Personalities | The Edge | Searching for Sonic Meaning | Guitar Heroes
A master of texture and sonic architecture based on a minimalist style of playing, as opposed to contemporaries who sought impenetrable technique and unrestrained speed, Dave Evans (b. 1961) created a signature sound for a signature band, U2, just as surely as he created for himself a new identity – The Edge.
The Edge grew up in Dublin. He took piano and guitar lessons and often performed with his brother Dick while attending St. Andrew’s National School. Later, at Mount Temple Comprehensive School, they answered an advertisement posted by drummer Larry Mullen, Jr., seeking musicians to form a band. At the initial practice in Mullen’s kitchen, the group featured Mullen on drums, Paul Hewson (Bono) on lead vocals, Dave and Dick Evans on guitar and Adam Clayton, a friend of the Evans brothers, on bass. Soon after, the group chose the name Feedback. Mostly, they covered versions of songs they knew.
Along the way, Dave Evans became The Edge. Exactly how this happened has taken on the mythic proportions of John Lennon’s vision of a man on a flaming pie. At various times, the moniker was said to have been inspired by the Evans nose, his overall angular features or his propensity to show off his fearlessness of high places by walking close to the edge of precarious perches. Whatever the source, it was not yet clear that U2 had an edge that would carry them to stratospheric heights.
Feedback became The Hype and then U2, a name they ‘disliked least’ among several possibilities, and became a four-piece with Dick Evans’ departure. After winning a talent show in Limerick and landing manager Paul McGuiness, U2 released a pair of Ireland-only singles before signing with Island Records. The band’s initial release Boy (1980), produced by Steve Lillywhite, won positive reviews, but the follow-up, October (1981), reflecting an immersion in spiritual themes, was a misfire. Then in 1984, the band released War, which contained ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ and ‘New Year’s Day’. Soon, U2 were gaining international attention for their striking sound, passionate lyrics and charismatic frontman, Bono.
U2 were looking for a new sound, however, and The Edge’s interest in the unconventional work of Brian Eno and his engineer Daniel Lanois led to the pair’s involvement with the band’s biggest album to date. The Unforgettable Fire (1984) spawned the hit ‘Pride (In The Name Of Love)’ and, helped by MTV, solidified U2’s following in the US. The band’s riveting performance at Live Aid in 1985 further expanded their worldwide audience. On tour in 1986, U2 developed songs for an album that would confront America’s place, for better or worse, in the world. The Joshua Tree (1987) became the fastest-selling album in British chart history, and was No. 1 for nine weeks in the United States, winning the band their first two Grammy Awards. The ensuing tour spawned the film and album Rattle And Hum (1988), which wowed fans and divided critics.
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