a list, part 1: super-awesome, highly recommended books about those old guys in u2
music and books. dork it up a little, people. some of my mensa-level blogging friends have helped me come up with a list of some great music-related books. yeah, um, but that list isn't coming until part 2.
first, this is part 1: and it's all about the u2. there are lots of bad u2 books out there people. a lot. i'm sure there are a few good ones that are missing from my list, as well. (do tell!)
these are the u2 books on my recommendation list:
U2 by U2,
by U2 with Neil McCormick
the "full" story, as told by the band and manager paul mcguinness. quite weighty, with lots of photos of cute boys in the band.
some say u2 thinks too highly of themselves. i say "is that even possible?" in this book, the boys say they can't play their instruments, can't sing, can't write songs, and on, and on. their criticisms of their own songs in this book had me screaming at the book. (really). they think in god's country is no good for f*ck's sake! edge can't remember how he made certain sounds come out of his guitar and so he can't play when i look at the world live!? mcguinness with the no bullshit comments about certain tensions between the band and brian eno? revelation. baby larry almost getting kicked out of baby u2 for having a real job? whaaat!? but perhaps my favorite aspect of this book is bono's framing of his own life story with adam clayton playing the part of bono's conscience in love. a book packed with inane details best appreciated by
by Eamon Dunphy
an authorized biography that u2 was pissed off about, the details in it were gathered over an eighteen-month period during which the author lived and traveled with the band members (but didn't let them read the book before he published it).
a lot of people avoid this book because it is an "unauthorized" authorized biography. it does contain a few (irrelevant) factual mistakes, but this two-decade-old book's analysis of certain things - bono and his dad's relationship, for one, is right on. there is some stuff in here that is partly based on rumor and innuendo, but when taken with a grain of salt, i think it offers an honest view of what people in the dublin scene around the band thought of them in the 80s - i.e., this is not just what they wanted to reveal of themselves. (please don't tell larry i recommended this!)
Bono in Conversation with Michka Assayas,
by Michka Assayas
bono is seriously not stupid. he's also funny, acerbic and genuinely
read it and you will agree. really. this is a whole book of bono Q&A. when this first came out, i thought it was the best thing ever. bono reveals personal stories, particularly about his childhood with his father and brother, and he explains and details his faith in a way that he never had before. in the 2+ years since it came out, many of these things have been rehashed and repeated, but i still think this is a fresh and fascinating read.
Killing Bono: I Was Bono's Doppelganger,
by Neil McCormick
the author of this memoir went to school with the band and stayed friends with bono, and this funny and revealing story details the author's quest to emulate the success of the bono. imagine that.
this book is definitely not "about" bono, but it includes some priceless early days details. teenage u2 practicing the "batman" theme song in a school classroom - with our hero jumping off a school desk and yelling "batman!" to punctuate the tune's ending? that might be my favorite part. it offers a fly-on-the-wall look at some other early u2 moments, but the book is really about neil's lifelong desire to be his own rock star. it details his inner turmoil at watching bono the "good boy" become the rock star that neil's inner bad boy always wanted to be. and more than anything else i have ever read about bono, this book validated my obsession. neil's memoir humanizes bono, peels away his outer shell, and reveals him to be, at his core, someone quite heroic. it is a funny book, written with heavy doses of cynicism.
U2, The Best of Propaganda,
by Ian Gittins
propaganda was the official U2 fan-club magazine from the early 80s up to 2000, and this is an anthology of sorts.
there are some gems of old interviews and fan recollections (early days concert reviews and encounters with the band) as well as a multitude of through-the-years quotes in which you can see u2 contradicting themselves, going full circle, and throwing shapes like nobody's business. it is because of an edge interview in propaganda that i own a book called "the man who mistook his wife for a hat." really. i think particularly for fans who were not yet obsessed (alive??) in the 80s, this is a must-have.
Walk On, The Spiritual Journey of U2,
by Steve Stockman
2001 / 2005 (reissue)
a book that attempts to explain the "dichotomy" that lies at the heart of u2 - rock 'n' roll and God.
this is a good introduction to u2's faith, and how it is revealed in their art. there are some broad generalizations, simplifications and assumptions in this book that i disagree with, but as a whole, the book opened my eyes. it put me on a path to be way more open to faith-based analysis of u2's work. (sometimes it's hard to remember that just a few years ago bono really was way more cagey about making public statements about his faith.) as with any genre, there are plenty of "u2 & religion" books out there written by people who you can tell just do not "get" the band, but this is not one of them. rather, this one helped me "get" certain things about the band a bit more. it is not my belief that you need to share the same faith as u2 in order to explore it.
U2 At The End of the World,
by Bill Flanagan
flanagan is a great writer and a trusted friend of the band and the access he had for this book - public and private lives - makes for a very revealing read. this is an authorized biography that covers a 3-year period in the 90s.
some fans have "biblical" feelings for this book. it is a snapshot of a very short period in the band's career (zoo tv era). it reveals a side of the band that is very different from the one they currently present to the world. it is fun and even a little risque, and has lots of episodes where bono leads you right to the edge of the abyss leaving the reader to decide if he ever falls in. (jumps in?) but my absolute favorite parts of this book are bill flanagan's conversations with bono's father bob hewson. "your mother Christened you paul, and paul you're going to remain!" this book is very entertaining and very well-written. it is also basically centered around bono's idea of what the zoo tv era was about. intriguing and very open to misinterpretation.
okay, that's my u2 book list. what's on yours?
part 2: the best rock bios
part 3: music-related books that heather likes
part 4: dr. bob k's list focuses on the beatles
~ happy new year!