Larger than life: Meet U2

They're "the lads from Dublin." Bono, the Edge, Larry and Adam. They've held firm control of MTV, radio dials and the iTunes music store ever since Bono grabbed a white flag and marched up and down the stage at Red Rocks during Sunday Bloody Sunday.

But how well do you know our rock 'n' roll heroes?

Label them a product of the 1980s, and you'd be slightly off. The band actually formed in 1976 in a Dublin high school. They were originally called Feedback and later the Hype before a friend of the band suggested U2, a name that was reportedly admired mostly for its ambiguity.

Longtime local concertgoers might think of their 1985 show at the USF Sun Dome as their coming out party in Tampa Bay. Again wrong. U2 first played Tampa in 1981 at a sports bar called the End Zone. In 1982, they played the city again, but only as an opening act. (The headliner? The J. Geils Band. Yeah, the guys who did Freeze Frame and Love Stinks.)

Now, even though it has been just four years since their last visit, everything about U2 now just seems larger than life: their music, their stage, their legacy and the four men behind it all.

BONO (Paul David Hewson), 49, lead vocals

How he got the nickname: In the late '70s, a friend gave him the nickname "Bonovox," which was a hearing aid store in Dublin. It also loosely translates to "good voice." Even friends and family call him Bono now.

Troublesome kid: Bono was once expelled from school for throwing dog feces at his Spanish teacher.

Big-screen ambition: Since a child, Bono was interested in acting. He has appeared in several movies since making it big as a rock star, including The Million Dollar Hotel in 2000 and Across the Universe in 2007.

Why he's always wearing sunglasses: Bono has very sensitive eyes to light, he told Rolling Stone in 2005. "If somebody takes my photograph, I will see the flash for the rest of the day," he said. "My right eye swells up. I've a blockage there, so that my eyes go red a lot. So it's part vanity, it's part privacy and part sensitivity."

THE EDGE (David Howell Evans), 48, lead guitar

About the nickname: Bono gave Evans the nickname "the Edge" early in U2's career, inspired originally by the shape of his chin, but also as a credit to Evans' tendency to see things from the edge.

Other dreams: As a student, the Edge wanted to become a doctor or engineer. He eventually chose the band over college. Conflicted between his strong religious beliefs and the rock lifestyle, the Edge almost quit the band in the early '80s.

Cool wife: In 2002, the Edge married Morleigh Steinberg, a belly dancer and choreographer from the Zoo TV Tour.

A lot of pride: The Edge once called 1984's Pride (In The Name Of Love) "the only successful pop song" the band had written. Does he still believe that? "I think it still is a great pop song," he told NME magazine in 1998. "It's an idea that just connects and says something. And I guess it's really direct as well."

ADAM CLAYTON, 49, bass

Best known as: The only remaining bachelor in U2, though he was once engaged to supermodel Naomi Campbell.

A natural: Clayton had no formal training in playing the bass when he joined the band. Still, his bass lines are what make songs like New Year's Day and Where The Streets Have No Name so memorable. He finally began formal lessons in the mid '90s.

No longer the party god: Clayton battled a drinking problem for the first decade of the band, once even missing a show entirely in 1993. "I think when you get into that cycle of partying — and when you're in a band you can party much longer than anyone else in your generation can," he told the Montreal Gazette in 2001. "For a start, you don't necessarily have to get up and go to work first thing in the morning. People will make sure you do what you've got to do the next day."

LARRY MULLEN JR., 47, drums

Best known as: The founder of U2 after placing a notice on the Mount Temple Comprehensive School bulletin board. The act was first known as the Larry Mullen Band, then Feedback, then the Hype before members settled on U2.

Why the "Junior": Mullen added the suffix in the early '80s to avoid confusion with his father, who was mistakenly receiving huge tax bills meant for his son.

Not quite a bachelor: Mullen technically is not married, but he has lived with girlfriend Ann Acheson for three decades. They have three children.

Almost kicked out: During U2's first recording session, a record executive reportedly suggested that Mullen be fired because he couldn't keep tempo.

Not as close: Mullen told the Irish Independent newspaper earlier this year the band wasn't as close anymore. "We're still friends, but it's a lot more difficult now," he said. "It's not the four guys fighting the world. That doesn't exist anymore. The opportunity to just sit around the pub and have a pint and talk about nothing doesn't happen as often as it should."

Sources: Rolling Stone, atu2.com, NME magazine, Irish Independent, Montreal Gazette

Larger than life: Meet U2 10/07/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 7, 2009 1:48pm]

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