Friday, 6 August 2010

Unforgettable Fire: The Story of U2

Book Review

Title: Unforgettable Fire: The Story of U2
Author: Eamon Dunphy
Pages: 392
Publisher: Penguin Books
Reviewer: Mwesigye Gumisiriza

U2 are considered one of the best rock bands and they are currently a top-earning touring act in the world—in 2009 alone, they grossed more than US$300 million. The lead singer, Bono, is perhaps more known to us in the Third World for his philanthropy and social activisim than his music. His band mates, Adam, Larry and Edge are also household names in their own right owing to the phenomenal success U2 has achieved over three decades.

However before the album The Joshua Tree which topped charts in 22 countries and put their names on the rock and roll music scene, they had spent several years playing concerts, touring and had made four albums to create an impact. From the debut album Boy to the follow up October through to War and Unforgettable Fire, the young men from Ireland were thriving for recognition and pushing boundaries with stereotype-defying personalities and spirituality-infused themes. But by tracing their roots, the author, Eamon Dunphy, throws light on the circumstances that formed each of the band members and how they complemented each other when they came together.

The book, at the start, is divided into four chapters which cover each character separately so that the readers are able to understand them first, individually. It also helps us why the subjects they focus on in their music were far from the norm in rock. In other words, exploring religion and addressing social issues such as unemployment, poverty, discrimination were “out of place” in a form of expression that is essentially rebellious and nihilist.

The Ireland that Bono, Adam, Larry and Edge grew up in was deeply divided. Politically, divisions between Republicans and Nationalists in addition to a historical legacy of British colonialism. Socially, a dominant Roman Catholic Church that wielded immense influence in various aspects of life which tended to sideline Protestants and other minorities.

This formed the backdrop as the four teenagers met in high school and a formed a band, initially known as The Hype. But again, these youth were also trying to understand themselves, the world around and discovering music as a way to express themselves. Rehearsing tirelessly to create their sound, playing gigs to get known, crossing borders and making the contacts—radio DJs, music promoters, journalists, other musicians—through which they would make their dream come true. Several years later, eventually their efforts paid off when Rolling Stone, a respected entertainment publication, tagged them “the band of the eighties” even without them having the kind of chart-topping hits that fitted the honour. This was prompted by their performance at Live Aid, a 1985 concert of big names in show business to raise funds for famine relief efforts in Ethiopia, “where they stole the show from the legends of rock music and established themselves as the driving musical force for worldwide political change”.

Though this book is definitely a page-turner for the average rock music or U2 fan, it is equally an interesting read for anyone down for an inspiring story of hard work, determination and success amidst self doubt, search for meaning and the restriction of stereotypes.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Subtlety is better than force. ......................................................................

Anonymous said...

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