Where did U2 get their name from?

17 March 2019, 19:00 | Updated: 10 September 2019, 13:10

U2 in 1985: Adam Clayton, The Edge, Bono and Larry Mullen Jr
U2 in 1985: Adam Clayton, The Edge, Bono and Larry Mullen Jr. Picture: Aaron Rapoport/Corbis/Getty Images

They're one of the biggest bands to ever come out of Ireland. But what does that cryptic name actually mean?

They were originally “The Larry Mullen Band”. Then, briefly, “Feedback”. Shortly after their debut gig they became “The Hype”.

But in March 1978, this fledgling post punk band from Dublin finally settled on the name U2.

They went on to rule the world with albums like War, The Joshua Tree and Acthung Baby. Their live shows pushed the envelope of what was possible with staging, visuals and lighting.

In 2014, U2 sneaked their latest album Songs Of Innocence onto people’s Apple devices as a free gift, Some people weren’t happy and demanded to know how they could get rid of it.

But that wasn’t the first time the U2 name had been linked to covert operations.

U2 at a book signing in London in 2006
U2 at a book signing in London in 2006. Picture: MJ Kim/Getty Images

The Lockheed U-2 was first launched in 1955 and was given the nickname “Dragon Lady”. It’s a special reconnaissance (i.e. spy) plane, which was developed at the height of the Cold War and is still used to this day. It’s latest edition is the U-2S developed in 2012.

A U2 spy plane, circa 1978
A U2 spy plane, circa 1978. Picture: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In 1960, there was an international incident when a U-2 crashed in Russia and the pilot Francis Gary Powers was kept prisoner on charges of espionage, which is where the name came to the attention of some lads in Dublin.

Francis Gary Powers, pilot of the USA U-2 spy plane which crashed in Russia, May 1960,
Francis Gary Powers, pilot of the USA U-2 spy plane which crashed in Russia, May 1960,. Picture: Keystone/Getty Images

It was claimed that “U2” was one of six names on a shortlist and it was ambiguous enough to be the title that everyone hated the least.