Monday, May 11, 2009

Happy Birthday Bono Vox: The Devil You Know

Happy 49th birthday to Paul Hewson, aka Bono aka MacPhisto, born in Dublin on May 10, 1960.

After getting into U2's new No Line on the Horizon for a while, I've found myself going back to 1993's Zooropa, the band's most underrated record. Unlike almost all of their other records, which are assembled with painstaking care, Zooropa was more or less done on the fly, so to speak, written and recorded on days off during their massive two-year Zoo TV tour in support of Achtung Baby. Sometimes the band would fly back to Dublin after a European show, and head straight into the studio to work on it overnight and fly off in the morning to do another gig. That's a sturdy Irish work ethic for you.

Zooropa and the Zoo TV tour embraced the ideas of media overload, irony, rock star excess, religion, worship of technology, salesmanship and hucksterism in their many unsavory forms. These so-called values were embodied by a character Bono created for the tour known as MacPhisto, a modern-day devil-as-lounge lizard. A curious amalgam of Lucifer, Pagliacci, 70s Elvis, Norma Desmond, Peter O' Toole, Salman Rushdie and Jack Nicholson's Joker.

As Wikipedia notes, "he spoke with an exaggerated upper-class English accent, not unlike that of a down-on-his-luck character actor." Said Bono: "We came up with a sort of old English Devil, a pop star long past his prime returning regularly from sessions on The Strip in Vegas and regaling anyone who would listen to him at cocktail hour with stories from the good old, bad old days."

The MacPhisto character was used to great effect in their Bowiesque live spectacles, as seen in the clips below of two of Zooropa's best tunes "Daddy's Gonna Pay for Your Crashed Car" and "Lemon." The show can be seen in its entirety on the excellent DVD Zoo TV Live from Sydney.

Happy Birthday, you ol' devil you.

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