The FAQs

History FAQ

A: The Early Years: Three to Under a Blood Red Sky
  1. Who started U2 and when? How did they get those wacky nicknames?
  2. Where does the name U2 come from?
  3. Which band members were / are in U2?
  4. Who's the boy on the cover of Boy and War?
  5. Wait, I don't see a boy on the Boy cover!!
  6. Why did U2 get in trouble with Stephen Sondheim?

1. Who started U2 and when? How did they get those wacky nicknames?

Larry Mullen, Jr., was born on October 31, 1961, in Dublin. He was two years behind Bono in high school but both noticed each other. It was Larry who posted an ad on a bulletin board at school looking for musicians to start a band. Paul Hewson (aka Bono) was born on the 10th of May, 1960, in Dublin. He was a very outgoing person in high school who responded to Larry's note saying that he could play guitar and sing. He really couldn't do either. Adam Clayton was born in Oxfordshire, England, on March 13, 1960, and moved to Dublin after his father got a job flying for Aer Lingus. Although he was not a very good student, he was always very polite to everyone. He was the only bassist to respond to Larry's note. Dave Evans (aka The Edge) was born on August 8, 1961, in East London. His family moved to Dublin a year later. He was often known as a loner early in high school. He took piano and guitar lessons and often played with his brother, Dick. Both showed up to "U2's" first little gathering at Larry's house (60 Rosemount Avenue in Dublin). They set up in the Mullens' kitchen and played the Rolling Stones "Brown Sugar" and "Satisfaction." At this point, the entire group of hopefuls for the band included Larry, Dave and Dick Evans, Adam Clayton, Paul Hewson, and Ivan McCormick .

Bono, which is a shortened version of Bono Vox, his original nickname, got the name through a group of friends who were known as the Lypton Village. The name, which means "good voice" in Latin, was taken from the name of a hearing aid shop in Dublin.

Some reports say Edge was named by Bono because Dave was always on the fringe of things. Other stories suggest Bono gave him the name because of the sharp lines and angles of his face when he was a teenager.

In Lypton Village they thought it strange that you should go by a name given to you by your parents, when that name might not really suit you. The nicknames were often associated with a facial thing and it would then also apply to the person's character. So The Edge had this prominent jaw line & was always on the edge of things: like an observer. Bono's first Village name was: Steinhegvanhuysenolegbangbangbangbang. (!) Paul McGuinness became known as "The Goose." [SL, CB, GB, M2]

2. Where does the name "U2" come from?

In the band's very early beginnings, circa 1978, Adam Clayton asked Steve Averill (formerly known as Steve Rapid of the band Radiators From Space) to help the band come up with a good name. Averill was interviewed by Hot Press magazine in 2001 and gave this answer when asked about how he helped U2 choose the band's name:

"When I first met them they didn't really know what they wanted to do, what type of band they really wanted to be. But they had qualified for the final of that band competition in Limerick and they needed to decide on a name. Adam liked names like XTC, which were short and crisp and could mean a lot or mean very little. So I made a list of ten and I put U2 on the bottom. I thought it was strong graphically and it had a variety of connotations without meaning something specific. It was short and stood out from the band names common at the time. After we discussed the list we decided to go for U2 for all those reasons."

There have also been many stories told about how the band's name is taken from the U-2 spy plane, and those stories gained favor with the connection of the famous Francis Gary Powers U-2 incident which occurred on May 1, 1960, and the fact that Bono was born just nine days later. These stories seem to be a stretch at best, and Averill's answer above makes no mention of the spy plane connection.

Averill, it should be noted, didn't stop helping U2 when he helped choose the name. He was also asked to manage U2 but declined, opting instead to handle U2's visual aspects. Averill and his partners at Four 5 One (formerly Works Associates / ABA) in Dublin also design U2 album covers, t-shirts, backstage passes, tour programmes, and even the symbols on Edge's hats during the Zoo TV Tour. [IM, JC, GM, JP, SC, M2]

3. Which band members were / are in U2?

This is very boring. U2 lack the emotion of big bands like Pink Floyd and the Beatles when it comes to rupture rumors, and gossip. They have always had the same members, and it's not bound to change in the near future. The four guys seem to be good friends. [SL]

The band were advised to dump Larry, in the early days (by a record company). [CB]

4. Who's the boy on the cover of Boy and War?

His name is Peter Rowen. He was a kid who lived across the street in front of Bono's house in Dublin. He's the brother of Derek "Guggi" Rowen, and Strongman - both of which were in the Virgin Prunes. Peter later became skate-board champion of Ireland, works in a skate-board shop and has also had various acting parts, notably in The Commitments and The Snapper. In The Commitments, Peter plays the kid who wants to audition for Jimmy's band, and is carrying a skateboard in his arms as he yells to Jimmy from the street below. More recently, Peter was one of the pallbearers at the funeral of Bono's father, Bob, who died August 21, 2001. (He joined Bono, Edge, Larry, Guggi, and Bono's brother Norman as pallbearers.) [SL, Ge, CB, M2, PC]

5. Wait!! I don't see a boy on the Boy cover!!

That's probably because you have the U.S. release of the album, which was censored / edited by Warner Records for fear of paedophilia claims. The cover was changed in the States because of "a vague worry at the label that there might be a homosexual impression left from the boy's waist-up nakedness." (quote from former Principle Mgmt. director Ellen Darst) [SL, RA, Ge]

6. Why did U2 get in trouble with Stephen Sondheim?

When U2 first released Under a Blood Red Sky, the original version of "The Electric Co." that was on the album included a 27-second snippet of Bono singing Sondheim's "Send In The Clowns." The band failed to get permission and pay the appropriate licensing and royalty fees to include Sondheim's tune on the album. When Sondheim objected, U2 agreed to pay a $50,000 (US) penalty for the unauthorized use and to press all future releases with a new version that did not include the 27-seconds of "Send In The Clowns."

So the original version of the album has the full "Electric. Co." running 5:18 and the edited version of the album has the song ending at 4:51. Your best bet for finding the original release with the unedited version of "Electric Co." is to track down a vinyl copy of the album. The original pressing will say 5:18, while future pressings on vinyl were corrected to say 4:51.

CDs are a different story. Some have the full song, others have the edited version. There's some thought that European-pressed CDs will have the full song. What's strange is that you can't rely on the listed running time to tell which version is on a CD. Based on conversations with other fans, it appears that if you had a group of 10 Under a Blood Red Sky CDs, chances are 6-7 of them would have different times printed on the CD cover, sleeve notes, and/or the CD itself. I've yet to hear anyone offer a good explanation for why the record company people never figured out exactly how long each track was. [M2, MJ]

History FAQ menu

A: The Early Years: Three to Under a Blood Red Sky
B: The Unforgettable Fire to Conspiracy of Hope
C: Rock's Hottest Ticket - The Joshua Tree and Rattle and Hum
D: Everything You Know Is Wrong - Achtung Baby to Passengers
E: Let's Go Shopping - Pop to The Best of 1980-1990
F: Where Two Roads Meet - The Million Dollar Hotel, All That You Can't Leave Behind, and The Best of 1990-2000
G: Love and Peace or Else: Africa, iPods, and Atomic Bombs