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I have a female assistant that would like to sit on Larry's drum stool. A male one, too. -- Bruce Springsteen, at U2's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction

Column: off the record..., vol. 13-589


off the record, from @U2

I was saddened to hear about the death of Phil Chevron of The Pogues on October 8. Lead singer and cofounder of The Radiators from Space, Chevron was an icon of Irish punk rock. He was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in June 2007. Later, he received a clean bill of health, but the cancer returned in May 2013.

My brush with Chevron came during summer 1989 when a handful of friends and I followed The Pogues across the northeast on their brief American tour. After the show at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Virginia, we somehow managed to get backstage. I expected a raucous, drunken party, but Shane MacGowan was nowhere to be found. Instead, I spent the evening talking to Terry Woods about the band's collaboration with The Chieftains and my budding interest in Irish literature and traditional music. I think we may have been the only two sober people in the room.

During Chevron's funeral on Saturday, October 12, the secular service began with the Radiators' song "The Song Of The Faithful Departed" and ended with The Pogues' classic "Thousands Are Sailing." Gavin Friday and ex-Radiator Steve Averill, longtime U2 friend and album designer, attended the memorial. The Irish Times quotes Averill as saying of Chevron, "he was a deeply sophisticated person growing up in a country which sought to value only eejitry, bad politics and bad music." He also called Chevron a "gentleman, musician and lasting friend."

Fans of contemporary Irish rock might be interested in the Phil Chevron tribute that was filmed at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin on August 24. Portions of the show are available at RTE 2fm.

This autumn, Pittsburgh has become a Midwestern metropolis full of pop art exhibits. For the past month, the city has declared custody of a giant rubber duck designed by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman. The duck has generated millions of dollars for the local economy and brought in tens of thousands of visitors to the region. In mid-August, in conjunction with the Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh, yarn enthusiasts from all over the world donated blanket-sized knitted panels that were sewn together by volunteers and draped over the Andy Warhol (7th Street) Bridge for a month-long exhibit called Knit the Bridge.

On August 25, the bridge was closed for an afternoon of "yarn and yoga." Close to 800 people converged on the bridge, unrolled their yoga mats and stretched in unison to the music. The weather was gorgeous and, despite being in the heart of the city, the atmosphere was quiet and thoughtful. I've never felt more a part of the landscape of my hometown. Much to my delight, our final relaxation was to "One" with Mary J. Blige. I'd never thought too much about putting together a yoga routine to U2 before (I save them for cardio), but the song was a fitting way to end to the hour. Since that day, I have found a couple U2 yoga playlists on-line and, in mid-September, a local yoga studio offered a 90-minute heated yoga class to U2 music. It seems their music is everywhere these days -- and that's just fine with me.

I couldn't write this week without mentioning the band's new single, "Ordinary Love." The song debuted on U2.com in a trailer for the upcoming biographical film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. The film, starring Idris Elba and Naomie Harris, is due out November 29. U2's relationship with Mandela goes way back and includes the 46664 anti-AIDS concert held in Cape Town, South Africa in November 2003.

Despite not being able to hear the whole song in the trailer, I think it sounds anthemic in a "Bad" kind of way, somewhat reminiscent of "One." I have watched the trailer so often, I can now sing along with the song, but only when it is playing. When I try to sing it at other times, only Sade's song of the same name comes out; I've never been very good at reciting lyrics without a melody to back me up. I look forward to hearing the whole song, and to seeing the movie, over the holidays.

© @U2, 2013.