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Saturday 23 August 2014

'Finglas played a major part in who I am'

Published 20/01/2013 | 06:00

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Bono had something of an identity crisis in his early years. His father was a Catholic, his mother a Protestant and their divisions were sometimes played out on the streets of Finglas.

"We weren't really a big church-going family, but my father would drive my brother, if he'd agree to go, and me to St Canice's Church in Finglas, the little Church of Ireland church, and we would go to the service and he would wait outside or he would go over to the other St Canice's (the Catholic church) and get Mass and come back and be waiting for us outside. It seems to me so preposterous, I don't know why. It did then and even more so now.

"So I have memories of being in Finglas centre through St Canice's Church and there was this little youth club there that we'd go to and have dances and that kind of thing. I would wander around with early crushes through Finglas. That would be a place you could go on a date and it seemed very exciting compared to Cedarwood Road. I'm talking about Finglas town now, compared to where we were, where there wasn't a lot going on you know. There was a row of shops and that was it."

It was on the streets of Finglas in their teenage years that Bono, Guggi and a new member of their gang, Gavin Friday, first changed their names. Their assumed identities were just one aspect of the surrealist group they formed called Lipton Village, something they used to embrace their somewhat outcast status.

"To balance the joy and the fun that I had growing up there was definitely always a threat of violence. That's just a fact. I would say it to my Dad later and he would say, 'I don't remember that at all'. There was another life. There was a whole other thing going on because teenage boys are full of testosterone. Humour. I do remember a lot of humour, even though there were some people around who you'd have to dodge. Maybe they couldn't stand us because we were laughing at them behind their backs, because that was our revenge. Our revenge was humour and we developed a whole sort of surreal way of seeing the world which was sort of part Monty Python and part the Mighty Boosh before the Mighty Boosh was invented."

The friendship they forged and their collective love of music would eventually make the trio among Finglas's most famous exports. But during their early years the local celebrity was puppet maker and Wanderly Wagon star Eugene Lambert, who lived around the corner on Sycamore Road.

"The first autograph I ever got was Eugene's. I knocked on the house. I don't know why, we were just messing, sure kids. But I loved that they were there."

Less than a decade later, when Bono's band U2 hit the big time, the tables were turned. "The first time I did The Late Late Show, I came back and went to Superquinn in Finglas and I was mobbed for the first time. I'd love to tell you they were gorgeous teenage girls that were mobbing me, but it was a load of old dears who'd seen The Late Late Show and who wanted my autograph."

It wasn't Bono's first memorable encounter with Superquinn. At around the age of 15 he got his first proper job in the supermarket.

"I don't think I did very well. They weren't very happy with my performance. I just remember very long hours, like ridiculously long hours, seven in the morning till nine at night, for very little pay. This was starting to bother me, so I said I'll go and talk to whoever it was in Superquinn and say, listen these hours are a bit mad for the money. Maybe you could think about upping the money or downing the hours.

"I went in and they said, 'Ah yeah, thanks for coming in and we've been wanting to speak to you, you're fired'. I had a Raleigh Chopper, which was a fairly posh bike, it was a second-hand one. It was parked in the dairy and I was so annoyed that I got on the bike, imagining myself to be Marlon Brando in The Wild One, and cycled through the shop and out the automatic doors."

His career in retail may have been short-lived, but Bono did have one other job in Finglas that would help his future work.

"Myself and Guggi worked for his dad, selling calendars, selling potatoes. He was a job lot guy. He would get his job lot of stuff from the Evening Herald small ads and he would convert that into some profit and you know what, it was an amazing training. Because, on my mother's side, I do come from a long line of travelling sales people. Myself and Guggi were a double act, knocking on doors all over Finglas.

"And I still consider myself to be a salesman, a salesman of ideas, songs, you know? I still feel the same thing when I'm hitting up politicians for development assistance for poor countries or when I've got a new album, I still sort of feel like I have to sort of lay out our ware, this is what we're about.

"I may have changed and grown out of selling things I don't believe in, but I think that ability of knocking on doors is still who I am."

Bono's mother died in 1974, when he was just 14 years of age. He continued to live with his father until 1982 when he married his girlfriend Alison Stewart.

U2's first two albums, Boy and October, were written while he was still living in Finglas. Dalkey is now the place he, his wife and four children call home. But Bono says he still has friends in Finglas, and returns to the area at Christmas.

He says he is impressed by the changes he sees. "It's very beautiful. It's grown into itself Finglas and it's beautiful now and seems so much more organised and much more sophisticated. Cedarwood Road has lost that brand spanking new feel, but it's weathered well and it feels like a really easy neighbourhood to be in."

Bono is now a global superstar, one of the world's best-known musicians and one of the most politically influential figures of his era. He says that Finglas played a big part in the person he became.

"I can't imagine it any other way. The way you see the world is shaped way before you go into the world. It's shaped through the way you see a community. It's shaped through the way you see a street. Your relationships on those streets are, you know, you will always behave in a similar fashion when you move out. I live comfortably all over the world and people say it's incredible that you really are a 'wherever I lay my hat, that's my home' person. I love being at home.

"I love being at home with Ali and I love being at home with the kids, but I am partly that because of the way I grew up in Finglas or Ballymun or whatever you want to call it.

"Sleeping on a couch, or because my mother died when I was a kid I was in the house on my own a lot of the time, so I'd knock on the door of the Hanveys at tea time, you know, or the Rowens at lunchtime. I've just become that person who is comfortable wherever I am, through that.

"It might be London, it might be New York, but that ability to feel comfortable where I am was definitely instilled in me on Cedarwood Road."

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