U2 or Albatross for the big time?

Hah Hah, that’s the question, right?

A recent article in The Sunday Times has proved to be a conversation starter due to the following piece; “As the interview neared its end, a member of a fellow northside band phoned in with a question that Bono read out: “Do U2 think that their musical ability or their publicity got them where they are now? From a future rival: Albatross”

I have no idea who it was who called in and obviously never knew about it until now. So, let back up a little and put all this in perspective. The date is Monday 25th February 1980 and U2 were being interviewed on Pat James’ rock show on a Dublin pirate radio station. On the night Bono diplomatically answered that he had heard of Albatross and that they were apparently quite good.

OK, let’s take a ramble down memory lane here. U2 started off rehearsing in Mount Temple school, which was just the other side a wall that bordered onto the garden of a house we owned in Dublin at that time. I remember listening to them from our back garden and because the bass is the instrument that travels loudest outside the walls of a rehearsal room I only had Adam’s bass lines to go on. As they weren’t standard rock ‘n’ roll lines I actually had quite a hard time working out what they were up to and consequently sort of wrote them off as just another school band who’ll probably go nowhere!! Boy, was I ever wrong there!! 🙂

My next ‘encounter’ with the band was the following. I remember seeing them in Kevin Street College, Dublin when I was studying there. The college had lunchtime gigs and again being interested in music I used to always check out the bands. The first time U2 played there they had a problem with their equipment. They finally managed to get it running but only had time to play about 3 songs. Again, it wasn’t my style of music but I have to admit Bono certainly had that X factor even then. I just remember being very impressed with his stage presence. They apologised and said they’d come back and do another show asap!

The funny part of that story from my perspective was that someone came around with a bucket to collect a few bob for the band. Being a student at the time (hence no money) I refused to pay as it wasn’t a full lunchtime concert. There wasn’t much the guy could say so he just gave me a dirty look and passed on. The band did come back to do another show in a few weeks and I’d been intrigued enough from the tiny bit of the first show I’d seen to go back and check them out again. I hadn’t crossed the doorstep till the guy shoved the bucket in my face with great delight. I asked him if we were going to get a full show this time. When he answered ‘yes’ I forked over my few bob and caught my first full U2 show. Bono was a real livewire and in your face but as a rock ‘n’ roll guitarist (raised on Rory Gallagher and blues) I just couldn’t work out what the Edge was up to. I don’t think anyone was aware at that time that we were witnessing the birth of a new style of guitar playing. Exciting days indeed!

My mate Steve (Iredale) went to work for them shortly after Horslips split (which would have been 1980), so in fact Bono was probably answering quite truthfully when he said he’d heard about us because I’m sure Steve would have spoken to him about me and Albatross. Steve and myself were sharing a flat around that period and I ended up meeting Bono many times in the early ’80’s.

Funny how an article can bring back so many memories. Take it from me, there was no way U2 were going to be stopped from making it all the way to the top. Bono had an energy about him that was infectious (I always felt better after meeting him), he had a real drive about him and in fact all the members knew what they wanted and how to get it (not to mention the additional advantage of having Paul McGuinness in their camp as well).

So, thanks to whoever phoned in that night to the Pat James show and for mentioning the name of my band at that time – Albatross – but apart from the fact that actually we were on quite friendly terms with U2 (and hence weren’t in any way a rival) we were also in a completely different league as regards the need to ‘make it’. I think the most important thing is – we’re all still playing music to this day and still enjoying it. Now that’s something to celebrate!!

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