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Adam Clayton

Adam Charles Clayton (born 13 March 1960) is a musician, best known as the bassist of the Irish rock band U2.[1] Clayton has resided in County Dublin since the time his family moved to Malahide when he was five years old in 1965. Clayton is well known for his bass playing on songs such as "New Year's Day", "Bullet the Blue Sky", "With or Without You", "Mysterious Ways", "Get on Your Boots", and "Magnificent". His work on No Line on the Horizon has been cited as his best bass playing.[2][3] He has worked on several solo projects throughout his career, such as his work with fellow band member Larry Mullen Jr. on the theme of 1996's Mission: Impossible.[4] Clayton, as a part of U2, has won 22 Grammy awards.[5]


Life and career

Clayton is the elder child of Brian and Jo Clayton, born on 13 March 1960 in Chinnor, Oxfordshire, England. When Clayton was five years old, his family moved from Oxfordshire to Malahide, County Dublin, where Clayton's brother Sebastian was born.[6] The Clayton family became friends with the Evans family, with their sons Dik and Dave (more commonly known as The Edge), who were both in the original group, Feedback, that spawned U2.[6]

Clayton attended boarding school first at Castle Park School in Dalkey, then at St. Columba's in Rathfarnham.[6] He later changed school to Mount Temple Comprehensive School in Dublin, where he met bandmates Paul "Bono" Hewson and Larry Mullen Jr., and was reunited with his boyhood friend Dave "The Edge" Evans. Mullen had posted an advertisement on the school bulletin board for musicians to form a band with him; Clayton showed up at the first practice, which also included Dik Evans, Dave Evans's older brother, Ivan McCormick, and Peter Martin, who were two of Mullen's friends. McCormick and Martin left the band soon after its conception. While the band was a five-piece (consisting of Bono, The Edge, Mullen, Evans, and Clayton), it was known as Feedback. The name was subsequently changed to The Hype, but changed to "U2" soon after Evans left the band.[7] Clayton also served as the band's first manager before Paul McGuinness, a more experienced manager, was hired, because Clayton had left school earlier.

In 1981, around the time of U2's second, spiritually charged album, October, a rift was created in the band between Clayton and McGuinness, and the three other band members. Bono, The Edge, and Mullen had joined a Christian group, and were questioning the compatibility of rock music with their spirituality.[7] However, Clayton, with his more ambiguous religious views, was less concerned, and so was more of an outsider, until Bono's wedding to Alison Hewson (Ne Stewart), in which Clayton was the best man.[3]

Clayton made international headlines in August 1989 when he was arrested in Dublin carrying a small amount of marijuana. However, he avoided conviction by making a large donation to charity, and has later been regretful, saying "It was my own fault. And I'm sure I was out of my head  emotionally apart from anything else. But it is serious because it is illegal."[3] Clayton has also had alcohol problems, which came to a head on 26 November 1993 when he was so hung over that he was unable to play that night's show in Sydney, the dress rehearsal for their Zoo TV concert film. After that incident, however, he gave up alcohol.[8]

In 1995, after the Zoo TV Tour and Zooropa album, Clayton headed to New York with bandmate Mullen to receive formal training in the bass; until then Clayton had been entirely self-taught.[8] During that period, he worked on U2's experimental album, released under the pseudonym "Passengers", entitled Original Soundtracks 1. That album features one of the few instances where Clayton has appeared as a vocalist; he spoke the last verse of "Your Blue Room", the album's second single. Prior to this Clayton had only provided live backing vocals to tracks such as "Out of Control", "I Will Follow", "Twilight" and "Bullet the Blue Sky". Since 1998's Popmart tour Clayton has not sung live in any capacity for the band.

In 1996, while still in New York, Clayton collaborated with Mullen to re-record the Mission: Impossible theme.[4]

Clayton has remained a bachelor through his time with U2. During the early 1990s, he dated and was engaged to British supermodel Naomi Campbell. He also had a long-standing relationship with Suzanne "Susie" Smith, a former assistant to Paul McGuinness; they were engaged in 2006, but the pair broke up in February 2007.[9]

According to the Sunday Independent, he fathered a son in 2010. This has been confirmed by Bono while introducing his bandmate during their 360 tour[10]

The High Court ordered the assets of Clayton's former housekeeper and PA be frozen after it was reported that she misappropriated funds of 1.8 million.[11]


Adam Clayton performing at a Vertigo Tour concert in 2005. As a bass player, Adam Clayton's most recognizable basslines include "New Year's Day", which evolved out of an attempt to play Visage's song "Fade to Grey", and "With or Without You".[6][12] His style includes Motown and reggae influences,[13] and cites artists such as Paul Simonon of The Clash as influences on his musical style.[12] When Clayton first joined the fledgling U2, he did not have formal training in the bass.[6] In the band's early years, he generally played simple parts in 4/4 time.[12] Bono said of Clayton's early bass playing, "Adam used to pretend he could play bass. He came round and started using words like 'action' and 'fret' and he had us baffled. He had the only amplifier, so we never argued with him. We thought this guy must be a musician; he knows what he's talking about. And then one day, we discovered he wasn't playing the right notes. That's what's wrong, y'know?"[14]

Clayton has sung on several occasion, including on the song "Endless Deep", the B-side to the single "Two Hearts Beat As One" from 1983. Clayton also sung backup vocals on "I Will Follow" during live performances in 1983 and 1984. He also spoke the last verse of "Your Blue Room". Clayton can be heard speaking on "Tomorrow ('96 Version)" (a rerecording of "Tomorrow" that he arranged) a song from U2's 1981 album October.[15] He plays the guitar on a few occasions, most notably the song "40", where he and guitarist The Edge switch instruments. He also plays the keyboard introduction to "City of Blinding Lights".

Musical equipment

Clayton's basses include:

  • Fender Precision Bass
  • Fender Jazz Bass
  • Gibson Thunderbird Bass
  • Gibson Les Paul Triumph Bass
  • Gibson Les Paul 70's Recording Bass, unknown model
  • Lakland Joe Osborn Signature Bass
  • Lakland Darryl Jones Signature Bass (with Chi-Sonic pick-ups)
  • Auerswald Custom Bass
  • Epiphone Rivoli bass (seen in the "Get On Your Boots" music video)
  • Rickenbacker 4001 Bass - used in the early days of U2 circa 1978/9
  • Status John Entwistle Buzzard Bass
  • Warwick Adam Clayton Reverso Signature bass, and various custom shop Streamers.
  • Gibson RD Bass
  • Aguilar DB 751 bass amp
  • Aguilar DB 410 & 115 cabs

Throughout his career, Clayton has used both Precision and Jazz basses. His first bass, however, was a dark brown Ibanez Musician.[6] He uses Ashdown amplifiers and blue Herdim picks, as does bandmate The Edge.[15] Clayton's Precision basses are modified with a Fender Jazz neck; in an interview with Bass Player magazine, he said that he prefers the Jazz bass neck because it is more "lady-like" and is a better fit in his left hand.[12] In 2011 the Fender Custom Shop produced a limited-edition signature Precision Bass built to his own specifications in a limited run of 60 pieces, featuring an alder body and a gold sparkle finish.

Side projects

Clayton has worked on several side projects throughout his career. He played on Robbie Robertson's self-titled album from 1987, and has also performed with Maria McKee.[16][17] Clayton played on the song "The Marguerita Suite" on Sharon Shannon's self-titled debut album which was released in October 1991.[18] He joined U2 producer Daniel Lanois and bandmate Larry Mullen Jr. on Lanois's 1989 album Acadie, playing the bass on the songs "Still Water" and "Jolie Louise".[19] In 1994, Clayton played bass along with bandmate Larry Mullen Jr. on Nanci Griffith's album Flyer, playing on the songs "These Days in an Open Book", "Don't Forget About Me", "On Grafton Street" and "This Heart".[20] Clayton and Mullen also re-recorded the Theme from Mission: Impossible for the Mission: Impossible soundtrack. The song became a top ten hit in the U.S., reaching No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100.[21] They recorded the soundtrack while both Mullen and Clayton were in New York City for musical training.[6] The "Theme from Mission: Impossible" was nominated for the "Best Pop Instrumental Performance" Grammy in 1997, also reaching #7 on the US Billboard chart.[4][22][23] He also featured on Little Steven's 1999 album Born Again Savage.


Clayton and U2 have won numerous awards in their career, including 22 Grammy awards, including those for Best Rock Duo or Group seven times, Album of the Year twice, Record of the Year twice, Song of the Year twice, and Best Rock Album twice.[5]

See also

  • List of bass guitarists
  • Timeline of U2
  • U2 discography


External links

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