U2NEWS: January 31, 1999 Part III

Who needs bathrooms? ([email protected])
Sun, 31 Jan 1999 08:48:33 -0700

So it'll come as no surprise to U2 watchers that after their brief
dalliance with 'beats' on Pop, they've now decided to capitalise on
Ireland's burgeoning dance scene. To their eternal credit U2 realised a
long time ago that, with all due respect, the heady days of Fisherman's
Blues, the Hothouse Flowers, the Rare Oul' Mountain Dew and 'Bringing it
all Back Home' were inevitably going to be shortlived and Old Ireland
was dying on its backside. It's taken a decade, but without a scarf or
any of the hallmarks of raggle taggle anywhere in sight, the sounds of
the Irish underground are once again emerging. It's not dissimilar, in
one sense, to the post-punk Ireland of the late '70s and early '80s.

In the same way that U2, the Virgin Prunes and the Radiators started
something afresh ? something that wasn't a poor copy of what was going
on either across the Irish sea or the Atlantic ? the likes of David
Holmes, Johnny Moy and Rob Rowland are doing the same right now and the
world is beginning to listen. It's safe to say that if the world is
waking up, U2 have already had breakfast and so Kitchen Recordings is
poised to become one of Ireland's first profile dance labels.

Yes, there has been a vibrant dance scene in both Dublin and Belfast for
a few years but, David
Holmes aside, no-one has gone international... yet!

It's a Monday night and Dublin's Temple Bar is as grim as ever with
disparate gangs of leftover hen and stag parties still wandering around
a good 24 hours after they should have been red-carded and frog marched
to Dún Laoghaire. However, the pre-wedding weekend playground of Europe
still has plenty of hidden delights, among them the bar at the Clarence
Hotel. Situated towards the back of the U2-owned building, the bar is
snug in a stylish way and is, therefore, comfortable while being far
from run of the mill and the Guinness is the business!

It's no coincidence then that it's here that I meet with Reggie Manuel,
the man who runs Kitchen Recordings, and Rob Rowland, DJ extraordinaire
and the label's first release. The conversation swings from a debate
loosely-based around the question "Is golf shite?" to a discussion about
Dublin's D.1. Recordings, who have put out Rob's stuff to date. Reggie's
story, though, about how he came to head up Kitchen, wins hands down.

"It started at school. I was in the same class as Bono and Edge and at
that time I used to help them with their choice of listening fodder.
They weren't across some of the stuff I had so I used to lend them
records, many of which I used to get from my older brother. I think they
valued that contribution back then and now they're helping me into the
music scene in the '90s. They're kind of repaying a favour because I
helped them.

"It might surprise you but in that 20-year period since school and now
I've been an optician. The bizarre thing is I developed a kind of
fixation. I was convinced that I would contract glaucoma from one of my
customers so I decided to pack it in. I told Bono and it just so
happened that he was putting this together. Until the '90s I was a fan
of music but over the last few years it's become a real passion because
of the advent of dance music. So right now I have to say I'm on a
learning curve. The enthusiasm is simple but learning to take artistes
like Rob out to the world is the hard part. I'm confident though that as
long as Bono, Edge and myself are careful about who we work with, we
should be able to make stars out of them."

Rob Rowland is already established within dance circles and over the
past two years has released 10 records on the 'oh so hip' Dublin-based
techno label, D.1. Recordings.

So why get involved with U2 ? corporate rock 'n' roll stars more
familiar with 'sliding down the surface of things'?

"I look at it from a business point of view. I've been recording with
D.1. and I've enjoyed some success but the time is right to get on a
bigger platform. With half of U2 behind you, it puts things into a
bigger perspective and puts me in a position to get records out to more
people. I want to be able to keep on recording for various labels and in
the true spirit of techno the boys took it upon themselves to write out
a contract that allows that.

"In a wider sense I think this is a good thing to be involved with
because it'll go some way in changing what people perceive the Dublin
music scene to be. That phrase ? 'Who's the next U2?' no longer applies.
It destroyed so many bands throughout the '80s and because of it, so
much other music got overlooked. People thought it was a rock 'n' roll
town and it wasn't until the last four or five years that things began
to change. I mean it's only the last two years that club music has
entered the average weekend out for the punters and there are now good
club nights almost every night of the week, and by the way, golf is

Ground Zero by Rob Rowland is out now on Kitchen Recordings.
>From Triple J:

Hot 100 Songs by Year(and Ranking)

1998 11. U2 - Sweetest Thing
1995 57 U2 "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me"
1993 7 U2 Lemon
1993 31 U2 Numb
1991 98 U2 Bad
Finally, a comment on the Clinton Trial that really made me

In her(Sinead O'Connor) letter Monday she wrote of Clinton:
``Does impeachment mean they're gonna turn him into a peach?
If so, can I eat him?''
Just because no article has really mentioned it -- I believe that
Salman Rushdie used to be a rock critic for Capitol Records.
>From E! Online:

Salman Rushdie: Rock Star

by Daniel Frankel January 25, 1999, 5:25 p.m. PT

U2 will have nothing to say if conservative parents accuse them
of publishing songs with satanic verses on their next album.

That's because Bono and the boys are getting lyrics from Mr.
Satanic Verses himself, controversial author Salman Rushdie.

Rushdie--a friend (and sometime houseguest) of Bono--is
contributing lyrics to a romantic ballad called "The Ground
Beneath Her Feet" on the forthcoming U2 album, according
to The Guardian newspaper in London. The song is apparently
adapted from Rushdie's new novel, which has the same name.

The report says the band wants to release the single--which
tells the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice--when Rushdie's
book comes out April 13. (U2's New York publicity firm was
not immediately available for comment. Meanwhile, Rushdie's
literary agency has declined to talk about the matter.)

Rushdie tells the newspaper he simply showed his musical pal
his new book, and a song was born. "Bono and I have been
friends for several years, and I sent him the novel when I'd
finished it, and he responded by coming up with this beautiful
melody. Simple as that, but of course, very pleasurable."

Rushdie has been hiding out from Islamic extremists ever since he
offended them with his 1989 novel, The Satanic Verses. He
spent part of that time hiding out at Bono's palatial Irish
beach house. (We're guessing "Bullet the Blue Sky" was banned
from the house playlist, lest Rushdie get jumpy.) The writer
also appeared on stage with U2 in 1993 at Britain's Wembley
Stadium--a remarkable feat at the time, considering how bleak t
hings looked for Rushdie just four years earlier.

In 1989, then-Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued
a fatwa--the Islamic equivalent of a death sentence--against the
writer, for what he believed to be a blasphemous novel. A bounty of
several million dollars was put on Rushdie's head, and the writer
went underground with the help of British officials.

Last September, Rushdie--who's managed to sustain his literary
career through almost 10 years of this madness--received good
news from Iran's current, much-more-moderate government.
Desiring a better relationship with Western countries, Iranian
foreign minister Kamal Kharrazi told British foreign secretary
Robin Cook that his country was "disassociating" itself from the death

Still, that didn't get Rushdie off the hook entirely. To many Islamic
fundamentalists, a fatwa can only be rescinded by its issuer--and he's
>From The Irish Times:

In the belly of the beast

Michael O'Loughlin, back in Ireland for a year after almost 20
years away, is still in shock. This is his view of the new, feel-
good Ireland

"Come dance with me in Ireland," said Mary Robinson; so
I did. As tens of thousands of my fellow countrymen do
each year, I packed my bags, took wife and daughter (but
not cat, due to the absurd quarantine laws) and moved back
to a country I had left nearly 20 years before. My emotions
were a mixture of curiosity and vindication, with an
undertone of foreboding. The first two because Ireland had
apparently changed beyond recognition, in ways that I
approved of, and the latter because I had enough
well-informed friends on the ground telling me that nothing
much had changed for the better. A year later, it's time to
draw up the balance sheet, a phrase particularly apt in the
new Ireland.

I started off with the best of intentions. I had determined to
conduct myself like a Martian holidaying on Planet Earth. I
would have no preconceptions about my native country,
but take it as it now was, in all its pristine post-Catholic,
Celtic-Tiger glory. Once back in Ireland I would never
begin a sentence with "When I was in..." From Anthony
Clare I had learned that it was taboo to refer to your
experience outside Ireland. I would respect that. The past,
after all, was another country.

In the beginning I had enough problems just trying to
absorb the look of the place. I had spent enough time in
carefully detailed imitation Irish pubs in various European
capitals being nostalgic for the authentic Irish pub. But in a
classic case of life imitating art, the average Irish city centre
pub now looks like a Budapest café trying to imitate an
Irish pub. Confusing. And in the same vein, you will meet
people who talk like the actors in Fair City.

The diary I kept in my first months back in Dublin is full of
the strange sights and sounds. I noted that in the southern
suburbs of the city you will see more hard-faced, dyed
blondes in jeeps than in the middle-class ghettoes of South
American capitals. The schoolgirls on the DART seemed to
be speaking a foreign language, in which tortured Home
Counties vowels struggled to reach an accommodation with
turns of phrase derived from Australian soaps. The really
worrying thing was that people seemed to speak like this
on RTÉ too. What had happened to the Dublin accent?
Even Joe Duffy had been gentrified. At one stage I
resolved to kill the next person who said to me: "No

In those first months I felt like a character in a Saul Bellow
novel. Everywhere visible, on the one hand, was a
burgeoning underclass racked by drugs, gangsterism and
poverty, and on the other, spectacular wealth, vulgarity and
indifference. I was disorientated, saying all the wrong
things and trying to figure out what attitude I should take to
this, what tone I should use in addressing other people.

The problem is - and I'm as aware of it as any other
returning emigrant - that the tone of the outraged innocent
is subject to the law of diminishing returns. Already my
10-year-old daughter, who a year ago hardly spoke a word
of English, sounds as if she has spent her first decade
commuting on the DART. My friends might be amused at
the beginning when I kept asking "Who is this Marion
Finucane you keep joking about?" but a year down the
road I'm expected not just to know who she is, but to have
an opinion about her. I slowly began to realise I was going
to have to treat Ireland like just another foreign country.

Surviving in a foreign country means developing strategies
for analysing the society and dealing with it. The first thing
you learn is to forget the scenery and the folk dancing. You
learn a society by entering the belly of the beast, by getting
married, going to hospital, buying insurance. Most
instructive of all is your interaction with people such as
bank managers, solicitors, civil servants. You observe these
people, their clothes, the phrases they tend to repeat, the
ways in which they might treat you differently to other

The crucial learning moments are those moments when
you say something and they go blank. The blankness
means you have touched upon a fundamental value so
absolute it is not seen as a matter for debate or questioning.
It is simply not on the playing field. In this way you can
figure out what the underlying values and structures of a
society are. You may not want to conform, but at least then
you know what it is you are not conforming to.

I soon found myself in a position to apply these techniques,
with regard to the vexed matter of housing. In an article in
this newspaper written shortly after I returned I wrote with
a kind of amused horror about the Irish housing situation. A
year later I find it increasingly difficult to see the funny
side of it.

Obviously there is a massive housing crisis on the way, but
what is disturbing and baffling is the unwillingness of the
Government to do anything radical about it. When I
returned, friends advised me not to even consider renting a
property, that buying was by far the easier option. A year
later, I see what they mean. The rights of tenants in Ireland
can only be described as dating from a Victorian age. I
remember as a schoolchild learning about the battles the
Irish peasantry fought for such things as security of tenure.
It is hard to credit the situation more than 100 years later. In
some ways it's worse because not only are tenants
unprotected by laws, they are seen as having few moral

Trying to make sense of this leads me to think that there
may be some truth in the post-colonial model of Irish
society. The abused becomes the abuser. Few peoples
have relied on the kindness of strangers as much as the
Irish, but we are not covering ourselves in glory in our
treatment of economic immigrants. Similarly, Irish law
seems bizarrely, in the light of our history, biased in favour
of landlords.

Discussing the situation with an estate agent, I pointed out
that one house I was interested in was still empty three
months later because of the outrageous rent being asked.
Why not control the market to enforce realistic rents? The
estate agent replied, with the air of someone delivering a
clinching argument: landlords would then simply not rent
out their property. You don't need to be an expert in the
field to know that in some European countries it is a
criminal offence to keep residential property unoccupied. I
suggested that such a law in Ireland would surely ease the
housing situation. The blank look appearing on the agent's
face taught me that I had hit upon a fundamental
non-negotiable value.

Shortly after his election, Germany's finance minister,
Oscar Lafontaine, pointed out that "property entails duties
as well as privileges". Ireland, the Cuba of the capitalist
world, is obviously not yet ripe for such revolutionary
ideas. This touching, naïve faith in the sacredness of the
free market would be as laughable as Fidel Castro's
speeches, if seen from a safe distance. In the belly of the
beast, it is less amusing.

But surely, to compensate for all that, friends from abroad
ask, there is the exuberant cultural life? Though classified
as an Irish writer, I didn't have much experience of that
until recently. In the 1980s I came to Dublin to make a
documentary about U2. I wasn't a very dedicated
documentalist, and I gave up after 24 hours. I had to,
because the people I interviewed, the usual talking heads,
simply refused to answer my questions. It wasn't so much
the content they objected to - it was the scepticism of my
tone. This was my first encounter with the hysterically
  positivist, feel-good tone which is now so characteristic of
Irish life, and which I thought was restricted to the cultural

For years my only contact with Ireland was the odd Irish
newspaper and Channel 4 documentaries. This led me to
into some strange misapprehensions. One example is that
mythical beast, the Irish film industry. To read Irish
journalists (though the print ones are marginally better than
their electronic colleagues) you would think Ireland in
those years was churning out cinematic masterpieces. What
France was in the 1960s, and Germany in the 1970s,
Ireland would be in the 1990s.

I eagerly seized the opportunities provided by international
film festivals and late-night German TV to see those films -
which, curiously enough, never seemed to make it to the
cinemas. I soon realised that either they were nuts, or I
was. I remember one particularly massively hyped film
which I persuaded some colleagues to go and see at a
festival. They left after 20 minutes but slagged me about it
for years afterwards. I don't blame them. It wasn't just that
it was bad - it was so obviously bad that those journalists
 who praised it must have been deliberately misleading me.

A year later I have more sympathy with their dilemmas,
and I can see that I'm coming down with the disease too.
Cultural Ireland is a small place. A year ago I wouldn't
have hesitated to name that film. Now, I'm worried that the
director's mother might handbag me in Grafton Street.

I saw this process in action for myself with the hype which
preceded the release of Pat O'Connor's Dancing At
Lughnasa. By then I had learnt to pick up the signals - and
it was amusing to watch media people bend over
backwards to avoid saying what they really thought of the
film. But in the long run, this kind of thing is not doing the
Irish film any favours.

Why the broader neurotic need to accentuate the positive,
and the dismissal of the critical voice? It would be
charitable to ascribe it to a revulsion at the begrudgery and
envy which so bedevilled Ireland, but it has swung too far
in the opposite direction. Ireland may be rich in comparison
to how it once was, but it is still a very small, rather
insignificant part of a much larger economic whole. The
current prosperity owes much to outside factors over which
we have absolutely no control. Nothing strange or unusual
about that. But the obsessive upbeat hype is a kind of
superstition. There is a sort of underlying belief that despite
all the glaring inequalities and inadequacies, if we keep
saying we are a great wee country, we will become one.


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