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Unforgettable Fire: Past, Present and Future--The Definitive Biography of U2

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The authorized definitive biography of the single most popular rock band in the world today--U2--is written with full access to the band but without their editorial oversight. An in-depth portrait of the four disaffected youngsters from Dublin who turned to music and infused their own set of political and spiritual beliefs. 24 pages of photos.


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The authorized definitive biography of the single most popular rock band in the world today--U2--is written with full access to the band but without their editorial oversight. An in-depth portrait of the four disaffected youngsters from Dublin who turned to music and infused their own set of political and spiritual beliefs. 24 pages of photos.

30 review for Unforgettable Fire: Past, Present and Future--The Definitive Biography of U2

  1. 5 out of 5

    Peter Boyle

    If you're Irish, you have an opinion on U2. Either you believe their best days are long gone, you can't stand Bono's pontificating and the band's sanctimonious efforts to solve the world's problems, while using loopholes to avoid paying tax. Or you're proud of four young men from the northside of Dublin, who always represented their country with class and honour, you howl along to songs like One and Beautiful Day with your friends at weddings, you get chills watching footage of the band during t If you're Irish, you have an opinion on U2. Either you believe their best days are long gone, you can't stand Bono's pontificating and the band's sanctimonious efforts to solve the world's problems, while using loopholes to avoid paying tax. Or you're proud of four young men from the northside of Dublin, who always represented their country with class and honour, you howl along to songs like One and Beautiful Day with your friends at weddings, you get chills watching footage of the band during the Joshua Tree era when they were at the top of their game, "Rock's Hottest Ticket." I am firmly in the latter camp. This is an old book, and it focuses entirely on the early days of U2, before they became global superstars. It's fascinating to learn what the guys were like as teenagers, back when Larry put the ad on the school noticeboard that changed their lives forever. It's no surprise to learn that Bono, or Paul Hewson as he was back then, was a total extrovert, the skirt-chasing centre of attention. Edge was a shy, softly-spoken genius who learned to express himself with his incredible guitar technique. Larry was the baby of the group but wise beyond his years, a straight-talking fellow who just loved to bang the drums. Adam was the coolest member of the band by far, revelling in the fame and status that rock music brought him, but also insecure about his bass playing and a bit of an outsider at times. One thing I was amazed to learn from the book was the importance of religion in their lives. Bono, Edge and Larry all attended regular prayer group meetings in their late teens and early 20s, before the band had found success. With both Larry and Bono losing their mothers at an early age, they found peace and comfort in these gatherings. But when the teachings started to spill over into their song lyrics, (especially prevalent in the October album), Adam found himself wondering if U2 was transforming into a Christian rock group. Bono and Edge even considered quitting the band at one point as they could not reconcile the rock'n'roll lifestyle with their faith. The book is not without flaws. There is far too much about the extended families of the four lads - for example, I didn't need to know what Edge's grandfather was up to during the Second World War. And Eamon Dunphy tries way too hard to frame the band's success within Ireland's political and cultural landscape of the time. Reading it thirty years later, these efforts at setting the scene seem excessive. But the book offers an intriguing glimpse into the hard work and lucky breaks that turned the quartet into the huge stars they still are today. Seminal moments like the Red Rocks gig, the Live Aid performance and the reaction to songs like Sunday Bloody Sunday are thrilling to read about. Maybe I wouldn't recommend Unforgettable Fire to the casual music fan, but anyone with a love for this phenomenal band will find plenty to enjoy.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    I was so obsessed with U2 in 1988 I actually used my parent's credit card to buy this book from Waldens at the mall. And that credit card was EMERGENCY USE only. But Mom! This was an EMERGENCY! (I was only making minimum wage part time, I never could have had this book.) That being said, I liked the book because I LOVED U2, but I was disappointed in the swear words in it. I didn't think that was professional at all or necessary. Not in a non-fiction book. Anyway, I still have this book and I hav I was so obsessed with U2 in 1988 I actually used my parent's credit card to buy this book from Waldens at the mall. And that credit card was EMERGENCY USE only. But Mom! This was an EMERGENCY! (I was only making minimum wage part time, I never could have had this book.) That being said, I liked the book because I LOVED U2, but I was disappointed in the swear words in it. I didn't think that was professional at all or necessary. Not in a non-fiction book. Anyway, I still have this book and I have never been sorry I purchased it. I enjoyed reading it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Longfellow

    Dunphy wrote this biography at the request of U2’s manager, Paul McGuiness, and McGuiness couldn’t have made a better choice. Dunphy writes with intelligence and insight, and his commentary and evaluations of the band’s motivations, values, and future potential all ring true even twenty-five plus years after the publication of Unforgettable Fire, which was published the same year that The Joshua Tree was released. In fact, the chapter covering The Joshua Tree is the shortest chapter in the book, Dunphy wrote this biography at the request of U2’s manager, Paul McGuiness, and McGuiness couldn’t have made a better choice. Dunphy writes with intelligence and insight, and his commentary and evaluations of the band’s motivations, values, and future potential all ring true even twenty-five plus years after the publication of Unforgettable Fire, which was published the same year that The Joshua Tree was released. In fact, the chapter covering The Joshua Tree is the shortest chapter in the book, and the last. Almost thirty years later, this now-historical rendering of the history of the band only makes the book more interesting. While the book was published at the height of U2’s success, it turned out not to be the height of their success after all, hardly even close. Yet all that the band has been through and accomplished since then is anticipated in Dunphy’s book. By this I don’t mean predicted; I mean the various ways in which Dunphy describes the commitment of the band has remained the clear foundation that has always supported their greatness: their rejection of the standard excesses of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle; their long term commitments to people in their employ as well as the people in their audience; their decision-making process, which is born of a consensus community rather than individual egos; and their desire for honesty and to give hope to the world rather than merely taking material things from it. From the description of each band member’s childhood and adolescent years to U2’s ambition to create a name for themselves outside of Ireland to the resounding success of The Unforgettable Fire and Live Aid—all these are recounted with journalistic skill that is sure to intrigue any of the band’s reading fans.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Chris Burd

    I read this book when I was in the sixth grade - a U2 fan because I liked the music, but more importantly, I liked a boy who liked the music. (I was young and shallow.) I was instantly engaged in the story of these young men from Ireland - and read this book from cover to cover within just a couple of days. And then I went back and read it again. And then I handed it to my dad and made HIM read it. Unforgettable Fire gave me a picture of the boys behind U2. The book focuses on their adolescence a I read this book when I was in the sixth grade - a U2 fan because I liked the music, but more importantly, I liked a boy who liked the music. (I was young and shallow.) I was instantly engaged in the story of these young men from Ireland - and read this book from cover to cover within just a couple of days. And then I went back and read it again. And then I handed it to my dad and made HIM read it. Unforgettable Fire gave me a picture of the boys behind U2. The book focuses on their adolescence and how they came together as a band. The author provides a picture of each man's childhood and background - explaining where some of their most unforgettable lyrics have come from. For me, reading this book not only made me a bigger U2 fan, but it also lead me reading more about modern Irish history. (And that boy I liked in the sixth grade? I don't even remember his name.)

  5. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    Reading for the @u2bookclub. A really interesting book - covers more Irish history & culture than many other books about the band. Things that I hadn't thought about, like the Irish propensity for cussing. Dumphy, talking about the Catholic/Protestant cultural divide, has a paragraph about how Protestants were.....not discriminated against exactly, but, separate; not really part of things. And he has this sentence (p.11): "Protestant resentment at all this was cloaked in politeness. They remaine Reading for the @u2bookclub. A really interesting book - covers more Irish history & culture than many other books about the band. Things that I hadn't thought about, like the Irish propensity for cussing. Dumphy, talking about the Catholic/Protestant cultural divide, has a paragraph about how Protestants were.....not discriminated against exactly, but, separate; not really part of things. And he has this sentence (p.11): "Protestant resentment at all this was cloaked in politeness. They remained dignified and distant." It had really never entered my mind that the rough language thing was connected to the religious divide. In talking about Bob Hewson & Iris Rankin's plans to wed, he says that there was a "curious, distinctly Irish form of apartheid which divided the community along religious lines." Like I said, there's a lot of detail about their childhoods in this book (I now know where Adam's hatred of cold comes from - his craving creature comforts isn't really about him being "posh", it's about awful experiences in boarding school) and it ends just after Joshua Tree. Recommended for fans & even for people who may not like the band the way we do, but want a glimpse into Irish culture up to the '80s. It is good to see how much has changed.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Dustin Tramel

    "U2 have exited into daylight, certain now that music is a gift from God and that as musicians their responsibility is to use it." p.281. Covering the early days of the band through 1987, we're reminded why U2 is so unique. From the beginning they wrestled with taking their love for God into a world known for excessive debauchery and hubris. Not wanting to compromise their values or their call from God they almost quit. But they didn't. Early failures, setbacks, and long periods of not making mo "U2 have exited into daylight, certain now that music is a gift from God and that as musicians their responsibility is to use it." p.281. Covering the early days of the band through 1987, we're reminded why U2 is so unique. From the beginning they wrestled with taking their love for God into a world known for excessive debauchery and hubris. Not wanting to compromise their values or their call from God they almost quit. But they didn't. Early failures, setbacks, and long periods of not making money forced them to own their mission, that the U2 project was about more than fame and fortune. They believed that art - specifically rock 'n roll - could change the world. Musicians wield some of the most powerful weapons - lyrics and rhythms that touch the soul and stay with you for a lifetime. U2 has not backed away from addressing difficult topics like faith, politics, justice, and radical love. They are committed to making their shows more than a show. They wanted them to be a community event where the lines between performers and audience were seriously blurred. Now it's 2017, the 30th anniversary of The Joshua Tree, and we're still listening to the gift that is U2 and talking about the values they stand for.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Iosephvs Bibliothecarivs

    I love this book so much I've now read it twice. Dunphy gives us amazing amounts of detail and insight into the backgrounds of U2 and those who work with them (at least up to 1987 when it was written). An excellent history of the band and well worth your time.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bren

    Great Bio on a great band..maybe THE best band ever. I cannot even say how much enjoyment I have received from their great music. This is the book to read if you want to read about U2! Will always love this band and the book.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Stacy

    I wanted to read this book when it came out, but as a twenty-something conservative Christian, I was too afraid it would say something about my new heroes that I wouldn't approve of. Now, 30+ years later I am still a Christian, but not as deeply conservative, and I know how U2 has stuck in and how their faith has stuck in, too -- but hasn't gotten "stuck". Like me, they've grown and changed but remain faithful. Overall the book was interesting, and I enjoyed finally finding out the details behind I wanted to read this book when it came out, but as a twenty-something conservative Christian, I was too afraid it would say something about my new heroes that I wouldn't approve of. Now, 30+ years later I am still a Christian, but not as deeply conservative, and I know how U2 has stuck in and how their faith has stuck in, too -- but hasn't gotten "stuck". Like me, they've grown and changed but remain faithful. Overall the book was interesting, and I enjoyed finally finding out the details behind their rise from the suburbs of Dublin to become, truly, the "Band of the 80s" (and beyond). But there were things about the book that detracted from their story: Overblown analyses, a love affair with adjectives, and waaaaay too many details about peripheral (though important) people's life stories. I honestly just was not that interested in knowing birth and "where they grew up" details about the various inner-circle people. So I skimmed through a lot. And I have since read that the band isn't overfond of this biography, claiming Dunphy wasn't terribly accurate in many ways (though I don't know which things they dispute). So it's a decent read if you love the band and want to know where they came from and (supposedly) what makes them tick. But it's a bit overblown in many ways and full of information that could easily have been left out and tightened up. Don't stay away from the book because of that, just be forewarned.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bill O'driscoll

    A few pages into this book, I began wondering what it would have been like for a teenage U2 fan to have picked this up the year it came out -- '87, same as the Joshua Tree album -- and immediately be dropped into a dense essay on the political and social fabric of the Troubles-era Dublin the band grew up in. I'm guessing more than a few skipped to the pictures. Dunphy, a former pro footballer, is a chattily thorough writer, and his earnestness matches that of the band itself, to the point that i A few pages into this book, I began wondering what it would have been like for a teenage U2 fan to have picked this up the year it came out -- '87, same as the Joshua Tree album -- and immediately be dropped into a dense essay on the political and social fabric of the Troubles-era Dublin the band grew up in. I'm guessing more than a few skipped to the pictures. Dunphy, a former pro footballer, is a chattily thorough writer, and his earnestness matches that of the band itself, to the point that in his account of the band members' childhoods and their early, sometimes rocky years as a band, he restates key themes A LOT. Nonetheless, this is a valuable document: It was researched and written when Bono, Edge, Adam and Larry were all still in their 20s, and Dunphy clearly did his legwork and got access to parents, school chums and other sources within a decade or two of when the events described transpired, making for an authoritative account. Great portrait especially of the Dublin music scene circa late 70s, and the role played by Phil Lynott, et al. If you're up for detailed portrayals of U2's rise, and pre-superstardom life on the road and in the studio, this is a fine place to start. Some criticism I've seen charges the book with hagiography -- but honestly, what writer (or reader) wouldn't root for a fledgling band finding its wings against the odds? Dunphy even goes so far as to include appendices in which contemporaneous critics take U2 to task on certain ethical matters.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Claudio

    This was a bit of nostalgia for me as I first read this book when I was a teenager in the late 80s. This was my favourite band and the connection with music at that age was intense for me and getting details on characters in the band was illuminating. Of course now a few clicks and you get a veritable horde of trivia on any particular topic, but in those days one book crammed with such facts and background was quite the event. Reading this now it doesn’t compare favourably with books I have read This was a bit of nostalgia for me as I first read this book when I was a teenager in the late 80s. This was my favourite band and the connection with music at that age was intense for me and getting details on characters in the band was illuminating. Of course now a few clicks and you get a veritable horde of trivia on any particular topic, but in those days one book crammed with such facts and background was quite the event. Reading this now it doesn’t compare favourably with books I have read recently but it did allow me a visit to the past and days when albums were listened to in their entirety.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mike Day

    I read this book back in the day! U2 is still one of the best bands, and these are great guys. I like reading about how people succeed, and Bono and the boys are a success because of hard work, talent, and a little bit of luck. Great book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Rigg

    I was a little bit obsessed with U2 in high school and read this the summer after I graduated. It covers their early years quite well but is obviously out of date by now.

  14. 5 out of 5

    L M

    I received this book for Christmas back in the late 80s. I liked it and found it informative. Since it has been so long since I’ve read it I think I would like to read it again.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Cats Are Best

    Bio of a rock band written by a man with no knowledge or interest in rock music

  16. 4 out of 5

    Oceana2602

    Given to me by a friend around, I guess, 1993, when I had just survived an episode of acute Guns n'Roses fannishness, which was then followed by the most epic US love EVAH! God, being a teenager was fun, wasn't it? I think my parents must have liked U2 a lot better than GnR. I mean, at least the posters weren't quite as horrifying. (I know I'd disown my thirteen year old daughter if she plastered her walls with long-haired men in tiny shorts. (good thing I don't have a daughter).) Me, however, wel Given to me by a friend around, I guess, 1993, when I had just survived an episode of acute Guns n'Roses fannishness, which was then followed by the most epic US love EVAH! God, being a teenager was fun, wasn't it? I think my parents must have liked U2 a lot better than GnR. I mean, at least the posters weren't quite as horrifying. (I know I'd disown my thirteen year old daughter if she plastered her walls with long-haired men in tiny shorts. (good thing I don't have a daughter).) Me, however, well, nowadays, I don't care one way or the other. Neither U2 nor GnR features heavily on my playlists or car tapes (old-fashioned, I know). You'll be more likely to find me listening to Appetite for Destruction than Joshua Tree, but I never claimed to have good taste. (though, good enough taste to never have owned the infamous Spaghetti Incident. Did buy Chinese Democracy though, but more out of a nostalgic feeling of loyalty. I kinda imagined if I didn't buy it, nobody else would.) Still like U2, but I can't say I get excited about them. Can't say I remember anything about this book, either. But I swear, it was the most epic U2 love EVER!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Llewellyn

    With everyone receiving a copy of the latest album, "Songs of Innocence" whether they wanted it or not, I recommend this book for anyone who has never heard of Bono or U2. (If anyone actually does fit that description I'd like the address of the rock you've been living under.) Interesting to compare that young, raw, passionate, "baby band" consisting of four Irish lads wanting nothing more than to make a name for themselves in the world of music and succeeded through hard work and determination With everyone receiving a copy of the latest album, "Songs of Innocence" whether they wanted it or not, I recommend this book for anyone who has never heard of Bono or U2. (If anyone actually does fit that description I'd like the address of the rock you've been living under.) Interesting to compare that young, raw, passionate, "baby band" consisting of four Irish lads wanting nothing more than to make a name for themselves in the world of music and succeeded through hard work and determination to the rich old farts they've become in 2014. Don't get me wrong, this band will always hold a very special place in my heart but I miss that struggling band Dunphy presents to us in his definitive biography. Once upon a time, U2 was constantly searching for the best way to convey their sound and message to the world, desperate to connect to the public, giving us songs we can hum on our way to work. "No Line on the Horizon" and now "Songs of Innocence" struggle to even get off the ground and take flight. Read this while listening to U2's "old school" albums from "Boy" to "Joshua Tree" and hear the difference.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Maria João

    This 1987 U2 biography goes only up to “The Joshua Tree” album. It is a very short time, in my view, to write a biography of an on-going band, but to my surprise it was a pleasant reading. U2 is not a common band, because it embodies the opposite of the rock’n’roll’s “sex, drugs and alcohol” cliché, and it was interesting to realize where that posture and values came from. U2 became “the” U2 band we all known today with “The Joshua Tree” album, and this biography sheds light on the previous ten ye This 1987 U2 biography goes only up to “The Joshua Tree” album. It is a very short time, in my view, to write a biography of an on-going band, but to my surprise it was a pleasant reading. U2 is not a common band, because it embodies the opposite of the rock’n’roll’s “sex, drugs and alcohol” cliché, and it was interesting to realize where that posture and values came from. U2 became “the” U2 band we all known today with “The Joshua Tree” album, and this biography sheds light on the previous ten years, that were of both individual and group search of who they were, and what U2 was all about. Although having some over-detailed parts, which makes the reading boring now and then, is a very good book for an U2 fan that has a deeper interest about U2's music meaning.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Toma Renich

    It took me ages to finish this book not because I don't like it but because when I started to read it, somehow I stopped on page 20 or so. Probably because U2 isn't exactly my all time fave band, I wasn't that interested in the first place. I don't even remember where did I get this book from. Anyways, when I decided to finish it finally, couple of days ago, I couldn't stop reading. And although last pages dissapoint a bit, I was touched by the story anyways. And it's even more interesting to re It took me ages to finish this book not because I don't like it but because when I started to read it, somehow I stopped on page 20 or so. Probably because U2 isn't exactly my all time fave band, I wasn't that interested in the first place. I don't even remember where did I get this book from. Anyways, when I decided to finish it finally, couple of days ago, I couldn't stop reading. And although last pages dissapoint a bit, I was touched by the story anyways. And it's even more interesting to read about U2's days in 80s now, when you know how great they stayed all these years.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Max

    A good read, the writing is average but the story is remarkable. How could it not be for one of the biggest rock and roll bands in the world, from Ireland nonetheless? It was a little strange reading a biography about this band that was written in 1987 (almost a quarter century ago) knowing how much they've done since then and knowing how much the music industry and technology has changed in just the last 5 years let alone the last 23.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mochizuki

    Very detailed biographical information helps you understand where the band members (and others close to the band) come from and how and why they got to where they are now. Unfortunately this book only covers up to the release of Joshua Tree, but its great for information on the real early and formative years of the band. I found that some things were repeated many times throughout the book but at least that made you really remember them well. It was a fun read for a fan who wants to know more.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    I read this one so many years ago I don't even remember. It's a good bio of the early years of U2. By now, a lot of the stories have become legend, so there is not likely to be a lot of new information, but a solid rock bio at any rate.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kezza Loudoun

    A complete understanding of where the biggest band on earth came from. NB: Their original name for the band was Feedback.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    I have this old school bio but I can't remember ever reading any of it. Ha!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Brian Stark

    Fantastic history of the greatest rock band of all time. Very well written, and an awesome look at the beginnings of a legend.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jake Maguire

    I really enjoyed this biography. It portrays the band as they are: A multifaceted group. If you're a fan of the music, this is a nice read that puts their life and work into context.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    apparently there are some discrepancies with eamon's account; but entertaining nonetheless.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Pjtibbetts

    Bono has been an egomaniac ever since he was born? no shit. I am not sure if this is an authorized biography...but it is very good in providing details of the foursome in their early years.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Dave Donahoe

    read during my semester abroad at Cambridge University, England

  30. 4 out of 5

    Iain Watson

    Unforgettable fire: The story of U2 by Eamon Dunphy (1987)

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