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Only about 10 people in the world make me really laugh, and four of them are in the band -- including Paul, our manager. -- Bono

1,000 Days of Zoo TV, Part One

Propaganda, Issue 19
U2's show designer Peter "Willie" Williams has been keeping personal journals and notebooks since he was 15 years old. With some persuasion, he has allowed Propaganda to take a peek at some of the more memorable recent entries. They document his view of the 1,000-day journey from Dublin on St. Patrick's Day 1991 to the final Zoo TV show in Tokyo in December 1993. In this issue -- part one, read on.

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March 17, 1991 - Dublin Being here after so long away does that "strange yet familiar" quality. I'm over for a few informal meetings with the band, to start the head scratching about how to present U2 live this time round. Really great to see everyone again, and being St. Patrick's Day everyone was in party mode, which was fun. The new material is quite extraordinary and another departure. If "God Part II" was the exit ramp, then this stuff is a thousand miles further down that particular freeway of noise. Favourite tracks were called "Ultraviolet" and "69."

March 20, 1991 - Cambridge. Home again with a headful of thoughts & ideas. Listening to the band talk it's clear that this album tour will be of a different league to all previous. Bono talked again about using video in a more integrated way, which will tie in perfectly with the kind of thing I'd like to do. He had this phrase "Zoo TV," after the U.S. free-form radio format, and there's a new song called "Zoo Station." They've also brought a Trabant car back from Berlin and are enjoying photographing each other in it.

May 16, 1991 - Rotterdam Over in Holland to see Gloria Estefan's video system and some Phillips gear. Jake Kennedy & Steve Iredale (U2 production team) are with me, as is half the music industry it seems. The three of us have talked over lots of ideas, and there does seem to be a general desire to cut the mooring ropes with sanity. Most encouraging. Wondering if I could make the entire lighting system out of recycled Trabants. We could carry them on a car transporter.

June 1, 1991 - Birmingham Went to see Light & Sound Design to show them my drawings of "Trabant as giant light" and see if they were up for taking on such a lunatic project. I had the engineering department crying laughing over the idea, but they seem very keen to be involved.

June 14, 1991 - Dublin So this was the big one. Today I presented the band with two ideas on paper. One being the "video stage," with a whole pile of big video monitors scattered about the place, and the other being the "Trabant stage," with a dozen of the little cars flown all over the building. I was so concerned that the Trabi idea might sound very stupid when presented formally in the office that last night I went to see Bono & Edge separately on the quiet, to ease them into the idea ahead of time. Both ideas were well received, but as always, there's a request for more.

July 22, 1991 - Birmingham The first Trabi arrived in Birmingham and the warehouse staff are looking at me strangely. It's fawn and brown, with a "Captain Birdseye" sticker in Norwegian stuck in the back window. Perfect.

August 16, 1991 - Birmingham Felt a bit like Dr. Frankenstein this week, overseeing the birth of my creation, but it did finally rise from the dead. The Trabi has been gutted, fitted out with lights, strobes & all, with a suitable paint job. It looks great, and I now know for sure that this is going to work. Took lots of video footage to show the lads.

November 13, 1991 - Dublin And so ends the week from hell. After eight weeks of commuting to Dublin we finally make some decisions. The big problem has been deciding which ideas to throw out, this thing could go in so many different directions. The tour will be called the Zoo TV tour, and we are going the whole hog -- to take the Trabant system AND an entire miniature TV station on the road.

November 25, 1991 - Dublin Heard Christmas carols on Grafton St. this morning. Total panic has set in now that people realise the first show is only three months away. Final decisions still need to be made on exactly which video wall system to use, but mercifully Jake has taken on all the practicalities of that process. My current major concern is getting a start on making the video imagery. Catherine Owens has recommended a New York videomaker called Mark Pellington, and I got in touch with Brian Eno today, who seems keen to be involved. Freddie Mercury died of AIDS today.

December 3, 1991 - Dublin Closer. Bono's very up about everything just now, which gets you through a lot. They're rehearsing like mad down at the Factory, with a meeting every ten minutes. They were doing "So Cruel" today, and Joe had it turned up to eleven so you could swim about in the sound.

December 10, 1991 - London Went to see Archaos tonight, the French punk circus. Adam and Edge came over to see it too, as we would like to get them involved in the outdoor show. Their show is phenomenal. Fast and dangerous, with motorbikes and trucks and fire and noise and all the strangest mutants you've ever seen doing bizarre things. Kind of "Mad Max Meets Night of the Living Dead."

January 13, 1992 - Dublin An influx of new faces gives a sense of impending action. Mark Pellington is here, we did a shoot with Bono for "Zoo Station," where Bono as The Fly gave a performance like Hannibal Lector doing an Elvis impersonation. Carol Dodds and Monica Caston are here too. They will be running the video system during the shows, and having seen what we're intending to do, I think, are still in shock.

February 1, 1992 - Dublin We have 27 days till the first show, so spent the week lashed to an edit suite at Windmill Lane. We got a huge amount done. Burning crosses for "Bullet," Martin Luther King speeches, the extraordinary text sequence for "The Fly" -- can't wait to see it all on the big screen.

February 10, 1992 - New York It's so bloody cold here I can't believe it. Made the sequence for "One" with Mark Pellington. It went well -- David Wojnarowicz's buffaloes made it in there too. The slo-mo buffaloes really work.

February 28, 1992 - Lakeland, FL So, here we are. Months of angst and a million meetings later and finally we are on the verge of show day. Been a wild week here. Wild, but not too bad, given that production rehearsals are always hell. As show day has drawn nearer, I've found that the distance I can walk between questions has diminished. Two weeks ago I could get about 20 yards before someone asked me a question about some aspect of the production. Today it was down to about three feet -- I had to run from place to place or I'd never get there. The back end fell off one of the Trabants, which does not bode well for their durability. We did a full run-through tonight, which was far and away the best yet. It's really starting to look good. Eno's here and he's been very helpful. Annie Leibowitz is taking pictures of everything. It's so busy. Exhilarating though. I've had some extraordinary dreams this week. Plummeting Trabants, exploding Vidiwalls, wild. It's been a wild journey getting here -- and we haven't even started yet.

February 29, 1992 - Lakeland First show. What a riot. It felt like this little arena would explode tonight, and I was concentrating so hard on so many things that for me the gig seemed to last about ten minutes. My lasting memory will be the look on Larry's face as he headed down the catwalk to the B-stage, with punters inches away from his legs. I think "Oh, fuck" just about sums it up.

March 12, 1992 - Hartford During "Desire" Bono announced from the stage, "Taste is the enemy of art." In his mirrorball suit and silver platforms, I guess he speaks with some authority. Reviews have been generally ecstatic, with the exception of one reviewer whose vibe was "how could U2 do this to themselves?" Edge was saying today that he's surprised there hasn't been more of that, but generally people seem to be coping with U2's self-destruction very well. We're a long way from Red Rocks right now.

March 20, 1992 - Boston - Meadowlands - New York Three big ones in a row. Boston was St. Patrick's Day -- major party. I think there were more people outside the building than inside. David Wojnarowicz came to the New Jersey gig. It was wonderful to meet him. Bono dedicated "One" to him. Madison Square Garden was nothing short of a triumph really. The entire music industry was there, Peter Gabriel, Bruce Springsteen, et al. My personal highlight was getting Phil Joanou's wedding video footage into "Desire." He got married to Kate Hyman last night at the Elvis Chapel in Las Vegas. Thing was the couple only met the night before in the aftershow hospitality area of the Meadowlands Zoo TV show. They met, and an hour later flew to Vegas to tie the knot. Such is the power of television.

March 27, 1992 - Detroit Tonight's gig was hilarious. Joe got the stage phone going today, so after "Real Thing" Bono ordered 10,000 pizzas from the stage. The guy on the other end was freaked, so Bono says, "bring as many as you can by 10:30 p.m." Sure enough, a guy in a classic white "delivery boy" outfit arrived with a huge trolley of pizzas and Tim Lamb (stage manager) ushered him out into the crowd to "distribute" them. We could see close-ups of this poor guy on the video screen, and the desperate look on his face when he realised he was being sacrificed to 10,000 over-excited punters going for free pizza. The crowd descended on him and a tidal wave of pizza boxes shot up into the air. Pizza Frisbees were flying all over the building. Messy, but very funny. Never did see the delivery boy again.

March 29, 1992 - Chicago Long meeting with the band today, and with Fisher Park, the design team who are starting work on the outdoor version of the Zoo stage. The question is how to re-package this incredible vibe so it will work in a stadium. Looks like the answer is going to be very large.

April 22, 1992 - Vancouver Day off. To celebrate the end of this first leg of the tour, there was a boat trip round the waterways of Vancouver's spectacular harbour. Everyone was on board, the band, the truck drivers, the Pixies. With the sun in the sky & a bar on board it was blissful. Looking at the staggering beauty of it all we began to unwind a little at last. We've made it through this mad dash across North America, and the show is being acclaimed as a milestone in rock history, etc, etc, Now we just have to make it work in Europe.

May 7, 1992 - Paris Disappointing gig tonight, to be honest. I think the practicalities of getting this massive amount of equipment up and running in Europe was distracting us from concentrating on the gig itself. Mind you, the audience loved it -- nobody went home in disgust.

May 12, 1992 - Lyon Good show, though the pre-London nerves are starting to kick in. How can we make the show bigger, faster, hipper, funnier. All this and the stadium show to design in our spare time. The French translation of "The Fly" text did look pretty cool.

May 15, 1992 - San Sebastian Stonking gig last night. These Spaniards are a riot. This is a beautiful place. Old, crumbling, seaside, Basque. Paul McGuinness confessed that he used to come here a lot, in a former life, when he used to be an Ecclesiastical tour guide for a company called Pilgrim Air, who brought parties of Irish old folks on trips to great shines of Europe. Hard to picture him doing it, I have to say.

May 26, 1992 - Munich Greatest moment of tonight's gig was the raising of the mirror-ball Trabi right before the show. It's out in the audience, and gets hoisted out of the way just as the "Be My Baby" intro tape starts. As it slowly rose into the air, the punters started throwing things at it -- mainly plastic beer mugs. After a minute or so there was all manner of shit just raining down on the poor Trabi, with huge cheers every time something landed right in it. It was good-natured and very funny -- their way of saying, "thanks, but really we've seen all the Trabis we ever want to see."

May 29, 1992 - Frankfurt Spent an hour organising the fire-proofing of the fake fur-covered Trabant in case it spontaneously combusts in London and then, of all things, trying to get the suspension repaired on the Keith Haring Trabi, which is falling apart. Before the shoe, we did a video shoot with Bono. He was delivering one-liners to camera, dressed as "The Fly," which we can slice up and use in the show somewhere. The first ten minutes were quite serious, then it just got funnier and funnier as the one-liners got increasingly absurd. It eventually dissolved into abject lunacy with Bono announcing things like "Zoo TV -- a load of old bollocks." We were just rolling with laughter & consequently the gig that followed was one of the best we've done to date. I'm sure we'll never use any of that footage, but it was worth every minute.

June 1, 1992 - Birmingham And so to Britain. We did Earl's Court last night and Birmingham tonight. I'm dead beat but the shows went really well, which is a relief. And there was much rejoicing.

June 8, 1992 - Gothenburg There was a big article in Q magazine, which said that the personnel on the Zoo TV tour fall loosely into two camps: those who push flight cases and those who carry faxes. Brilliant observation.

June 11, 1992 - Stockholm Well, tonight was the one. It was the night when I stopped during the gig and thought to myself, "this is the high point of my career." The entire gig from the Globe in Stockholm was broadcast live to just one person's home -- that of Mr. John Harris of Nottingham, England. He won an MTV competition, so got the private broadcast. His small living room was piled high with TVs and, of course, everyone from the whole street was there. There was also a camera at their end, sending pictures back to us, so at various points during the show, the living room in Nottingham would appear on the stage video walls. Bono would speak to them and they would reply. Of course by 10 p.m. everyone at the Nottingham end was blind drunk, which made it all the more entertaining. Technologically it was flawless too, which was pretty astounding. So later on, Benny and Bjorn -- the guys from Abba -- appear. We have U2 and Abba performing "Dancing Queen" beneath the mirror-ball Trabant, being broadcast live from a giant spherical building in Sweden to one terraced house in Nottingham. I rest my case.

June 17, 1992 - Sheffield My hometown -- I grew up here. Good gig too, and before "Still Haven't Found," Bono gave a brief speech, saying, "let's hear it for 'Mr. Zoo TV' -- Willie the homeboy." Sheffield gave me a standing ovation, which was very surreal, but fair made me glow.

June 19, 1992 - Manchester The indoor tour ended with this special gig -- a "Stop Sellafield" protest event. Kraftwerk played, which was a real treat, with BAD II and the extraordinary Public Enemy. The production crew worked miracles getting all the bands on and off stage in such a tight schedule and the gig went well, with just one exception. The computer that controls all the Trabant movements went berserk, so some of the cars were on autopilot, making moves all by themselves. Rock & roll meets Herbie Rides Again.

July 12, 1992 - San Francisco Preparations for the outdoor tour continue, and it's still a bag of loose bits. It has a name now: the Outside Broadcast. It's been a very long haul getting the final design together. There's a lot of people involved and the inevitable conflict between Art and Budget has been a long one and, at times, a ferocious one. Mark Fisher & Jonathan Park from London have been taking overall responsibility for the outdoor stage's structural design though, as with all things U2, there are many voices involved in the final item. U2's production managers Steve Iredale and Jake Kennedy have been trying to make it all practical enough to tour and I am somewhere between those two camps, and the band of course, who will no doubt have plenty to say when they see the final construction. When drawings on paper become giant pieces of metal.

July 24, 1992 - Hershey, PA Production build and technical setup have been happening here in this little stadium-in-a-theme-park for the past week. Last night a windstorm destroyed the biggest video screen, which didn't help. I thought the sound system was going to blow over at one point. There's just SO MUCH stuff everywhere, and re-design suggestions are coming in thick and fast. The production team and the design team are at the point of declaring war on each other, and I've never seen so many trucks in my entire life.

July 31, 1992 - Hershey Today confirmed my growing suspicion that this is, in fact, the Twilight Zone. We're staying in the Hotel Hershey -- an upmarket family hotel, which is pretty much a vision of Hell. Families everywhere in Mickey Mouse ears, "showband" entertainment in the bar. It's extremely surreal, especially when you see our road crew barging through with toolboxes and Trabant parts. The band arrive tomorrow and we're not even close to having the whole system up. We're making progress, but it's painfully slow.

August 3, 1992 - Hershey What a long, long day, but at least we have a plan. The band have been worried about making the show intelligent enough to justify the scale of the thing. In Bono's words, "the stage is fantastically impressive for all the wrong reasons." The production team and design team are each recommending that the other be fired. I, as ever, remain somewhere between all factions.

August 25, 1992 - Pittsburgh Long days, but at least things become more positive. Doing some shows and getting ecstatic reviews helps. Bono's anxiety is turning into optimism and excitement, though the question of how to sort out the stage roof remains. Fortunately, the design and production teams have at last made up their differences, and the general consensus is just to throw the roof away.

September 8, 1992 - Detroit We flew here after the Toronto gig. It's my birthday, so Edge said for me to get in the car with him & Bono at the airport. I thought we were going to the hotel, but I get out to find we're at an unbelievable seedy sports bar. "We could have gone somewhere flash," he says, "but I felt this was just more you." So it was beer and chicken wings till 4 a.m. & they bought me a T-shirt bearing the inscription "Just Do Me." That's what friends are for.

September 25, 1992 - Atlanta In the fabulous brand-new Georgia Dome they have a computer that controls the house lights for the building. This computer malfunctioned and some of the house lights wouldn't go out when the show started. Rocko (stage manager) & his hammer sorted that right out.

October 10, 1992 - Tampa Wild show. Bono was in psycho-Norman mode. The heat and humidity sent him out into the stratosphere. A very tall, excited punter leapt onto the B-stage during "Running to Stand Still" and stood over one of the pyrotechnic bombs that was just about to go off. Bono grabbed hold of her, threw her to the ground and leapt on top of her as it exploded. They were both unhurt, but I imagine that'll fuel fantasies for the rest of her life.

October 17, 1992 - Dallas Big TV shoot at Texas Stadium. Went great, the band played a blinder. I was here all night getting all the additional gear ready. A stagehand told me that the country with the shortest male life expectancy is Chad, with 38 years. Bummer.

November 3, 1992 - Vancouver Election Day. TVs were on in the catering room so we were getting the results in all day. It was so exciting -- everyone was in there watching & waiting, as Clinton gradually became president. We were running news updates on the giant message boards on stage to keep the audience updated. The California result that gave Clinton victory came in just before Public Enemy went on stage. I had the great thrill of announcing to a packed B.C. Place Stadium that the U.S.A. had a new president. The place went berserk -- even up here in Canada they're glad to see the back of Bush. Gave me a cheap thrill anyway.

November 14, 1992 - Anaheim, CA Our 100th concert, and it's at Disneyland, which seems appropriate. In Vegas we held a tour "Oscars" ceremony, giving awards to the tour's great performers. Nominations, prizes, "and the winner is," categories such as "Excess Baggage of the Year," "Tour Bimbo," "International Diplomat," etc. Great fun.

November 15, 1992 - Los Angeles Quote from Robert Hilburn, L.A. Times: "Zoo TV is the yardstick by which all other stadium shows will be measured."

November 25, 1992 - Mexico City Four shows here with absolutely the wildest audiences I have ever seen in my life. Even eclipsing the Italians and Spaniards. The energy level is beyond comprehension -- people bring banners and set fire to them in the crowd. Life on the edge. Spent time with Bono & Adam talking about the next step, which is to take Zoo TV back to Europe. "Zooropa," they want to call the tour. The last show was a riot, with lots of fun extras, including Bono doing a spontaneous a cappella rap version of "We Will Rock You." We even got Edge to do "Van Dieman's Land," which was a bit of a rocker from the locker. So that's it, we go home for Christmas now, then dream it all up again for Europe.

© Propaganda, 1994. All rights reserved.