Every month we put a U2 fan in the spotlight. The fan of the month for February 2019 is user argyleg. Read along for the interview we had with this U2 fan.
"The ZooTv / Zooropa tour was just mind blowing and such an advance in the technology available to stadium shows and Christine and myself attended the Cardiff gig towards the end of our honeymoon, but sometimes the VHS /DVD tour releases replace the memories of your actual show experience. "
Tell us something about yourself, who are you and what do you do for a living?
Hi Everyone, I am Graham Cooksley, I am 49 years old (big 5-0 in 2019) and live in Plymouth, Devon in the United Kingdom. I have been married to Christine for 25 years and we have two daughters. I have worked at Plymouth University since 2004, currently as part of the Timetabling team.
How did you become a fan of U2, tell us how it happened?
My 'light bulb' moment was U2's Live Aid performance, I remember not really being a big fan of 'Pride' when it came out towards the end of 1984, I was into Frankie Goes To Hollywood and the guitar rock of 'Pride' seemed in complete contrast to the polished studio work of Trevor Horn and FGTH. I quite liked the 'Unforgettable Fire' single in early 1985 and always got it mixed up with Simple Minds' 'Don't you forget about me' which was out at about the same time. Anyway back on point, a mate had told me to checkout U2 out on the Live Aid TV broadcast and the rest as they say is history, but in those pre internet days U2 seemed to vanish and it would be almost two years before they reappeared, but it allowed time to purchase and get to know the back catalogue. In fact the whole Live Aid gig was a brilliant day for a 16 year old big into Bowie but absorbing most 80's pop.
You have seen U2 on every tour since the Joshua Tree tour in 1987, what is it like to have seen U2 evolve over all those years, how would you describe them evolving?
I have only seen U2 twelve times since 1987, I mean some people on U2Start see that many shows on one tour, some fan I am!! The biggest change over the years has been the technology used in the presentation of both sound and vision, while visually it has been stunning (Zoo, Pop, 360, I/E etc) when coupled with the 'underworld' sound enhancements it seems to limit the band regarding performance etc, to the stage where Bono even says the same things between songs nowadays. Looking at shows and setlists on this great website reveals that U2 have, like many other artists, never really had much variation during the course of a tour but what has been missing I think since Zoo TV has been the spontaneity, the 'anything can happen' feeling of a gig. I always feel the technology brought in 'shows' at the expense of the 'gig'.
What was your favourite of the tours you've seen and why?
My first gig was Wembley Stadium 2 on the Joshua Tree Tour in 1987, (followed by Bowie in Cardiff the following week, happy days). The Joshua Tree is the soundtrack of my memories of that year and that time of my life (18, first love and all that) and still very vivid and special. The ZooTv / Zooropa tour was just mind blowing and such an advance in the technology available to stadium shows and Christine and myself attended the Cardiff gig towards the end of our honeymoon, but sometimes the VHS /DVD tour releases replace the memories of your actual show experience. Joshua Tree 30 London 1 was though, I think my best gig ever, the whole of the JT, the Bowie 'Heroes' extension to 'Bad' was to me quite emotional and DLBIA with Noel Gallagher at the end a really special moment. We had heard it soundchecked while outside Twickenham and when High Flying Birds did not do it as part of their support set it was quite disappointing, but we did not know the soundcheck must have been both ban
ds!! My ears have never really recovered from that gig !!! Happy Days
You've seen the majority of your U2 shows in London, how would U2 compare to other live acts you've seen in London?
Although the stats say that I have seen most of my U2 shows in London, it is a good four hours away from Plymouth, Cardiff (Zoo, Vertigo, 360) for stadium shows when they go there, is much closer. The advantage London has is better overnight public transport back to the South West and there have been many gigs both U2 and others where I have made a frantic dash down Wembley way to get back into town to catch the last train or coach. One recent additional bonus of London gigs is that my daughter now lives there which meant that when U2's E/I played the 02 there were no complaints when I said I would like to do the two back to back shows (thanks to Timk68 for sorting the second ticket) as we also spent four days with her and now have a place to crash out after. As to comparisons with other artists, London Bowie gigs in 1990, 95 and 03 were obviously hometown shows for him and no doubt on a par with Dublin U2 shows. Other 'classic' gigs I have been to in London include Jean Michel Jarre's 'Destination Docklands' in 1988 and I was fortunate enough to get a ticket for one of Kate Bush's 'Before the Dawn' shows in 2014. A new band I love, Public Service Broadcasting, also played the legendary Hammersmith Odeon in 2017, check them out!!
What does your U2 collection look like? What kind of stuff do you have and how is it organised?
I don't really consider myself a U2 or music collector, the listening is the important bit for me. Formats don't really matter but I do like to have a physical copy of something, artwork is such an important contributor to the feeling contained within the music, anyone coming to the Joshua Tree via streaming is denied the images taken during that 1986/87 period which just convey so much of the heaviness of the lyrics. So back on point again, i don't go for multiple versions on gold or blue vinyl etc but I would like to get the RSD and U2.com fan releases that I originally missed out on (give me a shout if selling) as they are official product, so that makes me a collector I guess. It is stored in discography order, I am a bit LP/CD OCD i'm afraid.
Where and when do you most prefer to listen to U2?
In contrast to having physical product I listen to most of my music via my IPOD and headphones, mundane daily tasks can have a soundtrack which does not annoy anyone else in the house. When I am left alone out comes the CD's and LP's and the volume goes up to eleven. With regard to listening specifically to U2 or any particular artist, it comes in waves to be honest, it can go days and weeks without listening to them and then all of a sudden something clicks and I have suddenly listened to their entire catalogue over short a period of time, and then on to someone else for a while.
Which U2 song do you feel the most "attached" to, or means the most for you?
With or Without You is such a special song in my memories and as brilliant as the E/I tour was without the Joshua Tree songs I never tire of WOWY. I always prefer long versions with 'Shine like stars' / 'Love will tear us apart' etc and I usually sing these snippets out loud to accompanying radio or CD / LP plays, usually to blank looks from the uninitiated. The 2017 BBC version is to me such an uplifting performance, you can see Bono seemingly almost in tears at the 3.03 minute mark. A classic song and version.
How different is U2 compared to other artists that you like?
I would say that the 'special' feature of U2 is the fact that the band line up has remained the same four people for over forty years, it is a pretty rare feat in the music world as there is usually a high profile physical or mental casualty at some point or creative differences. The alternative is that you have a band in name only like Simple Minds, of whom I am also a big fan, but on every LP since 1991's "Real Life" it is a different line up centred around Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill. It dilutes the "gang" mentality of a band and diminishes the audience investment in the life of "their" band, as the influences and extra-curricular activities of the bass player are just as interesting and important creatively to the whole as that of the lead singer.
What are your hobbies and interests away from U2, musical or otherwise?
I am currently three quarters of the way through an Open University Art History undergraduate degree course, part time study has to fit around the full time job and family life but it does take up a lot of "spare" time and as you can probably tell from my answers I am used to waffling a bit to hit minimum word counts for essays. I also work as a match day turnstile operator at Plymouth Argyle FC (hence argyleg) and enjoy / endure watching them play in the third tier of English football, in fact when Home Park hosted concerts by Elton John, George Michael, Rod Stewart etc, before working we were able to watch the sound checks etc, special memories. I can play guitar although I'm not very good, although in my mind I am The Edge!!!
Thanks for this interview argyleg!
Note: Our crew members choose the fan of the month, you can't sign up for it.
Awesome. I'm jealous that you went to those JT shows at Wembley. Just listening to the bootlegs I can tell that they were amazing. You probably have already, but I would suggest checking out the bootleg from night one. I know its not your night, but its rated 5* and will defo bring back memories for you.
Just noticed you're an Argyle fan too. Looks like we're both in a relegation fight in league one lol.
Another enjoyable read, looks like we’ve been to a few of the same shows in recent years, that 2017 show you describe as your best gig ever was amazing. Seems like you got into u2 at the perfect time with everything that was just about to follow.
Great read Graham. Really enjoyed reading that, you've probably been to the same gigs as me in the U.K, so you brought back some memories. I agree with you about one of my fave bands too, Simple Minds.