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U2: At the End of the World Paperback – July 16, 1996

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Music journalist Flanagan (Written in My Soul) followed rock superstars U2 on the road, into the studio and into their private lives for three years to collect material for this authorized biography. It provides an interesting, if almost too comprehensive, account of day-to-day life for members of one of the most popular bands. Beginning with his subjects' arrival in Berlin to record an album as the Wall was coming down, Flanagan presents U2 as residing at the heart of politics and social change, describing their friendships with Bill Clinton and Salman Rushdie, their extralegal activities on behalf of Greenpeace and their efforts to provoke their massive audience into greater awareness through such projects as nightly updates on the war in Bosnia. Flanagan also encourages band members to spout off their philosophies on everything from music to religion and politics. An unabashed fan, Flanagan tends to lionize his subjects, but his minutely detailed accounts of them also render them compellingly human. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

For being about a rock 'n' roll group, this is amazingly good. But then, U2 is an amazing band: four Dublin kids who didn't know how to write songs, let alone play their instruments, but who had a dream. Flanagan treats the band as if they set out on a quest as trying as any traditional hero's journey. He paces their story as fast as their globe-trotting lives and makes it as inspiring as their fans find their music. He provides a remarkable glimpse into the hearts and minds of a group that has dazzled ears and eyes throughout the world, and in so doing, renders great service to U2. Raul Nino --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Delta; Reprint edition (September 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385311575
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385311571
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #233,908 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bill Flanagan is the author of two previous novels, A&R and NEW BEDLAM, as well as two non-fiction books, WRITTEN IN MY SOUL and U2 AT THE END OF THE WORLD, and a humor collection, LAST OF THE MOE HAIRCUTS. He has written for Esquire, GQ, Rolling Stone, Spy, Vanity Fair and many other magazines and newspapers.

Flanagan is also executive vice president and editorial director of MTV Networks for which he created and oversees the series VH1 STORYTELLERS and CMT CROSSROADS. Flanagan has produced, executive produced or co-produced countless hours of television, including specials for NBC and ABC, two concerts from the Clinton White House, and The Concert for New York City after the September 11 attacks. He is ombudsman of the Sundance Channel series SPECTACLE: ELVIS COSTELLO WITH....

Flanagan is an on-air essayist on CBS NEWS SUNDAY MORNING. He has been interviewed on TV by Oprah Winfrey, Diane Sawyer, Conan O'Brien, Jeff Greenfield, Bryant Gumble and Charlie Rose. He has twice guest-hosted for Charlie Rose and hosted PBS's special BOB DYLAN AT NEWPORT. He has also appeared in documentaries by Peter Bogdanovich, Julien Temple, and the BBC, been a guest on Terri Gross's FRESH AIR on NPR, and a talking head on PBS's American Masters.

Flanagan grew up in Rhode Island and graduated from Brown University. He is married to Susan Gallagher. They have three children and live in New York City.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 39 people found the following review helpful By amazonker on June 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
Although this is a book about U2, it's such a strange and fascinating tale that it should stand as a classic of rock-n-roll writing as well as the single essential volume for any U2 fan.
The first thing that sets this book apart from the usual rock bio is that it doesn't focus on serving up facts about the band members. There's no "born here, went to school here" at the beginning; instead, we open with Bono, startled into crouching with a hand over his nakedness when a German family comes to reclaim the East Berlin house he's staying in just after the Wall falls. The rest of this tome continues in the same vein, conveying what the band members are like and how they live their rockstar lives by vividly recounting moment-to-moment experiences that the author lived through along with them.
Bill Flanagan was granted unprecedented access to the band member's lives, and throughout the two years he spends touring with him, they treat him as a friend. He makes no pretense of impartiality but rather tells everything from his own point of view, which is much more genuine than any false distance would be and allows you to feel you're there with the band. The length of time and volume of material that result are made more manageable by the fact that Flanagan gives each chapter its own brief coherency, so they can easily be read separately as well as together (and indeed a couple of them were originally published as magazine articles in Musician).
The real reward comes from following the band through to the end of their Zoo TV/Zooropa tour. There's a detachment from reality that Flanagan, the band members, and all the tour crew come to experience as they dedicate themselves to a roaming life, and it's gradually revealed as the band's experiences become more and more strange.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Nathan Scoggins on January 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
Bill Flanagan's "U2 at the End of the World," is far more appropriately titled, "U2 at the End of the Music Industry As We Know It." The book, which exhaustively charts the world-crossing tours Zoo TV and Zooropa, also functions as a historical document of the music industry on the cutting edge of a major technology surge. It forecasts the eventual rise of MP3s and deals with the copyright issues involved, and the pursuit of art, commerce, and technology, and explores where the worlds converge, and where they are still discordant. It is also a documentary of the craziness involved in tour life -- as Flanagan points out, most rock writers travel for a band with a week, then leave. It is a far far greater thing to spend two years jumping around the world with a band, to the point where tour life feel normal, and everything else is child's play. A book that deals not with the mundane day to day existence of U2's members ("and then Larry came in and said wackily, 'It was the pizzaman after all!' Bono, Edge and Adam laughed at the silly drummer," etc.), but with the deeper issues of what the band is about, what music is, what the business is like, and what it means to attempt to be relevant and reinvent ones'self in the ever-changing face of music. A must-read.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 6, 1997
Format: Paperback
This is not a biography of facts about the band so if you're looking to find out how old Larry is, or how many kids Edge has, don't be buying this book. Bill Flanagan takes you into the minds of U2 but makes sure he passes their funny bones along the way.
He has the amazing ability of adding his own witty and keen input while at the same time making it seem as if U2 are talking with you personally.
By the end of the book, I was as exhausted and wrung out as if I had really just got back from the three year tour with the band. Though I read the book as a U2 fan, I would now gladly pick up anything else by Flanagan. His deceptively casual style will hook you from the first paragraph with a laugh and keep you up at four in the morning as you seek to discover "the secret of the universe" with Edge.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By C. Blaesing on June 12, 2004
Format: Paperback
I had always prided myself as being a u2 fan - I could sing their entire back catalog by heart, but I was aways a bit wary of reading any actual "books" on my fav band as they are often out of date by the time they (the books) hit the self and often show my beloved boys in an unkind light.
I ordered this book on word of mouth and the fact that I am starved for any band info as it has almost been four years since their last masterpiece - I was not disapointed. Flanagan writes this journal of life during the Zoo TV tour as a journalist but also as a fan - the personalities of the members of u2 and their organization are brought to focus in a way that helps the reader identify with Bono, Edge, Larry, Adam, and Paul (if by chance you are wondering who Paul is - please read the book and become a true U2 fan of God's Sake!)
True the events that are described in this book are over ten years old but it is an essential period of u2 and it sets the stage for the cohesive unit that the band has become - last seen during the band's most recent elevation tour.
I read the entire book over two days and Flanagan has done something that I didn't think was possible for a die-hard u2 fan - I fell a bit more in love the members of the band for the separate men they are and for the band they form. Remember - "We're one, but we're not the same, we got to carry each other"
Flanagan shows that u2 stand behind the sentiment in One. A true gift of a book - a must read
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