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Friday, 23 November, 2001, 16:09 GMT
U2 book fails to match the music
Bono on stage during the Elevation tour
U2's stage magic is not replicated in the book
By BBC News Online's Matt Slater

The blurb on the front of this book promises the reader "the ultimate guide to the biggest band in the world".

This reader was left hoping that the publishers meant "ultimate" as in last.

That may seem a bit harsh, particularly as this weighty tome took "several years" of author Mark Chatterton's life (years that he will never get back), but there is nothing very rock'n'roll about a reference book.

That is not to say people will not part with the 14.99 that Chatterton's tome costs. In fact, I can see this book becoming essential reading for U2 trainspotters - in the same way that real trainspotters pore over the Settle-Carlisle Railway Timetable.

But should we really be encouraging them?

U2 are arguably the biggest rock band in the world
The author does not question his heroes
Popular music can mean all kinds of things to different people, but knowing that U2 performed at New York's NBC Studios on 9 December, 2000, cannot, surely, mean anything to anybody.

Bono might want to fill in the gaps in his diary - he was at the Hallenstadion in Zurich on 8 February, 1985 - and music journos will appreciate never having to scour through back issues of the NME again, but how many average U2 fans need to know this kind of stuff?

Having said that, if everyone who helped Chatterton with this book buys a copy, the publishers will have a minor hit on their hands.

This U2 fan, however, was left wondering how such an expensive, and patiently assembled, scrapbook could have such boring photos.

The detail is impressive, but the prose is plodding and the tone far too reverential - surely even the most dedicated fan would admit that not every song in the band's 25 years has been a classic.

And that is ignoring the lads' many dubious side projects and iffy fashion statements. But does the author question his heroes? Not a whisper.

In his introduction, Chatterton helpfully points out that the book should not be read from cover to cover. The reader should, instead, "skip about the book".

My advice is even simpler. Skip the book.

U2 The Complete Encyclopedia, by Mark Chatterton, is published by FireFly

See also:

23 Nov 01 | Reviews
U2 Encyclopedia: Your views
21 Nov 01 | Music
U2 top greatest album chart
25 Aug 01 | Northern Ireland
Thousands flock to see U2 at Slane
27 Aug 01 | Scotland
U2 fans get ready to rock
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