"U2 by U2" Book Summary

by Gemma Craig
U2 performed at the Glastonbury Festival in England.

U2 performed at the Glastonbury Festival in England.

Ian Gavan/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Consisting of four school mates from Dublin, Ireland, the band U2, founded in 1978, has consistently reinvented itself over the decades. Under the guidance of Neil McCormick, the book "U2 by U2" reads like a conversation with the band members -- Bono (Paul Hewson), The Edge (David Evans), Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, Jr. -- from their childhood days through the release of "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" in 2004 and the following Vertigo tour.

1960 to 1980

The first few chapters follow the early childhood years of the four band members. Bono explains who his father was, a great inspiration, despite their not getting on well. Although the guys began playing gigs in 1976, it wasn't until 1978 that the four-member band U2 was founded. "We actually signed our first record deal in the ladies' toilets at the Lyceum in London. It's a long story," says Adam Clayton, U2's bassist who sported a blond Afro at the time. The group's first album, "Boy," was released in October of 1980. On the process of writing lyrics in this phase, Bono explained that he didn't like writing the details; he was more interested in the ideas being conveyed. The recording experience changed almost daily as he was constantly tinkering to get the ideas right.

1981 to 1985

During the years following the debut album, U2 built up its audience by playing universities around the U.K. The group's second album, "October," was released in 1981. The band filmed its first music video for the first track, "Gloria." During this time nationalism in Ireland was in high gear. Bobby Sands was dying from his hunger strike, and blood ran hot politically. In 1983 Bono and his high school sweetheart Ali married, just prior to the release of "War." This album entered the U.K. charts at number one, and the line from "Sunday Bloody Sunday" -- "How long, how long must we sing this song?" has become an anthem for peace. "The Unforgettable Fire" was released in 1984. The album features the songs "Pride," "Bad" and "4th of July." It was during this time that the band got together with producer Brian Eno, who was trying to retire at the time.

1986 to 1993

In 1987 "The Joshua Tree" was released, the band's most popular and critically acclaimed album to date. This was followed by the cinematic album and documentary "Rattle and Hum." Bono said, "There I was. Loyal, but with in my imagination filled with wanderlust, a heart to know God, a head to know the world, rock star who likes to run amok and sinner who knows he needs to repent." That feeling conveys the tension found in the songs. After this, the band went though an almost massive overhaul of its sound. Partly due to Bono and The Edge composing music for a production of "A Clockwork Orange," "Achtung Baby" and "Zooropa" took U2's music to a new dystopian-type place. Many fans weren't happy about what they were doing, but the band went with its heart to tell a Faustian story.

1994 to 2000

The ZooTV tour was an over-the-top production in which the band members played characters or at least different versions of themselves, such as Bono's MacPhisto. The art of theater showed through their caricatures. In 1997 "Pop" was released. Bono claimed there was a lot of shouting at God on that record, and the theme of it is "You don't want to find the truth because lies are more comforting." "All That You Can't Leave Behind" came in 2000. Leading up to its composition and release was the Good Friday Peace Agreement in Northern Ireland, a major step in the peace process.

2001 to 2006

Bono's father passed in August of 2001. Theirs had been a complicated relationship. This was a day before the band was due to play at Slane Castle. The Edge said about the show, "It was pretty mind blowing. The energy...you could feel it physically." The following January, the band played the Super Bowl during the "Elevation Tour." The experience was described as "terrifying." After the tour, the band released its second "Best Of" album, including two new songs from the Monaco sessions, "Electrical Storm" and "The Hands That Built America," the latter going on to garner a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination. It was during this time that the One campaign started and work began on "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb," an album about family, intimacy, human relationships and the loss of innocence. Of the album, Clayton said, "I felt we had somehow got back to the same point again, revisiting that place of youth and innocence with the maturity of a lifetime."


  • "U2 by U2"; Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr; 2006
  • U2; Discography

About the Author

Gemma Craig began writing in 1993, expanding to various websites in 2007. She writes about interior decorating and design, travel, film, literature, technology and consumer electronics. Craig's work has been published in "Spinner," "USA Today" and numerous regional newspapers.

Photo Credits

  • Ian Gavan/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images