Tom Dunne: Damn the begrudgers - we're all excited about Bono's memoir

I first saw U2 play at Dublin's Dandelion Market in 1979 - even then, they created a different buzz 
Tom Dunne: Damn the begrudgers - we're all excited about Bono's memoir

Seeing U2 at the Dandelion Market in Dublin was one of those 'I was there' moments.  Picture: RTÉ

Bono is publishing a memoir, Surrender, in November. I have to admit, I am aghast at some of the reaction to this news. “Harrumphs,” could be heard all over Ireland. “What now?” people asked. “What further details of his world peace-seeking/tax compliant exploits will we hear now?” All I could say was, “hold your whist!” These naysayers only know ‘Famous Bono’, which is fair enough as he’s been famous since before most of the world was born. They only know the Bono who is, to quote Joey Ramone, “friends with the Vatican, friends with the Pope.” It was not always so.

On the day news broke of the memoir, a photo of U2 playing the Dandelion Market, May 12, 1979, appeared online. You can see the heads of many fans in the shot. Mine, could well, be one of them.

I’d arrived at this place in history via my weekly Saturday trawl of Dublin for anything vaguely related to punk. Prior to Google, shoe rubber was the only option. You visited shops that might have NME, walked to record shops that might have The Jam hidden amongst the wall-to-wall Rod Stewart.

That week I had purchased a school tie (very punk) from a school outfitters on Talbot Street before drifting towards Grafton Street. Grafton Street had a McDonald's, which sold food from the future, and was next door to a new shop called Freebird Records.

Freebird was run by Brian and Des, music lovers extraordinaire, but it was more a place to pick up a second-hand Beatles album than Talking Heads. Outside, most weeks, stood Brum, an impressibly tough-looking Punk from Birmingham. It was rumoured he had seen both The Clash and The Pistols. It was all we could not to touch the hem of his gown.

But the Dandelion Market was becoming the real draw. A shop had opened at the King Street side entrance called Advance Records. This had very quickly become the central meeting point for punks from all over Ireland.

It was run by Fred Talbot. Fred worked in CIE and used his free travel, a perk of the job, to go to the UK to buy punk records, which he would bring in via the North. You bought whatever Fred had: The Clash, The Jam, Talking Heads, The Stranglers.

But inside the market, things were getting even more interesting. It was still largely a hippie paradise. The second-hand albums were mostly by Genesis, the shirts were cheese-cloth and there were a lot, and I mean a lot, of ‘smoking paraphernalia’ on sale. Not to mention joss sticks and toffee apples.

Into this punk wilderness had come two men, John Fischer and Eoin O’Shea. Having been to festivals in the UK they had the idea to sell badges with band names on them, mostly of punk bands. However, Ireland did not seem to have enough punks. So, they had an idea. Why not put on some gigs?

And so, in the carpark adjoining the market, a stage was built, from beer crates and old wood. What can I say? People who had only come into town to buy a badge decided instead to form a band and ask for a gig. Build it, as they say, and they will come.

Being now the only punk venue in Ireland It became the place to be. Outside, every Saturday, you would jostle with people who had started their own fanzines, were hoping to go into music, film, writing or anything creative. People seeking drummers, singers, and guitarists. People like you.

Before U2 played most of us had seen bands like The Outcasts, Rudi, Noize Boys, The Attrix, or Rocky De Valera and The Gravediggers. The bands from the North were particularly excellent. And you’d be home in time for your tea, your mind ablaze.

U2’s gig was different. 50p in for a start. The PA was better and someone - everyone -suspects Bono, had sprayed “Bono is God” on the wall. They already had a following, a girl called Elsie that Bono would sing to. And the Virgin Prunes of course, resplendent in clothes from Dublin punk fashion shop No Romance, or possibly even, gulp, the King’s Road.

For the band at the centre of that photo, reliant on all those threads, Fred’s free travel, the need to sell badges, borrowed beer crates, to be Number One in America within eight years, is a story, all day long. Bono, please, leave nothing out.

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