Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Remember that band U2 - Sarajevo and the Dandelion days

Busking in the Dandelion - I merely bottled - we'd stop when they started.
1978 and they had something going.
Would head also to the afternoon gigs in McGonigles.
When U2 supported the Prunes.
They were amazing.
That Xmas gig they did in the TV Club on their return from plugging Boy in New York was beyond electric.
They knew they were on to something.
We knew there were on to something.
It rocked.
Drenched in sweat, soaked in sulphate, walking to Blackrock before the hitch to Monkstown worked landed me with a fever over Xmas.
Then they got religion and made those 'Made For The USA' albums. Possibly slightly more complex Simple Minds.
Then they came to terms with the US, beyond the white boy bombast, nearer to the blues.
And they pulled off their commercial masterpiece
The Joshua Tree.
Funny the boys with the exception of Adam did rock band in reverse.
After Boy they all found religion - Some dodgy evangelical dude called Dennis on Capel St.
So they did scriptures when the others did scripts.
Get thee behind me speedball.
The disciples then find a missus.
Then kids.
Kind of grounded.Kind of rooted.
Kind of confident. But kind of nervous. 
They start to probe.
Then they actually made rock n roll - good ****.
Real deal.
Achtung Baby is an amazing ablum.
Then they dropped the crucifixes for a bit of messing.
But they were that bit older.
Mature enough not to choke on their own irony.
Less likely to be a spike still in vein toilet job.
Turning on, not turning blue
Rock n roll - opposite to what the others do.
And that - combined with talent - was the secret to their success.
The normal route is album adulation cocaine copulation capitulation sequeing into smack and crack and overdose and if you are lucky enough to have yr fried mind upright you buy the Christian dope or the Buddhist **** or whatever.
But U2 were mainlining Jesus before gale force cocaine hit them.
And then when they later felt like the odd walk in the wild side weather, they were mature enough to wear thermals.
Let that be a lesson to you young bucks.
Now go back and listen to Shadows And Tall Trees and Out of Control.
That's good Jesus
That's good dope
By anyone's bible.

And every time I talk about U2 I skip the easy digs.
Jesus Bono yeah yeah yeah.
But, sssh, listen
For that Sarajevo gig.

That was something else.

And the Italian troops in full sing-a-long, even going on with the crowd long gone.

All right beside the graveyard that grew so much in the previous years. With funerals targeted feeding more funerals. 

Right beside it, the Olympic stadium.

The boys in the Lemon.


It was worthy.


In the background a very funny little historical footnote.

A very odd one for rock n roll.

The corridors of power around the world awaited the outcome of the first polls - the election being the first act in the multi multi Dayton peace plan.

The election took place in a very fraught tense atmosphere - this had been a nasty bitter vicious war. And the smoke had barely cleared from the battlefield.
But the polls had gone down without any major violence.
And now the votes were being counted. 
In a vast factory in the rural outskirts of Sarajevo.
Fertiliser sacks served as sandbags and Iron Cross emblazoned German tanks and troops manned the perimeter.
Hundreds of primarily young Bosnians were counting the results around a couple of dozens tables.
About 12 to a table.
A Croat. a Serb. A Bosniak etc etc
Counting non stop 24hrs a day.
The kids were all delighted to get the relatively well paid gig.
And I kept up jokes, banter and meta-lingual tom foolery just to get us through the 12hr shift
Needless to say U2 coming to town was the talk of the show.
Everyone was excited.
It transcended all ethnic issues.
I sussed that 90% of my guys had tickets to the gig. 
And they were supposed to be counting that night.
It was their shift.
Yeah they needed the money.
The week's work was gonna keep a lot of families going.
U2 were coming.
A major rock gig.
In Sarajevo.
Where you brazed snipers to get water out of the river to bring back to your apt with the blown out windows in deep winter.
And the trees outside already chopped down for fuel.
Former neighbours sat on the hilltops and dropped lead onto the people below.
This was more than a concert.
This was hope.
Pure and simple.

I was realised these kids were going to the gig. 
Wages/permission or not.
I strolled up to Bruce.
"Bruce all my kids are going to the kid."
Bruce's superficial stoner charm belied the shrewd worldly mind of a true operator.
The Canadian was a kind of gonzo electioneer.
You hired him and his crew when you wanted to run elections in dodgeville.
I knew Bruce from the UN brokered elections in 1993 in Canbodia.
I was the Cambodia correspondent with AFP.
He was doing what he was doing in Bosnia.
Making an election happen.
Pulling off miracles.
Getting killers to behave.
Getting around minefields.
Getting logistics going where infrastructure ceased to be.

"Fuck it," Bruce said with his laconic grin.

"I'm going to the gig."

"And?" I asked.

We'll suspend the count.

And that's what happened.

Quietly without informing the waiting world, we just suspended the count for the night.

Washington, Paris, London, Moscow all waited with bated breath.

This was the first attempt to see if a shaky peace could hold.

But all that war and peace stuff was put aside that night in the former Yugoslavia.

We were all off to the gig.

Where curiously the Irish army provided security.

It was funny strolling in back stage with the Chief of Staff Gen Gerry McMahon - an old friend from his days in the Middle East running the UN gig in the south of Lebanon.

And Bono?

Well Bono just came on stage.

"Hello Sarajevo. Fuck the past. Let's embrace the future."

And the place - full of Serbs, Croats and Bosnian Muslims - rocked.

You could have danced for days on the appreciation.