July 22, 2010

The Edge Celebrates the 30th Year of BOY

Source: Gibson.com

Published 7-22-10


Gibson Guitars and U2’s The Edge: Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of Boy

Ted Drozdowski



When “I Will Follow” and “A Day Without Me” came ripping out of
radios in late 1980, it was obvious the band that recorded these
singles was far too ambitious to be pigeon-holed as new wave, post-punk
or simply pop. The guitar lines – a jittery Morse Code of single notes
sculpted into a hook for “A Day Without Me,” the shimmering chords of
“I Will Follow,” the delay-swabbed sound of both that crossed the line
from mere effect into melody – alone advertised a broad creative sweep,
and the lyrics aimed to define what it means to be human, albeit from a
superbly youthful viewpoint.

Thirty years later that band, U2, has a firm grasp on one of the
broadest creative palettes in rock history and has blossomed into one
of the grandest groups of all time, as well as a force to be reckoned
with in the music business and even the world of politics. Despite the
fiery spirit of those singles and their debut album Boy,
nobody who saw their first U.S. shows at New York’s CBGB, the Rat in
Boston and Toad’s Place in New Haven, CT, could have reasonably
predicted the arch of their growth, success and influence – even though
the group’s fresh-faced, then-19- and 20-year-old members rocked those
less-than-packed houses with heads-down dedication and no shortage of

Guitarist David Evans, better known as The Edge, has been U2’s
sonically creative spearhead over their 30 years in operation. He has
defined a highly personal six-string style based on simple chords and
licks that take on a much a bigger architecture thanks to his
imaginative technique and his creative use of effects. And throughout
all of the band’s musical explorations – collaborations with Brian Eno
and B.B. King, revisionist strip-downs, baroque constructions, disco
intoxications, electro-pop peccadilloes – his sound, even when
stretched in all kinds of directions, has been as recognizable a
constant as Bono’s voice.

Even before The Edge and his three partners entered the studio to record Boy
in March 1980, Gibson guitars were at the heart of his sonic strategy.
His main axe was a worn natural finish Gibson Explorer pumped through a
Vox AC-30 buoyed by the era’s spanking new digital delay and chorus
pedals. Producer Steve Lillywhite, one of the soundboard giants of the
new wave era, perfectly captured his bedrock sound on the hits and
deeper cuts like the exuberant “Out of Control” and “Stories for Boys.”

The Edge developed this sound with the use of his delay, setting his
feedback dial to add half the duration of his eighth notes to every one
struck – creating cascades of what’s termed “dotted eighth notes,”
thanks to his setting the “repeat” function to regenerate two or three
notes. He also, early on, developed a style of playing the same note on
two strings simultaneously to create a droning tone.

It’s a gambit that’s served him well over the years, even as he’s
branched out into synthesis, looping and other more modern techniques
of turning sound into lush layers. He’s also expanded his fleet of
guitars, primarily drawing on the Gibson family of instruments to build
his armada. Here’s a rundown of some of the Gibsons the Edge has been
observed playing on stage and in the studio.

Gibson Explorers
are still his signature instrument. The Edge prefers the Gibson Limited
Edition Explorer built in 1976. He owns several, including the one he
used on Boy, which is now retired from the stage.

Gibson Les Pauls are an important part of his tone bank. The Edge has two white Les Paul Customs with black tone and volume knobs, from 1973 and 1975. He also has a 30th Anniversary Les Paul Gold Top from 1982 and a 2005 Les Paul Standard.

Gibson SGs are in the picture, too. There’s a 1966 cherry finish that he used for “Elevation” and a ’65 in Pelham blue.

• Epiphones have hung from his shoulders on stage, as well. He employed a 1962 Epiphone Casino with a tobacco finish on the U2 360° tour and has been spotted with a Sheraton and a 2006 Epiphone Les Paul Standard.

Gibson SJ-200s are among The Edge’s preferred acoustic guitars and he reportedly owns at least three, including a Pete Townshend model.

• And Gibson ES-series
hollowbodies and semi-hollowbodies are a part of his trick bag. His
1953 ES-295 made a cameo in the “Desire” video and he strapped on an
ES-330 for the “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses” and “One” videos.

 He also has a tobacco finish ES-335. And a Byrdland made its way before the cameras during the filming of Rattle and Hum.

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