The Book Sings

ribe Generation, March 1999

by Rita Ferrauto

A famous writer of exotic origins writes a book and falls under the curse of a group of blood-thirst integralists. Forced to hide because his life is in danger, he finds hospitality with the most famous rockstar of the planet. >From whome he gets the inspiration for a novel set in the world of rock music. And the popular rockstar, in return, decides to draw inspiration from this novel to compose a song, whose lyrics are taken from the novel…

Does it sound like total delirium? And yet it’s the pure reality. The writer is the Anglo-Indian Salman Rushdie, who became to say the least precious because of his novel “The Satanic Verses”. Since then his life is worth two million pounds: such is the price put on his head by the ayatollah Khomeini, outraged by the alleged offenses to Allah contained in the book. It doesn’t matter that the reward has been recently revoked: the most orthodox followers of Islam still want to cut off Rushdie’s head and gain divine blessing and the abundant reward. Because, they say, only Khomeini could cancel the curse. And, since he died some time ago and carefully avoided commmittiing this gesture of clemency, the fact that his successor has revoked the penalty counts nothing… So Rushdie has been living for years surrounded by bodyguards, his wife dumped him and his refuges are secret to all.

Here enters the scene the famous rockstar. Who is none other than Bono from U2. The band had already hosted Rushdie on the stage of the Wembley Stadium in 1993, during the Zooropa Tour. Now it seems instead that for a long time Rushdie has lived in the ‘summer house’ (in fact a four-roomed house) of Bono’s property in Kilkenny [probably a mistake for Killiney, Dublin]. The Edge denies all: “it must have been only a couple of weekends…”.

However, due to the long friendship wiht the rockstar, Rushdie has written a book, “The Ground Beneath Her Feet”, which, as he explains, “deals with rock’n’roll and earthquakes. And includes lyrics for many songs, so that I was actually thinking of asking popular rock musicians to perform them, to make them alive”. Said and done: U2 have put to music one of them, with the lyrics saying “all my life I have adored her: her golden voice, the beat of her beauty, the sensations she gives me, even the ground beneath her feet…”. The song will be released, even if it is not yet known if it will be attached to the book (a real publishing event!), through the Internet or as a bonus track in the second volume of the U2’s Greatest hits.

The circle is however closed: Bono inspires a novel and then he gets inspiration from that for a song… Not bad, for a band that is definitely out of the ordinary. And if anyone has any doubts on Rushdie’s musical competence, you should know that the writer has written musical reviews on London newspapers for years, and therefore he knows how to handle rock music. Indeed, as he says, “the easiest thing has been to invent the career of a rockstar and his hits, and write them. You could really make a CD out of thet! Even if rockstars should never take writers on stage with them: otherwise they will end up writing novels too!”.

For now, however, this doesn’t seem the fate of Bono & co. Indeed, the band has recently created their own second record label (the first, Mother Records, only releases singles). It’s called Kitchen and is a dance label. But why would a superfamous band have to create their own label? Malevolent rumours speak of problems with taxes, megalomania, generous desire to fix friends up with a job. More simply, The Edge explains it this way: “What would you do if you were in a superband who makes a lot of money? You’d keep alive, tuned in on what is happening, and this is the best way for us to do it. We don’t go round buying thousands of interesting singles. More simply, with our label we publish what catches our attention”.

The fact it is a dance label may amaze some (whom the elctronic turn of the latest album, “Pop”, certainly annoyed). But, recalls Bono, “in 1970 the club culture was the professed enemy of rock. Music for sissies, and we are machos. I had bought a record, titled ‘Love Machine’, and I was ashamed to say it, because it was the period of punk rock, music for males with full hormones. Then it happens that growing up you realise that the music you listened to as a kid seems all wrong and most of all so boring. While the music that back then seemed vulgar to you now stands the test of time, and never mind all those music critics who shooted shit on the Bee Gees… We for instance have understood what rhythm really was only when we went on tour with BB King, we discovered it in R&B;, and only in 1980. While everybody in London was stuffing themselves with ecstasy in a full summer of love, we were in Memphis, with the brass section of Muscle Shoals. Then it happens that our friend, and famous dj, Paul Oakenfold, tells us that during raves people at the end always play our ‘With or Without You’, beacuse it is ecstatic music”.

The Edge goes on: “Dance had made us jealous. Because being in a rock’n’roll band is wonderful but somehow limiting. Dance gives you many more possibilities.” According to Bono, its strength lies in the fact that “dance is much more democratic than rock, it is something that has to do with the idea of community. Look at rappers, for instance, they’re great at self-promotion, at creating a network. Black music wants to communicate, shout, go out full volume and massively. Rappers overdo it when they load themselves with gold chains or blab about the dimension of their penis, but they have the sense and value of their own music. Look at Lauryn Hill, her album marks the definitive rhythm of these latest years. She’s really a musician with balls. We have been labelled for years as the white niggers, ok, we’ll be black in this sense!”. No fear, however. In spite of these claims and the creation of the dance label, we won’t expect sensational betrayals. As Bono says, “we have something that dance music will never have, because we male music out of the ordinary. Sure, we could be like archeologists digging in search of rare grooves… But why do it, when we have Larry who creates rhtyhms like no one else? And a bass player like Adam, the only bass player you really miss when he’s not playing with you… >From dance music we have learnt the value of what we’re doing. And deep down we’re a rock band!

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