'I could eat toast and play guitar'

29 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 'U2 by U2' and with publication this month, we'll be carrying a series of editorial highlights on U2.Com.

Read our first extract about Adam's musical youth here.

In this second extract Edge remembers the first guitar his mum brought him home from a bring-and-buy sale, his earliest collection of albums, reading the NME and Sounds every week - courtesy of a friend with a job - and first hearing about this 'wild kid called Paul Hewson.'

'My first exposure to rock 'n' roll came one Christmas watching The Beatles movie A Hard Day's Night on TV. I was very impressed and I thought that they would go far. This coincided with my brother getting a small mono record-player.

He and I started buying records together. The first album we bought was Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The second album we bought was A Hard Day's Night. I then wanted to get another one of The Beatles early records; Richard wanted to get one of the later ones. We had a standoff and as a compromise we agreed to get Ringo Starr's newly released Sentimental Journey. This was when the penny dropped for me that some records are better then others.

My mother must have suspected I had an ear for music because she bought me a little Spanish guitar when I was seven years old. For me, this was completely fascinating. I couldn't tune it, I didn't even know how to hold it, but it was so cool - that much I did know. I would wave it around and pretend, to the gullible youngsters on our street, that I could play. That first guitar of mine was really little more than a toy. The first proper guitar that came into our house was bought by my mother at a jumble sale for a pound. Never in the history of the Malahide parish bring-and-buy sales has one pound been as well spent, and given back as much value. I think she might have bought it for my brother, but the two of us would practise on that guitar for hours. It was rough, but it played in tune, and when we replaced the rusty wire strings with some nylon Spanish guitar strings it sounded decent enough. I learnt my first open chords on that guitar, tutored very effectively by Richard, and pretty soon I started working out how to play whole songs. I was interested to discover that I could do a lot with that instrument, and I drove everyone in the house mad by playing it at all times, while doing all manner of other tasks. I could eat toast and play guitar, get dressed without missing a note. I would play along every evening while the family watched TV, providing a kind of silent-movie-era soundtrack. My poor mother gave up shouting at me to stop, and used to just hit me with a large stick. Even that didn't work. I was twelve or thirteen by then, and our record collection had expanded to include some 45's by Slade and Alice Cooper.

Along with our Beatles LP's we got some by Led Zeppelin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, Yes, Rory Gallagher and Taste. I discovered Derek and the Dominos while staying with my older cousins in Blackpool. It is hard to explain the significance of music for all of the kids in our area. There was nothing else nearly as important in terms of establishing your identity. I would have huge arguments with my friends about who was the best band in the world, or what was the best record ever made. The TV music shows Top of the Pops and The Old Grey Whistle Test were considered unmissable. The British music papers NME and Sounds were read from cover-to-cover, mostly courtesy of our friend Fergus Crossan who had a part-time job and could afford such luxuries. Around this time I took some piano lessons, but it wasn't for me. I couldn't get excited about sight-reading when I could pick up the guitar and learn by ear. With only a few chords I was able to play my favourite tunes by Slade, T. Rex and The Beatles. We would hang out with our mates from the area, Shane and the O'Connell brothers, and play music. We would meet up at the end of our street, literally hanging out on the corner with some guitars playing and singing Beatles songs, Simon and Garfunkel, T. Rex or whatever anyone had learned. There were always a few girls around to keep it interesting. All of this was considered a very positive development. At least we were no longer blowing things up. My early education came courtesy of St. Andrew's National school, a mere five minutes' walk from our house. My brother was extremely bright and always did well. My sister could spell and was good at Irish.

The teachers had high hopes for me too, but I was not exactly an over-achiever. I was just restless and always seemed to be doing stupid things.

I sat on an old desk on the fringe of the classroom and exhibiting serious stupidity one day carved my name into the top. I think I was even a little surprised by my teacher's unforeseen talent as a sleuth when I was immediately identified as the culprit and punished. I was in St. Andrew's for a very brief period with Adam. He had a very short haircut, glasses and a set of unusually large front teeth like my own. Adam was a year and half older than me and in a class ahead, but I was vaguely aware of him because Malahide was a small town. Then he was shifted out to a posh prep school. So he disappeared off the radar when I was about seven and we didn't meet again until he appeared in Mount Temple.

My best friend Shane was in my class at St. Andrew's. I was a year younger than the rest of the class and it was decided during my final year that I wasn't old enough to graduate. Shane went ahead into the big school and we sort of lost touch with each other. I met him one day soon after he had started at Mount Temple and he told me about this wild kid in his class called Paul Hewson. He seemed to share our interest in high-explosives: there was some story involving a small fire, and some rivet-gun caps, taken from the building site that was to become our new school. So I heard about Bono a couple of years before I even met him.

You could say his reputation preceded him... '

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


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