Killing Bono

This is a review of the book Killing Bono by Neil McCormick.

Did you ever imagine that you had grown up with Bono and the rest of the band? Of course you did, if you’re a fan. I have imagined it, wondering if I could have been one of them, could have gone to Larry’s kitchen that day, maybe played guitar with them, maybe gotten in the band and been one of them (I usually imagine myself replacing Edge, because he’s the cool one). I mean, that totally could have happened, right? Everything else would have worked out exactly the same, I would have played exactly the same music as Edge and we would totally have become the same band with the same fame. Yup.

So Neil McCormick did, growing up in the same place and being at the same school as U2 were. He wasn’t at the famous kitchen meeting, even though the world thinks he was, but that was actually his brother. He is moderately famous - he has this book, for starters, but also has been a writer or columnist in numerous music publications - but he has spent his life wishing he was Bono, or thinking that he should have been Bono. As he put it somewhere in the book, in any other place he’d be the most famous person to come out of his school, but he had the misfortune to go to school with Bono.

One of my criteria for a good book about U2 (and I must say that this book is not about U2, but about Bono, the others are quite peripheral throughout the book) is that it comes from an insider’s perspective, not from someone reading about or interviewing people about the band. McCormick obviously grew up with the band, musically that is, and spent a lot of time as a teenager with them. For this reason there are stories about them in the very early days that haven’t been printed elsewhere, or if they have they used this book as the source material. That probably makes the book worth it alone, let alone all the extra material he provides about them and his own life. Very amusing story about Paul McCartney calling, and saying he usually has to spend half an hour convincing people that it’s really him.

Neil is somewhat of a sad character in the end, despite the success he has clearly had. He is very self-deprecating, but while that’s often a good thing when done in a funny way, in this case there is an endless parade of what could have beens coming from him. It does get a little old at times, but he does eventually turn to interesting or funny stuff after it, so it is worth wading through those moments to get to the good stuff.

But the book is worth it for all of the reasons above. Not my favorite U2 book, but it has many moments of great interest and a number of bits of insight into Bono (and quotes from Bono). Another favorite is Ali’s comment on “take everything he says with a pinch of salt,” meaning Neil, but both Neil and Bono thinks she means Bono. It’s these little bits that give it enough to hold your interest.

My rating for Killing Bono: 8 / 10