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4.8 out of 5 stars
U2: At the End of the World
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
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. Eventually, when you reach the near-insanity of Bono walking and talking and refusing to go to sleep in Japan, it makes a kind of strange sense. Along the way, Adam bottoms out, Edge does 'shrooms and falls in love, and Larry injects himself with bull's blood. It's all good stuff.
If you're really into U2, it would be a crying shame for you to miss out on this book because you'll never understand the band so well any other way. If you've somehow stumbled upon this out of a general interest in rock-n-roll life, it's worth your time to use this book for an insider's view. And if you're looking for some fun nonfiction, it doesn't get any crazier than this.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
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
on November 7, 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
on June 13, 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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 13, 2004
Format: Paperback
Rarely put-downable, Flanagan writes with a careful balance of of humor and seriousness that puts U2 in unparallelled company as rock's most thoughtful and interesting band. Flanagan benefits from covering them from the depths of the at times extremely tenuous Achtung Baby sessions in Berlin to standing once again at the top of Rock superstardom, reinvented, embracing of irony and cultivating a wholly new following. If you're like me and became a U2 die hard during this period but were a little too young to go out to concerts or see band members while in town on tour, this book will show you just what a remarkable period it was for them. Paul McGuiness's insights and vision for what was to come with respect to digital, downloadable music is almost prophetic, reading the book now in 2004. But U2 are at the center of a changing world in the early 90s with the fall of the Wall and the newness of the "New World Order" which they try to recognize and understand and the election of the first Democratic president in a dozen years in America. All the while, U2 remain 4 secondary school mates who take themselves MUCH less seriously than is commonly believed. ZOO TV still remains as one of the most dazzling, ambitious and provocative tours ever put on, all at at time where a band was desperately trying to find a new direction. But the cultural, political, musical discussions, events and meanderings are what make this work so rich, beyone typical band biographies. If you love U2 or merely just love Achtung Baby and Zoo TV, you will love this book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 1, 2005
Format: Paperback
I stalled reading the last few pages before today because I did not want the adventure and emotion-filled experience of this fascinating book to come to an end. But after reading the last page and closing the book, I had a grateful smile on my face; because then, I could start from the beginning, whenever I want the journey with U2 and the author, Bill Flanagan, to begin all over again.

I REALLY enjoyed this book and I HIGHLY recommend it! A fellow U2 fan mentioned it to me -- being a wide-eyed and newly infatuated enthusiast. Now, I have been progressively addicted in finding out more about them.

This book is a very good and comprehensive start for me. Flanagan's writing style is accessible, funny, entertaining, eloquent, moving, sincere and heartfelt, as he takes the reader up close and personal with the members of U2 (Bono, Edge, Larry, Adam), their affiliates, and the band's many many interesting encounters. Flanagan daringly took me in a journey with them at the end of the world, and I feel myself emerging with an amazing sense of wonder, awe, energy, humility, and profound appreciation.

The book has given me a broad context of understanding U2; artistically, professionally, philosophically, and most of all, as human beings.

The book was published 10 years ago, peppered with reflections of U2's prior first decade. Ten years after the book's publication, as U2 perform in the midst of their 2005 "Vertigo" tour, they both embody and outlive the legacy of the book's spirit.

Find out and enjoy the ride!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 24, 1999
Format: Paperback
I'll keep it simple. I have over 25 U2 books in my collection. This is the best, and by far. This is not a book where you will find pictures. It's the inside story of the zoo tv tour. The difference with other books is that this one is not written by someone who only thinks he knows what he's talking about. When you read it, you can feel that you do get the real story, with many spicy details that an outsider would not know about... Very well written, with no pretentions or judgments. Just the real story, like a real fan loves it. Trust me on this one.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 9, 2003
Format: Paperback
Bill Flanagan is a GENIUS..... His writing style and flair for comedy and saying the right thing at the right time had me laughing out loud at numerous points in this book! This book is NOT for anyone who wants a Biography of the band or wants Trivia answers... it's an IN-depth Trip through 2 tours and the making of Zooropa and Achtung Baby by showing the human side to a band most people only see the Rock face of. The band and everyone that makes up U2 come alive in their journies and follies... This is a definite must read for any avid U2 fan....
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 2001
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Few books are cool enough to make me want to change careers. This book made me want to drop out of graduate school and become a U2 roadie. Seriously.
Fresh from the "Elevation" Tour, I dove into this book to find out more about the fab four from Dublin. What a treat! This book was absolutely wonderful! Flanagan had un-restricted access to the band during the recording of "Achtung, Baby!" and the entire Zoo TV tour and his closeness with the band shows. While other U2 books focus primarily on the childhoods of the members or early years of the band (see Unforgettable Fire) or are barely more than a collection of sound-bytes from other interviews(see The Road to Pop) this book captures U2 in the middle of their Zoo-glory!
After reading this book, I found myself listening to my old U2 CD's (and going out and buying CD's that I didn't already have!) with a whole new appreciation for the music. Now I listen for the bass contribution, the unique guitar parts, etc.. Knowing the stories behind the songs brings the music to a whole new level. (For those readers/listeners who don't already love "Achtung, Baby!", this book will have you listening to it on a daily basis!)
Flanagan has a remarkable,candid, easy-going writing style that makes this book impossible to put down. While it is a long book, I didn't want it to end! If the author is reading this, PLEASE, for the sake of U2 fans everywhere, write a follow-up! Other U2 books pale by comparison.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 17, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Flanagan pulls the reader into the book immediately with an anecdote that involves Bono in his underwear, German reunification, & angry homeowners. It only gets better from there. Rock n roll biographies are a dime a dozen, but this book belongs in a category all by itself, primarily because it's actually well-written--EXTREMELY well written! Whether you're a U2 fan or not, you'll have to appreciate Flanagan's ability to turn a phrase, vividly describe a scene, or just seemingly be in the right place at the right time to see something really incredible. You'll experience firsthand U2 in the studio, on the road, & after hours. Flanagan had seemingly unlimited access to the band, resulting in a book so revealing, it's amazing U2 let it get out! If you're a U2 fan, this read will be a revelatory experience. If you're not, you'll probably find yourself down at the local record store buying U2 CDs before you've even finished reading
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