'Deep and fat and satisfying.'

19 Sep 2006
For the first time each member of U2 - and manager Paul McGuinness - has told their own story from their earliest childhood memories to their first meeting with each other, from those opening chords in Larry's kitchen to the biggest stadiums in the world.

The story is told in 'U2byU2' and in the lead-up to publication this weekend, we'll be carrying a series of editorial highlights on U2.Com

In our first exclusive extract Adam recalls discovering rock'n'roll as a thirteen year old in an Irish boarding school, buying his first £5 acoustic guitar, talking his parents into buying him a bass guitar and how his friend John said he would teach him to play. 'It just sounded good to me. Deep and fat and satisfying.'

'I moved school when I was thirteen, again to an Irish public boarding school, St Columba's College in Rathfarnham. The buildings were old, there were no curtains and it was cold up there, the kind of cold that you never really forget. I can't say I was hugely enthused about the move. But fairly early on I fell in with a boy called John Leslie, who could play guitar. John had cassette tapes and we would listen to The Who, The Grateful Dead, Kris Kristofferson, Carole King, Neil Young, people that were around at that time, singer- songwriter things and some far-out stuff, Hawkwind, The Edgar Winter Group, Edgar Broughton. And then the prefects at school would listen to Rory Gallagher, The Beatles, The Stones, Eric Clapton, so we'd hear a bit of that, and some American performers like the Doobie Brothers. So I was getting pretty turned on to music and it always seemed to change my mood; it somehow made it bearable to be in that school situation.
I remember reading that Clapton hadn't started playing guitar until he was fifteen or sixteen and I thought, 'Well, there's still time for me!'

So I bought a £5 acoustic guitar from a junk-shop down Dublin quays and I started learning chords and collecting songs. There was a guy in school who had a bit of a band going. He had an electric guitar and the school gave him a room to practise in; there was a bass player and a drummer and the sound was amazing to me. I just loved it. I don't know what it was like objectively, four teenage schoolkids struggling to play a song, probably, but the sound of drums and guitar and bass felt primal to me. I started to see that not only did this make me feel good but you got a bit of attention if you did it, too. You could meet girls and these people were considered cool. I suppose that was when I really made my decision that this was what I wanted to do. I had no interest in sports. I didn't want to be academic, particularly, and at any rate was showing little aptitude. I liked the creative things, such as painting and music; I found that community of people more interesting.

So John persuaded me that we could start our own group. He wanted to play electric guitar, so he said I should play bass. I don't remember being particularly convinced at first. I knew that you needed bass and drums to make that rock sound but I didn't really know anything about music which would have qualified me to be a bassist. But John said he'd teach me what I needed to learn. I'd been taking some classical guitar lessons, and there was a folk guitar teacher who used to come by as well, so I picked up a few rudimentary things and decided to go for a bass. I talked my parents into buying it for me. I had to make a solemn promise that I was going to stick at it and all this kind of carry-on.

Now that I look back it was an amazing thing for my parents to do, quite out of character. It was more my mother, I suppose. She had something of the romantic in her and probably thought it wouldn't do any harm. I guess there was enough music in the family that she could relate to it.
So there I was, fifteen years old, with a dark brown Ibanez-copy bass guitar and no amp. I had no idea what I was supposed to do with it.

Absolutely none. Not a clue. It just sounded good to me. Deep and fat and satisfying. Presumably, in the big picture, someone like me would have been expected to have a couple of years of amateur rock and roll and then move on to something more sensible. But it was all that I had. I didn't have anything else.

My grades were so bad the following year that my parents said they were not prepared to keep me at this expensive school. That was pretty bad news for me, or so it seemed at the time, because we were just getting a band going. John Leslie and I had started writing an Irish rock opera based on the Celtic myth of the Children of Lir, in which children are turned into swans by their wicked stepmother. But I had to leave before having the chance to establish myself as Ireland's answer to Andrew Lloyd Webber.

I thought that was it, the musical career was over. And so I was dispatched to Mount Temple, a comprehensive school in north Dublin, which was not a place where I felt comfortable at all, to contemplate a future without much in the way of career prospects. '

More about 'U2byU2' here and further extracts later in the week.


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