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"Great ideas are like melody lines to me. I'm attracted to ones that have a force and clarity and feel inevitable." — Bono, 2002

Veteran Journalist Henke Recalls U2's Earliest Days


The U2 Conference opened with an amazing set of forums this morning. Jim Henke was the featured speaker at a presentation titled "Curating 'The Next Big Thing.'" Henke has a distinguished career as a writer and editor at Rolling Stone for 16 years, and then as vice president and chief curator at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum for 18 years.

Henke told of the first time he met U2. As a young journalist he was invited to cover a set of U2 concerts in England at a time when the band was virtually unknown. He fondly recalled his van ride to a concert venue with Larry, Edge, Adam, Bono and Bono's girlfriend, Ali. There was also a single roadie along for support. That night history was made when U2 took the stage in a tiny school gymnasium and a fledgling reporter took notes with utter delight and amazement.

A second concert was held in London, and Henke was hooked on U2's new sound and passionate approach. He retreated to his hotel to write a Rolling Stone article that has now become a classic, "U2: Here Comes The Next Big Thing." He has been in a close relationship with the band ever since.

Henke spent much of the session talking about the 2003 exhibit "In the Name of Love: Two Decades of U2," which he curated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He showed the audience pictures of the first U2 T-shirt (Larry silk-screened it in high school), a poster promoting a Christmas dance called "Jingle Balls" for which U2 provided music, and told a story about hanging Trabants in the entry way of the Hall of Fame (the audience laughed loudly when Henke recalled how the building's designer thought he was trashing the place with old junk cars).

Henke also revealed his part in helping write the song "Pride: In The Name Of Love." He whimsically recalled how he and Bono used to exchange books often. He had read Let The Trumpet Sound: A Life Of Martin Luther King, Jr., and was so inspired by the book that he sent a copy to Bono. It was that book that directly influenced and led to the creation of the song. Henke said that when he goes to a U2 concert, Bono will still shout out his name during "Pride."

According to Henke, U2 were a different kind of band because they liked their audience as much as they liked their music. They shunned booze and drugs, were personable and wrote positive music, unlike so much of the music industry in the early ‘80s. They lived clean and "they were nice guys." The energy and passion of U2 were infectious, and Henke used his voice as a journalist to promote and propel the band forward. He believed in the authenticity of this quartet.

 At times Henke appeared charming and sentimental, reflecting on the demise of journalism and the recording industry, and pondering his part in the ascension of the greatest music group on the planet. Attenders could hear a sense of personal satisfaction countered by a measured sadness as Henke referenced new trends of social media, indie music labels and fleeting loyalties. Delightful, compelling and nostalgic, this statesman of a former era referred to U2, multiple times, as "the last rock band." And for his part, Henke's role in the formation and promotion of U2 has indeed been a big thing.

© @U2/2013