Me & U2 – Jane Ollerenshaw

This is the 2nd in the series of Me & U2 where U2 Down Under finds out more about the band’s Australian fans.

Name: Jane Ollerenshaw

City: Melbourne

When did you become a U2 fan?
It would have been about 1981 when I heard the Boy album. It was different to all the other music around. I loved the energy and rawness of this band.

IMG_1154_editedWhen did you first see U2 live?
I went to the first Australian shows in Melbourne (Live Under Australian Skies Tour, September 1984), at the Melbourne Sports and Entertainment Centre (today known as the Westpac Centre). I got myself to the 2nd row. Someone handed out cut up pieces of paper with the instruction of ‘’when Bono touches the mic, throw the paper in the air”.

The reaction from Bono was amazing. The show blew me away. When they left the stage I remember crying and I looked around and others were doing the same.

I went to another one of these Melbourne shows, but my tickets were up the back so I used my ticket to get in the main entrance, then used the ticket from the other night to gain access to the floor area with my finger over the seating number ( the cheekiness of youth).

I had bought a red rose to give to Bono and got myself up the front this time knowing the crowd would rush the stage when the support act came on and security had no manpower to put people back. My plan worked and Bono took my rose and sang to me (no, I don’t remember the song).

You’ve actually done what many Australian U2 fans dream of doing, seeing the band live in Europe. Tell us how that came about?
My parents are British and, when I was 16, they asked if I would like to go to England to see family. I was already a huge fan at this stage, so I went over there. Why not?

When I went to England, there was a show in Milton Keynes (The Longest Day concert, June 22, 1985). I didn’t even know where that was, but being a bright-eyed 16-year-old, I just thought I’d get a train/bus and go there. I got to the venue two days before the show and it was raining and cold and I had nowhere to stay.

I walked miles to the venue and some lovely people who owned a café took pity on me and let me stay with them for the night. The next day I snuck into the outdoor venue and some workers also took pity on me and gave me a job to do – painting the fence at the front of the stage.

Jane Ollerenshaw and Bono at Milton Keynes, 1985.

While I was there with paintbrush in hand, U2 came on stage for their soundcheck. It was pretty obvious I was a fan, not a worker, and after the soundcheck Bono asked me to come and have a cup of tea with him. He was so lovely and worried about me being so young and was quite shocked I had made the trip on my own.

The Milton Keynes show was huge. REM were on the bill along with The Ramones. I was at the front and crushed. Security kept trying to get me out of the front, but I would not let them. When U2 came on, I must have been getting really badly crushed, as the security guys actually pulled me out against my will. I was devastated that I had gone through so many hours only to be dragged out. I watched the rest of the show from the back, uncrushed and exhausted. After the show I had nowhere to stay and no idea of how to get to the town. I was so tired I just fell asleep under a bridge.

I then saw a newspaper clipping that U2 were playing in Belgium, so I thought I’ll go there. I went with a tour group where we got a coach and then a ferry, then another coach to the venue. When the bus pulled up, I did my usual thing and ran to the venue so I could again snag a front stage possie (Aussie slang for ‘position’, if you’re reading this outside of Australia).

The show was awesome and Bono saw me in the crowd and said “this song is for someone who is a very long way from home”. He looked directly at me and sang A Sort of Homecoming. This was an amazing show. When it finished I realised I did not know where the bus I had got there on was parked. I was in a strange country where people didn’t speak English and a lot were drunk.

I spent two hours walking around trying to remember where my bus was and worried because if I did not find it, I would miss my ferry back to London. Just when I was getting really distressed, I looked among the sea of people and saw someone I recognised as being on the bus. Lucky!

What were the band members/crew like?
I only spoke to Bono and Adam, both were so friendly and I think they were genuinely concerned that I was doing this travel as a young girl.

Bono gives his all during that famous Live Aid performance.

And you were at the Live Aid gig that basically put them on the map. What are your recollections of that day?
My last overseas show was LiveAid (July 13, 1985). I slept out at Wembley Stadium for three nights so I could secure front row for this once-in-a-lifetime gig. I got my front row spot. What an amazing day. It was hot and had such a great vibe. When U2 came on, the crowd was going nuts. It is hard to find words to describe this day, it was so big. At the end of the day I remember just being so exhausted. I had not eaten or drank all day and was so tired. The crowds to get to the Tube (London Underground) were huge, and I just ended up falling asleep on the grass near the train station and waking up about 4am. My parents in Australia were greeted with photos of the concert in The Age with a crowd shot, and their daughter smack in the middle of the front row.

Could you see Bono dancing with the girl he pulled out of the crowd?
Yes, I could. Of course, I wanted it to be me, as did every other female there that day.

Bono in Melbourne, Australia, 1989 Lovetown Tour. Photo by Jane Ollerenshaw.

The black and white pics of Bono you took, where were they taken?
They were at the Melbourne shows when they played the National Tennis Centre (now known as Rod Laver Arena). I went to two of these shows and they were during the soundcheck (Lovetown Tour, 1989).

Did you get to speak to him and, if so, did he remember you?
No, they were getting so big by then. Their security guys were very protective of the band.

Of all the shows you’ve seen, which one would you love to see again?
The first show at the Melbourne Entertainment Centre. Basic stage, crazy enthusiastic crowd.

Favourite U2 song?
New Years Day.

Favourite U2 album?
Under a Blood Red Sky was amazing. It captured the energy of the band so well.

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