Adam Charles Clayton (born 13 March 1960)
Clayton has resided in County Dublin since the time his family moved to Malahide when he was five years old in 1965. Clayton is well-known for his bass playing on songs such as “New Year’s Day”, “With or Without You”, “Get on Your Boots”, and “Magnificent”.
His work on No Line on the Horizon has been cited as his best bass playing. He has worked on several solo projects throughout his career, such as his work with fellow band member Larry Mullen Jr. on the theme of 1996’s Mission: Impossible. Clayton, as a part of U2, has won 22 Grammy
Clayton is the elder child of Brian and Jo Clayton, born on 13 March 1960 in Chinnor, Oxfordshire, England, when Clayton was five years old, his family moved from Oxfordshire to Malahide, County Dublin, where Clayton’s brother Sebastian was born. The Clayton family became friends with the Evans family, with their sons Dik and Dave (more commonly known as The Edge), who were both in the original group, Feedback, that spawned U2.
Clayton attended boarding school first at Castle Park School in Dalkey, then at St. Columba’s in Rathfarnham. He later changed school to Mount Temple Comprehensive School in Dublin, where he met fellow band mates Paul “Bono” Hewson and Larry Mullen Jr., and was reunited with his boyhood friend Dave “The Edge” Evans. Mullen had posted an advertisement on the school bulletin board for musicians to form a band with him; Clayton showed up at the first practice, which also included Dik Evans, Dave Evans’s older brother, Ivan McCormick, and Peter Martin, who were two of Mullen’s friends.
McCormick and Martin left the band soon after its conception. While the band was a five-piece (consisting of Bono, The Edge, Mullen, Evans, and Clayton), it was known as Feedback. The name was subsequently changed to The Hype, but changed to “U2” soon after Evans left the band. Clayton also served as the band’s first manager before Paul McGuiness, a more experienced manager, was hired, because Clayton had left school earlier.
In 1981, around the time of U2’s second, spiritually charged album, October, a rift was created in the band between Clayton and McGuiness, and the three other band members. Bono, The Edge, and Mullen had joined a Christian group, and were questioning the compatibility of rock music with their spirituality. However, Clayton, with his more ambiguous religious views, was less concerned, and so was more of an outsider, until Bono’s wedding to Alison Hewson (Neé Stewart), in which Clayton was the best man.
In August 1989, Clayton made newspapers around the world when he was arrested in Dublin carrying a small amount of marijuana. However, he avoided conviction by making a large donation to charity, and has later been regretful, saying “It was my own fault. And I’m sure I was out of my head – emotionally apart from anything else. But it is serious because it is illegal.” Clayton has also had alcohol problems, which came to a head on 26 November 1993 when he was so hung over that he was unable to play that night’s show in Sydney. After that incident, however, he gave up alcohol.
In 1995, after the Zoo TV Tour and Zooropa album, Clayton headed to New York with bandmate Mullen to receive formal training in the bass; until then Clayton had been entirely self-taught. During that period, he worked on U2’s experimental album, released under the pseudonym “Passengers”, entitled Original Soundtracks . That album features one of the few instances where Clayton has appeared as a vocalist; he spoke the last verse of “Your Blue Room”, the album’s second single. Prior to this Clayton had only provided live backing vocals to tracks such as “Out of Control”, “I Will Follow”, “Twilight” and “Bullet the Blue Sky”. Since 1998’s Popmart tour Clayton has not sung live in any capacity for the band.
In 1996, while still in New York, Clayton collaborated with Mullen to re-record the Mission: Impossible theme.
Clayton has remained a bachelor through his time with U2. During the early 1990s, he was involved with and briefly engaged to British supermodel Naomi Campbell.
He also had a long-standing relationship with Suzanne “Susie” Smith, a former assistant to Paul McGuiness; they were engaged in 2006, but the pair broke up in February 2007.
The High Court ordered the assets of Clayton’s former housekeeper and PA be frozen after it was reported that she misappropriated funds of €1.8 million.
As a bass player, Adam Clayton’s most recognizable basslines include “New Year’s Day”, which evolved out of an attempt to play Visage’s song “Fade to Grey”, and “With or Without You”.
His style includes Motown and reggae influences, and cites artists such as Paul Simonon of The Clash as influences on his musical style.
When Clayton first joined the fledgling U2, he did not have formal training in the bass.In the band’s early years, he generally played simple parts in 4/4 time.
Bono said of Clayton’s early bass playing, “Adam used to pretend he could play bass. He came round and started using words like action and fret and he had us baffled. He had the only amplifier so we never argued with him.
We thought this guy must be a musician, he knows what he’s talking about and then one day we discovered he wasn’t playing the right notes, that are what wrong, y’know are?”
Clayton has sung on several occasions, including on the song “Endless Deep”, the B-side to the single “Two Hearts Beat As One” from 1983. He also spoke the last verse of “Your Blue Room”. Clayton can be heard speaking on “Tomorrow (‘96 Version)” (a rerecording of “Tomorrow” that he arranged) a song from U2’s 1981 album October. He plays the guitar on a few occasions, most notably the song “40”, where he and guitarist The Edge switch instruments. He also plays the keyboard introduction to “City of Blinding Lights”.
Clayton’s basses include:
Fender Precision Bass
Fender Jazz Bass
- Gibson Thunderbird Bass
- Gibson Les Paul Triumph Bass
- Gibson Les Paul 70’s Recording Bass, unknown model
- Lakland Joe Osborn Signature Bass
- Lakland Darryl Jones Signature Bass (with Chi-Sonic pickups)
- Auerswald Custom Bass
- Epiphone Rivoli bass (seen in the get on your boots’ music video)
- Status John Entwistle Buzzard Bass
Throughout his career, Clayton has used both Precision and Jazz basses. His first bass, however, was a dark brown Ibanez copy. He uses Ashdown amplifiers and blue Herdim picks, as does bandmate The Edge. Clayton’s Precision basses are modified with a Fender Jazz neck; in an interview with Bass Player magazine, he said that he prefers the Jazz bass neck because it is more “lady-like” and is a better fit in his left hand.