U2... Baby Jesus Under the Trash


Achtung Baby

It was the days when U2 albums went on sale on the stroke of midnight on Sunday night. U2 fans could never have waited until 9am on a Monday to grab the new record. I had already bought Joshua Tree and Rattle and Hum at midnights in Belfast. In July 1993 I would buy Zooropa at midnight in Cork. In 1991 it was Virgin Records on The Quays in Dublin. I had moved to Dublin just two months earlier, probably inspired by U2. 

When I got back to the car and put it in my portable CD player I can still remember that first sound of Edge’s guitar riff on Zoo Station, like pneumatic drills bouncing off the Berlin wall. Of course we were already slight bemused having already heard The Fly, but that first listen to Zoo Station was and still is something other.

What is this? Where did this come from? What have they done? It was way more disorientating than a Ballymena Presbyterian moving to Dublin City. It was only seconds in before Bono was declaring “I’m ready for what’s next?” Was everybody else? Reviews over coffee the next morning were varied.

Ten year later, while researching Walk On; The Spiritual Journey of U2 it hit me, probably for the first time, just how great Achtung Baby is. Though Joshua Tree is perhaps more iconic I was forced to conclude that Achtung Baby was actually the band’s greatest artistic achievement. 

Achtung Baby is simply astounding, perhaps even because it comes in the slipstream of Joshua Tree. U2 are the biggest band on the planet and then they dream it up all over again. Achtung Baby sits up, out of the pack, raised by its originality onto a new plateau. 

In some of the presentations I have given on U2 I play a piece of the Rattle and Hum movie filmed in 1989 and then move straight into the video for 1991’s The Fly. My word! The transformation in mood, in colour, in sound, in image, in every kind of way. 

To get another visual glimpse of the change just look at the panoramic scenes from the Joshua Tree packaging and then the disc label on Achtung Baby where Anton Corbijn focuses in on graffiti on some door somewhere; from widescreen to as close in as possible. 

It is a reflection of the content. Joshua Tree had songs about justice issues that spanned the world but Achtung Baby zoomed in on a band wrestling with art and identity and one of its members going through a heartbreaking divorce. 

U2 had only dabbled ever so briefly with love songs in their first decade but here they were starting their second ten years with a whole record on the subject. That the sounds of Achtung Baby are massive and the topic of the material microscopic adds to the fascinating, brilliance and utter originality.

Thirty years after I found sonic disorientation on the road home to Shankill on a Dublin night, Achtung Baby might not be the record that holds most of my favourite U2 songs. However as an an album, no other rock band has ever reinvented with such a quantum shift. To do that and make an even better album than what was considered your life’s work is even more astonishing. 


Bono American flag

(this is an edited extract from book Walk On; The Spiritual Journey Of U2)


America was in shock and mourning. Rock concerts were cancelled. It was no time for celebration or partying. U2 had another leg of the ‘Elevation Tour’ planned. What should they do? If U2 were about celebration and partying then they would have had the sensitivity to forget the tour. 

But U2 are about much more than that. The goal is indeed soul and there were souls in need of healing. U2 were confident enough to believe that they had something that might be of help for this particular moment. So they put tickets on sale and on October 10th they were back on US stages. 

Bono would tell Rolling Stone that he felt incredible and humbled to be on tour in the US at this time. For the band it was a message to the world that they would not be frightened off. There was also a belief that music could change things. Songs reinterpreted in the light of the event was one thing but how would the band reinterpret those songs in the live setting to move from the band prophetically raging against American arms in the summer to throwing their arms around that same country with pastoral compassion in the fall.

There is no doubt that on the stage at that first gig in Notre Dame University, South Bend, Indiana there is cautiousness to particularly Bono’s approach. The only gig on the entire ‘Elevation’ jaunt that did not begin with ‘Elevation’ the band looked nervous and uncertain as they came on stage…

Bono leads a few repetitive lines of the heart is a bloom and shooting up through the stony ground before Beautiful Day finally comes in. It is the opening prayer for this leg of the tour. The band are indeed on the stoniest ground on earth. American streets are rough terrain and many of the nations loved ones have just been buried beneath it. What the prayer must be is that the heart is eternal and can burst through to bloom again. 

Bono often walked around in sober steps like the priest has entered the Wake. He is gentle in his eye contact. He looks with sympathy and sadness. It is a man who wants to say “sorry for your trouble” to an entire nation and bring some comfort. There are more eyes raised to heaven in search of belief, more head in hands of disbelief. 

‘Until The End Of The World’ comes across as a battle of good and evil and ‘New Years Day’ is about new birth, the heart a bloom, breaking though to live in hope of another a brand new time. America and the world needs born again.

A cover of The Three Degrees ‘When Will I See You Again’ with its waiting and suffering took on new spiritual depth and power as it introduced ‘Stuck In A Moment’. It is faltering in emotion, Bono’s voice breaks. There is recognition of the plight and hopefulness of the time passing. At the end Bono says, “Wow” as the crowd cheers. He looks pensive in poignant mood and for Bono speechless. 

As he is about to make comment he thinks better of it and asks Edge to start Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’. It is perfect for U2; political, spiritual and personal. With the too many people dying and crying and a conclusion of war not being the answer it was another song that hauntingly could have been written for the time. U2 use it well as an intro to ‘New York’. 

‘New York’ was a beast of a song. It already had a few heads and another ascended out of Ground Zero on that Tuesday morning. Originally this is a song of a man sorting out life’s priorities. The placing of it in the first leg of elevation between ‘Gone’ and ‘I Will Follow’ bares this out. 

It is a song about the speed and madness of the city but ironically it is also a song about Bono purchasing a bolt hole right there in the eye of it’s deafening and blinding hurricane. The fact that he bought a place in New York was now not a wealthy boast, that could be interpreted by a resentful fan paying over the money for a concert ticket, but an action that made Bono one of the mourners. He was one of them. It was a statement of pride. This is my city. These are my people. I want to celebrate the wonder of a city that others could dare try to destroy. Against their violent hate I stand strong and proclaim my love as an act of no surrender. There would be a paraphrase, “In New York you can’t forget just how strong the city’s will.”

It is the U2 song that changes most post 9/11. There is a specific change in lyrics to mention September’s and summer’s love turning to winter’s rain and the Titanic lifeboats are no longer a personal carrier for Bono but invoke thoughts of real panic stricken emergency and the new New York heroes the fire fighters who gave their lives to try to save lives. 

The earlier mention of cell phones also becomes more poignant, no longer a negative image for a world where all communication has to be frantic and immediate but as a means to reach those who we love and find out if they are alright or even send a last message of love before we jump from the 93rd floor. The lines of diversity between races, religions, religious nuts and political fanatics are given a new take too. It is no place now for the fanatics but still a place for abounding tolerance.

By the the tour reached New York the hesitancy of South Bends had been left behind and they were in full flow again, aware that they were indeed bringing something soothing to a nation in raw grief. ‘What’s Going On’ and ‘New York’ are pushed back towards the end of the set. They follow ‘Bullet The Blue Sky’ which was dropped for the first Notre Dame concert but returns altered to remove the rage but to retain the provocation. America has been attacked and badly injured so the pastor stops pointing fingers but in the embrace there is still the warnings of revenge and war and their continued if not increased futility.

It is ‘One’ though that takes centre stage in New York. It has been muscling up the entire second leg. It is where Bono has been doing his preach about how his passionate Third World debt campaign and desire to eliminate poverty is intrinsically linked to the events of the past weeks. He has been likening the religious fanatics who hijacked the planes to the IRA terrorists of 70s and 80s Ireland. 

Just as U2 were Irish that did not mean they were terrorists, so we should not look at every Muslim as a killer. ‘One’ moves from some heart breaking love song to a song of world peace of the carrier and the carried, everyone together getting us out of this moment and walking on.

As they sang ‘One’ in New York the names of the 9/11 victims are scrolled across the big screens in an emotional realization that these are not statistics but human beings who lived right here in this city. He ends with a conversation with God, “did you hear them coming Lord…” which is a perfect lead in to ‘Walk On’ with it’s place in the waiting room between earth and heaven. At the end of the third night at Madison Square Gardens 50 fireman walk on stage to dance and take the applause of their fellow New Yorkers. Bono has been going on about real heroes, how selfish pop stars are not and how firemen have shown us who really is. With all things U2 this entire exercise lives on the thin line between sickly cash in caricature and cathartic healing. There are some who would be repelled by it but they were few and far between. Once again U2 do the emotional not for show but for a deeper healing.

If those attending gigs were reached during the tour then the entire nation was given an invitation to the wake on Superbowl Sunday. The first achievement of this night was to create the buzz of a concert in 3 songs; half a minute into ‘Beautiful Day’ –job done! As a result of the brevity of the performance they pumped the celebration in that one song before turning on lament in the mournful MLK as the names rose into the Louisiana sky. 

Then it was the hopeful yearning of a place where the streets would have no name. This was a microcosm of the tour. Bono would make a lot of America being a soul nation during ‘Beautiful Day’ and here into the heart of it U2 pastored the flock. It was never the intention when the tour set out almost exactly a year previously but it had been effectively achieved from the only band who could possibly have reached deep enough inside to deal with the hurt of so many.


U2 and Garritz

We are out driving to a dog walk when I hear a familiar voice. A verse and chorus in and I realise that it is Bono Vox. Ah that must be that song that Bono and Edge feature in. Something to do with the Euros. It was telling that it was out almost two months before I got round to listening. My die hard U2 soul might be weakening. 

However, going home and listening to We Are The People reminded me of why I love this band. Not that this is a U2 song. It goes under the moniker of DJ Martin Garrix. It is only featuring Bono and Edge. Yet it is a perfect blend of electronic pop and the accessible sounds of Songs Of Experience. You can almost hear it as a U2 encore!

My very first listening had me thinking of a Damian Gormanism. I have learned so much from poet Damian Gorman since working with him at the 4 Corners Festival. One of his most interesting ideas is about writing words that he can then walk into. 

Let me explain. In his book As If I Cared Damian is very honest about his relationship with his father. It was not an easy relationship, sometimes violent. Yet, the last words in the book are “I love you dad.”

When I suggested to Damian that this sounded like a coming to terms with his relationship with his dad, Damian said that these were words that he wanted to walk into. He hadn’t fully reconciled his thoughts about his father but he wanted to. So he wrote those last words very intentionally so that he hoped he could walk into them.

I started to see this as the aim of the prophets. Their call to holiness and justice were words to walk into. I started to see my preaching as this encouragement to others. The call to be like Jesus is a call to follow him into the words he shared with prophetic hopefulness.

So, back to We Are The People. The U2 lyrical nerds, like myself, will see recurring themes. 


Broken bells and a broken church

Heart that hurts is a heart that works

From a broken place

That's where the victory's won


There was a victory won, by Jesus actually, way back on Sunday Bloody Sunday. In the more recent Cedarwood Road from Songs Of Innocence we hear “A heart that’s broken is a heart that’s open.”

As someone who shares the Christian faith of Bono and Edge it is not contriving anything to see “that broken place” as Jesus death on a cross.

The over riding message is of this anthemic mantra is -


We are the people we've been waiting for

Out of the ruins of hate and war

Army of lovers never seen before

We are the people we've been waiting for


Again, U2 over the years have put their faith in their audience as well as in God. They have always seen the best in people, always sung about the positives in humanity. Where my theology might leave my glass half full in such hope, U2's glass has always been almost bubbling over with what might be a naive hope that people have the power. Bono came on stage on the last tour to Patti Smith’s People Have The Power.

Yet, these might be words with Damian Gorman’s purpose of walking into. There is no better ambition to incite in the minds, hearts and souls of a Europe united around and celebrating the beautiful game in the European Football Championships. Let us all sing together words to walk into. 

Poets like Damian Gorman do it. The Old Testament prophets and Jesus did it. Preachers like me should be doing it. U2 have always done it.


We are the people of the open hand

The streets of Dublin to Notre-Dame

We'll build it better than we did before

We are the people we've been waiting for


Edge podcast

The calm and charm of poet, author, peacemaker Pádraig Ó Tuama shooting a gentle breeze with U2's guitarist Edge. What a beautiful conversation. That was my initial reaction to this unique podcast.

Let me confess something. Having spent two decades of my life, writing a book and talking about U2 all around the world, keeping up with all the songs and interviews. Every album or tour or whatever I am deluged with messages asking my opinion. I am a little U2 weary. 

As a result I probably wouldn't have given this a listen if it hadn't been Pádraig or a Corrymeela podcast. But it is and I am glad. I enjoyed it very much.

Pádraig has a way with conversations and it is obvious from the outset that he has already worked up some trust with Edge. U2's guitarist sounds like a man at ease with the process and he is not always the first in his band to give himself away in public.

The human that Pádraig is, he doesn't abuse the trust. He draws out Edge's early years as a Welsh Presbyterian moving to Catholic Dublin. He almost shows Edge how music was his way to communicate as he found identity in a new space.

Faith and reconciliation are obvious subjects in a Corrymeela podcast and Edge speaks honestly about his questioning faith and how in reconciliation he sees compromise as a strong need week virtue.

The most interesting bit of all for me is the post interview chat which asks quick answers to Short Story Questions. In this we hear about his early love of The Jam, his love for American poet, former slave, Phillis Wheatley and what got me most excited of all naming Roger Casement as his very favourite Irishman.

My friend David Dark always suggests that if you meet a hero you should have a question ready so that you don't look stupid. If Edge ends up with me in a lift we'll be talking about an ex Ballymena Academy knight of the realm who was hanged for gun running for Irish revolution! 

Maybe it is just me but having written extensively on U2 I have an ear to every article or interview wondering if they'll say something that proves my writings wrong. There is thankfully nothing here. What is here though are things I didn't know which is not always the case. My hard drive is so crammed with U2 that it is hard to hear anything I haven't heard.

Pádraig does draw out such insights. As I said earlier about that early identity checking in his move to Dublin. He also opens out the song Van Diemen's land which has me off researching John Boyle O'Reilly.

Most wonderful and intriguing of all is Edge's take on Irish Presbyterianism. In his youth he found it dull most interestingly compared to his Welsh Presbyterianism.

Later he was fascinated when his mother would go north with her Church to visit Northern Presbyterians. She and he were rather stunned that when Mrs Evans asked their thoughts on a united Ireland, as they found Dublin a wonderful place to live, that there was just blank faces and no response.

How interesting. As his the entire podcast. Top job Pádraig and Corrymeela.



Walk On cover

(It is the 20th Anniversary of U2's All That You Can't Leave Behind. here is why I am particularly fond of that record. This blog is more autobiographical for my own records. If you enjoy it then it is a bonus...)


During the year 2001 I was writing a book about U2. At that time Relevant Media were considering publishing books and somehow they asked me to write one on U2. 

As I was writing the book during 2000 it was probably only a Christian audience who might have been interested a book on U2. Oh they were still big but the Pop record and Popmart Tour had seen a little lull. As Bono would say at the early gigs after All That You Can’t Leave Behind came out, they were trying to get back to being the best band in the world. 

In 2000 they weren’t BUT Christians were still fascinated by the band’s faith. Did they still have one? Where was it in the songs?

I actually received two emails in one week. A guy I had never heard of from Relevant asked me what was on my heart? Another guy gave off about an article I had written about U2 that he had found on my website. He said they no Christian faith at all.  

I was intrigued by that first email. Enraged by the second. Having sussed that Relevant might be going into publishing, I answered the first by sending an email that read, “What do you mean? Are you thinking about a book?” I then started jotting down an answer to the second email and said to Janice, “Someone needs to write a book about the theology of U2. Like an apologetic.”

Well, the answer back from Relevant was that they were thinking of a book - had I ever thought of writing a book on U2?! Come on! I sent them the thoughts I had shared with Janice and that was that. I wonder if they thought I was Steve Turner? Maybe?

Anyway, as I got on with the book, U2 released the lead single Beautiful Day. Sales soared. I even had a daughter jasmine born on the day that song went to number 1 in the UK. When All That You Can’t Leave Behind came out to much fanfare the band were suddenly on the up. Then the Elevation Tour sent them even higher.

By the time Walk On; The Spiritual Journey Of U2 came out we were in a unique situation. Some might call it luck, others might define it as providence! No one had considered this resurrection of U2’s popularity. Certainly no publishers. As a result Relevant’s book with this unknown Irishman was all the fans had. Press U2 into your books search on Amazon in 2001 and Steve Stockman was what came up.

At one stage we were actually in the Amazon Top 100 books. Relevant did a great job too and soon Walk On was displayed on every book table in every major Record and Bookstore across America. We were suddenly being translated into many languages. 

The book opened up my life, way beyond Belfast. I was suddenly flying to America, first of all to speak at The Cathedral of  The Advent in Birmingham, Alabama and then at the first Festival Of Faith and Music at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I am thankful to Paul Zahl and Kenneth Heffner respectively.

As a result of those invitations, by two men who got my desire to unpack the spirituality of rock music, I have been going on little tours to America ever since, speaking at Universities and Churches. I even had the privilege of being Writer in Residence at Regent College, Vancouver. I have met many dear friends as a result.

Walk On also opened up opportunities in the wider world. I was on a panel about faith and music chaired by Melvyn Bragg in his famous South Bank studio. I was interviewed on Sky News after U2 won 5 awards at the 2006 Grammies. I got to narrate a radio documentary on BBC Radio Ulster on U2’s 1987 Joshua Tree Tour concert at The Kings Hall in Belfast.

I always say that many many people could have written Walk On. I  got the privilege to write it for a community of us. I also think that without the quality and radio friendliness of All That You Can’t Leave Behind and the Elevation Tour that followed it the book might not have been the success it was. However, perhaps Relevant Books’s foresightedness deserves recognition too. 

Whatever I consider myself so blessed for this particular chapter in my life and am very thankful for the role that all That You can't Leave Behind played in it. 


U2 Oct alt


The title track of U2's second album might be their first moment of controlled and crafted genius, Edge’s piano changes the band’s soundscape entirely and brings to the early catalogue a song that is sophisticated, economical and deep; Eno before Eno!

Christian hymn writers have often used few words for impact – Taize would be a good example – but it is more likely that Bono, with his lyric boos stolen and the album deadline pending, simply didn’t have the time to elaborate. However, what might be nothing more than a sketch at the time begins to feel perfectly complete as the time goes by.

October is a haunting piece that sits in the vortex of change and a change that is not a welcome. Bono often speaks of having the title first and of thinking that the hopeful spring of the sixties had given way to a colder, bleaker time in 1981.

As well as that global vortex of change the band were in their own personal vortex. Camped out with the Shalom Christian community on Portrane beach just north of Dublin, Edge and Bono were wrestling with rock stardom or not; was it compatible with the intensity of their Christian commitment. The trees were bare in their own souls and it worked its way into this piece of lament. 

Holed up in a caravan, fasting, praying and reading the Bible it was inevitable that Scripture would creep into the creative process. October is very much in the lament tradition of the Psalms or other Old Testament books, that would find their way into their next album War. October is Psalm-like while 40 on War would be an actual Psalm.

Isaiah would feature a couple of times on that follow up album too. In October’s lament comes hope; in the midst of tossed about confusion comes truth; in the midst of negative change comes the constant to be trusted in.

This song is more relevant today than it was when it was written. We live in days when the next news broadcast actually changes what we can and cannot do. Never in my lifetime have we known such uncertainty. Everything is in a state of flux. There is mental anxiety from living in isolation and the fear that we might be locked down again any minute. The economy is fragile. Jobs are being lost. Even church is strange, if meeting in the traditional way at all.

In the middle of all the fragility and fear and perhaps the danger of loss of hope  the Old Testament prophets, writers of the Psalms, and it seems U2, proclaim that God doesn’t change. The seasons do, the pandemics of history do but God... “you go on and on.”


And the trees are stripped bare
Of all they wear
What do I care
And kingdoms rise
And kingdoms fall
But you go on.”

U2 AT SLANE CASTLE, 2001 - My Review in Walk On

U2 at Slane

(this is taken from my book Walk On; The Spiritual Journey Of U2 (Relevant Books)


U2 Go Home; Live From Slane Castle, Ireland is the visual recording of a unique moment that can never for many reasons ever be repeated in the history of U2 and the lives of the four individuals in the band. The passionate performance that results makes this an indispensable document.

U2 have always built an emotional power house from what is going on around them. The newspaper headlines or their lives or their faith or their country all tend to blend into a Molotov cocktail that explodes into a great rock n roll spectacle. Maybe never have there been so many such things to blend as in the two gigs that ended the European leg of the ‘Elevation Tour’. Two days at Ireland’s most famous open air venue had seen 160,000 tickets selling like hot cakes in a population of 3.5 million. This was as major a homecoming as U2 had had in a long time. National pride was evident everywhere and is coincidently added to on the September 1st concert when the national soccer team qualified for the World Cup Finals with a 1-0 victory over one of the world’s most powerful soccer nations, Holland. The match and Jason McAteer’s goal was shown on the big screen before the gig. Bono even joked in the link between Elevation and Beautiful Day that “It’s now two nil” and later that he was Jason McAteer.

Then there is the venue and the obvious historical significance to U2 who played at Slane Castle as support for Thin Lizzy exactly two decades before and Bono introduces one of their first songs ‘Out Of Control’ as if it were indeed that day “We’d like to think Phillip Lynott for letting us to open the show. We are a band from the north side of Dublin. We are called U2 and this is our first single. We hope you like it.” Ireland’s premier rock writer Stuart Bailie adds a little more on the historicity in his brilliant inner booklet notes by saying how many vintage U2 t-shirts there were in the crowd. Yes, many would be seeing the band for the first time, getting hooked on the All That You Can’t Leave Behind mania but some were here at Slane in ’81 and even before that!

Bono would reflect on that day and the dream of becoming the biggest band in the world. He would speak of how they promised that they would not only make it but that they would not be relocating to do it. They were going to remain in Dublin. This was their tribe! The roar that greeted such a strong nationalism was not the usual going through the motions of the expected concert protocol. The Irish genuinely appreciated U2’s commitment to home and there was a national awareness of how much it had done not only for music but the country as a whole that a major world power resided and invested in the country that had since that decision was made experience the Celtic Tiger of economic prosperity. The Irish were grateful and proud of this band. ‘Elevation’ had been a return to the top of the world for U2 and here they were returning to their own. This wasn’t ‘a sort of’ homecoming, this was the real thing.

On a longer wider history of the entire island this place on the Boyne river is the site of a fulcrum swinging event in the Irish politics that Bono and the band have immersed themselves in. 300 years after the Protestant King William of Orange defeated the Roman Catholic King James on the very river that the stage backs on to and the majestic Slane Castle sits upon. This is also U2’s first Irish gig since a more recent tragedy in that historical conflict, the Omagh bomb of 1998 when 29 people lost their lives in the worst of all the heinous deeds of the Irish troubles. Tonight during ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ Bono with his voice cracking with emotion reads out all the names of those killed. The “no mores” in the song have always been a powerful venting of Bono’s anger at the political divisions on his island which sadly have manifested them in the death and devastation so common place in the eighties and early nineties. In ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ he calls for compromise and sends the song as this whole tour has sent the entire concert into prayer. Walking into the crowd around the heart he chants: - 

“Put your hands in the sky
Put your hands in the air
If you’re the praying kind
Make this song into a prayer
Put your hands in the sky
Put your hands in the air
If you’re the praying kind
Cos we’re not going back there”

As well as band and national history this is a concert about the band’s individual stories. In that blurb about the band’s beginnings Bono would thank each set of the band’s parents for the financial support they needed to go off to London and record their first demo. This gathering was family as well as tribal. Bono’s daughter Eve would even join her father on stage to take the part of the belly dancer in ‘Mysterious Ways’. It added to the emotional intensity. The over whelming emotional detonator is the recent death of Bono’s father. Bob Hewson had been ill for sometime and every night on the European tour Bono would leave the stage and catch a plane to his father’s bedside where he would spend the night before flying off to the next city. On the week before the first gig at Slane he passed away and Bono buried his father just two days before.  

The emotion of ‘Kite’ as he dedicates it to his father has a poignancy that it never had before or is likely to have again. Bono is often criticized for taking on the big questions, trying to change the world and there is no doubt that that is exactly what he is trying to do. What cannot be lost in his addressing of the universal is how much emphasis he puts on the personal. ‘Kite’ is about how his children look at him and he them and later how he looks at his father and him he! At its end he simply says “talk to each other” and we have the wisdom of a man whose heart is still raw from loss and the realization that all he can say to his parents has now been said. It is powerful advice in the micro-political in the midst of all the macro-political stuff that makes up a U2 concert. The “this is not goodbye” has to be believed. 

‘Bullet The Blue Sky’ is back to its original intention. As the song is about to begin the words USA, UK, France, Russia and China are emblazoned on the back drop. Edge’s guitar roars into war zone turmoil and we get a howling frustrating rant against those who fire the arms industry that not only did its damage in the central America of the mid-eighties that inspired this rage but has resourced the murdering terrorist groups in counties within hearing distance of where the song is bring sung. As the song nears crescendo Bono’s anger has rarely been so demented. The song ends with some sense that justice will prevail and that these nations will be brought to task for the atrocities handed down. Their doom seems justly assured. It is September 1st and in just ten days time a cowardly and criminal response would change the New York skyline and our world forever. It is a very haunting juxtaposition.


Us and Bono

(Today is Bono's 62nd birthday. I posted this for his 60th and it still seems just right. Happy Birthday sir...)


October, trying to speak up

I set the needle down

A whole new life exploded

You let me in the sound

From the changing the world in me

To me trying to change the world

Finding words to cuss at God

And how to love my girl


The melodies grew older

We were ready for the shove

What we believed and didn’t

Devil’s hand and tongues of love

Our innocence and experience

Our differences can be as one

The bulb of faith still swinging

And I am holding on.


We know by now

You’ll never be my friend

But as a companion

You’re always so willing to lend

A song

To comprehend every twisting bend

And defend me at my soul’s wits end

To send a pilgrim strength as I ascend

Thank you my friend.


Bono is in his 60s. It is hard to take that in. 

Bono and I are not friends. I have written and talked about him so much that some people think we are. When I denied it once, the guy said, “Oh you should pretend”. I don’t.

Someone did say, however, when Tom Petty passed away that Tom didn’t know it but he was a good friend.

For almost 40 years Bono has been a companion on my journey of life, faith and activism.

So, today on his 60th birthday I send out a thank you. 


There is a light

We can't always see

If there is a world

We can't always be

If there is a dark

That we shouldn't doubt

And there is a light

Don't let it go out.


Thank you... and Happy Birthday!


Bono 1980

A playlist of Bono solo... to celebrate his 60th Birthday...


IN A LIFETIME - with Clannad

(from Macalla)


FALLING AT YOUR FEET - with Daniel Lanois

(from Million Dollar Hotel)



(from The Songs Of Jimmie Rogers; A Tribute)



(from VH1 Presents The Corrs (Live In Dublin)



(from Honeymoon In Vegas)



(from Across The Universe)



(from Moulin Rouge)



(from Tower Of Song)


SILVER AND GOLD - with Keith Richards and Ron Wood

(From Sun City)



(from In The Name Of The Father soundtrack)


JOY - with Michael Jagger

(from Goddess In the Doorway)



(from 46664 Concerts)


STAY AWAY (FAR AWAY, SO CLOSE) - with Craig Armstrong

(from As If To Nothing)



(from Common Ground)


SUMMER WINE - with The Corrs

(from VH1 Presents The Corrs (Live In Dublin


I’VE GOT YOU UNDER MY SKIN - with Frank Sinatra

(from Duet; 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)


I WANNA BE AROUND - with Tony Bennett

(from Tony Bennett Duets)



(from Across The Universe)



(from Million Dollar Hotel)



(from More Friends: Small World Big Band Vol 2)


46664 (Long Walk To Freedom)

(from 46664)


AMANDLA - with Edge, Anastasia, Beyonce, Dave Stewart

(from 46664)


ONE - with Soweto Gospel Choir

(from African Spirit)


MISS SARAJEVO - with Luciano Pavarotti 

(Luciano Pavarotti and Friends Together For The Children Of Bosnia)


Steve-stockman-Jim Deeds

When I am with a family who are grieving I usually try to speak a pastoral word to them about the fact that they will all grieve differently. To know this will help them when some of them show more emotion than others, when some go quiet and others want to talk, when the speed of the process is quicker for some than the rest.

I encourage them to be patient with these differences. To graciously understand. To be alongside each other in the differences.

I think this advice has something to say into our Coronavirus Times. 

I have shared before that I quite enjoy the new dispensation. Though I can hold a crowd of a few hundred every Sunday, I am an introvert by nature. I am an only child who enjoys his own company and finds constant socialising to be hard work. That part of this lock down I am dealing with well.

However, I have friends, like Jim in the photo with me, who are not dealing with the isolation well. They buzz around other people. They need that socialising to feel good. For these friends isolation can be a mental health issue.

Indeed, even within our own homes mental health is being stretched in all kinds of different directions. Some of the family are anxious while others are calm. We might be needing different levels of interaction or aloneness. We might be seeking different activities to make it through. That can pull at the seams of family relationships. We need to allow for each other.

Some of you might know where I am going. I didn’t intend to. Yet, it is obvious. U2’s song One. When different melodies played over one another to harmonise, Bono started to sing:


“We're one, 

but we're not the same

We get to carry each other”


It is a good song for Coronavirus Times. In our homes let us play One and then as the apostle Paul exhorts us, in Philippians 2 verses 3 and 4:


Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.


Let us be mindful. We will not all deal with Coronavirus the same. Let us carry each other.