Wednesday, March 18: A BUS TRANSIT HAULS US out to a private airport hangar on the Fresh Pond side of town. BP Fallon is sat upfront with the driver. The driver’s walkie talkie is in crackle static mode, all heel ball and bullshit. Suddenly, it rings. BP, who has been ‘vibing out’ pedestrians with provocative howls, turns and shouts, “if that’s Prince, tell him to fuck off.”
U2’s private 50 seater MGM Grand Air looks like any other Boeing 727 on the outside – neat, compact and powerful. Inside’s a different story. Bono describes it as “high tech kitsch, a disco from the ’70s all shining balls, mirrors and flock wallpaper.” The last band to hire it was Guns ‘n’ Roses.
A narrow corridor is flanked by four seater booths complete with overhead TVs and earphones. The middle opens out into a spect-acularly over-the-top bar lounge with padded leatherette panels and wood effect beauty board, partitioned with peacock-etched plate glass. It’s well over the top but there’s no conspicuous Stones style debauchery to go with it. “We never bought that whole rock’n’roll excess thing,” Bono laughs.
Beyond the lounge, where the seats are low slung and white leather, the band is having a meeting, The Edge flicking through that day’s edition of USA Today. The flight is short – a cold chicken taco and two beers – and we alight at a private corner of Newark airport to climb aboard another fleet of stretch limos that snakes its way down the Jersey Turnpike, to the Brendan Byrne Arena, Meadowlands.
I set up shop in BP Fallon’s dressing room as he assembles his twin cd portable boom box and starts his groove with some PM Dawn. Bernard Patrick Fallon is an institution of sorts. He’s a rock ‘n’ roll peacock, an Irish Catholic with an English Public School education who soaked up Gene Vincent, Elvis and Little Richard and never looked back. He’s been on Top of the Pops miming for the Plastic Ono Band and made media vibes for Marc Bolan, T Rex, Led Zeppelin, The Boomtown rats and The Waterboys. A bald, domed groover of indeterminate age, he reeks of coconut oil and lives on another planet. His occasional visits to earth are fraught with hassled minions – “the little people”, he calls them – and the sound of his voice can make grown men quiver with murderous intent.
Besides the role of pre-show DJ – “more of a sound viber, man” – The Beep has put together the impressive progamme notes, part BP ego trip and part insightful Q&A assembly wherein he explores both their pockets and their fantasies, of which more later. “The only white black person I know besides Bob Dylan,” is how Bono describes him.
Eslewhere, backstage, we note the former E Street Band guitarist, Little Steven and Tatum O’Neal and John McEnroe. Weirder still, we find the diminutive senior citizen sex therapist, Dr Ruth.
The Meadowlands show is perfection, the atmosphere just right. Everyone’s pleased. The Beep spins a special edit of The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour, an idea cooked up, with almost eery coincidence, by both himself and Bono, who opens the show alone, howling a haunting Turkish dirge of unknown origin. When he introduces I Still Haven’t Found what I’m Looking For, he says, “This is your year of election, I hope you find the president you are looking for because, if you don’t, we’re all fucked.”
THE BAR OF THE RITZ CARLTON ON CENTRAL PARK SOUTH is filling up as group and crew members meet and greet with old friends and camp followers. This is New York and only a few of them had ventured down the Lincoln Tunnel to Meadowlands to see the show. Outside the snow is falling heavily.
Soon the place is jammed with fabulous, glamorous New Yorkers, as they plainly cast themselves. When you talk to them, they run an ID check: if you’re no-one, goodbye. The moment Adam – God bless him – gives you a hug and starts trading jokes about our old hometown of Dublin, suddenly you’re my old pal, too. We Irish have very acute bullshit antennae, and tonight mine are in overdrive.
“I was scared after Rattle & Hum, Adam says, “because we became too big to explain it and tell people why we made it.” Over half a dozen beers and his white wine, we discuss his treatment at the hands of the Irish public and the Irish police. Like it or not, he does have the band’s only outlaw image, having lost his driving licence, taken a policeman for a drunken windscreen joyride and then got caught smoking a joint only a roll up away from his mansion in the Dublin foothills.
“In America I could roll a joint standing next to a New York cop and he wouldn’t bat an eyelid,” he protests, “because they know we are different. Over here, they understand, that for rock stars, it’s a whole different lifestyle. And, by the way, it’s not my land they’re going to build the six lane motorway on,” he points out, referring to my U2 piece in last November’s SELECT. “It’s this private property developer who bought the land ten years ago thinking he was going to make a fortune when it was re-opened.”
As the party thins and Norman, the wisecracking bartender becomes even more acerbic and weary, Bono has gone as his wife, ali, has just arrived from Dublin, Larry, too, as his girlfriend was on the same flight.
Suddenly Gary Oldman appears, drunk, unshaven, dishevelled, melting snow on the shoulders of his well lived-in tweed overcoat.The man who plays Lee Harvey Oswald in JFK equips himself with a beer and mostly sits in a corner and broods.Occasionally he jumps up and swings an expensive vase about. Phil Joanou loves it.
As the bar is cleared, a party is swiftly scheduled for Joanou’s room. Drinks are ordered and music organized. Room service arrives with a bar on a trolley – ice, beer, vodka, tequila and a bowl of freshly cut lime. Paul McGuinness produces the first VHS copy of Joanou’s reworking of U2’s current single, One, the third version. The first version was made with U2’s photographer Anton Corbijn in Berlin.
“The band dressed in drag and nobody like it when it was finished,” McGuinness explains, “but it’s not going to be deep sixed – or Neil Jordaned,” he quips, referring to Jordan’s long buried video of Red Hill Mining Town from The Joshua Tree.
“It will be shown. We’ll put it on as a one off and we’ll give people plenty of warning so they can record it, but it’s not going to be distributed for rotation.”
The second version, (made by Ned O”Hanlon) uses images by New York artist, David Wojnarowicz of American buffalo crossing the screen in slow motion, eventually freezing on a shot of them going over a cliff, an image which connects with his perception of the AIDS crisis.
The idea of rock stars appearing several times a day on TV screens in full drag and make up would be enough to send America’s moral right into apoplectic seizure. The Rolling Stones did it but then, they were always bad boys. Does this mean U2 are only playing at being bad boys?
“They try and control the circumstances in which they work,” counters McGuinness, because it’s through achieving control that you can do good work. Sometimes in the past the fact that U2’s organization is fairly proficient has obscured the fact that they’re a phenomenal rock ‘n’ roll band.”
BP Fallon asked each of the band if they ever wished they were women. Adam said yes, Larry said no. The Edge took a psychic voyeur stance and Bono evaded the issue by giving a pen sketch of the others from that video…
“edge looked like Winnie the Witch, Adam looked like the Duchess of York, Larry looked like an extra from some skin flick and I looked like Barbara Bush.”