Biography: Adam Clayton
"Flashback: Dublin Christmas '78 and you're at this party thrown by Charles O'Connor, the guitarist in Horslips. A young
chap comes up to you, thrusting the demo tape by his group into your hands. Another bloody demo tape. And then this guy, glasses,
permed frizzy blond hair like a bleached Jimi Hendrix, he starts pumping you, asking you all these questions about the music
business. Really good incise precise questions. This guy is brimming intent. In rock'n'roll, attitude is as important as musical
skill, the sense of going for it."
-- BP Fallon, "U2 Faraway So Close", 1992
Having been eased out of high school earlier in the year, Adam Clayton found himself free to spend the following months acting
as manager for the fledgling U2, for whom he also served as bassist. Music had been a passion for Adam since discovering rock'n'roll
in the mid-seventies, and he was whole-heartedly and optimistically committed to his band and his vision, an "undeniable belief"
as The Edge later remembered. Although Paul McGuinness had assumed official managerial duties back in May, here was Adam hawking
U2's second demo tape to anyone who would listen. Adam's defiant acts and attitudes in his schoolboy days are legendary, and
serve preparatory notice of his extreme sense of bluff -- if you can talk the talk, you can arrange to walk the walk at the
first available opportunity.
This adolescent bluff translated to adult confidence, a characteristic well-needed when Adam found himself the band's outsider
in the early eighties, while the other members contemplated the fate of the band from a spiritually troubled perspective.
However, Adam's position was never seriously in jeopardy, as illustrated by his attendance as best man at Bono's 1982 wedding.
Band crises pushed out of the way for the time being, U2 continued their journey further up and further into the hearts
of people the world over. Adam's inventive and memorable basslines defined such classics as "New Year's Day" and "With Or
Without You"; meanwhile with Larry on drums he gradually consolidated the backbone of the 'U2 sound'. His relaxed riffs presented
a pleasant contrast to the precise drumming, the two aspects filling the background of each U2 song in a way that allowed
Bono and The Edge the freedom to move around unhindered with their respective instruments.
In August 1989, Adam's name made the headlines when he was arrested in Dublin and charged with possession of a small amount
of cannabis, with the intent to supply the drug to others. He avoided a conviction (which would have had serious repurcussions
on his international touring schedule with U2) by making a sizable donation to charity. His regret, even years later, was
not of the nature of the crime, but the fact that it was a crime: "It was my own fault. And I'm sure I was out of my head
-- emotionally apart from anything else. But it is serious because it is illegal."
It was in the Zoo TV years that Adam really seemed to finally gain a public persona along with the others. The 'ultimate
rock star' phase that the band explored was entirely suited to his playboy lifestyle, and Adam soaked it all up. Loose, brightly
coloured clothes, peroxide-blonde hair, perma-cigarette&shades and the company of supermodels. Even more crucially, he
had the talent to back it up -- "Zoo Station", "Until the End of the World", "Mysterious Ways", "Tryin' to Throw Your Arms
Around the World", "Babyface", "Lemon", "Some Days Are Better Than Others" -- never had Adam shined so brightly.
However, towards the end of the tour, the unthinkable happened -- Adam missed a gig. For the first time ever, U2 went on
stage without one of their own. In the aftermath of a romantic break-up, and suffering an ever-worsening dependence on alcohol,
Adam had been steadily declining, until one night it all was all too much. At the time, things looked grim for the easy-going
bassist; however, with the light of hindsight, it was the beginning of a new lease on life. In a retrospective Hot Press interview
in 1998, Adam came clean about his character:
"I am one of those characters that has an addictive personality. And it's an emotional problem as much as it is a physical
problem and I had to start dealing with that. And that's the hard road, figuring out the psychology of it. The avoiding substances
of any kind is hard but, okay, it's not that hard. It's facing the devil inside you, that's the tricky bit."
Heading to New York City with Larry, the newly-sober Adam, until then entirely self-taught, undertook bass lessons in an effort
to expand his knowledge of the instrument. Pausing for various soundtrack-related projects -- including his first recorded
vocal on Passengers' "Your Blue Room" and a UK Top 10 hit with "Theme From 'Mission: Impossible'" (a collaboration with Larry)
-- Adam underwent something of a renaissance, and emerged for the Pop sessions fresh and ready. The evidence? His progressive
contributions to the songs speak for themselves -- "MoFo", "Gone", "Miami" and "Please" feature the riffs of his career, inventive,
complex and original.
Adam joined U2 to fulfill his dream of being in a band, of playing bass for a living. In his 1995 book "U2 At the End of
the World", Bill Flanagan wrote:
"Bono says that Larry really wishes he were the singer, Bono wants to be the guitarist, and Edge is a frustrated drummer.
'Adam only wants to play the bass.'"
Not only did Adam realise his dream, he also found three special friends in Bono, The Edge and Larry Mullen. Reflecting
in 1997 about Adam's hard times, Bono admitted, "I don't care about gigs, I care about, y'know, us. If there's a choice, I'm
not going to put the people, however much they're paying, before me mates."
As for the future, Adam's perspective…
"I'm not quite sure what the next ten years is gonna be but I think it's gonna be pioneer territory for us. There's not
many bands -- if any -- that have been in that position creatively, critically, financially. And we're gonna take that and
we're gonna use it. And if rock and roll can have an expression in the populist culture that's what we want to do… we're
actually just gonna try and pole-vault into the next century and be in people's faces for the next ten years at least."
-- "Hot Press" magazine, November 1998