Bono remembers U2's first rehearsal in Larry Mullen Jr's kitchen with 'weirdo' the Edge… and takes the blame for their iTunes album misstep

(Image credit: Peter Noble/Redferns)

Even his detractors surely have to admit Bono has a way with words, and the new extracts from his forthcoming memoirs vividly conjure the major events of his past; Live Aid, conquering American stadiums, U2's first gathering in Larry Mullen Jr's kitchen… and the things that didn't go so well, including their decision to partner with Apple in 2014 and give all iTunes users their album Songs Of Innocence. Whether they wanted it or not.

We didn’t just put our bottle of milk at the door but in every fridge in every house in town. In some cases we poured it on to the good people’s cornflakes

The band convinced Apple CEO Tim Cook of the plan to give away their then-new album. Instead of the option to download for free, users would find it in their iTunes libraries in an unprecedented move for an artist. 

"If just getting our music to people who like our music was the idea, that was a good idea,' writes Bobo in an extract published by the Guardian. "But if the idea was getting our music to people who might not have had a remote interest in our music, maybe there might be some pushback. But what was the worst that could happen? It would be like junk mail. Wouldn’t it? Like taking our bottle of milk and leaving it on the doorstep of every house in the neighbourhood.

"On 9 September 2014, we didn’t just put our bottle of milk at the door but in every fridge in every house in town," he continues. "In some cases we poured it on to the good people’s cornflakes. And some people like to pour their own milk. And others are lactose intolerant.

I take full responsibility

But as well as taking the experiment with good humour, Bono is always willing to take the blame for the hostility that came from iTunes users. 

'I take full responsibility. Not Guy O, not Edge, not Adam, not Larry, not Tim Cook, not Eddy Cue," states the singer. "I’d thought if we could just put our music within reach of people, they might choose to reach out toward it. Not quite.'

For some detractors, the combination of U2 and Apple was unpalatable – and certainly not punk rock. Bono seems very much aware of this in hindsight.

'At first I thought this was just an internet squall," he writes. 'We were Santa Claus and we’d knocked a few bricks out as we went down the chimney with our bag of songs. But quite quickly we realised we’d bumped into a serious discussion about the access of big tech to our lives. The part of me that will always be punk rock thought this was exactly what the Clash would do. Subversive. But subversive is hard to claim when you’re working with a company that’s about to be the biggest on Earth.'

The blowback would have a pretty profound effect on the band – and there would be no more stunts from U2 again… for now. 

'We’d learned a lesson, but we’d have to be careful where we would tread for some time,' he concludes. 'It was not just a banana skin. It was a landmine.'

With such brouhaha it's sometimes easy to forget that U2 were once a bunch of school kids trying to get something started. In Larry Mullen Jr's kitchen, no less.

Bono was one of the hopefuls who responded to fellow Mount Temple pupil Mullen's school notice board advert for 'Drummer seeks musicians to form band.' 

'All How casually our destiny arrives,' reflects Bono in the book. All four future members of U2 were part of the throng that gathered in the drummer's kitchen for the first 'rehearsal'. 

He didn’t have to be in tune with anyone else, because he was in tune with himself

'On that first Wednesday after school it felt as if no one was in tune but Larry, who appeared quite at home around all this metallic chaos. Well, he was at home. It was his kitchen. Everything I still love about Larry’s playing was present then – the primal power of the tom-toms, the boot in the stomach of the kick drum, the snap and slap of the snare drum as it bounced off windows and walls. This indoor thunder, I thought, will bring the whole house down.'

Bono also recalls the other two young gentleman who would become part of his destiny; 'Adam Clayton was there on bass. I couldn’t quite make out what he was playing, but he looked the part. David Evans, whom no one had yet named the Edge, had the coolest aura of anybody. He didn’t have to be in tune with anyone else, because he was in tune with himself.'


But there were other budding Dublin musicians too who wouldn't go on to form The Hype, the band that was to become U2, after Radiators From Space singer Steve Averill suggested the moniker for them. 

'In the room briefly was our friend Neil McCormick’s brother, Ivan, Larry’s friend Peter Martin, who owned a pristine white Telecaster replica that looked as if it had just come from the shop window (he was happy enough to lend it to me, but was probably not so happy about my fingers bleeding all over it),' continues Bono, 'and David Evans’s older brother, Dik, a well-known brainbox. 

'Dik and Dave were so clever that they built an electric guitar from scratch. So clever that they used to try to blow each other up with chemistry experiments and, according to their nextdoor neighbour Shane Fogerty, did blow up the Evans garden shed one day. They had a reputation as weirdos – pleasant weirdos, but weirdos nonetheless.'

  • Read the full extract over at The Guardian. Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story by Bono published by Cornerstone on 1 November 
Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.