock band. So, as appalling as we normally were, we were just indescribably bad, and the sound was atrocious. We were in this tiny little prefab scout hut and we couldn’t afford a proper PA. We recorded the show and a couple of days afterwards we listened to it in utter disbelief at what we were hearing. Bono was just bellowing and all you could hear was this really distorted noise that sounded like the early Stooges. Unfortunately I think we were playing an Eagles song. That was the same occasion when Bono introduced “Jumping Jack Flash” and my brother started playing “Brown Sugar”, getting his Stones mixed up. It truly one of the absolute low points. Everyone was out of time. On the recording you can hear the DJ leaning in when we we’re halfway through the set saying “Would you ever just stop? Please stop! They’re all sitting outside”. Listening back to that show, it was the first time I thought “Oh God, no! This isn’t going to work”. We were so hopelessly inconsistent. One show would have that moment of promise and coming together and the next three would be utter crap.
00-00-1977 Slack Alice Nightclub, Dublin
57 O’Connell Street, Dublin 1Attendance, unknown
Admission, unknown Set; unknown
At this time U2 are a 5 piece band called “The Hype” with Dik Evans the 5th member (The Edge’s elder brother) on rhythm guitar. Dik would later go on to join the Virgin Prunes.
The exact date of this concert is not known
17-12-1977 The Hall, Howth Presbyterian Church, ClaremontAttendance, unknown
At this time U2 are a 5 piece band called The Hype, with Dik Evans on rhythm guitar, Dik is the Edge’s older brother, he will later join the Virgin Prunes.
At this moment I don’t know if this gig took place in Howth or Claremont.
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