KFJC 89.7FM
KFJC History Blog

1981 U2 Interview at KFJC

Cynthia Lombard   3/11/2020  

A huge benefit of celebrating KFJC’s 60th anniversary is that alumni and listeners have been sharing vintage items from the college radio station’s past. The latest is this gem of an interview with the members of U2, as they tour the United States for the first time. Thanks to Todd Berger for sharing the cassette tape!

In the San Francisco Bay Area to play a trio of San Francisco Bay Area shows in March, 1981 in support of their album Boy; U2 members note during the KFJC interview with DJ Ransome Youth that the album had just hit #76 on the Billboard chart.

Recorded on March 19, 1981 in the KFJC studio at Foothill College, during the interview, U2 describe their style of music (not punk, new wave or psychedelic), the meaning of their name, and some of their musical influences. Bono talks about the importance of the lyrics and the music, saying, “I only sing something that I really believe in.” Musically, he points out the band is trying to present a “a very large, big sound, like a cinema-type sound, a big screen sound.” He adds, “I don’t so much tell stories…just get across atmospheres or moods…if it’s an easy story, you get fed up with it after a few listens.”

Cassette of 1981 U2 interview at KFJC

U2 also talks about the previous night’s free show at San Jose State University, which KFJC co-presented along with commercial radio station KSJO and the San Jose State Associated Students Program Board (see the poster in this 1981 KFJC film). Bono recounted that there was a shaky floor and that he got a shock from the microphone and had to drop it. He said, “I got a bit of a fright.”

Flyer for 1981 U2 concert at San Jose State University

They take calls from listeners and point out some of their musical favorites. One caller said that when he first listened to the album there was no point of reference for it and he didn’t know how to interpret it and that it was “fresh.” He asks the Edge about his guitar playing. The Edge talks about his “angular sound” and the collaboration with Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen being vital to the mix.

Talk turns to college radio as being frightening to mainstream radio in the United States as the music they play is “real.” At this point, U2 was getting plenty of airplay in Ireland and England, but was just breaking onto the U.S. radio dial. A caller said that most people listening to rock and roll are tuning to college radio.

Cassette tape of U2 interview on KFJC circa 1981

In response to a question from a caller, Larry says that all the band members had different taste, from Abba to the Sex Pistols and that they enjoy Magazine, Wire, and Joy Division as artists to learn from. The DJ ends the interview, saying, “It’s nice to have a refreshing young band here.” U2 was set to play the Old Waldorf in San Francisco the night of the interview.

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