The Stories Behind Every U2 Song is a book by Niall Stokes, and a followup to at least one previous edition. The one I have contains songs up to No Line On The Horizon, not sure if there is going to be a newer one. I read somewhere that this edition removed some of the material from the old edition, presumably to fit in the new stuff. Not sure if that’s cool or not. I think not. It means that you’ve lost something, even though you gained something else. I promise to never remove anything from my old blog posts. Since I may never read them again, probably no point.
This book is kind of in my sweet spot for this blog, since it is doing similar things to what I am. Talking about each song, a little bit of information that may or may not be useful. In my case it’s more personal, my impression of things, while Stokes is trying to give - as the title says - a little background into the songs from the point of view of the band. He is far more qualified to do that than I am, of course. Doesn’t make him better (be quiet), just different.
I certainly like the idea, but I’m not so sure about the execution. I have set myself a minimum of 500 words each day, and although sometimes I struggle to stay on point, I have always made it, even on the weakest of songs. On many of the songs Stokes fills a single page, which is probably around the same 500 words, but he ends up with a bunch of b sides (still don’t know if I should capitalize that) shoved into a couple of pages at the back, with a paragraph on each. I can't say that spells out the stories behind those songs. So, I win that one, although some of my posts may have about that much relevant material in them.
One of the biggest problems I have with the book is that for me there is little new in it. I mean, I’ve read and heard all the stories about U2, it’s hard to find something new or different. Especially from the old days, when not so many people knew them and had a different perspective. I’ve touched on this idea before in a couple of places, that all their early stories are now too well known. Even though Stokes has been around all that time, and has dug through archives of material, the die-hard U2 fan will probably end up like me, either knowing the stories or at least being reminded of them. There were several occasions while reading that I remembered an old story, but hadn’t thought of it in many years. So that’s a little bonus that you could get out of it.
I do tend to use this book as a little bit of reference material. I also look at things like Wikipedia, and as often as not I’ll find this book used as the source for much of their information. It’s clearly useful, and enjoyable, to the U2 fan. When I’m trying to write this blog though, I don’t want to just repeat what he says, if that were the case then I could just tell you to buy the book. So I try to take in something from different places, and bring it back out with my own twist or perspective on things. Not always easy.
My rating for The Stories Behind Every U2 Song: 6 / 10