Tag: atu2

Film Review: Satan & Adam

By Tassoula E. Kokkoris

This work was commissioned for the site atu2, which was online from 1995 – 2020 and it still protected under a shared copyright.

“There’s never been another artist singing one of their songs on a U2 album.” —The Edge

The artist that The Edge is referring to is Sterling “Mister Satan” Magee and the song is “Freedom For My People,” which appeared on Rattle And Hum.

Mister Satan, along with his musical partner Adam Gussow, are the subjects of the new documentary Satan & Adam, directed byV. Scott Balcerek.

The film chronicles the history of the unlikely pair from the time they joined up on the streets of Harlem on the mid-1980s until present day. And what a history they have.

At the time they met, Mister Satan was a street performer (by choice) who had previous experience making music with legends like Marvin Gaye and Etta James. It’s never specified exactly why he left the business, but he played with such exuberance and joy on the sidewalk, no one seems to question it. He performed for a regular following of fans and passersby who tossed money his way in exchange for prime entertainment.

One day, on the heels of a messy breakup, Gussow found himself walking down the street where Mister Satan was performing and asked if he could join in and play. Mister Satan agreed and soon the two became known as an unlikely but endearing duo—a classic black guitarist/singer with an impressive performance resume and an Ivy-League educated white harmonica player who lacked experience. With racial tensions high at the time in New York, their partnership was a refreshing reprieve from the violence that surrounded them.

Mister Satan and Adam wrote blues riffs that are undeniably catchy and soon they got the attention of Bono and The Edge, who were in town filming portions of the U2 documentary, Rattle And Hum. Phil Joanou, who directed that film, appears in Satan & Adam along with The Edge, and recalls how special the music sounded, “It wasn’t just some guy kinda ‘Give me a buck, come on I’m on the corner. I’m just riffin’ some cover tune.’ This was something interesting.”

Joanou put a brief clip of Mister Satan and Adam in his film and U2 added the song to their album, which brought the Harlem duo a heightened level of exposure and several new fans. Soon Adam convinced Magee to record some tracks in a studio and their popularity exploded, leading to a tour of notable clubs and festivals all across the U.S. and Europe. Though they enjoyed great success, circumstances beyond their control disrupted their rise to fame. The performances came to an end and life continued for them both, but in two very different directions.

With a mix of archival footage (including a segment U2 fans will find quite familiar) and interviews with Gussow and those moved by their music, the story that emerges is that of an enduring, real friendship between two very different men that were united for a period of time by music.

If you appreciate the blues or just want to witness a pleasant real-life “buddy” movie, Satan & Adam will be right up your alley.

Satan & Adam opened in the U.S. on April 12.

(c) 2019, atu2/Kokkoris.

When Meta Meets Magnificent: Neil McCormick on Chasing Bono

By Tassoula E. Kokkoris

Neil McCormick and Niall McNamee. Photo Courtesy of Neil McCormick.

This work was commissioned for the site atu2, which was online from 1995 – 2020 and it still protected under a shared copyright.

The first time I interviewed journalist/author Neil McCormick, it was the summer of 2011 in Pittsburgh. Our team at @U2 held an event following a public screening of the film Killing Bono at the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center. McCormick’s memoir of the same name had become this film, so at that reception, I hosted a Q&A with him to discuss the process of turning the book into a film and what it as like to see “himself” portrayed on the big screen.

He likened it at the time to his head exploding with conflicted feelings. While he loved the concept of having a film about his life, he hadn’t expected it would be a comedy. He knew that certain elements would need to be fictionalized, but didn’t necessarily want that narrative to be interpreted as his truth. I remember leaving the interview not entirely sure if he was glad the film existed.

Now, seven years later, here we are. The original screenwriters of the film have transformed the story into a London stage production and given it a third title, Chasing Bono. After seeing McCormick’s apparent participation in the pre-production, I was anxious to hear if he was simply a masochist or if the tides have turned where his origin story is concerned. After nearly a month of “Chasing Neil,” I caught up with him via email to get the scoop.

TK: How did you first learn that your book was being made into a play? 

NM: It was all very meta. I was watching Seven Psychopaths on TV, starring Colin Farrell as an expat screenwriter in L.A., when I got a phone call from Dick Clement, an expat screenwriter in L.A., who, weirdly enough, told me he had just had lunch with Colin Farrell. Who, by the way, does a very good impression of Bono. Dick had also just recently met up with Ben Barnes, who played me in Killing Bono. It all stirred up thoughts of the first draft script for the film, which Dick always liked way more than the actual movie. Dick told me he and his writing partner Ian La Frenais were getting more and more involved in the theatre world and asked me if I still had the stage rights to my original book I Was Bono’s Doppelganger, which (thanks to my very good agent Araminta Whitley) it turns out I did. And thus it began.

TK: I’m unfamiliar with British law—did they need to get your permission before turning it into a performance? Did they consult you on any of the aspects of the adaptation?

NM: They did need to get my permission and they have generously consulted me throughout. It has been a lot of fun. Dick and Ian are legendary writers, in the U.K. anyway, so I was a bit nervous about interfering with their genius, but they’ve worked wonders with the themes and characters and dialogue out of my book. And when I nervously sent them notes on the script, including some short passages of new dialogue, I am delighted to say they included them all.

TK: The creators, Clement and La Frenais are an accomplished writing team who have been cranking out hits since the ‘60s. How did you feel about them repurposing your material? Did you know either of them prior to this project?

Dick and Ian are legendary. I grew up watching their brilliant British sitcoms Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads And Porridge, and loved their classic `80s drama Auf Wiedersehen Pet. They did the screenplay for The Commitments too, a classic Dublin comedy about a struggling rock ’n’ roll band, so I was confident they knew the territory. I met them when they did the first draft of the film Killing Bono, and that was a delight. They told me they loved my book and so we have become a mutual admiration society. Then they met Bono and Edge through that and they have all become great pals too. They are a couple of gentlemen and an inspiration to every writer. I doubt there has been a more effective and long-lasting writing team, though Bono and Edge could still catch them up one day. They have a real gift for pulling comedy out of drama with pathos and a philosophical subtext so they were perfect for this. As for the fictional liberties they have taken with my real life, that is weird and can be complicated to deal with. But I understand the writing process and so I have surrendered my ego to it as best I can.

TK: How did they/you land on the title Chasing Bono? Who had the idea to alter it from Killing Bono or I Was Bono’s Doppelganger?

NM: It originally came from a conversation I had with Bono back when I was a struggling wannabe rock star and he was living out every one of my teenage fantasies. He had called me from Miami and he was talking about smoking cigars with Frank Sinatra and I just said, “Stop! I don’t want to hear it. The problem with knowing you is you’ve lived my life.” And he said, “That’s cos I’m your doppelganger and if you want your life back you’ll have to kill me.” Out of that came I Was Bono’s Doppelganger, but when the book was published in the U.S. they didn’t like the word “doppelganger.” Bono actually came up with the title Killing Bono. He said, “I know a few people would wear that T-shirt.” But I was never entirely comfortable with it, it’s a bit too homicidal. I mean, I may have been envious of his success but I am also his biggest fan and he is my friend and I never really wanted to kill him. Maybe just maim him a little. 

Dick and Ian felt the same way and decided early on they wanted to change it. It was Racing Bono for a while but that’s not right either because I lost that race before we were even out of the school gates. I suggested calling it I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For but apparently someone has used that title before on a song back in the `80s (ahem). And anyway it would be hard to fit on the posters. Dick and Ian came up with Chasing Bono. And I don’t know how I feel about it but you’ve got to call it something and I haven’t got a better idea.

TK: Do you know the actor who portrays you? If not, how has he prepared to “become” you? Is it completely surreal to see someone pretending to be you in person (vs. film/tv)?

NM: I have met the actor who portrays me, Niall McNamee. He’s young, handsome and a talented musician, so, perfect casting! It’s all deeply deeply weird. Niall has read my book and he’s been chatting with me and observing me, but I’ve told him to find his own way into the part because I’ve changed a lot since those wild young days. I was there to hear another actor read the part early on and he was very good but he played me completely differently, much darker and more Irish. He was good, and it made me think about how every interpretation lends a different energy to the story. The thing is this character it is not really me, it is an archetype of youthful ambition and creative frustration in some kind of parallel universe version of my life and I am just doing my best to enjoy the absurdity. I am not sure we ever like anybody else holding up a mirror to our vanities. I thought Ben Barnes was actually brilliant in the film Killing Bono, but personally I didn’t think he was much like me, whereas I thought Martin McCann, who played Bono, was just like young Bono. But when I spoke to Bono about it, he had the completely opposite feeling. He was uncomfortable watching the guy playing him but thought Ben Barnes had me nailed down perfectly. Ultimately the actor plays the script, not the person.

TK: Your social media followers have seen reports from read-throughs in preparation for this upcoming play. How involved are you in the day-to-day progression of the project?

NM: I’m quite involved but trying not to get in anybody’s way. So I am available whenever needed and I’ve been in to listen to read-throughs and talk to cast members. It’s been a lot of fun. [My brother] Ivan and I went in and taught our own doppelgangers how to play some of our songs. The weirdest moment was when the actor playing Bono was unavailable for the first big read-through, so they asked me to read Bono’s part opposite the actor playing me. It was a bit of a head fu** but I do a good Bono impression apparently. So there is my new title: I was Bono’s Understudy.

TK: What’s this about band practice with your brother? Are you performing at an event separate from the play? 

NM: Ivan and I were just working out some of the songs mentioned in the play because no one has heard them for over 30 years … including us. It is not a musical, I should stress, it is a play with music. But it was great getting together with Ivan to go through some of these old songs, and amazing that we still remembered them, including the classic “I’m A Punk,” which was the first song we ever performed at the school disco supporting The Hype in 1978. “You can take your razor blades / out on the street / You can cut off your hair / you can cut off your feet / you can nail your granny to the wall / you can eat screws for lunch / but nothing’s gonna make you a punk.” A lost classic, I think you will agree.

TK: Will you be at opening night? Any idea if the members of U2 will attend?

NM: I will be at the opening night for sure. And I’m going to drag every rock star and minor celebrity I know down there. But I wouldn’t expect U2 to venture into this particular hall of mirrors. They tend to be circumspect about such things and rightly so. They have been quietly supportive behind the scenes.

TK: Any hopes of the production traveling to Ireland, the states or elsewhere?

NM: We can hope. It’s got to be a hit in London first and then anything can happen. Or not. I have learnt from hard experience not to get my hopes up too high. I’m just going to enjoy this for the weird experience that it is right now.

TK: Any details that you want to add?

NM: There was one read-through early on, just to see what kind of shape the script was in, when the actor reading Bono’s part was 6 foot 2. I told Bono about it and he heartily approved of the casting. He said, “I’ve always felt 6 foot 2.”

Chasing Bono opens Dec. 6 at the Soho Theatre in London. Tickets are on sale now and start at £11. Visit this page to book. 

© @U2/Kokkoris, 2018.

U2 Lists: Top 10 U2 Songs of Comfort in Times of Grief

By Tassoula E. Kokkoris

This work was commissioned for the site atu2, which was online from 1995 – 2020 and it still protected under a shared copyright.

Having recently experienced a sudden death in the family, I became overwhelmed with emotions that I didn’t even know I had. I’ve described it as a profound sadness coupled with pain that hurt deep in my chest. In an instant, things that would normally take precedence in my everyday life became insignificant; colors that brightened my world went dull.

Within hours of the loss, I was bombarded with calls, flowers and social media messages. I had to turn my phone to vibrate because the sound of the texts constantly going off made me crazy. Later the buzzing made me nuts as well, so I buried the phone under pillows for several hours. Though everyone sending those messages had only the best of intentions, what I needed more than anything was peace and quiet.

As the days dragged on, I lost track of space and time. I thought weekends were weekdays and nighttime was morning. The thick fog of Oregon matched the haze of my brain, which was out of focus and fuzzy with despair. When I was ready to accept what had happened, and felt obligated to respond to those who had checked in, I began scrolling all of the beautiful messages that had been left for me on Facebook, and reading the kind texts and emails that were sent. Perhaps predictably, some of the ones that brought me the most comfort were those that somehow referenced U2.

I smiled one of my first genuine smiles following the passing when I opened a card from my friend and she’d tucked in a drawing her 5-year-old daughter completed of the band. Tears came to my eyes when another friend simply wrote “Kite” in the comments field of my announcement of the loss. Several folks also sent lyrics in lieu of messages, and I loved that.

Of course, that prompted me to make a playlist for the drive back to Seattle. A reflective list consisting only of U2’s music. Weeks later, I’m still listening to it, still drawing comfort from the mix. If you find yourself in a time of grief, I invite you to do the same. In case you need help with the list, here are my Top 10:

10. MLK
This song is so hymn-like that it always has a calming effect on me. After friends and family convinced me it was okay to “return” to my life, I began to seek out the dark safety of movie theaters. I wanted to see stories and characters that matched my sadness, perhaps to encourage my body to release the pain. One of the first films I saw was the brilliant Selma, about the legendary civil rights march led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This simple lullaby in his honor is as relevant today as it was when the band wrote it, if not more so. It helped me, and also reminded me of the personal tragedies suffered by those close to public figures.

9. Iris
Bono speaks of how he filled the absence of his mother with music, and what better way to pay tribute to her life than with this beautiful tune. The heavenly intro reminds me of the presence of angels and the lyrics speak to the truth in our longevity. I believe that sharing the physical world is only the beginning of our souls’ journey, and the light of love shines on.

8. Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own
Losing a loved one is always hard; losing a loved one with whom you had a difficult relationship can be harder. Bono seemed to discover the essence of his father toward the end of his life, and following his passing. The result was this raw meditation on all of the things they both got right and wrong along the way. An honest, gorgeous tribute to remind us all to do the best we can for as long as we have together.

7. Heartland
Though this song is about a place rather than a person, I found it incredibly cathartic on my drive back home from bereavement leave. Each day I wake, I’m a little further from the shock, a little more distant from the grief. Dawn does, indeed, change everything.

6. If God Will Send His Angels
In times of such deep despair it can certainly seem like a higher power is taking a vacation (if your beliefs include a higher power, of course). Like we’re all out on our own islands, making our way without any guidance or relief. It can be therapeutic to get mad, and this criticism of God’s silence, masked under a quiet cloak of melody, sure helped my anger seem justified when I needed it most.

5. One
In the aftermath of my loss, I immediately started putting thoughts down on paper. As I began to trace my experience, I realized that nearly everyone is flying blind in the wake of sudden grief. So, I wrote what I was feeling at each step of the way, and decided to publish it in hopes that people who will eventually endure the same thing will be more prepared than I was for the pain. I also wanted to stress that no one should apologize for the myriad of emotions they will confront that are completely out of their control. The response was overwhelming and one dear friend wrote me a note in appreciation of the piece, mentioning how we really do “carry each other” in times of need. We most certainly do, which is why this song remains in heavy rotation. The words are so simple, so pure, so true.

4. Kite
None of us know “where the wind will blow” and all we can do in the meantime is give this life of ours our best. Like the one-word title left for me by a friend, the simple poetry of this song soothes me. Just like watching the beautiful colors of a kite fly by — even if it’s “blowing out of control on a breeze,” the universe has still given it a purpose, profound in its own journey.

3. In a Little While
This is my go-to song for recovering from just about anything. I detailed why in an essay I wrote back in 2008, so I won’t go into it here, but I’m pleased to say it possesses the same healing powers it had when I first needed it over a decade ago. It holds up.

2. One Tree Hill
One of the most common lines that friends sent to me after the unthinkable happened, was the glorious, “I’ll see you again when the stars fall from the sky” from this tragically beautiful song. What could I say? I was a sobbing mess every time I saw or heard it, but I loved getting it. It’s so touching, so sweet and says so much by saying so little. One of the greatest gifts U2 has ever given us, made personal by those I love.

1. Window in the Skies
This song may be an afterthought for many fans; casual listeners may not even realize that it’s U2, but I found it a great help the farther I got from my grief. “Oh can’t you see what love has done?” I most certainly can.

(c) @U2/Kokkoris, 2015

Column: Off the Record …, Vol. 14-636

By Tassoula E. Kokkoris

This work was commissioned for the site atu2, which was online from 1995 – 2020 and it still protected under a shared copyright.

Wow. What a week, right?

For those off the grid since Tuesday, let me catch you up …

If you live in one of the 119 countries that has iTunes available, and you possess an account, congratulations! You’re now the proud owner of a new, free U2 album. It’s called Songs Of Innocence and it’s waiting there for you in your purchased items list. No, really, it’s there. Honestly, the only way Apple could’ve made the delivery any more magical is if they’d programmed Bono’s voice to say, “Am I buggin’ you? I don’t mean to bug ya,” upon log in.

Some of us would have laughed, but I get why many did not when they received the album. Though I was elated to watch our favorite frontman on stage at the iPhone 6 launch perform a little “E.T.” move and suddenly see all of the songs appear on my phone, I do understand the frustration of those folks who aren’t fans and didn’t ask for new music. I wouldn’t like it if an album by a band I disliked showed up without my prompting.

What I don’t understand are the scores of account owners who don’t know the band. Aside from various infants and toddlers, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t know who Bono is, and in my brain, if you know who Bono is, you know of the band U2 — even if you’re not a fan.

As if the whining anti-U2 chorus wasn’t loud enough, the band’s stunt with Apple also sparked a backlash of criticism from members of their own fan base, claiming the launch was too big and corporate. That it’s no longer about the music if big business plays a part.

Friends, I beg to differ.

U2 have always aimed to reach the masses. Bono’s repeated claims of wanting the title of “Best Band in the World” have never really slowed, nor does the band seem to create music that begs to be heard in a coffeehouse. Your goals for them (if you want them to keep it small) aren’t their goals.

There is no crime in smart marketing. U2 didn’t get to where they are today by hiding behind their fame; they’ve capitalized on it, as is their right to do. In fact, if they weren’t good at promoting themselves, none of us would even be having this conversation. Why punish them for a partnership that makes perfect sense? Since Tuesday, their back catalog has reappeared on the iTunes charts, securing some of the top spots. As late as Friday night, The Joshua Tree was at No. 7, cuddled right between the Guardians Of The Galaxy soundtrack and Sam Smith’s In The Lonely Hour. Not bad for a collection of songs that debuted in 1987.

They learned their lesson. No Line On The Horizon didn’t do as well as previous albums not because the music was bad, but because they marketed primarily to us: their tried-and-true fans who always wait for the Dave Fanning interview and the chat with Jo Whiley. We don’t expect to see them much on social media, but we buy their music anyway. With this new approach, they’re getting in front of millions who may never before have heard them (hard as that is to believe).

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Remember: Apple bought this album for our catalogs. We didn’t. Sure, we’ll have the option to get more songs if we buy a physical copy or order them digitally a la carte, but right now, the only paycheck they’ve received for Songs Of Innocence came from the tech giant. And like Bono said in his letter to us, it hurts smaller bands when anyone gives away music for free, so it was good that someone paid for it.

Our modern society needs corporations. In a perfect world we’d all buy bread from the baker down the street and get our shoes from the cobbler on the corner, but that’s not reality. I go to farmer’s markets and buy gifts on Etsy, but I also drink a lot of Coca-Cola and enjoy my DirecTV immensely. To put things in perspective: I’m sure that Larry’s first drum set was made by a corporation, as was the notepad Bono scribbled his lyrics upon in the ‘80s. Every vinyl album you ever bought was pressed in a factory of some sort; each cassette spooled in a manner of mass production. See where I’m going with this? The truth is, if you’re reading this right now, on a computer or a mobile device, via the Internet, you’re supporting big business. Make peace with it.

The artistic integrity of the music is in no way compromised by the way it’s distributed. It seems kind of silly to me that there are fans who think the Apple partnership in some way diminishes the creativity of the finished product. I don’t think this could be further from the truth, since we may have in fact got a better album from our band because the demanding launch deadline didn’t allow them to second-guess themselves and Phil Spector-ize their own masterpiece.

So, let’s talk about that masterpiece.

As I was listening to the new album, I couldn’t help but remember my first @U2 writing assignment 10 years ago. Only a contributor back then, I pitched an article to Matt about the similarities between my two favorite bands: U2 and The Beatles. He graciously accepted it and I happily scripted it. I feel like now I should update it.

If The Joshua Tree was U2’s Revolver and Achtung Baby was Sgt. Pepper, this is undoubtedly their first installment of The White Album. Hell, the album cover is even white, and I doubt that’s an accident.

I realize that the title Songs Of Innocence is a nod to British poet William Blake, but there are far more recognizable Beatles parallels for me.

“Iris” is like Lennon’s “Julia” both paying tribute to their mothers; “Cedarwood Lane” is akin to “Glass Onion” in that it reflects upon their personal childhood places. The backing vocals on The Beatles’ “Back In The U.S.S.R.” were intentionally sung like The Beach Boys; U2 pays tribute to that band in “California”.

Who knows what will match on Songs Of Experience?

I’m enjoying learning and feeling the tracks on ‘part 1’ in the meantime. I’ve been listening to all the songs in order, just like we used to in the old days, so they become a collective memory. And let me tell you, this is a raw, stunning album. There are no tortoises or cockatoos killing the buzz here.

I’m going on record saying this is the best thing they’ve done since Achtung Baby. There, I said it.

Here’s my list, ranked weakest to strongest, in my humble opinion:

11. California (There Is No End To Love) Though the nod to The Beach Boys is sweet, and I like California-the-state as much as the next girl, the song doesn’t put me there the way that “New York” catapults me to summer in the Big Apple or “Miss Sarajevo” throws me into a Bosnian war zone. It’s okay, is all.

10. Every Breaking Wave It’s not the song’s fault that I’d already heard it, but I just can’t muster genuine excitement for a track that I discovered on the last tour and thought, “Well, that’s nice.” It is nice, but it’s the most “recent U2” sounding song of the bunch, and I’m into the classics.

9. Song For Someone The guitar intro to this one is so quietly beautiful, and Bono’s voice so clear with Edge’s melodies to complement. The longing in the chorus I can feel in my bones, and I so appreciate that.

8. Iris (Hold Me Close) Bono’s gorgeous tribute to his late mother has all the hallmarks of classic U2, right from the first riff of Edge’s guitar to the honest emotion in Bono’s voice as he describes how the “ache in his heart” where she used to be has shaped him. Heartbreaking and satisfying.

7. This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now The soldier imagery combined with Larry’s old-school military drumming in this one is sublime. They threw a little Rockwell over the top and made it a late ‘70s dance track. A song that could be backed by a marching band or played at a disco. Such geniuses.

6. Cedarwood Road Ladies and gentlemen, The Edge is officially on fire. With lyrics like, “That cherry blossom tree was a gateway to the sun/And friendship, once it’s won, it’s won” over the top of that insane rock ’n’ roll guitar riff, we can see their childhood spring to life in full bloom.

5. The Troubles The haunting sound of Lykke Li’s voice layered over Bono’s, along with the strings, makes this one stand out like none of the others on the album. If this came on the radio, most people wouldn’t immediately recognize it as a U2 song because it’s such a departure for them. It’s fresh, oddly submissive and powerful.

4. The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone) I feel about them the way they feel about The Ramones. They awaken a very deep part of my soul, and that awakening has guided me for years. The African-inspired howls coupled with the beats throughout give the tune a tribal sensation that perfectly communicates the energy I feel when I’m amongst you fellow fans at one of their shows. We become part of the same vibration both physically and spiritually. And that will feel all the more amazing during this song with the Edge refrain radiating beneath us as the ground shakes.

3. Raised By Wolves This one could have been an extra track on Boy, and I mean that in the best way possible. It’s angry and passionate and stripped-back and basic and visceral. I’d like more of these types of songs, please.

2. Sleep Like a Baby Tonight Bono channels John Lennon’s painful “Cold Turkey” voice for this menacing lullaby and hits falsettos we haven’t heard since Macphisto took the stage. The dreadful subject matter here likely allows those high-pitched demons to rise and that makes it all the more devastating. It’s the darkest track on the album, but also one of the most flawless.

1. Volcano This song allows Adam to shine with blinding brightness. When I listened to this for the first time, I could have sworn the bass rhythms traveled through my headphones, down my throat and into my chest, making my heart burst in time with every note. It was as if the music was buried in my cells, awaiting the cue from U2 to ignite. Each section of the song brings a different dimension to an already interesting arrangement. It’s complex in that you never know where it’s about to go, but each destination is better than the last. An absolute triumph.

Speaking of how “Volcano” felt like it was already inside me the first time I listened reminds me of a documentary I saw a few weeks back, for which I am now obsessed. It’s called Alive Inside and tells the story of a man who began bringing music to patients in nursing homes to restore memory and awaken a part of them that has been dormant for years.

I was so fascinated and moved by the film, I donated one of my old iPods to the organization and made my own if-I’m-ever-in-a-coma or when-I’m-too-old-to-remember-you list of songs for my friends and family to be aware of in case I ever need them.

Of course, U2 made the cut.

(c) @U2, 2014.

Rattle and Reminisce: Critics Revisit Their Reviews 25 Years Later

By Tassoula E. Kokkoris

This work was commissioned for the site atu2, which was online from 1995 – 2020 and it still protected under a shared copyright.

When bands reach a certain benchmark of fame, for better or worse it becomes customary to try to bring them down a notch. With the advent of social media, fans have the upper hand on spreading buzz — good or bad — and that trend doesn’t show signs of slowing.

But before we were all drivers on the information superhighway, the voices that were primarily heard were those of journalists. The professional power of the pen is still evident today, but the strength of reporters’ words (the ones who are left, at least) sometimes gets diluted by the noise of the masses.

In 1988, that wasn’t the case.

U2 had been on the cover of Time magazine as “Rock’s Hottest Ticket” and were enjoying the phenomenal success of their album, The Joshua Tree. As they toured that album, they enlisted young director Phil Joanou to accompany them on the road and create a documentary of their experience. Fans were understandably excited, preparing themselves for something along the lines of 1965’s Don’t Look Back, which followed Bob Dylan on a tour of England, or 1970’s riveting Gimme Shelter, which chronicled the last weeks of a Rolling Stones U.S. tour.

What they got was something completely different, and their audience was split on the difference: The film was either a stunning work of art or a pretentious, self-serving snapshot of stardom.

Looking back on this landmark anniversary, our staff wondered if any of the critics who disliked the movie so much back then had a change of heart all these years later, so I set out to find them.

In many cases, the trail went cold after journalists left their long-time publications, or the publications went away altogether. In other cases, some chose not to respond or didn’t want to participate.

Thankfully, I was able to catch up with a few of them, who provided gracious answers to the big question: Do you stand by your original review? 

Mike Boehm, a Los Angeles Times arts reporter who formerly covered pop music for the same publication, had this to say:

In 1988

“Great rock music lives in that grit and bustle, and it thrives on the specific. Rock greatness is Van Morrison singing about a day at a swimming hole (“And It Stoned Me”) and from the details of his story weaving a vision of the broader qualities of fellowship and generosity of spirit. 

It’s the Rolling Stones introducing you to a gin-soaked barroom queen in Memphis (“Honky Tonk Women”) or Neil Young walking you through a violent rite of passage in “Powderfinger,” molding setting, plot and character into a whole that takes on tragic, mythic proportions. 

Along with the passion and power that U2 certainly possesses, great rock ‘n’ roll must encompass laughter and fun and whimsy and imagination — qualities that U2 simply has not shown. These are crippling deficiencies.”


“My views about the album and film have not changed since the 1988 article ran.

I think U2 subsequently took a step in the right direction when it included humor in its [Zoo TV] stage shows for Achtung Baby.

However, as far as I could tell, the elements of humor, storytelling and down-to-earth detail that I criticized in 1988 as crucial missing elements in U2’s songwriting never did materialize.

I’ve been off the pop music beat since fall, 1999, so I’m not in a position to give any kind of educated opinion about U2’s artistic growth since then.

My overall impression of U2 continues to be that while it has impressive strengths and its success is completely understandable and deserved, there are some missing dimensions that are important enough to disqualify it from the top rank of rock’s greatest bands.”

Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer film critic of 25 years, said this:

In 1988

“Apart from permitting U2 fans to gaze upon their rough-hewn idols, there is no obvious point of this movie.

Director Phil Joanou reveres the members of the Irish band to the point of unintentional hilarity. (Rob Reiner and company couldn’t do a Spinal Tap on this; Rattle and Hum is already a parody.) Dogging the band’s heels like a faithful puppy, Joanou does not dare to ask about U2’s politically engaged songs, such as “Pride” (about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) and ”Sunday Bloody Sunday” (about the Troubles in Northern Ireland). The movie is afraid to challenge the authority of these politically anti- authoritarian musicians.

Rattle and Hum, which means to be a portrait of the band often called rock’s social conscience, is the film equivalent of a centerfold pinup.”

Read her full review here


“Movie reviewing is of a moment, Posterity is that moment plus time. I would both stand by the review and append this postscript:

I was one of many in the “love the music, hate the vanity of the project” camp. In 1987, in the context of concert movies such as Stop Making SenseRattle and Hum felt disjointed. Seeing the band visit the shrines and landmarks of American pop and blues felt like an overreach for a young band. I watched about 30 minutes of the film on a friend’s bootleg copy sometime in the early 2000s. Bono and The Edge looked so young and fresh, the music was, as always, thrilling. At that moment, the movie struck me like the image of a young Bill Clinton shaking JFK’s hand at the White House. That is to say, prophetic.”

Thanks to Mr. Boehm and Ms. Rickey for their honest, thoughtful responses.

Though I see where each of them were coming from, I’ll have to admit, I was in the camp that liked the film in the 80s, and I still do. In fact, Steve Morse of The Boston Globe pretty much summed it up for me in his review back then:

“Quite honestly, anyone who lives and breathes music should see this film. So should those nay-sayers who think that rock is little more than decadent mindlessness. There is a dignity to this tour documentary that makes it a human drama as much as a musical one.”

I suppose the fact we’re all still talking about it 25 years on has to say something.

© @U2, 2013.

U2 Lists: Top 5 Bono Howls

By Tassoula E. Kokkoris

This work was commissioned for the site atu2, which was online from 1995 – 2020 and it still protected under a shared copyright.

The Beatles had their yeah, yeah, yeahs; Nirvana, Kurt Cobain’s guttural screams. But U2? They’ve got something none of the others can replicate: the Bono Howl.

The signature Bono Howl is composed of pain, agony, distress, arousal and unabashed joy. What’s so magical about it is that it can start with any one of the emotions just listed, and then morph into the others by the end. Or not.

There are no rules about the length or placement of the Bono Howl, and not every U2 song is blessed with one of these explosions of emotion. In fact, they’re somewhat rare, and like most elements of U2’s music, are better experienced live.

My list below is the Top 5 occasions of the Howl that I feel significantly change the landscape of the song and showcase Bono’s brilliant voice. Sing it with me!

5. Fast Cars (0:00)

Right out of the gate this one is great – Bono’s howl here is a mix of fear and warning that melds seamlessly right into pleasure. You know from the get-go that you’re in for an emotionally charged thrill ride, and the howl is what sets the tone for the entire song. I was lucky enough to see this tune live in Madison Square Garden back in 2005 and it felt like the entire arena full of people erupted into a communal tango at the start. The howl at the end (though not as dramatic) gives it a nice, full-circle feel.

4. All I Want Is You (3:27)

This is the only song on the list that features an integrated howl, woven into the words of the song. But it’s so powerful I’d be remiss to omit it from the bunch. The slow burn of this one, when let’s face it, Bono’s voice was in his absolute prime, only causes the tension to build. The passion behind the story he’s telling — of a complicated love that can’t be realized — commences with a powerful crescendo of a howl, perfectly placed within the word “you.” It’s repeated until The Edge’s guitar seamlessly carries the note to the climax of the song and brings it back down for a peaceful end, as the violins take over. Absolute sonic genius.

3. Electrical Storm (William Orbit Mix) (3:16)

Again, part of the build to the howl is the quiet way in which this song begins. Our hero talks of his love being in his mind “all of the time” and by the time he talks of the rain “washing away” their bad luck, he’s had all that he can take. He erupts into the howl with fierce abandon and then pleads his case for their love to return. It’s easily the greatest point of the song and almost allows us to forget the cheesy lyrics that happen right before it appears.

2. Fez Being Born (1:36)

Before the 360 tour began, I had fantasies of the band opening each show with this song. I thought it was perfect — they could extend the dreamy introduction to give all four men time to reach the stage, then Bono could let out an epic wail as he rose from underground. Four, short, perfect wails, to be exact. I got goose bumps just thinking about it. Too bad it never came true, but I still have hope for future tours (especially since one of the songs they did open with was a couple decades old). Plus, it makes a fantastic alarm clock song.

1. With Or Without You (3:03)

This song is such a staple of pop culture your memories of it may be triggered by various appearances in the past: a penultimate episode of the sitcom Friends; a hilarious bit in the sitcom The Office (American version); a key portion of the plot in the French thriller Tell No One … the list goes on. However you remember the song, my guess is that the Bono Howl is undoubtedly the highlight. Broken into three parts, the glory of this soul-bearing sound illustrates every word that he’s spoken throughout the song. His hands are tied. He’s waited on a bed of nails. His body is bruised. Bono himself described the howl in U2 By U2, though he called it an “Aah-aah,” saying it was the release of the tension and “That is what giving yourself away is, musically.” Indeed.

© @U2/Kokkoris, 2012.


By Tassoula E. Kokkoris

This work was commissioned for the site atu2, which was online from 1995 – 2020 and it still protected under a shared copyright.

Today The Man On The Train releases in the U.S. via On Demand, iTunes, Amazon Watch Instantly, and Vudu. This remake of the original French film stars legendary actor Donald Sutherland opposite U2 drummer Larry Mullen, Jr. making his acting debut in the leading role.

The director, Mary McGuckian, recently shared insight into the making of the film with me. What follows is our interview.

TK: The original Man On The Train (2002), directed by Patrice Leconte, is very critically acclaimed. I read that you aim in your productions to make contemporary works more compelling to modern audiences. The original of this film isn’t that old of course, but the way it was shot makes it feel almost like a classic. Did that factor into your decision to choose this specific film to remake?

MM: The contemporary classic style of the original was more a factor that influenced the production choices for the picture’s remake rather than a factor which influenced the decision to remake it in the first place.

Patrice LeConte’s original is justifiably considered a contemporary classic for good reason. Something I came to appreciate all the more during the detailed analysis that was an inevitable part of adapting it for an Anglo-American audience. No matter how hard I hit it against the wall, the core of the film always sprang back full of bounce. So well designed as to be indestructible.

In the original film, the man often referred to as France’s version of Elvis, Johnny Hallyday, plays the role of the bank robber (The Thief) that Larry plays in your version. Did you deliberately want a rock star for the role?

I’ve heard Larry referred to as the ‘James Dean’ of the band. That’s good enough for me.

Are there any vast differences in the role of The Thief from the original to the present version, other than calling him The Man vs. The Thief?

The film is an adaptation to Anglo-American culture as well as the English language. True to the spirit of the original, I hope, but transposed rather than simply translated. The role was rewritten in collaboration with Larry as it was intended from the outset that he would play it. Generally, I try to write the dialogue/rhythm and voice of a character with a specific actor in mind and so the narrative structure of the adaptation may seem very similar to the original, the character is a different man from a different place, created by Larry from the script on which he made some excellent comments through various rewrites. For my money, he’s taken the original character on a subtle but significant journey.

U2 fans have heard for years that Larry Mullen Jr. was interested in acting. We were encouraged by his starring role in the band’s “Electrical Storm” video back in 2002, but had no idea he would be acting in a feature film. How did you choose him for this role? Did you always have him in mind or did he audition traditionally as everyone else did?

Ah… In hindsight, I think the actor chose the director in this case, rather than the other way round.

The project emerged as a result of a conversation about the potential pitfalls for rockstars who have a yen to exercise the acting bug. L’Homme du Train (the original French title) came up in that conversation as an example of a rock-star-turned-movie-actor success story. It wasn’t until after shooting that I discovered from the original producer, Phillippe Carcassonne, that Patrice LeConte had actually conceived the film at Johnny Halliday’s request.

Prior to that, the film had struck me as extremely well cast. Both Jean Rochefort and Johnny Halliday received many awards for their work internationally. Factors which contributed to Halliday’s success in that role were construed as a combination of his being cast in a role that was well suited to him, enhanced inevitably by his finding himself playing opposite arguably one of France’s most renowned actors in an essentially two-hander heist movie, with all the benefits of comfort-zone that a controlled boutique-style production imply.

Larry responded to the possibility of ‘trying out the acting idea’ with all of the same advantages. A suggestion was that he find a project like L’Homme du Train for all the same reasons. I wasn’t quite expecting the response I got some months later when he had had a chance to view it. Which was, rather than “Yes,” something along those lines might be an interesting first movie, it was more along the lines of “Why don’t we have a go at doing this?”

And so the journey began…

The film was shot on location in Ontario, Canada. Why was this location chosen as opposed to the original French setting?

To add to the above, the adaptation also travelled the film across the Atlantic. In the original, the setting was a fictitious town somewhere in the middle of France. We shifted the setting to a non-specific eastern-seaboard North American (as it happens, Canadian) town.

A combination of production exigencies and the desire to find a location that was geographically authentic to the needs of the story brought us to Orangeville in Northern Ontario.

Tell me how well Larry and his main co-star, American actor Donald Sutherland, worked together during the shoot. Did they know each other before filming?

They met, as actors often do, just before shooting. An unlikely pairing in a film about an unlikely relationship. Donald Sutherland is undoubtedly one of the great ‘monstres sacre’ of contemporary cinema, so his involvement was as daunting as it was an exciting prospect to all of us. As you would expect, his generosity of spirit and his no?holds barred investment of a wealth of experience, expertise and extraordinary intellectual and emotional energy blew us all away.

As courageous as it was for Larry to take on a principle role on his first outing, it was a privilege to witness Donald give everything to the part and the project never once remarking that well … Larry had never done this before.

And you would never have known, as from the very first shot, he was so in character and filming so well, that we all simply forgot.

We can assume from his years of touring and making videos that Larry is well-versed in the process of being on camera, but what was he like as a first-time lead actor? Did he offer suggestions about his character or the script along the way?

Absolutely, Larry has amazing instincts on camera. He has that indescribable thing movie stars have. A quality on camera that can neither be learned, analyzed nor taught. You’ve either got it or you don’t.

I imagine it’s a somewhat nail-biting experience to cast a rock star in your film who is currently on a major international tour. Did Larry’s commitments to U2 ever interfere with the production?

All of our concern was to ensure that the production would never interfere with his U2 commitments. I hope and believe we pulled that off.

How long was the shoot?

Unbelievably short, given Larry’s day-job commitments.

Who composed the film’s music? Was there ever any discussion of U2 contributing music for the soundtrack?

Larry composed the main theme with Simon Climie, variations on which form the bed-rock of the score. And they are still working with it — once it’s finished, you will most likely be able to find it on iTunes.

Indulge us: are there any funny stories or anecdotes you’d like to share from the filming of the movie?

That would be telling!

I noticed that Larry’s longtime partner, Ann Acheson, is an associate producer for The Man On The Train. Tell us about her connection to the film.

Associate Producer is a poorly defined role as it can refer to very little (such as somebody-in-some-way-connected-with-somebody-who-had-something-to-do-with-some-aspect-of-producing-the-film who wanted a credit) through anything in between to a great deal, (i.e. somebody indispensable).

Ann falls into the latter category.

[She was] fully integrated into every aspect of the production from the very first suggestion of investigating the feasibility of it, remake rights options, script adaptations, meetings with actors, all the details of budgeting and financing options and issues, through practical production scheduling including managing Larry’s quite detailed preparation program, script editing and script management. I’ve never seen such a master of colour-coded script scheduling!

We shot the film in record time and still didn’t go over time on a single shooting day as Ann managed the scheduling of all Larry’s other commitments in and around preparation, rehearsals and shooting. On set, it turned out that she was a wizard with the continuity team and knew exactly what the edit notes should be for every take. So much so that after a few days I gave up rushing back to continuity between shots to give the notes as I could tell from the look on Ann’s face whether we had the shot or not. The entire cast and camera crew took to looking back to her at the end of every take as she stood focused in her earphones on the monitor to see whether we got the little nod.

Both Larry and Ann as producers continue to be involved in all aspects of the picture’s completion, delivery and distribution.

As an observant fan, I get the impression that Larry sometimes has the “final say” in U2 matters. Do you think it was hard for him to not be the ‘person in charge’ as you filmed?

The relationship between an actor and director for me is essentially collaborative. Every aspect of this production was pretty collaborative. Perhaps the director’s hat does get the last say with the actor … but then Larry did have a producer’s hat as well!

Although early reviews of Larry’s acting are glowing, do you think because he’s a rock star he will have a harder time proving himself to critics as an actor if he continues down this path?

It is an act of courage for any actor, every time they expose themselves in a role on camera, and always impossible to legislate for press reaction. What matters is that he wanted to do it, he did it and it’s done. Films, like running water, find their level.

Tell us about the film’s release (both in North America and abroad).

The film was made for a North America/English speaking audience. It will be released in the US by Tribeca beginning Oct. 28 On Demand via Cable VOD on all major cable providers, iTunes, Amazon, Watch Instantly, and Vudu. Thereafter, Alliance Atlantis will release it in Canada.

I’m not sure the French, though, will want a remake of a classic by one of their most revered directors served back to them in cold English!

Other international territory dates are still pending.

What’s next on your list of projects?

Right now I’m in finishing mode on a film called The Novelist with Eric Roberts in the title role, and about to start another French based project, The Price of Desire, about Eileen Gray, the famous Irish architect/furniture designer and Le Corbusier.

Do you think Larry will continue acting? If so, would you like to work with him again?

I hope so. And … I very much hope so.

(c) @U2/Kokkoris, 2011.

Photo credit: Sophie Girau. Courtesy of Tribeca Film.

U2 Lists: Top 10 Workout Songs

By Tassoula E. Kokkoris

This work was commissioned for the site atu2, which was online from 1995 – 2020 and it still protected under a shared copyright.

Many ring in the new year by making resolutions to improve their lives, whether it means getting a better job or quitting a nasty habit. One of the most popular goals is to get in shape, so I thought it might be fun for this first U2 List of 2011 to feature songs that promote such an endeavor.

Though some believe U2 music wouldn’t be conducive to a great workout, I actually find many of their songs making their way to my iPod en route to the gym. What’s great is their versatility — you can vary your routine by simply shuffling your playlist and maximize the types of exercise you get.

10. “Wire” Recommended Exercise: Stair Stepper

This song is a powerful one for those in need of a cardio fix. The beat never slows, and lyrics like such a nice day to throw your life away are a perfect catalyst for releasing aggression. 

9. “Lemon” Recommended Exercise: Weightlifting

Although this song would be welcome at any dance club or discotheque, it’s also especially useful when lifting weights. It’s rhythmic enough to promote endurance, yet slow enough that you won’t hurt yourself.  

8. “Numb” Recommended Exercise: Yoga

For those who take the zen approach to fitness, I recommend the calm chants of The Edge in this repetitive mantra that may otherwise drive you nuts. The perpetual chatter allows for ease when holding poses and the sensory overload of lyrics doesn’t promote any sing-along distractions. 

7. “Fast Cars” Recommended Exercise: The Tango

When I first heard this song, I immediately pictured a couple dancing the tango. A vibrant woman in a flirty, red dress; a sexy man in a crisp, dark suit — joined together in close embrace as they took small steps in time with the music. Grab a partner and try it: Aside from the calories you’ll burn, you may just enjoy some romance.

6. “Mofo” Recommended Exercise: Boxing

Though I’ll admit that this song doesn’t rank among my U2 favorites, there is no denying that the wicked mix of rock and techno promotes spontaneous movement. When Bono performed this song live, he sometimes took the stance of a boxer, which makes a perfect fitness fit.

5. “Elevation” Recommended Exercise: Trampoline  

Prior to a U2 tour, I spend many days getting in shape for what is inevitably the most wonderfully exhausting part of the show: pogo-ing during this song. Jumping up and down in time with Bono’s commands works muscles throughout your legs, and the best way I know to prepare for that is to spend some time on the trampoline … elevating. You won’t want to stop once you start.

4. “Walk On” Recommended Exercise: Walking

No matter what your fitness level or goals, we can all benefit from a good walk from time to time. The inspirational energy of this song, written about Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi, will only fuel your fire to blaze the path ahead.

3. “Vertigo” Recommended Exercise: Elliptical Machine

The sound of the “Vertigo” guitar riff will always remind me of the iPod commercial that launched this song into our collective consciousness. The band, outlined in black in front of bright, colorful backgrounds with dancing silhouettes, made me want to jump out of my skin. Now, I use those images, and that killer riff, to hit my stride on the elliptical machine. A great balance of resistance and persistence as the song builds to the chorus.  

2. “Mysterious Ways” Recommended Exercise: Belly Dancing 

Really, is there any other way to groove to this song? Thinking back to the days of Zoo TV, picturing Morleigh Steinberg shimmying her way across the stage, it’s hard not to bare your belly when the first notes of this tune begin. You should submit to the urge — your abs will thank you later.

1. “Get On Your Boots” Recommended Exercise: Running

Whether jogging on a treadmill or running along a trail in the woods, the momentum that this song builds is like a shot of pure adrenaline. The speed of the beat and Bono’s rapid singing provide the perfect storm of stamina for pressing on. Get on your boots, and get moving!

© @U2/Kokkoris, 2010.

@U2 Interview: Peter Rowen

By Tassoula E. Kokkoris

This work was commissioned for the site atu2, which was online from 1995 – 2020 and it still protected under a shared copyright.

If U2 put you on the cover of one of their albums, wouldn’t you be sure to own several copies? Perhaps a few in each format (vinyl, cassette, CD)? Believe it or not, the only non-band-member to ever appear on a U2 album cover, Peter Rowen, doesn’t own either U2 album that bears his likeness.

I’ve always wondered what became of the boy who appeared on the Boy and War covers because his image has always captivated me.

Throughout the history of rock and roll, photos have played a crucial role in representing and even defining the work of its artists. From Jim Morrison’s shirtless pose in the sign of a cross to the jeans-wearing Bruce Springsteen on his Born in the U.S.A. album, a well-crafted image can instantly transport us to the place where the music itself takes us.

U2 are no exception to this — in fact, they’ve probably produced one of the most consistently impressive collections of images of any rock band in existence. The four young band members standing in front of the joshua tree, The Fly and MacPhisto wreaking havoc on the Zoo TV tour, Bono in a bubble bath — the list goes on. But for me, the most prominent U2-related image has always been one that didn’t feature any of the band members. It’s the album cover for War and it still gets to me to this day. The stark contrast of the red lettering juxtaposed with the timeless black and white photo of an angry child says so much, by simply saying so little. It’s haunting, yet innocent. And I hear “Sunday Bloody Sunday” in my head every time I glance at it.

I knew that Peter Rowen, the model for those covers, was the younger brother of Bono’s friend Guggi. I also remembered that he did some acting in Ireland in the years following his work with U2. What I didn’t know is that he grew up to be a successful photographer. And I found that to be especially interesting. Who would guess the subject of such a famous photo would grow up to be a photographer himself?

I recently caught up with Peter, who is based in Dublin, and he kindly agreed to a session of Q&A, via e-mail.

Q: Did being the subject of internationally famous album covers have anything to do with how you arrived at your present career?

A: No, I don’t think me being on the albums had anything to do with me ending up in photography. I think it was more to do with my interest in drawing/painting as a kid. I used to spend a lot of my spare time growing up making images of one kind or another and then one day a friend introduced me to photography and I instantly fell in love with it.

Q: When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A: A tractor.

Q: Did having an older brother who was an artist (with an eccentric group of friends) influence you creatively?

A: I wouldn’t say that my brother and his friends have influenced me at all really…there is quite a big age gap, so by the time I was five my older brothers would have all left home.

Q: Do people still recognize you as the “U2 kid”? If so, is that a good thing or an annoyance?

A: No, I don’t think anyone has ever recognized me as U2’s kid! To be honest with you it’s never really caused me any bother, I guess it’s a bit of a laugh!

Q: The story of how you were paid in candy bars (Mars bars specifically, if I’m not mistaken) for the U2 photo shoots is legendary. Do you have any particularly fond or funny memories of working with the band?

A: My memories of working with the band are all but gone…the only things I actually remember are me not liking the soup we were served by the photographer’s wife and Bono nearly crashing into a line of traffic on the way home from the shoot!

Q: During those Boy and War photo shoots, did you try to have any input into the poses or your wardrobe, or were you agreeable to whatever they instructed you to do?

A: There was a full box of Mars bars at stake! I was up for anything!

Q: Did your parents consent to you participating in the U2 photo shoots in advance, or were they so spur-of-the-moment that they were informed later?

A: I’m sure my parents must have consented to it.

Q: To me the War cover symbolizes how children become innocent victims in conflicts created by adults who should know better. What does it mean to you?

A: I never really thought about that one! I’ve always just seen it as a nice picture of me when I was eight years old!

Q: At the time, did you have any idea that U2 would become the superstars that they eventually became?

A: No — I don’t imagine anyone did!

Q: Did you get to keep any of the original prints from your U2 photo shoots?

A: Yea, I’ve got a couple of out takes from the War shoot…

[Ed. note: one outtake from Peter Rowen’s collection is included below]

Q: Which U2 album cover is your personal favorite?

A: I think my favorite cover is probably Boy

Q: Some of the covers you’re featured on presently fetch considerable amounts of money on auction sites like eBay. Have you ever bid on an item that you appear on?

A: No, never!

Q: Your web site displays an excellent photo you took of Bono during one of the Slane Castle concerts in 2001. Do you photograph the band often? If not, would you like to?

A: Slane 2001 [August 25 show] was the only time I got to shoot the band. Yea, it’d be nice to get an opportunity to shoot them again sometime.

[Ed. note: you can view a selection of Peter Rowen’s U2 concert photos here]

Q: What other (if any) musicians would you like to photograph?

A: Yea, there’s a few I’d love to photograph…Willie Nelson, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan….

Q: What (or who) would be your dream subject to photograph?

A: I’d love to photograph Valentino Rossi (seven-time World Champion GP racer) as I’m a huge bike-sport fan and Valentino is the man!

Q: Who inspires you?

A: I’m a big fan of Richard Avedon’s work…I love the fact that most of it is so simple. Funnily enough I also really like Anton Corbjin’s stuff, again he uses a lot of daylight and tends to keep it pretty simple…no gimmicks just great photographs.

Q: Is U2 on your iPod?

A: Yea, of course U2 are on my iPod! I’ve been listening to How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb a lot lately and I love it!

Q: Do you go to their shows? Buy their albums?

A: Yea, I’ve been to a good few of their shows…(went to see them play Barcelona last summer and had a great time!)…and yea I’ve got most of their albums. I think the only albums I don’t have a copy of (strangely enough) are Boy and War!

Q: When you hear U2 songs on the radio, for instance “Two Hearts Beat As One,” does it remind you of being in the video or is it just like hearing any other song?

A: When I hear that particular song yea, I do always think of the video.

Q: What types of music do you listen to? Who are your favorite bands?

A: I love all sorts of music from Chopin to White Stripes to Van Morrison to Kanye West. I’m listening to Magic Numbers lately…I really like their current album.

Q: As a fan of Roddy Doyle’s stories, I remember your appearances in The Commitments and The Snapper. Do you have any other acting projects in the works?

A: No, the acting thing I sort of fell into by accident. Actually, a Swiss film producer spotted me in the U2 “Two Hearts Beat As One” video and came over to Ireland to meet me. He had me in mind for a pretty major role in a film he was working on at the time…as it happened, that film was never made, but as a result of me getting an agent and taking a few acting classes (a few too few I think!) I ended up getting some small parts in a couple of other movies.

Q: Were you ever contacted by U2 to appear on any recent album covers?

A: No.

Q: The band has joked in the past that they should make an album called Man as a sort of bookend to Boy. If this ever comes to fruition, and they asked you to be on the cover, would you do it?

A: Only if they promised to pay me in Mars bars again!

Q: Are you still in touch with the band?

A: Not really, I’d know them all to say hello to but that’s about it…

Q: You display an amazing portfolio of work on your web site. Have you ever considered publishing a book of your photography?

A: No, but I would love to someday!

Q: And hypothetically, if one were to realize their dream of someday getting married in Slane Castle, do you photograph weddings?

A: Yes!

Visit www.peterrowen.com to learn more about Peter Rowen’s photography and view samples of his work.

© @U2/Kokkoris, 2006.

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