It is 1979 in Dublin. You have just become a teenager. You are too young to get into the TV Club or McGonagles. You cannot get to see any of Dublin’s groups that you listen to every day on pirate radio.
You are at school. The lads from Inchicore are ranting about one group. They go into the Dandelion Market on Saturdays where you don’t have to be over 18. They love U2. They use the word love when nobody uses the word love. You think U2 are okay. For a local band. But not good enough to go to the only gigs you would be allowed at.
You prefer DC Nein, The Atrix, Berlin, the Teen Commandments, the Resistors, and Sacre Bleu. Those are the names you scribble on your folders and your copybooks. You even prefer, god love you, Rocky DeValera and whatever he was calling his band. You are excited by local bands. You don’t know why they have German and French names but you like them. U2 have a German name also but you think they are only okay.
You listen to U2 live on one of your favourite pirate stations. You agree with the choice of the listeners who vote to choose the first single. You don’t vote yourself. You like Out of Control quite a lot, especially for an okay band.
You are in school and the teacher is late. You are listening to the lads talking up U2. But The Atrix, you respond because it is a local debate. And The Radiators from Space, you add, not knowing Phil Chevron will move on to greater glory with The Pogues in several years.
Then you realize the argument is not local. The lads are not talking Dublin; they are talking international. They are equating U2 with bands that have made it. She’s So Modern and Rat Trap have been huge hits. You like the Rats. That’s making it. Compared to that, you know U2 are crap.
One of the boys is most vocal. He is not even from Inchicore. Fran is from your neighbourhood. How can he be from your neighbourhood and talk so enthusiastically. About anything, let alone a local band. It is a time of begrudgery in a city of begrudgers. You like begrudgery. You don’t like hype. And then he does it. Fran proclaims U2 to be about to become the greatest and biggest band in the world.
He is 13 and in a classroom. If he was in a pub you would allow such nonsense, but it is 2 years before you can lie to barmen and indulge in such talk. So you ridicule him. Everybody in the class not from Inchicore ridicules him, but you lead the charge. Fran shuts up.
This is not a normal teenage discussion or fight. No other band is ever proclaimed the greatest anything in the world. By anybody. You are a teenager, and most things are crap. You think everybody knows this. You don’t understand Fran.
You and Fran somehow go through several years of school without ever hanging out together. The longest conversation you ever have again is 3 years later on a football pitch when you score a goal to put the school B team ahead against the A team. Fran, alone of the opposition comes over to you and congratulates you. In the second half his A team score 7 goals without reply. Fran plays well. He is much better than you, but loses his place to you when the school then votes for the team.
It is 4 years after you leave school. You are on a football pitch. It is not a soccer pitch this time, but a Gaelic pitch. You are in Croke Park. You were there 2 years earlier also. For the same reason. 60,000 other people are there also. You were close the night before too, outside on your bicycle.
It is 4 years after you leave school. It is 2 years after Wembley and Live Aid. It is 2 years after the Rolling Stone magazine has declared U2 the Band of the 80s, and the band that matters most, maybe the only band that matters. It is two months after U2 have become only the 4th band ever to appear on the cover of Time magazine. Across that cover are the words Rock’s Hottest Ticket.
You are sitting in the upper Cusack Stand but don’t like the sound bouncing off the end, so you go down to the pitch. You cross the halfway line. You are now close enough to see good without having to join in the air-punching fists or to fight sweaty bodies. U2 are on stage and Dublin is singing. U2 are an international band. They have made it. And 6 feet in front of you, for the first time since leaving school, you see Fran.
You think back on the last 8 years and the words Sorry about that are on your lips, but you are a dipstick. And you are embarassed. You go back to the Upper Cusack unseen, where the bouncing sound doesn’t seem so bad. You never see Fran again.