Wednesday, October 1, 2014
TMFW 56 - The Rock Superstar Named After a Hearing Aid Store
Paul Hewson was born in Dublin in 1960, and grew up in a suburb north of the City. As a young teenager, Hewson was a part of a "surrealist street gang" called "Lypton Village," which also included his friends Derek "Guggi" Rowen and Gavin Friday.
As the story goes, the members of Lypton Village were keen on giving one another nicknames. For example, Hewson's name was mutated to "Houseman," but it didn't stick. One evening, the group was hanging out in Dublin near a hearing aid store called Bonavox - specifically, the one near the intersection of O'Connell and Earl Streets in the city center (map here)(Street View here) - and Gavin Friday suggested that Hewson should be called "Bono Vox," which in Latin means "good voice." After initial hesitation, Hewson embraced the name.
In 1976, at age 16, Hewson answered a school bulletin board posting from drummer Larry Mullen, Jr. that sought to form a rock band. Adam Clayton and David Evans answered the same ad, and on September 25, 1976, the band got together for the first time in Mullen's kitchen. First named "The Larry Mullen Band," they changed their name to "Feedback," then "The Hype," and then finally they settled on "U2." David Evans became "The Edge," and Hewson became "Bono Vox," and then (of course), just Bono. The rest - 13 studio albums, 150 million records sold, and 22 Grammy awards - is history.
For its part, Bonavox is still around, with 22 locations around Ireland.
BONUS FACT: 108 years after his birth in Dublin, in 1990 the city placed a life-sized statute of James Joyce at the corner of O'Connell and North Earl Streets. Perhaps in 2068, Bono will get his own. In the meantime, if you are ever in Palm Springs, California, stop by the statute of Sonny "I Got You Babe" Bono.
BONUS FACT 2: Bono was close to his mother, and lost her at the age of 14. She died of a brain aneurysm that she suffered while attending her own father's funeral.
BONUS FACT 3: During a U2 tour stop in Nashville in 2011, Adam Bevell was in the audience. Bevell is legally blind, and his brother-in-law made him a sign that said "Blind Guitar Player / Bring Me Up!" To his surprise, Bono took him up on it, and Bevell played "All I Want is You" with the band. That's pretty cool. Afterward, Bono let him keep the guitar, which is pretty cool too. Adam tells his story in this video and this interview.
BONUS FACT 4: (TMFW is a feel-good service, so it feels impertinent to include this, but...) Despite Bono's frequent activism about corporate greed and the need for wealthy countries to help poor ones, his band's publishing company moved from Ireland to the Netherlands shortly after Ireland enacted a cap on tax-free earnings for artists. The move cut the taxes on the band's publishing revenue in half. Bono defended the move, saying "at the heart of the Irish economy has always been the philosophy of tax competitiveness," and "if you engage in that policy then some people are going to go out, and some people are coming in." But it's hard to reconcile the apparent hypocrisy.
BONUS FACT 5: U2 is the most overrated band in the history of Earth.