Bedazzzling Bono

Opinion: Role lends cultural cred to the chancer class

‘The audience lapped it up. Not least Enda.’ Above, Bono meets Taoiseach Enda Kenny after addressing the EPP gathering in Dublin. Photograph: Alan Betson

‘The audience lapped it up. Not least Enda.’ Above, Bono meets Taoiseach Enda Kenny after addressing the EPP gathering in Dublin. Photograph: Alan Betson


U2’s forthcoming album isn’t as forthcoming as we had thought, I see. Its release has been put back until next year, according to a report in Billboard , though a band representative later said the album was still on course for release later this year.

I wonder what the problem is. There was a Paul Woodfull/ Gary Cooke sketch on Irish Pictorial Weekly a few months back, shortly after Paul McGuinness announced his retirement, depicting the new manager (Eric Lacey) asking Bono (Cooke) if there were any image tweaks he’d like.

Enhanced appeal to the teeny-bopper demographic? No problem. Next! A new stylist to make me look taller than Tom Cruise? Consider it done. Anything else?

I’d like to seem more relevant . . . New manager turns slowly to camera, rolls eyes towards heaven.

On the other hand, the writers might have been of a different mind if they had attended the convention in Dublin last week of the European Austerity Alliance, aka European People’s Party – Merkel’s Christian Democrats, Greece’s New Democracy, our own Enda, etc – at which Bono was the designated inspirational speaker. (I am aware that Bono’s incursions into the G8, the UN, the Vatican and so forth have been done to near-death by grouchy commentators of all persuasions. But it’s just too tempting.)

The audience lapped it up. Not least Enda. At one point An Taoiseach gazed up at Bono with the eyes of a man much in love, then turned to sweep the crowd, beaming brightly as if to convey – in fact definitely to convey – that he was the guy who had delivered the superstar to sprinkle them with stardust and glitter and who henceforth should be seen in a glow of ambient glamour. Just the fellow for the next big Euro job that comes up.

Bono was unstinting in his praise for the ordinary people of Ireland who had saved the day for Europe by taking their oil without complaint. It wasn’t the troika wot done it, he declaimed, but the plain Irish punters. And they’d done it “with dignity”.

Fair’s fair. There’s no denying the relevance of that. It’s the plain people paid the price of the profligacy of the banking bourgeoisie, right enough. If they did it with dignity, well, that’s in their nature, in contrast to the rich and the riff-raff they run with.

Bono’s key social role is to lend cultural cred to the chancer class. No doubt he is genuinely committed to the causes he espouses. The point is that the people and the interests he has surrounded himself with exude and have enclosed him in an ideology that makes realisation of his causes close to impossible.

In Stitched Up: t he Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion , published last week, Tansy E Hoskins tells the story of Edun (“nude” backwards), the clothing company founded in 2005 by Ali Hewson and Bono (her husband). What had been intended to make Edun different was that it would base its manufacturing in sub-Saharan Africa. But operating along standard capitalist lines, assuming that the market would work its automatic magic, the company found itself deep in debt in 2010 and fell prey to Louis Vuitton/Moet Hennessy, “the richest and most ruthless” of fashion houses, according to Hoskins. Most Edun manufacturing has now moved to China*. Nevertheless, Bono still believes.

In the same way, the singer with the southside soul seems unwavering in his belief in the religion-based righteousness of Tony Blair – never mind Tony’s whooping it up for war, the insatiable greed for money, the mad eyes and the shenanigans with Ms Wendi Deng.

The evidence suggests Blair is religious only in the sense that money is his God. But, again, Bono doesn’t see it. Politicians and their entourages were reportedly bedazzled by him in Dublin. Maybe he’s just as bedazzled by them.

This is what Bono has made of the band recognised until recently as the biggest in the world in a genre generated by the oppressed masses and the rowdy young, full of energy, grit and jagged edges and sending out tremors of threat to discomfit the complacent.

Those of us who have dragged with us into the 21st century the ethic of Elvis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Screaming Jay Hawkins and the other classical practitioners can only lament that it has come to this, it’s come to this, and isn’t it a long way down?

We can still take comfort from Damien Dempsey, Sinéad, The Mighty Stef, And So In Watch You From Afar, Johanna Fegan and no doubt a rake of others I don’t know.

But Bono these days is as rock and roll as Pat Boone. (Ask your granny.)

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I say unto you. It is easier for a camel to enter into the kingdom of heaven than for Bono to say boo to a billionaire.

* An article by Eamonn McCann on Thursday, March 13, stated that “most Edun manufacturing has now moved to China”. This is incorrect. Most Edun clothing is actually produced in sub-Sahara Africa: 85 per cent of Edun’s recent Spring Summer collection was produced there as will a similar percentage of the Fall Winter Collection.

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