20 October 2005
'The Boy Named Sue'
Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone has conducted one riveting interview with Bono. Here's a couple of choice extracts, read some more or listen to the Bono Interview Podcast at RollingStone.com, buy the new issue for the whole deal.
RS: You wrote an extraordinary song about your father, "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own." When I spoke to Edge this week, he said that you're turning into your dad.
Bono: He was an amazing and very funny man. You had to be quick to live around him. But I don't think I'm like him. I have a very different relationship with my kids than he had with me. He didn't really have one with me. He generally thought that no one was as smart as him in the room. You know that Johnny Cash song "A Boy Named Sue" where he gives the kid a girl's name, and the kid is beaten up at every stage in his life by macho guys, but in the end he becomes the toughest man.
RS: You're the boy named Sue?
Bono: By not encouraging me to be a musician, even though that's all he ever wanted to be, he's made me one. By telling me never to have big dreams or else, that to dream is to be disappointed, he made me have big dreams. By telling me that the band would only last five minutes or ten minutes -- we're still here.
RS: What were the first rock & roll records that you heard?
Bono: Age four. The Beatles -- "I Want to Hold Your Hand." I guess that's 1964. I remember watching the Beatles with my brother on St. Stephen's Day, the day after Christmas. The sense of a gang that they had about them, from just what I've been saying, you can tell that connected, as well as the melodic power, the haircuts and the sexuality. Which I was just probably processing.
Then performers like Tom Jones. I'd see Tom Jones on Saturday night on a variety show -- I must have been, like, eight years old -- and he's sweating, and he's an animal, and he's unrestrained. He's singing with abandon. He has a big black voice, in a white guy. And then, of course, Elvis.
I'm thinking, what is this? Because this is changing the temperature of the room. And people stopped talking.
RS: You never saw rock & roll -- the so-called devil's music -- as incompatible with religion?
Bono: Look at the people who have formed my imagination. Bob Dylan. Nineteen seventy-six -- he's going through similar stuff. You buy Patti Smith: Horses -- "Jesus died for somebody's sins/But not mine . . ." And she turns Van Morrison's "Gloria" into liturgy. She's wrestling with these demons -- Catholicism in her case. Right the way through to Wave, where she's talking to the pope.
The music that really turns me on is either running toward God or away from God. Both recognize the pivot, that God is at the center of the jaunt. So the blues, on one hand -- running away; gospel, the Mighty Clouds of Joy -- running towards. And later you came to analyze it and figure it out.
Read the whole RS online version of this interview, and hear the Podcast here