The four members of U2 were still in high school when they managed to scam their way onto the Irish children’s show Youngline in March of 1978. Bono heard the program was looking to feature a young band and convinced a producer to attend one of U2’s rehearsals. The group played “Glad to See You Go” by the Ramones. “He said, ‘That’s amazing. Did you write that?'” Bono recalls in the group’s oral history U2 by U2. “And I said ‘Yeah.'”
When the group arrived at the studio a few days later they simply played their original song “Street Mission.” The producer didn’t even realize it was a different tune. “It was like being brought into the cockpit of a plane, having never been in a TV studio before,” Larry Mullen Jr. said. “It was much smaller than I thought it would be. It was white, with lights hanging from the ceiling. There was no audience . . . We couldn’t believe we were going to be on TV.”
The performance came at a major moment of upheaval for the band. They had been playing gigs around Ireland as the Hype with the Edge’s brother, Dik Evans, on guitar for a couple of years. They even auditioned for the show as the Hype, but by the time the taping rolled around they’d changed their name to U2. They also asked Dik to leave the band.
“It was becoming obvious the four-piece unit had a certain ease,” said the Edge. “But it was a difficult time because I was obviously quite resistant to the idea of Dik not being part of the group. I was somewhat in denial for a while about the good sense of it.”
Two days after the TV taping, the group played the Community Center in Howth, Ireland. They began the set as the Hype with Dik on guitar, and midway through he left the stage and they finished as U2. (That lineup remains to this day.) Just weeks later they won a talent show in Limerick and met manager Paul McGuiness. Dik, meanwhile, began a successful career in the Virgin Prunes.
The Youngline performance remains an incredible time capsule of a band on the verge of greatness. “Street Mission” is not a strong as much of the material on their 1980 debut album, but it does show promise. They were also teenagers at the taping. Larry Mullen Jr was just 16, and he looks even younger. Bono and the Edge were 17, and group elder Adam Clayton was 11 days away from his 18th birthday.