Happy Birthday to Adam Clayton, who turns 55 today.
I have had conflicting thoughts about Adam over the years. There have been times when I have loved him, and times when I have felt like he is almost a passenger in the band. Of course that second part is not true, each band member is integral to the entire group, and each brings a part to the whole. Adam’s problem is that he doesn’t get the publicity that Bono and Edge do, and therefore his input is not appreciated so much.
In the early days Adam was the odd man out. You’ve seen the pics of him, his white afro contrasting with the other guys and their dark hair (even Bono with his long dark hair doesn’t look too different). He wore weird clothes. He was distinctive. Okay, in many ways that worked for him, and kudos to Adam for being willing to stand out. Too many of us want to conform, to fit in, to not stick our necks out. Adam went the opposite way, acted flamboyantly, got noticed, was the band manager for a short time and did enough to get them all some publicity. So you can definitely say he had influence there, in getting the band off the ground. And now that I think about it he still stands out, look at the image from the announcement of the I&E tour, the four guys in bed, he looks years older than the others (no offense Adam). He has apparently lived the rock and roll life.
My other issues with Adam involve his personal life, including things like the engagement to a supermodel, the drug arrest, and the fact that up until last year he was the only member of the band to miss a show (and you might argue that, because technically the World AIDS Day concert in NY last year wasn’t a U2 concert). In that case it was through being drunk, and if I had been in that audience I don’t know how happy I’d have been to see someone performing in Adam’s place. But again you could argue that Adam was replaceable, if it was Bono or even Edge would the show have gone on?
But after all that trash-talking, let’s get to the good stuff. I personally think that in the early days, Adam and Larry were what held the band together musically. Edge was experimenting and learning all the time, Bono was out front just being wild, and the rhythm section seemed like they were the ones who knew how to play. Now, I’ve read stories since that suggest that Adam was doing it all wrong, but if you listen to the first couple of albums, you would guess that the bass player is the one who knew what he was doing. As time went on the others caught up and went by, but Adam was always that stable influence. There are more than a few songs where you would not be able to imagine it sounding like it does without the bass, or a different bass line, and that’s all down to Adam. I think I should extend that point from a couple of sentences ago, saying that the others went by him but he definitely caught back up and in many ways passed them by. It is a very cultured sound these days that you get from the bass. It’s impossible to imagine the band or the music without him.