It takes a special kind of person to be the bass player in a band. It's your job to provide a backdrop so your lead singer and resident guitar-god can shine in the spotlight while you and the drummer keep them in check and in time. If you're Adam Clayton, you will do it with elegance, grace and a quiet strength that complements your bandmates' styles while still highlighting your own skills as a musician.
These skills are evident on songs where the bass is pushed way out in front of the mix, like "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" and "With or Without You." But because the bass is typically buried deep beneath the din, it's more difficult to appreciate his work on songs like "One" and "Moment of Surrender," where the higher-pitched guitars and voices naturally draw your attention away.
Today, it's Adam's turn to enjoy the spotlight as we present 50 Things to Love About Adam Clayton on His 50th Birthday:
1. He lived in Africa for a time as a young child and has said that when he returns, it always seems familiar to him.
2. He grew up in a house full of women (great-grandmother, grandmother, mother, and her two sisters).
3. The way he impressed the others at his first and only audition by using the word "gig."
4. When Larry posted The Note at Mount Temple, Adam showed up to Larry's kitchen in an afghan coat.
5. He spent a month traveling in Pakistan and Kabul, Afghanistan, the summer before his first year at Mount Temple, where he picked up the aforementioned afghan coat and a whole lot of attitude.
6. "Adam looked as if he knew exactly what he was doing. I wasn't really looking at it from a musical point of view at all – I just thought he looked like a proper bass player." -- Paul McGuinness on Adam, after seeing U2 play for the first time.
7. His blonde afro, circa 1979.
8. "Drowning Man"
9. His English background brings a different perspective to his Irish counterparts.
10. His wry sense of humor.
11. His wide, low stance while wielding his instrument.
12. "Two Hearts Beat as One"
13. "Adam was bringing a lot of panache to the proceedings, and he was starting to produce a really great bass sound, even though he was a very eccentric bass player. He could play really complicated things easily and then be unable to clap in time and you'd just be left scratching your head." -- Bono, on the early days of U2.
15. He can make a proper cup of tea. See #9 above.
16. "40" (Adam's guitar playing)
17. He lived in the building where The Joshua Tree was recorded.
18. Best intro ever to "Bullet the Blue Sky."
19. During a show in the southern U.S. (1987), Adam stepped in front of Bono during "Pride (In the Name of Love)" to protect his friend from an alleged death threat.
21. Betty Dalton
22. His love and admiration for his fellow bandmates.
23. He took lessons to become a better bass player long after the band had become successful.
24. "Adam was another reason my guitar playing developed the way it did. He was such an unorthodox bass player, and Larry and myself, in an attempt to make it work, developed our mutual styles to accommodate Adam's approach. In some ways Larry and I were like the rhythm section and Adam's really forceful bass playing was almost like the lead, it was very much out in the forefront." -- Edge, on the band's development.
25. His appreciation of Persian carpets and fine art, in general.
26. Achtung! Posing as the original Adam would for an album cover.
27. That he and Larry opposed Bono and the Edge while making Achtung Baby, and that they remained friends and bandmates in spite of or perhaps because of it.
28. He's the best-looking girl in the "One" video.
29. "Mysterious Ways" was built around Adam's bass line.
30. That he missed a show during the Zoo TV tour, because it possibly saved his life.
31. His measured, thoughtful responses in interviews.
32. He has no qualms about kissing Bono full on the lips.
33. Or allowing Bono to otherwise hug, hold and hang all over him.
34. "The Fly"
35. He's cooler than you, and just about everyone else, too.
36. He called off his engagement to a supermodel because, despite being a rock star, he couldn't abide the relentless attention.
37. "Adam and I rely on each other a lot. Occasionally it's been just myself and Adam on stage, so we've learned how to interact and communicate with each other in a way most rhythm sections don't." -- Larry, on dealing with Bono's impromptu wanderings.
38. The way he shines on Pop and Zooropa.
39. He's the one and only Pop Tart.
40. The white Pop-era glasses, worn with an open shirt and plaid pants. And the Mohawk, orange jumpsuit and gas mask, circa 1997.
42. The aesthetic he applies to the art of living.
43. "Some Days Are Better Than Others"
44. The red and black camo pants of Vertigo.
45. The way his performance demeanor changed during the Vertigo tour; interacting with the crowd and smiling!
46. "Big Girls Are Best"
47. The sequins, sparkles and spangles of the 360 Tour.
49. At 50, he looks better than he ever has before.
50. "As for the good parts, we've got great fans. They follow us through all sorts of changes, and in many ways they encourage us to continue pursuing music that excites us. But the best thing really is that I get to hang out with three friends and musicians. And if I get stuck, in whatever way, I've got three guys who are willing and able to help. That's a great thing." -- Adam, on the best thing about being in U2, in an interview in 2000 for Bass Player Magazine.
Happy Birthday, Adam!
© @U2/Maione, 2010.