Guus Van Hove, Dutch Music Man Who Died in Joshua Tree, May Have Been Searching for Site of U2's Album Cover

European U2 fans hunt out the world's most famous Joshua Tree.
European U2 fans hunt out the world's most famous Joshua Tree.

Fascinating/tragic new details on the death of Dutch music-venue manager Guus Van Hove and his German wife Helena Nuellett on Monday:

It appears Van Hove, in his mid-40s, died near the spot where a famous Dutch photographer shot U2's album cover for Joshua Tree in 1986 -- a landmark Van Hove had told colleagues he "wanted to visit."

The website for his venue, 013, blogs today that Van Hove talked to co-workers "with a passion" about stopping by the pop-music landmark...

... on his trip to America.

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"It is ironic that he and Helen died on August 22 where one of Anton Corbijn's most impressive album covers is based," reads the post.

The site of the 1986 photo shoot seems to have become an attraction for European tourists: One U2 fan website based in Germany features a wealth of information on the history of the Joshua Tree location, and how to get there. From the site:

"Dutch photographer Anton Corbijn had abducted U2 into the desert to shoot some breath-taking pictures. In the expectation that deserts are usually rather hot places, U2 packed several bottles of sun lotion to avoid sun burn. Red noses they got anyway - yet, in contrast to popular wisdom, because of the cold!"

But Van Hove and Nuellett were traveling in the dead 104-degree heat of summer -- when an ample drinking supply is mandatory.

"Somebody not from this area won't necessarily be acclimated" to desert conditions, says Danyte Mockus, a PhD epidemiologist from the Riverside County Department of Public Health. "They don't expect it to be so hot when they get out there, and are likely unprepared."

Mockus says that if Van Hove and Nuellet were at all dehydrated, the transition from heat exhaustion (which can be marked by something as slight as a headache or dizziness) to fatal heat stroke might only have taken a couple hours.

She adds that Black Eagle Mine Road, where the couple was found, "seems like a strange place for them to be, so far off the beaten path," but guesses a language barrier between them and "off-road vehicles only" signs could have contributed to the problem.

This map is included in the German fan site's "U2 tour" guide:

Guus Van Hove
Guus Van Hove
Guus Van Hove
Guus Van Hove
013

(Though the actual location of the Joshua Tree in the photo is located some hours north, near Death Valley, it seems to be a common misconception, all over the Internet, that the tree's namesake park hosted the shoot.)

Corbijn, who shot the photo, is a legend in the Dutch art and music world. To this day, he's the creative director behind all U2's sleeve art (as well as Depeche Mode's). Colleagues from Van Hove's 013 venue write today that their late manager loved the music business "with an unbridled passion" -- and that they saw the same passion come through when he talked about visiting Joshua Tree this summer.

A lyric from the track "One Tree Hill," off Joshua Tree, is quoted by 013:

"We turn away to face the cold, enduring chill/ As the day begs the night for mercy, love/ A sun so bright it leaves no shadows/ Only scars carved stone write on the face of earth"

[@simone_electra/swilson@laweekly.com]


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