U2 are, and always will be, my favourite band in the world. Since 1999 they have shaped my whole life, bringing me immeasurable joy and a sense of identity I had always lacked before. Without them, I can't imagine how I would have coped with some difficult years at sixth form and university; their music is a real comfort in my darkest moments, and most of my friends are U2 fans that I never would have met if I hadn't been into the band. I find it impossible to picture an alternative timeline in which I never stumbled into the U2 universe – who knows, maybe I wouldn't even be here today.
It's funny how these life-changing events can be triggered by something so trivial...
Ask a group of U2 fans how they first got into the band, and there's normally a sensible explanation: their parents were already fans, or they heard a song on the radio and loved it. My story is a little more unconventional! And believe it or not, it all started with the Massive Heeds. TFI Friday had been one of my favourite programmes for a good couple of years, with all kinds of brilliant and hilarious features to ease away the stress of the school week – but the arrival of the U2 Massive Heeds was undoubtedly the best thing that ever happened to the show. Like everyone else in the audience, I instantly fell in love with their fabulous dance routines and strangely comical appearance – Massive Heed Bono was always smiling, and you couldn't help but smile back! At this stage, I barely knew anything about the real U2, and had no particular interest in them. The Massive Heeds won my heart on their own merits.
The official TFI Friday website had weekly updates with news and pictures from the show, but unsurprisingly there was no website exclusively dedicated to the U2 Massive Heeds – just a handful of photos and video clips dotted around the Internet. I therefore decided to build my own fan page about them (the original version of this site), gathering together any information and multimedia I could find. I quickly realised that if I wanted my pictures to have accurate captions, I would need to find out the name of each U2 member. Bono and The Edge were easy to identify, but I wasn't sure which of the blond heads was Adam Clayton, and I had no idea what the fourth one was called...
This little quest led me on a tour of U2 fansites, where I waded through image galleries trying to determine which face was which. While I was doing this, I found myself rather impressed by the resources available to U2 fans – it looked like it must be lots of fun to follow this band. It's odd, but I kind of longed to be a part of it all, despite my total ignorance of their music or anything else. I was especially intrigued by all the media hype about them being the greatest band in the world – somehow I'd never realised they were that big. Maybe I ought to check them out.
I'd been vaguely aware of U2 ever since childhood – the name had been a regular pun in our household (you know the one: "I love you too"; "Aren't they a pop group?"), and I had a dim recollection of seeing Achtung Baby mentioned on Teletext in the early '90s. What little exposure I'd had to them in the past, though, had been distinctly negative. I'd seen the video for 'Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me' on Top Of The Pops, and been totally creeped out by it (everything from the twisted lyrics to the weird animation, combined with a lifelong aversion to anything Batman-related). Two years later I'd seen the 'Discothèque' video on TOTP, and wondered how on earth this rubbish had managed to top the charts. Having said that, I'd quite liked the follow-up single 'Staring At The Sun', and later on 'Sweetest Thing' had been decent radio fare. Flicking through a book of hit singles, I didn't seem to be familiar with anything else from U2's extensive back catalogue.
Whilst I was still toying with the idea of buying a U2 CD, I spent a day in town with friends from school – and found myself bumping into U2-related omens all over the place. Eating lunch in Burger King, I was stunned to recognise 'Staring At The Sun' playing in the background, just a day or two after I'd been trying to recall its lyrics and melody (as I hadn't heard it anywhere since its original release two years earlier). Later whilst looking at sunglasses in a shop, someone mentioned Bono just as I was thinking about him myself. And so it continued, until I began to wonder if the universe was trying to tell me something. I made up my mind to check out this band's music, and purchased The Best Of 1980-1990 & B-Sides (the only compilation album available at the time).
The songs were pleasant enough, but I initially imagined this CD would be reserved for certain moods, and not something I would listen to frequently. I still hadn't discovered quite what the fuss was all about. Of course, I hadn't yet heard all the U2 singles that were listed in our book of hits – and most of the missing songs seemed to be on the album Achtung Baby, so I figured I would just buy that one as well, to fill in the gaps. After all, the HMV website described it as their best album... and as I soon discovered, they weren't wrong! Achtung Baby completely blew my mind from start to finish. It was (and still is) the greatest album I'd ever heard; a flawless masterpiece that kicked your arse and broke your heart in equal measure. The album I'd been waiting to hear all my life, without even realising it. I was officially a U2 fan, and it felt like destiny.
Even at this stage, though, I had no idea of how big a fan I would become. I certainly had no intention of buying every album they'd ever released. In fact there was only one other item I was curious about – the concert video from the 1993 tour, ZooTV Live From Sydney. Could there be footage of my beloved Massive Heeds on it? I asked one of my online friends who already owned the video, and was disappointed to hear that it didn't feature the Heeds... but she said it was worth seeing just for Mr MacPhisto, so I went ahead and bought it anyway. My mind was blown all over again, and I bought another album (Zooropa) after falling in love with several songs performed at the concert. I thought I would stop at this point – it didn't seem worth buying the '80s albums, as I already had all the key tracks on the Best Of – but fate intervened again, and my local pub just happened to be playing the whole of The Joshua Tree on the night I was there for a quiz. Thus I realised the album tracks were just as impressive as the singles, and I would have to get my hands on them as well. The snowball was now well and truly in motion – before long I'd bought all the albums, most of the singles and a whole heap of other merchandise! U2 had completely taken over my life.
Since then, I've seen them in concert six times, recorded countless TV appearances, made fan pilgrimages to Dublin and Berlin, and become the owner of several online U2 forums. I've even come to adore both 'Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me' and 'Discothèque', which I had hated in my foolish youth. Incredibly, I've now been a U2 fan for half of my life... and none of it would have happened if it weren't for the Massive Heeds! One day perhaps I'll be lucky enough to see them too...