Memphis Mullen: This summer I am doing something I have always wanted to do. I am following U2 around the country driving to all 16 US shows. I have been to multiple shows on every tour since ZooTv, but I have never packed up my car and left my house for over two months to go to every U2 show in America – and then wrote a book about it.
I have been a U2 fan for 24 years. I was a freshman in high school when The Joshua Tree was released in 1987. I remember hearing With or Without You and realizing it was by the same band that sang that song Pride I had heard a few years earlier. Luckily a classmate had a picture of U2 because at the age of 14 it is VERY important what the band that you might be interested in looks like. Out of the four guys, one was stood out. His name was Larry Mullen Jr., and I have been in love with him ever since.
Besides being gorgeous, Larry is my favorite member of U2 because he is very matter of fact, no nonsense, and always says exactly what he is feeling. I admire that about him. He loves Elvis Presley, and I have loved Elvis since I was five. My favorite part of Rattle and Hum, is when U2 visits Graceland and Larry talks about how much he loved the Elvis movies. The first time I saw a Sun Studio tee shirt was on Larry in Rattle and Hum. And now I live in Memphis, just two miles from Sun Studio and seven miles from Graceland.
I have had a few personal encounters with Larry Mullen over the years on various tours. The first time I saw Larry in person and not on stage was at Giants Stadium on August 12, 1992 before the opening of the ZooTv Outside Broadcast Tour. A bunch of us fans were waiting outside the stadium in the afternoon before the show, and Larry drove by us on his motorcycle. He did not stop, but he did wave. I got a picture and then ran away screaming – he just has that affect on me. That night in concert Larry came to the front of the stage and sang Dirty Old Town as only he can. I was so excited that my friend Jonathan tried to hold me back, so I hit him to get him off of me and he fell off his chair.
During Popmart, the only time I saw Larry outside of the shows was in Philadelphia on June 8, 1997 walking from the bus into the stadium. I do have a HitMan shirt though – like the one he wore in concert.
On the Elevation tour, I had three fantastic encounters with Larry, including the only time I have ever met him. But before any of those, a Larry Mullen Band shirt was thrown onto the stage in Philadelphia on June 11, 2001. Larry placed it on his drum kit where it stayed for the rest of the show. I found out later that Paola had thrown this shirt on stage. It was her birthday, she is a huge Larry fan and had made the shirt for him. Because I took pictures of this and posted them online, Paola, Jenny, Tasha and I became friends. Paola made us all Larry Mullen Band shirts, which I wear to every U2 show. I just made three replicas so I don’t have to wash the same one over and over.
On June 21, 2001 in New Jersey at the end of the show, Larry walked to the front of the stage, leaned over, looked into my eyes and handed me his drumstick. I cried. I clutched that drumstick as I walked out of the arena. It is now in a glass case on my shelf.
On October 19, 2001 in my hometown of Baltimore, I finally met Larry Mullen Jr. This was the first time U2 had played Baltimore, so when they arrived for sound check Larry, Bono, Edge and Adam walked out to meet us fans waiting outside the arena. When Larry walked over to me I said, ‘I don’t have anything for you to sign, so can I have a hug?’ Larry looked at me a little strange, then smiled and said yes. After Larry hugged me, I thanked him. Tasha hugged me and then I cried like a baby. I was so overcome with emotion. I had been waiting to meet Larry for 14 years!
On October 31, 2001 in Providence for Larry’s 40th birthday, Larry walked to the front of the stage in the middle of the show, leaned over, and gave me his champagne bottle. I had slept out all night in 30 degree temperatures, so I could be up front for Larry’s 40th birthday celebration concert. I made a huge birthday card that everyone in the GA line signed, and I had brought him a tee shirt with Elvis riding a motorcycle on it. I was of course wearing my Larry Mullen Band shirt, and so were my friends Tasha and Paola. After Stuck in a Moment, Larry’s 40th birthday celebration began. We sang Happy Birthday to Larry. A birthday cake was brought out, and Larry pretended to throw it out into the audience. Larry took the microphone and came to the front to talk while Bono sat behind the drums. Larry said, “Bono can’t play drums. It took me 40 years to get up front. I’m glad I’m spending my birthday with 18,000 of my closest friends. I feel like I could borrow money from you.” Then Bono asked for a bottle of champagne, which he shook up a la ZooTV and sprayed the audience. Edge took a swig, then Larry drank and continued to drink for the next few songs. After Kite, Larry got off the drums and made a B line for me.
I got my card and shirt in hand so I could give it to him, but that’s not why he was there. He gave me the champagne bottle – with champagne still in it. I drank some and shared it with Paola and Tasha. Larry wanted to share his birthday with ME! He wanted ME to have a drink on his birthday. I was SO excited I didn’t even know they played Wild Honey. I thought it was Staring at the Sun. I didn’t really come around until Please. After Pride, Larry came back over to me so I could give him the birthday card and Elvis shirt. I said, ‘Thank you. Happy Birthday.’ He smiled and said, ‘Thank You.’ He looked into my eyes, just like he had in Jersey. Later on, Bono noticed our shirts, shook his head and smiled. I hugged my champagne bottle while walking out of the arena. It is now on my shelf next to Larry’s drumstick from Jersey.
I did not have any encounters with Larry during the Vertigo tour, except when I would jump up and down screaming when he sang ‘RELEASE’ during Love and Peace or Else. I may have gotten a nod.
On the 360 Tour in 2009, Larry gave me a few waves, smiles and nods during the shows when he saw me in my Larry Mullen Band shirt jumping up and down screaming his name. Of course no one else was behind the stage waiting for him to walk down with his conga during I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight.
Because of Larry Mullen, there is U2. He started the band with a note on the school bulletin board. And for a few minutes, the band was known as The Larry Mullen Band. Because of Larry Mullen, I got into U2. I heard With or Without You, saw a picture of U2 and noticed Larry, and my passion for U2 quickly grew. Because of Larry Mullen, I met many of my friends. I met Paola and Jenny from that Larry Mullen Band shirt that was thrown on stage, and then we all met each other’s friends and so on.
This summer I will be On the Road with U2 at all 16 US shows. I will be the one in the Larry Mullen Band shirt behind the stage during Sunday Bloody Sunday watching Larry. It’s all about Drums!
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