From the Sky Down

Synopsis: In the terrain of rock bands, implosion or explosion is seemingly inevitable. U2 has defied the gravitational pull towards destruction; this band has endured and thrived. This documentary asks the question why.
Director(s): Davis Guggenheim
Production: Universal Music
  2 nominations.
90 min

What people are doing

when they're forming a band,

is they're forming what an

anthropologist would call a clan.

It's a group of people

who may not be genetically related,

but share interests of some kind...

...and have pledged loyalty

to each other.

I think men in particular, have

a kind of instinct for banding together,

and being in a group together.

Most of the identity of that group is formed

by its separateness from everybody else.

There is a moment when it is

dysfunctional not to look at the past.

20 years into it -

the randomness of an anniversary,

we're actually going to look at it.

We're gonna open the box.

Making Achtung Baby

was the reason we're still here now.

That was the pivot point

where we were either going forward,

or, is this our moment to implode?

I thought to myself, "This is it,

we've come to the end of the road -

"band breaks up

over artistic differences. "

Classic cliche.

We're gonna have to listen to The Fly,

I think, and...

So, if we can play it back...?

We can't afford to make a mistake

on the second song.

We had this thing where we really

believed in music as a sacrament.

It's over there.

You almost have to take your shoes off

in its company.

So we have quite a low opinion

of the musician,

and a very high opinion of music.

We're only reverent

to the thing if it happens.

That thing, whatever you call it, you know,

the song that enters the room,

and you go, "That's why we're all here. "

- It's not gonna work.

- It doesn't really work, does it?

You can stop that, if you would.

Do we know where that's from?

Was that actually played

to human beings...

...who were gathered together

for the purpose of music?

Was that a guitar mix?

It sounds like...

Yeah, it's a special mix

accentuating the guitar.

OK, it's certainly very 'special'.

Joe, do you have a version

that you mixed?

There's an environment

out of which music... grows.

There's a kind of faith that's necessary

to move from one note to the other.

That wasn't the environment

we were in.

We felt as we walked into this place,

well, it's so full of greatness...

...that greatness will visit with us.

So, we're there,

and greatness is nowhere to be seen.

Greatness has left the building,

it seems, years ago.

This is good.

Try it more, em...

...from you, Edge,

just more totally abstract,

like sonic abstraction.

At this moment, we're a long way,

a long way from the madness of Zoo TV,

we're a long way from taking

that television station around the world.

Picture, picture.

At this moment...

...I couldn't imagine

what we were gonna become.

Edge, it's brilliant.

Great. And then, when I'm singing,

slap it with the back of your hand.

We're much closer now.

The '80s, I think they suffered a lot

from my own intensity.

So, our rehearsals were, a lot of the time,

me shouting at people.

Well, shouting over the

f***ing racket they were making!

And then shouting to achieve

some kind of direction,

and I don't know

how they put up with that.

Edge, Edge...

...when the singing starts,

try to create a dynamic

by almost getting really quiet -

make it a dynamic.

Very hard to do.

OK, hold on.

It's because you're in full flight -

if I stop, it'll just sound bad.

- No, it'll be great if you stop.

- OK.

So, a big, wild feedback thing.

OK, keep going.

Bono is the same now

as he was back then.

I mean, he's just one big idea.

The moment I met him, he had the ball

and he was running with it,

and this was his opportunity.

Look at where this could go

with a guy like that.

You know, having that guy out front,

having that guy as your singer -

anything is possible.

You wanna do this, we can do this,

here's the plan -

it was hard not to be taken by it,

intoxicated by it,

and just going,

"Wow, this is something. "

After we'd left school,

there was this period

where Edge went to a technical college,

Larry got a job,

Bono almost got into college,

and I wasn't doing anything.

OK, here goes.

OK, the band could just fall apart.

Slowly, everyone kind of

came back together again,

and said, we've tried this

going to college thing

and this going to work thing,

and we don't really wanna do that,

we wanna be in the band.

Adam was the oldest, wisest

and with his posh

plummy British accent.

Edge was fairly reflective, even then,

and kinda studious,

Larry was a real life-force.

He laughed a lot,

but then he'd have moments of panic,

where he'd go, "What am I doing

hanging out with you guys?"

I was a bit of a brat,

but I'd had enough trauma at home,

I was too raw

to be a total pain in the arse...

...but I had a lot of front.

In fact, that's all I had.

I managed to break through

the self-consciousness.

I got almost violent,

hitting notes I couldn't sing.

I always knew

that I had these melodies in my head.

I knew them when I was eight,

when I was ten,

but I had no ability to express them.

One of my earliest memories

was in my granny's house -

they had a piano.

I couldn't see the keyboard

but I could make a sound.

When I hit one of those notes,

my instinct was to find another note

that felt good with it.

And I even then

discovered the power of reverb.

I remember sticking my foot

on the pedal of the piano,

and how this tiny living room

would become a cathedral.

When I found my voice,

it was like I'd been walking

with a limp.

It was the first time

I walked up straight.

Rock and roll,

joining this band,

was emancipation.

It was liberation.

And I just knew this feeling

was the greatest feeling I could have.

The clan sees itself as distinct

from everybody else around,

and sees itself

as bound by some ties of loyalty.

Sounded great.


Yeah, fantastic.

Maybe a bit more passion

this time, Bono.

- Yeah, it was a bit restrained actually.

- Yeah.

Maybe you could try standing

for this one.

The only direction

I might offer you is that

the first chorus might be

a little more restrained than the others.

But, um... I wouldn't like to inhibit

what you're doing.

All the British rock and roll people,

even the punk rock people,

Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon,

they're all Art School.

John Lennon - Art School.

Eric Clapton - Art School.

Jimmy Page - Art School.

They're all Art School.

Brian Eno was our Art School.

It is like painting.

You're putting sounds together.

You're adding things,

taking them off the next day.

Suddenly the act of making music

is spread over months,

rather than a single performance.

Play your bit.

I think they always know

that it's difficult,

and if it isn't difficult,

they don't trust it.

Yeah, that's right.

Every record they've ever made has gone

right down to the very last second.

That's the thing. I would just like to know

that we have got a good take,

even if there are

one or two things to repair.

And then we can go on with some

sense of, less sense of desperation,

into doing some other takes.

What do you think, Bono,

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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