I watched some old footage of U2 recently. It was an interview from Irish television in 1986.
They were already a big deal by then — they had played a great set at Live Aid a year before — but it was before The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby and about a dozen songs that would make them one of the greatest live bands in history.
At this point they were still young Irish lads in their mid-20s, talking about Irish music and Irish life. The Troubles were still going on in the north, unemployment and emigration were sky high and Jack Charlton and the World Cups and the Celtic Tiger were still to come.
Bono was asked by the presenter, “What advice would you give young Irish bands?”
I loved his answer.
“There’s one thing. It’s taken me seven years to learn this. People in the band business talk about managers and agents, and how important that is, and indeed it is important.
“But writing one song… That song could manage you. That song could be your agent. That song could change your life.
“A three and a half minute song. You could write it on two strings. ‘I Will Follow’ was written on two strings of a guitar. Two or three chords. ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door was written on four chords. Most of the classic songs ever written were written on three or four chords.
“It’s the songs. U2 came to the fore on a sound. The songs are the most important thing.”
A song can manage you.
A song can be your agent.
A song can change your life.
It’s exceptional advice, and not just for young musicians, either, but for creators of any age.
Create art. Let the art sing.
I thought about Bono’s words again today when I heard a new song.
It was a song that ripped straight through me, that made me want to sing the chorus at the top of my lungs.
From the first few chords I felt like I was listening to a song from twenty or thirty or forty years ago, from America, probably, or maybe, maybe there was a hint of something European there — a little poppy-electronic French, or moody Scandinavian, or the sort of song that made up the soundtrack for the brilliant German spy thriller series Deutschland 83.
So good I had to look it up.
(This rarely happens. My Shazam app is a barren place…)
So what was this classic song from decades ago from foreign lands?
It was “All For the Best” by Bleeding Heart Pigeons.
Released a month ago, by a three-piece band from Limerick, Ireland, who are so new there’s not even a Wikipedia page yet. (Expect that to change soon…)
So well done Mícheál, Cathal and Brendan.
With one four-minute song, you’ve done Bono and the rest of Ireland proud, and hopefully, it will be your manager and your agent for many years to come.
Give it a listen, see what you think.