Everybody needs good Neighbours, according to U2

I’VE never watched an episode of Neighbours.


But in 1989, it was impossible to ignore the TV soap opera, especially central characters Scott and Charlene.

They were played by Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue, the teenage heartthrobs of their time in Australia – and the UK too.

Two million Aussies watched the small screen couple get married on July 1,1987. Almost 20 million Brits did the same.

Even U2’s version of Bullet the Blue Sky at the National Tennis Centre (now Rod Laver Arena) in Melbourne on October 16, 1989, couldn’t ignore the cheesy duo.

It was the last of seven Lovetown Tour shows in the Victorian capital, setting the record for the number of National Tennis Centre gigs by any artist (since broken by Pink, boo hoo).

It also set a record for U2 – the most shows in one city on any leg of a world tour.

That record was broken a few months ago when they played their eighth show in New York on July 31, 2015, during the iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour.

But on that Monday night in Melbourne, Bono’s usual rant halfway through Bullet gave way to a kitsch ramble that audaciously raised the prospect that Neighbours might be a force for good in the world.

It went like this (listen from 2min 05 sec):

Neighbours, everybody needs good Neighbours (which was the show’s theme song)
So Kylie Minogue comes up to me see
So Jason Donovan comes up to me see
So the President of the United States of America comes up to me see
And he wants to ask me a question
He says Bono, we don’t get Neighbours over here in the United States of America
That’s why I’m in such a bad mood, across the border see
That’s why I don’t think too much about what my panzer divisions are doing in central America Bono
If I can see Kylie and Jason man, I would be happy
The world would be at peace tonight
“I love that tune”, he says
Neighbours everybody’s got good…
I think that could be a big hit over here on the Billboard Hot 100
And I look at The Edge, he looks into my eyes and he says “Bono, I can see those fighter planes”
“I can see those fighter planes, in your head”
Play them to me Edge, show me what you see

A bit over the top? Sure.

But I think he was making the point that everyone needs good neighbours, using the central America/US conflict as an example.

In other words, be nice to each other. That goes for everyone.

The crowd at this show was the loudest I’ve ever heard at a gig. I was 13 at the time, sitting behind the stage, third row from the very top of the arena.

Before U2 hit the stage, I remember a guy, late teens to very early 20s, bowl haircut, impersonating Mick Jagger’s awkward stage moves while Jumping Jack Flash played over the PA. The audience gave him a wild reception.

I remember the Mexican wave, which went around and around and around and around and around and around…you get the idea.

When the lights went out to start the show? Utter pandemonium. Relentless.

I remember Bono falling backwards into the crowd during I Will Follow, carried by a solid foundation of sweaty arms.

I remember a woman handing him a bottle of champagne which was sprayed over those in the first few rows during Party Girl (“Don’t worry, it’s only the cheap stuff).

I remember him taking a hand-held spotlight and shining it on sections of the crowd at the end.

I remember never wanting to forget the show.

Couple of regrets though, I didn’t buy a T-shirt or a program. Being a 13-year-old, I barely had enough cash to buy mixed lollies at the milk bar.

Still got my ticket:


A few days later, Rob Duckworth interviewed the band on radio station Triple M’s The Midnight Show in Sydney on October 21, 1989. It was broadcast nationally, at a ridiculous hour for a Year 8 student, but I stayed up and taped it. I haven’t listened to it in a very long time, but for the purposes of this blog post, I thought I’d check it out.

Bono talks about the fans:

And we just feel that they are smart…audience, U2 audiences seem smart. They’re noisy bastards, and they’re louder than the band most nights. But in a way, they are what make U2 live special, I think. And um, they come to the concerts and I just, I’m taken aback lately, and I do think down here we do have something going, there’s something special going as well

Throughout the interview, you can hear him coughing and blowing his nose. It was the start of the bout of laryngitis which meant U2 had to postpone the remaining three Sydney shows (October 22, 24 and 25). Bono was under doctor’s orders to take a week off or he might cause damage to his throat. The band returned on November 17, 18 and 19 to play the postponed shows.

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Bullet the Blue Sky sound file courtesy U2start.com

See the set list for this show at U2gigs.com

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