By Aidin Vaziri
“We’re not Irish,” The Edge once announced on national television. “Honestly, we’re not. We’re from Duluth, but we saw this Irish Spring commercial one day and we just went, ‘That’s it, we’ll be Irish.’” Naturally, the guitarist’s faux confession was for a comedy bit called “U2 Secrets” on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Since forming in 1976, U2 have been mostly drama-free, with their original lineup still cranking out the massive hits over 30 years later. But that doesn’t mean you know everything about them.
1. That’s Sir Bono to you. Even though he’s not technically qualified for the royal title, in 2007 the Irish-born U2 frontman received an Honorary Knighthood from the Queen of England. At the ceremony, the singer, born Paul Hewson, joked that his son, “thought I was becoming a Jedi.”
2. The same year, U2 ranked No. 22 on Forbes’ Celebrity 100 list. The band’s robust bank account may have had to do with manager Paul McGuinness encouraging the band to move their songwriting catalog from Ireland to a tax shelter in Amsterdam.
3. Bono is the only person who has been nominated for an Oscar, Grammy, Golden Globe, and a Nobel Prize. He was nominated three times for the latter. Time named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world twice, and made him Person of the Year in 2005 along with Bill and Melinda Gates. “He was every bit the geek that we are,” Gates Foundation chief Patty Stonesifer told the magazine. “He just happens to be a geek who is a fantastic musician.”
4. Before deciding on the name U2, the band tried out the Larry Mullen Band, Feedback, and the Hype. They settled on U2 after browsing a list of suggestions from a family friend, punk musician Steve Averill. It was the name they hated the least.
5. Even though it is now universally reviled as a half-formed collection of songs and blight on U2’s otherwise pristine discography, the group’s techno-heavy ninth studio album Pop debuted in the No. 1 position in 32 countries when it was originally released in March 1997. Rolling Stone issued it four stars out of five, declaring they’ve “made some of the greatest music of their lives.”
6. Following in the footsteps of the Beatles, the Band, and the Who, U2 were the fourth rock band ever to be featured on the cover of Time magazine. The April 29, 1987 cover featured the band’s name in flames with the headline, “Rock’s Hottest Ticket.”
7. Many fans believe 1987’s The Joshua Tree was originally intended to be a double album, a theory backed by the fact that singles such as “With Or Without You” and “Where the Streets Have No Name” came with a bounty of quality b-sides that would put most other bands’ main output to shame. Bono further fanned the flames when he admitted, “The album is almost incomplete. ‘With or Without You’ doesn't really make sense without ‘Walk to the Water’ or ‘Luminous Times.’ And ‘Trip Through Your Wires’ doesn’t make that much sense without ‘Sweetest Thing.’”
8. The band’s fourth album, 1984’s The Unforgettable Fire, was named after a series of paintings created by survivors of the atomic bomb attacks in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Because of the band’s strong Christian roots, many people believe it has to do with Bono’s strong affinity for the Bible. But 1981’s October remains the only album with overtly religious lyrics.
9. The sunglasses aren’t just there to make Bono look like a rock star. The U2 singer says he has an allergy to salicyclates: “That means I lose my voice or I fall asleep in the strangest places, like once on the lighting board for Sonic Youth, one of the loudest concerts in the world. And I get red eyes, which is one of the reasons I wear glasses.”
10. Larry Mullen Jr. gets regular injections of bull’s blood. Bill Flanagan’s book, U2 at the End of the World, claims the drummer uses the holistic treatment for dealing with a bad back: “Bono says Larry tried different doctors without success until he went to a German who brought in a holistic healer who started giving Larry shots of bull’s blood. That did the trick! Larry’s Irish doctor refuses to accept it―he looks at X rays of Larry’s crooked spine and says it’s impossible, but Larry feels fine. He flies to Germany for shots of bull’s blood regularly.”