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Producer admits last U2 album was failure

Irish Times, October 02, 2010
By: Ronan McGreevy

 

Legendary U2 producer Steve Lillywhite has said the band's latest album No Line on the Horizon did not achieve what it set out to achieve and its relative failure had affected them.

The album, released last year, sold a fraction of its predecessors and received mostly lukewarm reviews though it did get a five-star rating in Rolling Stone magazine. Lillywhite, who was its co-producer along with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, said No Line on the Horizon lacked a big song and the North African ambience that it tried to recreate did not work.

"At the end of the day, the public are always right especially when you have a platform as big as U2," he said. "Of course it affects them. They are only human. They put their heart and soul into everything they do, but the sales were not what they expected because they did not have the one song that ignited peoples imaginations.

"It's a pity because the whole idea of Morocco as a big idea was great. When the big idea for U2 is good, that is when they succeed the most, but I don't think the spirit of what they set out to achieve was translated. Something happened that meant it did not come across on the record."

Lillywhite will be one of the star turns at the Hot Press Music Show this weekend at the RDS, the biggest showcase for the music industry in the country. He will speak on Sunday afternoon on the theme of producer as star. Others taking part over the weekend include Bob Geldof and Louis Walsh along with two Government Ministers, Eamon Ryan and Mary Hanafin, while the artists performing include Cathy Davey, Fight Like Apes and Sharon Corr.

Lillywhite (55) has been synonymous with U2 from the beginning having produced or co-produced almost all their studio albums. He also produced some of The Pogues's best work and his late wife Kirsty McColl's vocal was part of what made "Fairytale of New York" an all-time classic.

Lillywhite described Pogues singer Shane MacGowan as an "underachiever" who knows his best work is behind him.

"Shane MacGowan has not recorded a song recently because it wouldn't be any good," he said.

"He is one of the most talented people I've ever met, but he is also an underachiever. Sometimes such a fantastic natural talent means you don't have to try so hard. Bono is the biggest overachiever I've ever met. His talent is not inconsiderable, but what sets him so far ahead of everybody else is his determination. "That determination to succeed is overachieving."

Warner Music Europe's Irish-born chief executive John Reid will speak at midday today on the crisis in the music industry. He said rumours of the demise of the record were "greatly exaggerated."

"You name an act that can thrive on the internet and go on and have commercial success and get their music out to millions of people without having a record company behind them?"

Mr. Reid said the "three strikes" policy to stop illegal downloading will pave the way for Ireland's first internet access model which would allow people to access any music they want for a set fee every month. He anticipated such models would cost between €10 and €15 a month as they do in other parts of Europe.

"When you have got legislation in there and when you have an Internet Service Provider that is going to charge for music instead of facilitating for free, then we will do it and that is what we are discussing with people like Eircom. I hope it will be in Ireland within months," he explained.

© Irish Times, 2010.

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