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This article was first published on CLUAS in August 2001

Swapping Chess for Pop Music and U2

Eoghan reflects on his 17 years of U2 fandom...

It was 1984, I was 12 years of age and I wanted to be cool. To be frank though I was struggling. My main interest at the time was chess and no matter how rewarding my flourishing Community Games chess career was I soon realised that it was unlikely to elevate me to the ranks of 'cool'.

 u2 chessFrom a distance pop music with its proven street credibility seemed to be a more promising diversion. However my rational chess-centric mind had first to overcome its disturbing inability to work out what made one chart hit better than another. But help was at hand in the form of Frankie Goes to Hollywood's 1984 summer hit 'Two Tribes'. As soon as I heard it I realised I had discovered what was - obviously - the greatest song ever written.

Having safely overcome my deficiencies in the fine art of pop song appreciation I was quickly transformed into some sort of pre-teen, parental nightmare of a pop fan. My well-thumbed copy of 'Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess' was quickly replaced by 'Smash Hits' magazine and soon I was able to breath a sigh of relief - I might finally have a fighting chance of becoming something vaguely cool.

But the 'Frankie' chapter was to be short-lived. Unknown to me at the time, a Dublin band called U2 was holed up that same summer in Slane Castle recording some songs that would radically alter my teenage landscape. It all started in September '84 when I heard the first fruits of those recording sessions - the single 'Pride (in the name of love)'. The effect was dramatic. My musical allegiance was not only immediately re-aligned but a potent passion for U2 quickly revealed itself, a passion that has somehow lasted to this day.

Almost 17 years on it intrigues me to look back and recollect how, in the early days of that passion, nothing - and I mean absolutely nothing - counted in my little world but this new band. Their spirited, earnest music coupled with the fact that they hailed from my city proved an intoxicating cocktail to my twelve year old self. With this new vital soundtrack knocking around in my skull everything suddenly seemed more vivid.

Bono in 1984By my 13th birthday I had fulfilled all the classic fan criteria - a bedroom covered with posters of the band, frantic weekend searches in record shops for rare singles, hours locked in a bedroom listening to their records, and so on. It wasn't long before people in my company would be heard muttering the words 'obsessive' and 'freak' in the same sentence.

Fortunately the obsessive streaks were eventually reeled in. Nonetheless flights of madness on occasion did assert themselves. There was the winter of '86 when, in an attempt to meet U2, I'd skive off school every Friday afternoon and hang out outside their recording studio as they recorded the 'Joshua Tree' album. I still hadn't learnt my lesson ten years later in April 1997 when U2's 'Popmart' tour opened in Las Vegas. Allow me to elaborate.

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