There was an old Hot Press collection book out a long while ago, it was called The U2 File. I had a copy (long since missing, probably somewhere in my mother’s house) but I remember very little about it. I seem to remember it was simply a set of reprints of old Hot Press stories about U2 in the early days, through The Unforgettable Fire. A quick google tells me that was pretty much the case. I don’t remember if there was any original material or just the reprints.
U2’s fan membership gift last year was called North Side Story, and it is a book about U2 in Dublin in the early days, featuring reprints of stories that appeared in Hot Press (an Irish music magazine). If I was to say that it is simply a repeat of The U2 File, I would be correct in some ways and incorrect in others. I’m guessing that some of the stories - if not many - are reprinted in both books. North Side Story has a lot of original material as well.
It is fun reading some of the old stories in the book. When you read the early stuff that talks about the different bands in Dublin at the time, and saying how this band or that band is heading to stardom, it’s interesting to think about how things could have been so much different. Maybe it wasn’t U2 that set the world on fire, maybe it was the Virgin Prunes, or one of the other bands they hung out with. Or maybe U2 were destined to be the stars, maybe Bono’s oversized ego was what pushed them out in front of the crowd. But reading some of these stories it really shows how just a few missteps and they would have been back in Dublin with nothing.
One of the best parts of the book is actually the new material that goes with the old stories. Talking to people who were there at the time and wrote or were involved in the stories about the band, then coming back this many years later to follow up with them, really gives you that sense of pride that so many in Dublin have about the band. The whole range of emotion from “yeah, I always thought they would be stars” to “never thought they’d make it big” goes back to the last paragraph about how things could have been so much different. I wonder what my own personal history would have been, given the amount of time and money and thought I’ve spent on the band. Would I have picked a different band? Or done something completely different with my own life?
The most interesting thing in the book to me was an additional map that was included, showing a number of locations relevant to U2 in Dublin. I have never been to Dublin, but I certainly want to go there one day, and the map will be useful in finding my way around the different places of interest. Of course it warns not to use it for directions, and there are probably better ways of doing it, like the various U2 tours that surely exist, but it is still a good starting point when I get to planning such a trip.
My rating for North Side Story (book): 5 / 10