40 Years Ago: U2 Begins, Calls Itself Feedback
Larry Mullen Jr. just wanted to have a reason to play his new drum kit. That’s why the 14-year-old put up a flyer on the notice board of the Mount Temple Comprehensive School in Dublin, seeking like-minded students who might want to play rock ’n’ roll with him. Six people responded to Mullen’s ad, three of them stayed on and, together, they became U2.
The seven Irish lads met as a group for the first time in the kitchen of Mullen’s childhood home on Sept. 25, 1976. In addition to the drummer, the teenagers included guitar players Dave Evans and his older brother Dik, friend of the Evans brothers Adam Clayton on bass, Paul Hewson on vocals, as well as Ivan McCormick and Peter Martin (both friends of Mullen’s). In time, a couple of those members would be known by other names. Fifteen-year-old Dave would become the Edge and Paul would transform into Bono (although he had already been nicknamed Bono Vox by a buddy).
Decades later, Mullen remembered that first practice: “[It was] ‘The Larry Mullen Band’ for about 10 minutes, then Bono walked in and blew any chance I had of being in charge.” So no, the group didn’t become the Larry Mullen Band, or the Bono Vox Band, or even U2 (quite yet). The boys settled on the name Feedback, primarily because it was one of the only musical terms with which they all were familiar.
Feedback wouldn’t retain seven members for very long. Martin ditched the band after the first practice session and McCormick exited a few weeks later. The group was down to five members when it made its live debut later that autumn.
A teacher (or teachers) had encouraged the teenagers to enter a talent show at Mount Temple. Having not yet written their own material, the members of Feedback assembled a batch of cover songs for their performance. Much has been made of punk’s influence on the guys in U2, but during Feedback’s debut gig, the band didn’t play songs by the Ramones or the Sex Pistols. (Maybe Bono and the boys hadn’t even heard those bands yet, seeing as they had just released their first recordings in ’76.)
For the talent show in the school cafeteria, Feedback planned a setlist of Peter Frampton’s “Show Me the Way,” the Bay City Rollers’ “Bye Bye Baby” and a medley of Beach Boys tunes. When the young crowd demanded an encore, Feedback played its ramshackle version of “Bye Bye Baby” again, because they hadn’t rehearsed any other songs. The boys’ whole show lasted about 10 minutes.
Marcus O’Shea, who was 11 at the time, recalled Feedback’s first concert on a U2 fansite. Although he remembers “Show Me the Way” being messy, he was impressed with the future Edge’s guitar playing and Bono’s magnetism.
“I must say that the Edge was a genius even then, with his bright, anthemic, echoing, and shimmering guitar sound,” O’Shea wrote. “I also recall most of the students latching on to Bono after the show and asking him a bunch of questions.”
Feedback would play a handful of more shows before changing its name to the Hype in the spring of ’77. A year later, Dik Evans would depart the band, turning them into a foursome that would rechristen itself U2.