In fact, two terrific stadium appearances – at Live Aid, in 1985, and at the final Amnesty International show, in New Jersey in 1986 – played a big role in establishing U2 as a major-league band. Do you sometimes worry that U2 has gotten too closely identified with those types of benefit shows?
Well, being the Batman and Robin of rock & roll has its disadvantages. I think we realized in the last couple of months that you can't continue to the involved in charity events. What we are, first and foremost, is a rock & roll band. If we forget that, people are going to stop listening. So at the moment my feeling is that I don't really want to do any charity shows for the moment. I think it would devalue anything else we've done.
As far as being responsible, I feel no need to be anything other than what we are. I don't feel we need to be in some way virtuous or whatever. When you reach the stage we're at, you have to learn to say no a lot more. I mean, we could do charity events solidly for the next ten years. But I don't think it would really do any good.
What about Amnesty International?
That's the one charity we really feel we can support, because its aims are so basic. You know, who can argue about human rights? It's fundamental.
In the last year it seems U2 has done everything in the book – had a Number One album and single, graduated to playing stadiums, and now a book, a movie and a live album are planned for 1988. What can you do for an encore?
Break up [laughs].
But seriously, how do you avoid the traps that have destroyed almost every other rock band?
By still being in love with music. I think a lot of groups that fell by the wayside just got distracted. At the moment we're so into where the band is going and what the band can do musically that the other things have really had little effect on us. It's really like we've let it wash over us without messing us up. And also because there are four of us in this group, we're all in the same position.
It must be hard being, say, Bruce or Bob Dylan. Because it's just you. There's no one else you can check with and see how they're feeling or who can keep an eye on you when you're going through a rough period. With us, when we get into the limousine and there's the four of us, it's a good feeling. There are just those four people — but it makes it a lot easier to handle, no matter what happens.
I think we're more committed to being a great group now than we ever were. For years we were insecure about our playing, about how good a band we were. But I've no doubt anymore. We're a lot less insecure. But there are still a lot of musical goals that we haven't achieved. I'm personally very excited about what's going to happen in the next three years.
So what's left for U2 to do?
I think we're about to reinvent rock & roll. That's our challenge.
This story is from the March 10th, 1988 issue of Rolling Stone.
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