This is a review of the book Three Chords And The Truth by Niall Stokes.
Niall Stokes has been covering U2 since they were young lads taking their first steps onto a stage. I already looked at North Side Story, a book that was released for the fan club, and I looked at Stokes’ book The Stories Behind Every U2 Song, which has been a pretty major resource for this project. Now I look at another book that Stokes was involved with, Three Chords And The Truth. Each of these comes from the Hot Press magazine, the Irish music newspaper, which Stokes was the founder of, I think. Putting together all these books is giving a comprehensive look at the history of the band. And there’s the U2 File, which I mentioned in the North Side Story review, and I don’t own. This book is a followup to that one, where the U2 File was Hot Press stories up to 1985, and this book is Hot Press stories from 1985-1990. I don’t know if there are any more of these books, I will have to find out, because they are seriously good.
Now the first thing that strikes me is that the title of the song isn’t even a U2 lyric, it’s just a throwaway line that Bono added to someone else’s song (All Along The Watchtower by Dylan in this case). So using it is a little of a jarring note, even though the line has become famous since then. Maybe I’m being a little picky to complain about this, but I have to complain about something, right?
What also strikes me is how good this book really is. This is a bunch of long-form stories about the band, and they get really deep in some parts of it. Of course, being a long-time fan I know much of the story already, but this does add detail that I either forgot or never knew, which means that every so often while reading I get a little “huh” now and then. The photos aren’t much, I didn’t see a single one that I hadn’t seen before.
The great thing about this book is that it shows the travels through the peak of the band’s existence, the time of The Joshua Tree and Rattle And Hum, when so many interesting things were happening. Not to say there haven’t been any interesting things since then, but really this is a whole step past the creation myth of the band (covered in the earlier books), through their puberty of The Unforgettable Fire days and showing their growth into full-bloom. It really is a trip down memory lane to read so many of these stories again, stories that I “know” in deep detail but still don’t have it all. Where I may have read the highlights from some newspaper article or website once, reading this is really digging down, and it’s fantastic to do so.
Although in the back there’s a few pages that are completely wasted, essentially some made-up junk. Maybe they didn’t have a story that would fit the space? I couldn’t read most of it - not just the part in Gaelic - it was generally just nonsense and I don’t know why it is there.
My rating for Three Chords And The Truth: 6 / 10