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Bono on Desert Island Discs: Here are the eight songs and a book the U2 frontman chose

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Bono joined Lauren Laverne on this week’s Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4 to talk about life… and the eight tracks and a book he would bring with him to a desert island.

Without further ado, here is what the global music star would choose for his stint in isolation… 

Show Me the Way – Peter Frampton

The U2 frontman chose this first track as he said this was the song that made him find his voice.

“I didn't start out as a singer, for sure. And when I tried to sing like The Clash or whatever else, I just didn't have a great rock and roll voice,” he said.

“I sang this song by Peter Frampton called Show Me the Way. It was in the high school gym, and the band were there, and we’re singing and we’re crap. It's an awful mess.

“But when I sang that song, something went off and... I turned the song, a teenage boy turned this song into a prayer. Honestly, at the time I didn't tell the band, but something in me was just wanting to know what to do with my life.”

Every Grain of Sand – Bob Dylan

“This very morning, I walked to Piccadilly and there is a Christopher Wren building there, a little church and you can just sit there,” Bono explained.

“But on my way in I saw this was where William Blake was baptised and I saw on the door written there on the plaque, ‘To see a world in a grain of sand and a heaven in a wild flower hold infinity in the palm of your hand and an eternity in an hour,’ this must have been in Bob Dylan in the back of his mind.”

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Abide With Me – Emeli Sandé

“I love the Anglican hymns and I love choral singing. Even at a rugby match for Ireland, Wales sing so well.

“Abide With Me is Emeli Sandés version..; but I’ve segwayed it into this Welsh choir because I think community is really important for the future. U2 came out of a community and I think even if you don’t know these words, and I do, you feel them.”

Dead in the Water – Noel Gallagher

“This is Noel Gallagher and The High-Flying Birds’ Dead in the Water. He has this thing where the songs just take him wherever they want him taken.

“It’s a little bleak to be on an island with a song called Dead in the Water but there is some defiance in the song and defiance is the essence of romance.”

Ice-cream Sundae – Inhaler

Bono’s next disc is from his son’s band ‘Inhaler’ who hit stardom in 2020 when they ranked number 5 in the BBC’s Sound of… music poll.

“This is Inhaler, they are very good, and my son happens to be the singer. This is the first song they wrote, and it’s got this mad opening line ‘I am in the pursuit of happiness, I am going to get it, I am going to get it.

“And then he did it in the second verse exactly the same and I said, ‘that’s great but why did you do it again?’ and he said, ‘I liked it’.

“I still think he should rewrite the second verse but it’s a brilliant song.”

Agolo – Angelique Kidjo

“If you are at a moment in our house and things are getting a little too quiet and people are thinking about going to bed, but they shouldn’t because it’s a great night, my missus Ali will put this on.

“I think joy is one of the key elements of music that keeps me there, it’s almost impossible to contrive, melancholy is easy for artists, even anger is kind of easy in a way, but joy you cannot contrive.”

La Traviata, Prelude – Verdi 

The seventh track is in honour of his father Bob who loved this piece. Bono reminisced on an anecdote of an event him and his father attended, where the Princess of Wales was also in attendance.

“I went up to him (his father) and said, ‘Dad do you fancy going to meet the Princess of Wales?’

“He replied: ‘What? What do you think I am? That’s like asking me do I want to meet the winner of the lotto. Why would I want to meet the royal family?’.

“Not long later, probably an hour later, Pavarotti brought the Princess of Wales into our dressing room… and there it was 700 years of Irish/English aggression gone, in 7 seconds.”

Someone, Somewhere in the Summertime – Simple Minds

“It just has great hope. I remember meeting them when we were in our twenties and I remember thinking wherever they were, wherever they were sitting, wherever they were staying, whatever city they were playing in, they were in the moment fully.

“Very few people get to own a sound and I think in U2 we got to own certain colours of the spectrum or certain feelings that are ours but some of them are from Simple Minds.

“For some of this song you will feel some early U2 in it and we learnt from them.”

And Bono’s book choice?

Ulysses, by James Joyce, first published in book form in 1922. 


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