Belfast Telegraph

Bono and the boys of U2 are not the Apple of everyone's eye

Welcome to the sideways world of our star columnist Robert McNeil

I'm an agnostic. I don't mean about religion. That's all guff. I mean about pop gods U2. You say: "They're guff too." You could be correct. Here's where it's at: I've a couple of the early albums and do recall The Joshua Tree quite fondly.

It's a cliché to say you preferred a band's early albums. But clichés are merely truisms for the masses.

Early albums are almost always the best. I know you can think of exceptions. The Joshua Tree was U2's fifth, for example, but by early and later maybe I mean first half and second half of a band's career. Whatever, by and large, bands' later albums are a waste of listening.

Early albums are marked by questing, testing limits and reaching out. Later albums are characterised by consolidating, knowing limits and reaching back.

Most bands usually hit their stride on the third or sometimes fourth album. After that, all is echo. Exception: The Beatles.

Still, I remain unclear as to what U2 were about. What were they looking for? They were post-punk shading into hard rock (the general pattern once instruments were mastered) but they didn't seem to mean anything, if you see what I mean.

What intrigues me is the opprobrium they attract. It's aimed mainly at singer Bono, seen as a rich man pontificating about the Third World. Hobnobbing with dubious political leaders hasn't helped his case.

Now the Irish rockers have come in for more scorn after receiving a reported $100m from Apple in return for giving their new album away free. Northern Irish singer-songwriter Paul Brady says music has value, costs money to make, and shouldn't be given away.

Another nail has been hammered in the coffin of the music business, he says, by a band that "continually waffles on about fairness and human values".

Fair points, though I sympathise with U2 to the extent that waffling about fairness is better than not waffling about fairness.

It's the money from Apple that troubles me. Seems a bit rich, as it were. I adore Apple's products but, like most people, can't afford them. Deals like this perhaps explain why.

The U2 deal was done on the back of a new portable telephone that costs up to £700. You could buy my car for less than half of that. It's all wrong somehow. But Apple will continue raking it in. With or without U2.

Wednesday: Sock it to him, girl

I have socks that must be 10 years old. They're still in decent nick, and it just doesn't occur to me – ever – to say: "I must buy socks."

Who does that? Who factors the purchasing of socks into their weekend?

Well, there's a chap in yonder Emirates who perhaps wishes he had.

Though personally I think he dodged a bullet when a Saudi girl broke off their engagement – because he wore torn socks to her house.

Souad texted her father: "This man is not suitable for me.

"Look at his ripped socks."

And, lo, the boy was given the boot.

I've been dumped by lasses on all sorts of grounds: nose too big, other bodily parts not so much, persistent farting during The Sound of Music, and having halitosis of the personality.

But no one ever mentioned my socks.

Mind you, I did find some of them burning in the back garden once.

Friday: Crimpers don't cut it in trust stakes

One in every five people expects hourly contact from their other half, according to a study by energy supplier e.ON.

How does that work? What if you're at work or seeing your lover? Trust is the key to all relationships, it says here.

A top psychologist foamed: "When forming any type of relationship, trust is crucial – whether it's with a romantic interest, hairdresser or an energy company."

I can see the case with the hairdresser.

Can't begin to count the times they've let me down.

What is it about "not too much off" that they find so difficult to understand?

Saturday: Idea on road to nowhere

A Labour MP has called for car ownership to be "outlawed".

Dr Alan Whitehead says the peasantry should be forced to join communal car clubs instead. But then we'd feel guilty about making a mess, spilling stuff and leaving the radio on the heavy metal channel.

Not going to happen.

Sunday: Little Emperor was under the thumb

Napoleon Bonaparte was apparently way ahead of his time, even drawing up a pre-nup agreement with Josephine.

Due to be auctioned in Paris, this 18th century document reveals the couple's intention to "in no way be responsible for the debts and mortgages of the other".

It's reckoned it might have been her doing, as she was the wealthier of the two.

Along with him famously saying "Not tonight" (traditionally, the female prerogative), you begin to wonder who wore the pantaloons in that relationship.

Some experts now reckon Nappers was only sticking his hand in his waistcoat to adjust his bra-strap.

Monday: Bell rings changes for street-naming

How to name a street? Belfast has had a policy of not naming them after individuals, but is about to overturn this in the name of John Stewart Bell.

Belfast-born Bell is regarded as one of the 20th century's greatest physicists. He investigated the foundations of quantum theory and formulated Bell's Theorem, which famously corrected Bertie Einstein.

I could explain this to you in more detail but can't find my glasses at the moment.

There is a small amount of fuss about the street-naming. Don't see the problem with names. As long as you keep politics out of it, everyone would be happy, as in life generally.

Alternatively, you could name streets after concepts and phenomena. Relaxation Street, Hegemony Crescent, Dogma Square, Quantitative Easing Avenue, Nothingness Road.

But I can't see that catching on. Streets are real, not ethereal. Besides, John Bell Crescent has a nice ring to it.

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