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Virgin Prunes – U2 Connection

I occasionally receive a puzzled e-mail from surfers who have found a Virgin Prunes link on a U2 page and don’t understand why. I also (less frequently) discover Virgin Prunes fans who aren’t aware of the group’s connection with what has become one of the largest rock bands on the planet. Very briefly, this is the link:

Members of the Virgin Prunes and U2 grew up in Dublin together. As teenagers, they formed a society called the Lypton Village – a group of like-minded people united in their unease at the conventions of contemporary suburban life. Members were given Village names – Gavin Friday, Guggi, Pod, Bono Vox, The Edge – to represent their “true” character.

Around 1977, two bands emerged from the general vibe of the Lypton Village. One went through several name changes (The Hype, Feedback) before settling on U2. The other named itself the Virgin Prunes. The two bands played together on several occasions. Gavin and Bono wrote different songs with the same titles (Boy/Girl and Exit being two examples).

In terms of musical, lyrical and philosophical approach, however, the two bands were about as far apart as could be. They deliberately opted for a Bowie/Iggy relationship, with one band aiming for commercial acceptance and the other aiming to shock and alienate their audience. The relationship was thus more than that of two bands whose members had grown up together. It’s almost as though U2 and the Virgin Prunes were two sides of the same coin, with the coin itself (or “meta-group”, if you’d like a more intellectual and less laboured comparison) being the Lypton Village.

The connections in human terms are that U2’s The Edge (David Evans) is the younger brother of the Virgin Prunes’ Dik (Richard Evans). In the early days of both bands the line-ups were quite fluid and Dik played guitar for Feedback for a while. The young boy on the U2 album covers Boy and War is Peter Rowan, the younger brother of Guggi (Derek Rowan) and Strongman (Trevor Rowan) of the Virgin Prunes. Pod, the Virgin Prunes’ drummer, has acted as a roadie for U2.

Since the Virgin Prunes disbanded in 1986, Gavin Friday and Bono have worked together on the soundtrack to the film In the Name of the Father and the Peter and the Wolf project of the Irish Hospice foundation. Gavin has also provided backing vocals on U2’s cover of Satellite of Love and has been credited on most recent U2 albums. The connections keep resurfacing – even Maurice “The Man” Seezer is related to the Rowans on his grandfather’s side.