In the previous post I talked about Simon & Garfunkel being a presence in the early days of our son’s life. Staying with a musical theme gives me the opportunity to mention another favourite artist, and recount a fantastic anecdote.
Like Simon & Garfunkel the band U2 has also long been part of my life – and the Irish quartet’s records have been a bit of a fixture during the last couple of months. We’ve been listening to a lot – there are so many great ones – and getting off on the uplift of the ‘spirituality as rock song’ vibe as much as the tunes.
The appearance at Live Aid in July 1985 is a favourite moment from the band’s trajectory. Famous but not yet iconic, there is momentum and magic and frontman Bono glimpses transcendence. U2 reach it, shifting the air and smashing the fourth wall in the process. I have watched these fifteen minutes, just two songs, neither of them singles, on countless occasions over the years and the performance still brings at least a lump to my throat each time.
I played the footage recently as my baby son sat on my lap. He was completely content, drawn in. Mesmerised by the circling lullaby riff of the song Bad or maybe Bono’s mid-’80s mullet. I had a romper-suit made up for my son, with the title of U2’s 1991 album printed on it.
I wanted to write about U2 because of the singer Bono’s Dad. Bob Hewson was a Dublin Post Office worker, a widower, a part-time opera singer and a particularly hard nut to crack. Inspiration for one of rock ‘n’ roll’s all-time great father and son lyrics, the song Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own.
For the sake of it I embellish the following story slightly… But it’s one Bono related shortly after Bob had passed away, in late 2001. I think it really does describe something fundamental about lads and their dads.
By the 1990s the band was incredibly wealthy and famous. The four members flew their entire families over to the USA to attend a humongous end-of-tour party. Supermodels were there. President Clinton was there. Pavarotti was there. The Pope was there. Elvis, John and Jimi resurrected themselves from the dead just to be there. Even Jesus rose again, never one to miss a finger buffet and a disco.
Bono introduced his father to all of the great and all of the good and Bob seemed to think the evening was, you know, alright. Of course, it really nagged at Bono that his Dad had somehow not enjoyed things quite enough.
The morning after the party the singer asked him if everything had been okay? Was he looked after well and had his needs been met? Had he enjoyed the evening?
“Yeah, sure. It wasn’t too bad”.
Not sated, in fact a bit annoyed, Bono pushed his father further. Wasn’t he proud of the status and access his son now had, mixing easily with these world leaders, movers and shakers and icons? Wasn’t he impressed with the trappings the success of his band had brought him?
His Dad replied:
“Look, it’s all very well Paul. But when are you going to get a proper job?”