Unforgettable fire flickering out as U2 ponder end of the road
Now Bono's pal Guggi stirs the debate on the band's future
LEGENDARY rockers U2 are thinking "very seriously" about breaking up, one of their closest friends believes.
Artist Derek 'Guggi' Rowan, a childhood friend of U2 frontman Bono, says the band are weighing up their options, and a split remains very much on the cards.
Bono fuelled frenetic speculation about the future of the band, who have been together for 35 years. He has been questioning the band's relevance, despite recently completing the highest grossing music tour in history.
Guggi said yesterday: "I get the impression that they're thinking, and thinking very seriously about it (breaking up)."
But he also said there has been no confirmation one way or the other from Bono as regards the group's future intentions.
"I was walking through Easons and the break-up story was on the front cover of a tabloid newspaper. I was with Bono days before I read it and he didn't say anything to me about it,'' he said.
Asked whether he believes now is the time for such a landmark decision, he stressed the band will know when the time is right to call it a day.
"I love hanging out with them when they're on the road. What I would like them to do is whatever is best for them as artists -- that has got to be the number one priority,'' he stressed.
Guggi's comments at Inclusion Ireland's 50th Anniversary Competition at the Art Fair in the RDS will spark fresh fears that the end is nigh for the Irish rockers.
The four U2 members have been playing together since they were teens, and under the careful management of Paul McGuinness, have become one of the most successful rock groups of all time, raking up multi-million euro fortunes in the process.
Last month, 'Rolling Stone' magazine interviewed Bono, when he first began hinting that the U2 juggernaut may have finally run its course. He expressed fears that the band may have lost its momentum and perhaps the time had come for himself, Larry Mullen Jnr, The Edge and Adam Clayton to part company sometime in 2012.
"I'm not so sure the future hasn't dried up," said the 51-year-old. "It's quite likely you might hear from us next year but it's equally possible that you won't.
"We have so many new songs, some of our best. But I'm putting some time aside to just go and get lost in the music. I want to take my young boys, and my wife, and just disappear with my iPod Nano and some books and an acoustic guitar."
Frenzied rumours quickly followed, with fans and critics alike posting messages on the internet, lamenting the possible end to one of the greatest music odysseys of recent decades.
But Bono also admitted that he has been getting some stick from bandmates about his ongoing doubts over U2's future. "The band are like, 'Will you shut up about being irrelevant?'"
The group recently re-released their 1991 classic album 'Achtung Baby', but Bono has expressed worry about whether the band holds the same clout it once did.
But he said re-releasing the classic album has proved something of a cathartic experience and may pave the way for a new direction for U2.
"Being forced to look back at this period reminds me of how we might re-emerge for the next phase," he says. "And that doesn't mean that you have to wear some mad welder's goggles or dress up in women's clothing. Reinvention is much deeper than that.''
Over more than three decades in the business, U2 have released 12 studio albums and have sold more than 150 million records worldwide.