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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

"I Was Bono's Doppelgänger", music, pain and U2

I Was Bono's Doppelgänger- Neil McCormick
After the amusing and very original "Killing Bono" it was a matter of time I would put my hands over the book on which the film is based, "I Was Bono's Doppelgänger". And as the topic says: the book is more satisfying than the film. Or better said, is even more rewarding.

The thing that has surprised me is the amount of differences with the screen adaptation and the book. Director Nick Hamm took some less relevant/secondary or anecdotal facts and built several scenes on their own, allowing the film to flow as a surreal comedy with a few dark twists and a crazy plot, in which U2 are the recurring element of frustration, as their worlds are more and more extreme: U2 achieving stardom, while his school pal only a series of let-downs in their attempt to music success.

But the book is very different. Essentially, this is Neil McCormick's biography, covering an incredibly intense period of his life, in which he will struggle, again and again, to achieve his desire/obsession of being a rock star. Its a personal ride towards Dublin and London, in a cruel clash trying to make it in the music industry, in which the writer cannot help but add an increasingly excruciating note of comparison with his friend Paul Hewson, commonly known around the world as Bono, leader of U2.

I loved McCormick's writing skills. He's clear, direct, funny and extraordinarily frank in his narration, even when that honesty doesn't show the best portrait of himself. He makes the reader feels very close to his frustrations and stubborn behaviour, even despite his, sometimes pretty huge, ego. The failures of his bands, in particular Shook Up! are revealed with rage and pain in this pages, and offers a quite depressing look of the music business. From someone who has made his living on this industry nevertheless, not as musician, but as well-known pop-rock journalist and writer, its refreshing to read such open comments.

But don't get me wrong, this is not a rant against music industry. McCormick balances his tone with hilarious situations and anecdotes, and a witty, self-deprecating humour, so when the climax almost approaches and he lets his envy on U2's worldwide success explode in front of his friend Bono, it is clear this is written from the perspective of a mature person, who has grown and learnt from that experience.

"I Was Bono's Doppelgänger" also offers a much more insightful look to U2's evolution, that will please fans of the Irish band (as myself), as the band has a more active role in the book. In particular Bono becomes a very important character. The connection with the author is very intense, providing the reader with several amusing (some late parties too!) and intimate moments of friendship between the two, as well as pretty interesting conversations on music, religion and fame, revealing the good spirit of the Irish singer and political activist.

I assume I was particularly engaged with the book for personal reasons. As a person who dreams having McCormick's job, but has always been incapable of playing any instrument due to a sort of reverential fear to kill the magic of music, but also as someone with a brother pretty gifted that is striving against the difficulties of having a music career on his own but refusing to give up, I felt close to the story. I guess that by now you'll imagine I would highly recommend this reading. Without a doubt.

SCORE: 7,5/10

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