Adam Charles Clayton (born March 13, 1960 in Chinnor, Oxfordshire, England), is an English-born musician. He is best known as the bass player of the rock band U2. Often referred by Bono as the poshest member of the band, Clayton is well known for his bass playing on songs like "Where the Streets Have No Name", "New Year's Day", and "With or Without You".
Adam was born the eldest child of Brian, an RAF pilot, and Jo Clayton in Oxfordshire, England on 13 March 1960. At the age of five, the family moved to Yellow Walls Road in Malahide near Dublin, where sister Sarah and brother Sebastian were born.
Adam attended private boarding school St. Columba's in Rathfarnham, but hated it. Being a bit of a hippy, Adam's freewheeling personality was at odds with the structured environment. He later switched to Mount Temple High School (Ireland's first ecumenical school), where he was to meet U2 bandmates Paul "Bono" Hewson, Dave "The Edge" Evans and Larry Mullen Jr. Mullen had posted an advertisement for musicians. Adam ignored it at first, believing it was a school-sponsored event. When he discovered that it wasn't, he showed up at the first practice, which also included Dik Evans, Dave's older brother. When Dik Evans left, the fledgling band that would become U2 was created. They were known first as Feedback, then The Hype. He also served as the band's first manager before Paul McGuinness, a more experienced manager, was hired.
Adam's ambiguous religious beliefs caused a rift with his three outspoken Christian bandmates which peaked between the time of their second album, October (1981) and their third album, War (1983). Reportedly, Clayton was being treated as a bit of an outsider until manager Paul McGuinness came to his aid. To smooth over the rift, Adam was asked to be Bono's best man at his wedding.
In 1986, U2 recorded what is considered by many to be their first masterpiece: 1987's The Joshua Tree album, at Danesmoate House. Adam later bought the home for approximately €380,000. It is hidden away behind Taylors Pub on Kellystown Road, Rathfarnham.
Adam's name made world headlines in August 1989 when he was arrested in the car park of the Blue Light pub in Barnacullia Dublin and charged with possession of a small amount of cannabis. He avoided a conviction by making a sizable donation to charity.
For many years, Adam appeared to be the confirmed bachelor of the group while his three bandmates were married or involved in steady relationships. But on April 10, 2006, the band's website, U2.com, announced Adam's engagement to Suzanne "Susie" Smith, a record company executive based in London and a former assistant to U2 manager Paul McGuinness. The couple, who had dated for 10 years before making this commitment, are planning to marry in 2007.
U2's sound is essentially built around The Edge's effects-laden guitar work and Bono's poetic lyrics. While Adam Clayton will probably never be confused with Cream's Jack Bruce or The Who's John Entwistle, Clayton's often uncomplicated bass playing serves as a solid foundation for U2's songs. Part of the reason that Clayton's basslines are so uncomplicated is due to the fact that upon joining the band, he could scarcely play bass at all.
Even on songs where the basslines are busier and more up front in the mix (as it is on "Gloria", "The Three Sunrises", "One", and "Bullet the Blue Sky"), Adam Clayton's playing is a study in tasteful restraint and how to play for the song. Clayton switches between finger-style and pick-style with ease, and occasionally throws in some funk-style slapping and popping. In The 80's and 90's, Adam used various effects on his bass such as chorus, flangers, distortion and phasers. Now he tends to prefer a clean bass tone. In a recent interview with Bass Player Magazine, he said "We used to have a rule—it’s probably a good one—that only one instrument could have an effect on it at any time. It’s usually Edge".
Lead vocalist Bono describes Adam as the "jazz man" of the band in an interview with 60 minutes (Nov 2005). Elaborating on the unpredictability of Adam's nature, Bono says "(You) never know what he's going to say, but more importantly, you never know what he's going to play". Bono proceeds to cite the band's hit song, Bullet the Blue Sky, as a song with a weird sounding bassline, citing that Clayton is playing in a different key from the rest of the band. (In point of fact, however, while Bono states his source as none other than The Edge himself, this is mistaken - as the record clearly demonstrates, the vocal melody line, Clayton's bass riff and the Edge's guitar parts are all in the key of E flat minor).
Clayton's stage style was a major, positive surprise during the Vertigo tour (2004-2006). The bassist would walk along the catwalk during at least one song per concert, generally "Where The Streets Have No Name" (during the chorus of which, he has played on recent tours a lead bassline reminiscent of Peter Hook's style, who Clayton has said he admires, ), and his excursions away from the stage would be warmly cheered by the crowd. Female fans on U2 websites also have reported receiving smiles and winks and even talking to the bassist during the show. On one recent show held in São Paulo, Brazil, Clayton was specially uninhibited during the introdution to "Bullet The Blue Sky", teasing the crowd with the initial, spaced bass notes. As noted by many U2 concert-goers, this is a 180 degree turnabout from the Adam Clayton of the Elevation tour era (2000-2001). U2 guitarist The Edge observes, "Adam's coming into his own as a performer on this tour. It's great to see him out there on the ramps, like really giving it loads. That hasn't been his interest for a few tours now. So it's nice to see that spirit back with Adam."
The main bass guitars used by Clayton throughout his career are the Fender Jazz Bass and the Fender Precision Bass. More recently, he has also used Lakland basses, Joe Osborne Signature and Darryl Jones Signature models. He also endorses Ashdown amplifiers and uses blue Herdim picks, as does fellow band member, The Edge.
In 1983 Adam made a rare singing appearance on "Endless Deep", a b-side to U2's "Sunday Bloody Sunday" single.
Adam and Bono, lead singer of U2, contributed to the 1984 African famine charity single "Do They Know It's Christmas?." Adam played bass.
On the 1995 album Original Soundtracks 1, Adam can be heard speaking the last verse on the song "Your Blue Room".
In 1996 Adam co-arranged, and spoke on, "Tomorrow ('96 Version)", a rerecording of a U2 song originally featured on the October album.
Adam was winner of the Best Bassist award in the Orville H. Gibson Guitar Award in both 2001 and 2002.
Though he is the bass player for one of the biggest bands in the world, Clayton did not have any formal music training until 1996.
For the song "40," when played live, Adam and The Edge trade instruments, with Adam playing guitar and The Edge playing the bass.
Adam played bass on Robbie Robertson's 1987 self-titled album. Adam has also contributed to albums by Maria McKee.
Adam Clayton played bass on "Still Water" and "Jolie Louise" on Daniel Lanois 1989 album Acadie.
In 1994 Adam contributed to Nanci Griffiths 1994 album "Flyer" on the following songs - "These Days in an Open Book", "Don't Forget About Me", "On Grafton Street" and "This Heart". Larry Mullen Jr also contributed to these songs.
Adam and Larry Mullen Jr recorded soundtrack, including the theme song, for the 1996 film remake of the television series Mission: Impossible. In 1997 The "Theme From Mission: Impossible" was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Pop Instrumental Performance category. The song also became a popular hit, reaching the #8 on the Billboard chart in the US.