In “Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story” (Knopf), Bono, the activist, artist and lead singer of U2, writes a memoir about a lifetime of music, personal challenges, and fights for social justice.
Read the excerpt below, and don’t miss Norah O’Donnell’s interview with Bono on “CBS Sunday Morning” October 30!
From Chapter 9: “Invisible”
The Tour Bus
When we set out on that first proper tour of the United States in March 1981, our white van had morphed into a giant blue bus that would take us through what Paul called “the land of our opportunity.” Sitting up front with Billy the driver felt more cinematic and less novelistic than driving through Europe. Now the windshield was wide-screen, and each of us took turns up there, marveling at the sheer size of America through the window.
The freeways and our time on them were longer; the cities were taller and, outside the East Coast, harder to reach. But the coach slept eight in coffin-like rectangular pods, curtained for privacy, and stacked one on top of the other in the middle of the bus. The quiet room was down the back along with a bigger shared space including tables, while a makeshift kitchen sat up front.
You couldn’t not be reading Jack Kerouac’s On the Road or Sam Shepard’s Motel Chronicles or not notice, as you looked up, arriving in another town, how American place-names are also titles. Even the cheapest hotel room becomes a palace when you can look out over the richness of the Mississippi delta.
New Orleans, an overripe fruit just turning, the noble rot, the grand oaks, the dribbling humidity.
Arizona, what parched land to build on, what unreasonable sun to build under.
Marvelous, meaning utterly a marvel. American endeavor building towers of steel and glass out of melted sand.
Texas, a flat continent of freeways and fields, cities poking their heads out of black sticky ground. Black gold and white privilege standing over it, still struggling to be free from race and Civil War politics. The Bible Belt and its unchristian undertow leaving welts on the bare bottoms of unbelievers.
The forked lightning of Dallas and Houston, the dust storms and intellectual static of Fort Worth, the bohemia of Austin.
Nashville, the buckle of the Bible Belt where songs of praise live in the office next door to songs of redneck braggadocio, so Irish it feels too familiar.
And the liberal coasts, the undulations of San Francisco, the Tenderloin, City Lights bookstore, and back east to the Boston Celtics and the Ivy League, to Washington, Philadelphia, New York, where we started out.
It was a year after the October 1980 release of our debut album when I realized how right Paul’s strategy had been. Edge and I were stopped at some lights in Los Angeles and noticed “I Will Follow” being played on a radio station in a car to our right. And also being played on another station, in a car to our left. Beautifully out of sync.
The boy was sprinting. We had to run to keep up. The shows came and came and came. Ireland, the U.K., Europe, the United States. Back home in Dublin, the press was cheering us on at the signs we were going to “make it in America.”
From “Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story” by Bono. Copyright © 2022 by Paul David Hewson. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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