Column: off the record… vol. 11-463

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off the record, from @U2

It's great that U2 have started the seventh and final leg of their 360 tour. They completed the Mexico concerts last week, and on Saturday night in Denver began the remaining 22 shows in the U.S. and Canada, which were postponed following Bono’s back injury just over one year ago. The tour should wrap up in just over nine weeks in Moncton on July 30, with the band playing 110 shows in 30 countries around the world. It’s amazing to think the band then will have toured the Claw for a staggering 25 months, making this the longest continuous tour in U2's prestigious history. It seems an eternity since the opener in Barcelona on June 30, 2009, when the band memorably talked to the crew of the International Space Station.

In the complete 360 touring period, U2 will have earned a staggering $$700 million, and that's before taking into account merchandising income, tour-related back catalogue and airplay royalties. This certainly hasn't harmed their status in the recently published U.K. Sunday Times Rich List. Accordingly, their wealth has increased to a collective €517 million (£452 million / $$725 million), leaving them 13th on the list for Ireland. In an age when worldwide album sales continue to fall year on year -- and U2 are no exception here -- it is more and more likely that music acts will continue to take the more lucrative route by touring longer and more frequently. U2 are reaching an important crossroads in their career, and I feel confident that after almost 35 years into their existence, they have many more great albums in them, and won't turn into a giant touring circus, becoming in effect their own tribute act.

I hadn't expected to see U2 again this year, but I am looking forward immensely to Glastonbury, where I was fortunate to get a ticket in the ballot. With more than 20 stages and literally hundreds of bands playing over the entire weekend, it is interesting to see that U2 will be headlining the Pyramid Stage at the same time as other acts such as Primal Scream, Cee Lo Green and Crystal Castles on other stages. It will be interesting to me to see who the 150,000-capacity crowd will give its allegiances to.

Regarding our favourite band, it is expected that a "greatest hits" set list will be in place, and notably in recent weeks the band have started to play familiar songs that have not been heard recently, such as "Even Better Than The Real Thing." I expect fewer album tracks and a show focused mainly on single releases.

One song expected as a red-hot favourite to be played is "When Love Comes To Town," as the great B.B. King is also appearing on the Pyramid Stage earlier in the evening. It's quite likely this will be the last time all the original players for that song are together on a single stage.

One song I would love to hear is "One Tree Hill," particularly given the fact that on July 3, just over one week after Glastonbury, it will be the 25th anniversary of the death of Greg Carroll, and a very fitting tribute that would be.

I have been up in my attic recently sorting through old books and magazines when I remembered my collection of old 7-inch singles from the early '80s onwards. I had clean forgotten that I was an avid collector of the U2-related Mother Records imprint. Back in 1984, U2 had re-signed to Island Records, and as part of their new album deal, the band had the opportunity to have their own label, a bit like Swansong Records for Led Zeppelin or Apple Records for The Beatles. However, unlike those two colossal bands, Mother Records did not exist to release U2 records, but was originally set up as a one-off single deal for many music acts prior to them being (hopefully) signed up by the major labels.

Mother Records existed for many years, releasing its last wares in 1999 before formally and quietly closing down. Wouldn't it be great if those classic early singles by the likes of Cactus World News, In Tua Nua and the Golden Horde were compiled again for CD or digital release? In the meantime, it looks like I’ll have to dust off my record player again!

Apart from U2, another band I dearly love is the legendary Irish avant-garde Virgin Prunes. In the early days of U2 -- going back to that time when they were then known as Feedback, and then The Hype -- the Virgin Prunes were effectively a sister band to U2, playing the same concerts and with similarly named songs. In another connection, Virgin Prune guitarist Dik Evans, Edge's older brother, was originally part of the five-piece The Hype, and following that combo's final concert in March 1978, Dik left, leaving the more familiar Dublin four-piece combo we know today. In my humble opinion, the Virgin Prunes were one of the great underrated bands of all-time, and it's well worth checking out their back catalogue, remastered a few years back.

Talking about the Virgin Prunes, well before either they or U2 existed, the various members as young friends formed a childhood gang called Lypton Village. As a result, even to this day, Lypton Village has had a lasting effect on those individuals, as the members were fond of giving each other nicknames. It is of course well-known that both Bono and Edge gained their names from this gang, but how many of you out there are familiar with the Lypton Village-derived nicknames "Mrs. Burns" and "Jamjar" -- these being the short-lived nomenclatures for Adam and Larry, respectively? And it wasn't just band members either. Ever heard of "The Goose"? Well, it's no lesser a figure than a certain Mr. P. McGuinness! Not sure about you, but it's doubtful I would ever go up to him and call him that!

And finally...The Edge lives in a bedsit?!?!

© @U2/Govern, 2011.

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