Where did U2 get their name from?

19 January 2022, 14:40 | Updated: 19 January 2022, 14:41

U2 at the MTV Awards in 1997: Larry Mullen Jr., Bono, The Edge and Adam Clayton
U2 at the MTV Awards in 1997: Larry Mullen Jr., Bono, The Edge and Adam Clayton. Picture: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc/Getty Images

Bono says he still hates the name of his hugely-successful band. But what does that cryptic moniker actually mean?

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Radio X

By Radio X

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 Achtung 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.

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

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

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.

U2 in 1980: Adam Clayton, The Edge, Bono, Larry Mullen Jnr,
U2 in 1980: Adam Clayton, The Edge, Bono, Larry Mullen Jnr,. Picture: Peter Noble/Redferns/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.

In 2022, Bono appeared on Awards Chatter podcast where he talked about the band's famous moniker and how he didn't like it back in the late 70s. "I still don’t." he said. "I really don’t. But I was late into some kind of dyslexia.

"I didn’t realise that The Beatles was a bad pun either. In our head it was like the spy plane, U-boat, it was futuristic — as it turned out to imply this kind of acquiescence, no I don’t like that name. I still don’t really like the name.

"Paul McGuinness, our first manager, did say, ‘Look, it’s a great name, it’s going to look good on a T-shirt, a letter and a number’."