Behind The Music: U2 the early years

In 1976, Larry Mullen Junior posted an advertisement on the notice board at Mount Temple High School for people who were interested in forming a rock band. Out of the group came Bono (Paul Hewson), Adam Clayton and the Evans brothers David (christened by Bono as “The Edge”) and Dik. Although the group could not play very well, they nonetheless declared themselves a band. And so Feedback was born. However, the name was not kept very long and they were soon known as “The Hype"

In autumn of 1977, the band performed at a talent contest at Mount Temple high school where they were well received. However, after the performance, Dik Evans left the band to join the Virgin Prunes, and the band’s name was changed to “the Hype”. Dik left citing a difference of opinions in the way the band was heading between him and the members - “They became very intense about it and I wasn’t, it was almost a generation gap type of gulf between us. I just didn’t fit in, the attitude more than anything”.

Their first break came in 1978 with a win in the Harp-Lager Talent contest in Limerick, 1978. This came as a shock to the fledgling band as Adam explains “I think at the end of the day, it’s because there’s a spirit in the band that comes across”. The prize was 500 pounds, and a recording session at CBS Sony.

In the same year, the band had changed their name again, this time to U2, a name suggested by Steve Averill, the lead singer of The Radiators from space who later designed the band’s album covers. Bono commented on the decision of the name - ” we called ourselves U2 to take ourselves out of the category of the Sex Pistols, the Clash, even Led Zeppelin- so that people would hear the name and say “What sort of band would that be then?”. This unusual name also provided the band with a brilliant marketing tool for promoting themselves.

Despite the initial success, one problem remained. The band needed a manager. Although Adam excelled in his initial efforts in establishing music contacts within the industry as well as booking gig dates, U2 needed someone more experienced and someone who will take them to the top. Bill Graham - a journalist working for Hot Press, suggested Paul McGuiness. Thus, after an initial meeting in the summer of 1978, Paul McGuiness decides to manage the band.

U2’s first EP single “U2-3”, was released later in December 1979 under the CBS label - a result of the sessions conducted after the competition. This became U2’s first Irish chart success, even though only a limited number were released. But despite their chart success, the UK reception was poor as their music style did not fit into any classification. In some cases, U2 had to be content with small crowds, one being the nine paying attendees that turned up at the Hope and Anchor pub in Islington. Bono would later then comment about this unfavorable reaction stating that - “London is chained in bondage”.  Although U2 felt the UK was the best place to measure and achieve success, they decided to experiment their idea of playing original music. This obviously meant competing against the various show bands that performed in Ireland, starting at the Garden of Eden Club outside of Dublin. As U2 found out, this proved to be a very difficult task. Being different meant that they had to win over the fans of various show bands that had much more success in performing other people’s work.