This is a guest post written by Caryn Rose.
It was 1984. I had just graduated college, and I was headed to the UK for the first time. Some friends had managed to convince their parents to let them do a semester abroad, and had rented a 2-bedroom flat, complete with room for visitors, in a normal neighborhood in West London. I found myself a charter flight to Gatwick and headed over with way too much luggage and a long and diverse itinerary of sights to see. So I found myself spending equal time at the Abbey Road zebra crossing and Canterbury Cathedral, Leicester Square and Carnaby Street, Big Ben and the Marquee Club.
After walking around Liverpool for a day and a half giggling every time a local opened their mouth (because – THEY SOUNDED LIKE THE BEATLES, a thing that had not actually occurred to me until I go there), I hopped on the ferry to Ireland — specifically Dublin. My main objectives for this part of my trip were to see the illuminated Book of Kells at Trinity College, following in the footsteps of Joyce and Yeats, buy a copy of the Eleven O’Clock Tick Tock 7″ single (which at the time was only available either in Ireland, or as a super expensive import in record shops in Greenwich Village) and find my way to Windmill Lane.
Again, this was 1984. There was no internet, and if there were any helpful “U2 fan guides to Dublin,” I definitely didn’t know about them. I do not even know how Windmill Lane made my list. The only way I conceivably could have found out about it was from reading liner notes in albums and maybe the occasional mention in interviews or magazine articles.
I didn’t head for Windmill Lane thinking that I’d be invited in for tea or even that I’d actually see a band member. I just went there in a general spirit of rock and roll tourism, because something amazing happened there or that place was responsible for something incredible. I remember walking there, and thinking that this didn’t seem like a great part of town, and maybe I was heading the wrong way (although the map – and you had to have a map, you couldn’t just ask someone how to get to a random building in the middle of nowhere, outside of the tourist beat – said I was heading the right way). I remember also thinking that I was from New York, and that I could deal with a bad part of town in Ireland, right?
When I got there, I didn’t have any way of knowing that I was actually looking at and taking photos of the right place. There was no Google Maps, I didn’t know anyone that liked U2 as much as I did or had done this before, so it’s not like I had anything to compare it to. I remember gently placing my palm on the rock walls, as though some kind of energy or good luck or who knows what would emanate from within. I didn’t plan on hanging out in around the building for any length of time; even if I knew they were inside, I still had a lot of Dublin to see and while I was (and am) music-crazed, I was not insanely obsessed (although you could probably argue that if I put a band’s office on a list of sights to see while touring overseas for the first time, I was by all reasonable accounts falling on the ‘insanely obsessed’ side). I took a lot of photographs and felt like I had accomplished the thing on my list and headed back to my normal touristed route.
Truth be told, I didn’t even know if I had found the right place until recently, when I started planning a trip to Dublin for next year. Through the magic of Google Maps, I zoomed in on Windmill Lane. Back when I got there, there was no graffiti, no fans standing around, just a stone building and some brick walls, as chronicled in the photos below. (Including a bonus photo of the Bonavox shop, which I just happened to walk by and took a very hurried photo of.)
[Scatter O' Light sidenote: That is a seriously old-school photo of that hearing aid shop, which now has a different sign—see: History of Bonavox.]
Caryn Rose is the author of B-sides and Broken Hearts, the best rock and roll novel of 2011, a copy of which she is told was hand-delivered to a certain Larry Mullen during the last tour (“because any guy who has two houses just to keep the memorabilia from his band will like and understand this book,” she says). Find out more at bsidesandbrokenhearts.com.