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Adam Clayton

Adam Clayton
Clayton playing in Charlottesville, Virginia on 1 October 2009
Background information
Born (1960-03-13) 13 March 1960
Chinnor, Oxfordshire, England, UK
Genres Rock, alternative rock, post-punk
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter
Instruments Bass guitar, guitar, synthesizer, vocals
Years active 1976–present
Labels Island, Interscope
Associated acts U2, Automatic Baby, Passengers, Daniel Lanois, Little Steven
Notable instruments
Fender Precision Bass
Fender Jazz Bass
Warwick basses

Adam Charles Clayton (born 13 March 1960) is an English-born Irish musician best known as the bass guitarist of the Irish rock band U2.[1] He 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 "Gloria", "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]


  • Early life 1
  • U2 2
  • Style 3
  • Musical equipment 4
  • Side projects 5
  • Awards 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Early life

Adam Charles Clayton is the oldest child of Brian and Jo Clayton, born on 13 March 1960 in Chinnor, Oxfordshire, England. His father was an RAF pilot and then he moved into civil aviation; his mother moonlighted as a stewardess.[6] When Clayton was 4 years old, his father found work in Kenya flying for East African Airways.[6] The entire family was based in Nairobi—Clayton recalls this as the happiest period from his childhood years.[6] In 1965, the family moved to Malahide, County Dublin in Ireland, where Clayton's brother Sebastian was born.[6][7] The Clayton family became friends with the Evans family, with their sons Dik and Dave ("The Edge") who, along with Clayton, would later form the band Feedback, which eventually became U2.[7]

At the age of 8, Clayton was sent to a boarding school called Castlepark, in Dalkey.[6] Clayton did not respond well to boarding school.[6] He was not sports orientated or social, and although he was keen on music, the students were not allowed to listen to pop music or watch television.[6] As a result, Clayton joined the Gramphone Society, which met to listen to classical music. He also took piano lessons for a short time before quitting.[6] Clayton's early introduction to music was at the age of ten, listening to rock operas like Jesus Christ Superstar and Hair, and things that were midway between classical and popular music.[6]

Clayton changed schools when he was 13, joining St. Columba's College in Rathfarnham. He befriended people who used to listen the music that was popular at that time: The Who, The Beatles, The Grateful Dead, Carole King and others. Clayton bought a £5 acoustic guitar from a junk-shop near the Dublin quays that he used to start learning chords and songs.[6] One of his friends persuaded him to form a band in which he would play the electric guitar and Clayton would play bass guitar.

"Adam was Mrs Burns because he did come over like an old woman sometimes."

—The Edge on how The Virgin Prunes nicknamed Clayton.[6]

His parents bought him a bass guitar at the age of 15 with the promise that he would commit himself to the instrument.[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 the Evans brothers, Bono, Ivan McCormick, and Peter Martin, who were two of Mullen's friends. McCormick and Martin left the band soon after its inception.

While the band was a five-piece (consisting of Bono, The Edge, Mullen, Dik Evans, and Clayton), it was known as Feedback. The name was subsequently changed to The Hype, but changed to "U2" soon after Dik left the band.[8] Clayton also served as the band's first manager before Paul McGuinness, a more experienced manager, was hired after Clayton had left school.[7]


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.[8] 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 (née Stewart), in which Clayton was the best man.[3]

"Life was pretty chaotic. I don't really like that kind of intensity, I don't like that sort of activity, so whilst I was able to go along with it, I wasn't really in control, it would be fair to say. Every night was a party, but I don't think I felt much contentment or peace, that's for sure. I'd be fine during the day, I'd be fine for the gig but afterwards it was too easy to go out all night or just keep drinking in your room. I was beginning to realize that every time I drank, I couldn't really be sure of the result. And it always made the next day worse. So I decided to lay off and stop drinking during the final leg of the tour."

—Adam Clayton [6]

Clayton made international headlines in August 1989 when he was arrested in Dublin for 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.[9]

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.[9] 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 1997'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 remained a bachelor for several decades until his marriage in 2013. During the early 1990s, he dated 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.[10] According to the Sunday Independent, he fathered a son in 2010. This was confirmed by Bono while introducing his bandmate during their 360 tour.[11] On 4 September 2013, Clayton married former human rights lawyer Mariana Teixeira de Carvalho in a ceremony in Dublin.[12] Originally from Brazil, Mariana now works as a director at a leading contemporary art gallery, Michael Werner in London and New York.[13]

In 2009 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.[14] At the subsequent trial that figure was stated to be €2.8 million.[15] The PA denied the charges but in 2012 was convicted by a jury of 181 counts of theft and sentenced to 7 years imprisonment.[16]


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".[7][17] His style includes Motown and reggae influences,[18] and cites artists such as Paul Simonon of The Clash as influences on his musical style.[17] When Clayton first joined the fledgling U2, he did not have formal training in the bass.[7] In the band's early years, he generally played simple parts in 4/4 time.[17] 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?"[19]

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 sang 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.[20] 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 keyboards on "City of Blinding Lights" and "Iris (Hold Me Close)".

Musical equipment

Throughout his career, Clayton has used both Precision and Jazz basses. His first bass, however, was a dark brown Ibanez Musician.[7] He previously used Ashdown amplifiers before switching to Aguilar Amplifiers. 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.[17] 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.

"So there I was, fifteen years old, with a dark brown Ibanez-copy bass guitar and no amp. I had no idea what I was supposed to do with it. Absolutely none. Not a clue. It just sounded good to me. Deep and fat and satisfying."

—Adam Clayton [6]

Clayton's basses include:

Adam Clayton with Warwick Star Bass, 2010

Side projects

Clayton has worked on several side projects throughout his career. He played (along with the other members of U2) on [29] 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.[30] They recorded the soundtrack while both Mullen and Clayton were in New York City for musical training.[7] 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][31][32] He also featured on Little Steven's 1999 album Born Again Savage. Adam Clayton is the leading ambassador for an Irish Mental Health charity campaign called 'Walk in My Shoes'. Adam is heavily involved in 'Walk in My Shoes' and is passionate about changing perceptions of mental health while helping to raise funds to provide mental health information, support and services to people in communities throughout Ireland who need it most. see


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


  1. ^ Taylor, Philip. "Adam Clayton biography". Archived from the original on 15 September 2007. Retrieved 6 September 2007. 
  2. ^ Lynskey, Dorian. "Different Class, Part 2" (reprint). Q magazine. Archived from the original on 16 October 2007. Retrieved 8 September 2007. 
  3. ^ a b c Lineage, David. "Adam Clayton Biography from @U2". Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 10 September 2007. 
  4. ^ a b c "U2: Biography".  
  5. ^ a b "The Grammy Awards". Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 27 September 2007. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr. U2 by U2. HarperCollins.  
  7. ^ a b c d e f g McCormick, Neil; Adam Clayton,  
  8. ^ a b McGee, Matt. "U2 Biography from @U2". Archived from the original on 17 September 2007. Retrieved 10 September 2007. 
  9. ^ a b Flanagan, Bill (1996). U2 : at the End of the World. New York: Delta.  
  10. ^ Egan, Barry. "U2’s Adam splits up with fiancee Susie (U2France)". Archived from the original on 19 May 2007. Retrieved 8 September 2007. 
  11. ^ "Achtung baby, Adam is the proud father of a little boy". 16 January 2011. Retrieved 29 May 2011. 
  12. ^ "U2's Adam Clayton ties the knot with Brazilian girlfriend -". 2013. Retrieved 5 September 2013. 
  13. ^ "Adam is the new George with his Mariana -". 2015. Retrieved 20 April 2015. 
  14. ^ "U2's Clayton secures order against former PA". 18 December 2009. Retrieved 22 September 2014. 
  15. ^ [2]. Irish Times. Friday, 22 June 2012. Retrieved on that date.
  16. ^ "Adam Clayton's former PA Carol Hawkins sentenced to seven years for stealing almost €3m". RTÉ News, Ireland. 6 July 2012. Retrieved 7 July 2012. 
  17. ^ a b c d Isola, Gregory. "Reluctant Rock Star: How U2's Adam Clayton Learned to Play – and Conquer the World Onstage (Bass Player, 11 November 2000)". Retrieved 8 September 2007. 
  18. ^ Bass Soup. "Adam Clayton's Bass Sound and Technique". Retrieved 8 September 2007. 
  19. ^ "Kings of the Celtic Fringe". NME magazine. 14 February 1981. Retrieved 5 November 2007. 
  20. ^ U2 Online. "Adam Clayton Biography". Archived from the original on 8 August 2007. Retrieved 8 September 2007. 
  21. ^ "Warwick Announces Adam Clayton Reverso Signature Bass".  
  22. ^ "Adam Clayton Signature Bass". Warwick. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  23. ^ "Warwick Custom Shop Basses: Streamer CV for Adam Clayton". Warwick. 6 August 2013. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  24. ^ "Adam Clayton Custom Shop Star Bass". U2: Stage And Studio. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  25. ^ "Robbie Robertson:Robbie Robertson". Archived from the original on 5 September 2007. Retrieved 8 September 2007. 
  26. ^ u2boy.n. "U2 Biography: Adam Clayton". u2boy.n. Retrieved 8 September 2007. 
  27. ^ McGee, Matt (2008). U2:A Diary. Omnibus Press. p. 138.  
  28. ^ "Acadie Album (Daniel Lanois)". Archived from the original on 4 August 2007. Retrieved 8 September 2007. 
  29. ^ Galvin, Peter. "Flyer review from Rolling Stone". Archived from the original on 17 October 2007. Retrieved 8 September 2007. 
  30. ^ Karger, Dave (7 June 1996). "They Shot, He Scored".  
  31. ^ """Amazon product overview and reviews of "Theme from Mission: Impossible. Archived from the original on 25 August 2007. Retrieved 8 September 2007. 
  32. ^ "Adam Clayton solo discography". Archived from the original on 4 October 2007. Retrieved 8 September 2007. 

External links

  • Official U2 website
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