The year was 1984, and Jamming! was rocking. Our first year of bi-monthly publication had proven a great success with the public, if something of a precarious existence for our accounts department (i.e., myself). But we were clearly doing something right in bridging the gap between fanzine and magazine, because at some point during the spring, word came through from Island Records that U2 wanted Jamming! to have the first interview for and about its new album The Unforgettable Fire We were elated, both from a prestigious and commercial perspective. We were looking to go monthly in the autumn and a U2 exclusive would be just the ticket to get us some serious shelf space.
A contributor named Martin Wroe (who now writes for the Guardian among others) had been begging to conduct a U2 interview should it come up, and so his name was put forward. U2 came back and said they wanted the editor - which was me. This was strange in the sense that U2 was not my favorite band by a long stretch, but the group persisted; it seemed they were up for a challenge. Or maybe I should say The Edge was up for a challenge; the condition of our exclusive (all major interviews come with conditions, everyone knows that) was that the interview be with U2's guitarist for once, rather than the garrulous and eminently quotable Bono Vox. We acquiesced, of course; we didn't really have a choice
At some point during August I was flown out to Dublin with publicist Neil Storey to conduct the interview. I was used to commuter flying from my work on The Tube the past year, but still, this was the first time Jamming! had ever been treated to a flight overseas for an interview. Not that Island's budget stretched to an overnight stay or anything, but still, being invited to Dublin by U2 for an exclusive left us in no doubt that we were entering the major league.
Looking back over these pages, I can clearly picture my naive self back at age 20. The intro to the story is cliched, even hackneyed, which I can only excuse by the fact that I'd never gone abroad to do an interview before. The questions are challenging, but in an almost painfully innocent way, haling as they did from a kid who was still clinging to certain post-punk ideals at a time such ideals were busy being blown out of the water both by synth-pop and arena rock. Whatever. I may cringe a little reading back, but I'm not going to be embarrassed. For the most part, I had the good sense to let the Edge talk, and just about all of what he says holds up extremely well some seventeen years later. I'm sure U2 fans will agree.
The U2 interview should have been a watershed for Jamming! We decided to go monthly, and we moved our printing accordingly, from Finland (lots of cheap paper, but a two-week turnaround) to somewhere just outside London. Unfortunately, just as we went to press, a serious paper shortage hit the UK (should have stayed loyal to the Finns!) and our new printers decided they'd cut corners on the young kids with the new monthly magazine rather than any of their longer-term customers. Jamming! 21, the first monthly issue, the one with the U2 exclusive on the cover, hit the stores on wafer-thin paper that totally belied our supposedly superior status. (My one copy is almost falling apart, the paper is so thin.) Worse yet, the printers failed to align the pages properly, so that the borders bled all the way to the edge of the paper (you can see this clearly when you link to the full-size images) with the result that we looked more like a fanzine than we had done even in our fanzine days. Sales suffered accordingly; our reputation likewise. That's what you get - or at least what we got - for being independent and not carrying sufficient clout on entering the big leagues.
Below are thumb-nails of the U2 feature as spread across issues 21 and 22. Click on an image to see the page in all its original chaotic color design (by Russell Tate, who recently made contact from Australia: check out his web site here). If you're a U2 fanatic with your own web site, you're welcome to quote excerpts from here, but don't take the whole thing (i.e. The bigger images); I'd appreciate your just linking to this page.
More from the archives to follow. I'm still hoping to get some of my original transcripts up, if I ever get time to scan them in and correct everything the text-reading software misses from poorly typed and faded originals. Requests for future archive material are welcome. Help in retyping old transcripts is almost essential. Reading and surfing is actively encouraged. Enjoy.
Oh, and for the record, I became much more of a U2 fan over subsequent years: The Joshua Tree is an impeccable classic rock album; Achtung Baby was a reinvention the likes of which few groups have ever achieved; and All That You Can't Leave Behind finds a middle-aged band that ain't too proud to make pop music - and great pop music at that. Sure there's been the occasional embarrassment (Rattle and Hum and Pop are each overblown in their own way) but had I asked The Edge back in Dublin that day in the summer of 1984, whether U2 could still be one of the world's most relevant bands in the 21st Century, well, only one of us would have said 'yes.'
Tony Fletcher, October 2001