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Irish Rock Band U2 - Biography

screenshot-www.u2.com 2015-09-14 11-01-49

It all began in 1976 when Larry Mullen pinned a ‘musicians wanted’ ad to the notice board at Dublin’s Temple Mount School: Drummer seeks musicians to form band. ‘So on Saturday 25th September 1976, ‘ recalls Larry. ‘This odd group of people convened in my kitchen in Artane. And that’s where it started.’

Adam Clayton had discovered rock’n’roll as a thirteen year old, buying his first acoustic guitar and then talking his parents into buying him a bass guitar. ‘It just sounded good to me. Deep and fat and satisfying.’

From the beginning, U2 were marked out by their passion. “A band before we could play” was how Bono put it in early interviews. Edge remembers reading UK music papers NME and Sounds every week and then hearing about this ‘wild kid called Paul Hewson.’
The four teenagers, who initially called themselves ‘Feedback’, rehearsed in Larry’s Dublin kitchen, Bono on vocals, The Edge on guitar, Adam Clayton and Larry making up the rhythm section of bass and drums. Inspired by punk, but insulated from the standoffish cool by the Irish Sea, Feedback had become ‘The Hype’ and then ‘U2’ and were soon building a local reputation based on the passion of their performances.

‘I suppose a watershed moment would have been seeing The Jam on Top of the Pops, ‘remembers `Edge. ‘And realizing that actually not knowing how to play was not a problem… music was more about energy and trying to say something and not necessarily about great musicianship.’

After a brief period being managed by Adam, they had met up with Paul McGuinness but an early Irish release in 1979, the ‘U23’ EP on CBS, proved a one-off. They would wait until the following year to sign a long-term deal with Chris Blackwell’s Island Records. ‘I was amazed at the quality and talent and ambition of these four musicians and yet we couldn’t get a record deal.’recalls McGuinness. ‘Everyone in the world passed on U2 before we finally found a home at Island Records.

U2’s first single, 11 O’Clock Tick-Tock, was released in May 1980. Boy, their debut album, was released five months later – promoted by another single, I Will Follow , October, a year later and by May 1983, they had their first UK number 1 album with War, culmination of a trio of albums produced by Steve Lillywhite.

War featured hit singles New Year’s Day (the video shot in the snow in sub-zero Sweden) and Two Hearts Beat As One while the live album Under A Blood Red Sky released that November, cracked the US Billboard Top 30. It was also the end of a chapter for the band and the beginning of a quarter century of studio collaboration with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois. The Unforgettable Fire, recorded in a the ballroom of Ireland’s Slane Castle, spawned one of U2’s most iconic tracks in Pride (In The Name of Love) … as well as a whole lot more experimentation. ‘In America there was such a backlash when we put out The Unforgettable Fire,’ remembers Bono. ‘People thought we were the future of rock’n’roll and they went, ‘What are you doin’ with this doggone hippie Eno album?’ ‘We owe Eno and Lanois so much for seeing through to the heart of U2.’

Three years before the band had played support to Thin Lizzy at the annual Slane outdoor show. Seventeen years later, now established as the pre-eminent live act in rock’n’roll, they would return to play two sell-out shows themselves, later released on a live DVD, U2 Go Home’.

Back in the 1980’s, the nine-month tour following the release of ‘The Unforgettable Fire’ took in 54 US dates and led to the band’s unforgettable appearance at Live Aid in July 1985. ‘In the middle of Bad he went on a wander trying to pick out some girls to dance with,’ remembers Larry. ‘It felt like he was gone for ever. We were quite jittery as it was and when Bono went missing, a certain panic ensued.’

They didn’t realize it at the time but it was a set that would alert a whole new audience to their music but it was another two years before the band released, The Joshua Tree in 1987, the original working title of which was ‘The Two Americas’. If the constant touring had seen the US hypnotise U2, America was about to return the compliment – the singles With Or Without You and the gospel-flavoured I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, went to the very top of the US singles chart.

The Joshua Tree went on to sell more than 20 million copies and at the 1987 Grammy Awards, won the band ‘Album Of The Year’ and ‘Best Rock Performance’, the first of what has become a record-breaking run of Grammy wins. In 2007 a remastered version of the album was released to mark the 20th anniversary of its original release and in their book, ‘U2byU2’ the band talked in detail about how many of the songs came together. At the 1987 Grammy Awards, U2 won Album Of The Year and Best Rock Performance for The Joshua Tree, their first Grammy Award wins.

When Time Magazine put the band on its cover with the headline “Rock’s Hottest Ticket”, it was only the fourth time a band had made it to the cover – following The Beatles, The Band and The Who.

A year later, in 1988, U2 topped the British single charts and released in theatres the live concert movie ‘Rattle & Hum’ which chronicled the US leg of the 1987 Joshua Tree tour. The double album Rattle and Hum’ featured the number 1 single, Desire and a collaboration with BB King, ‘When Love Comes To Town’. The band finished their 1989 Lovetown Tour with a series of late December shows at The Point Depot in Dublin when Bono announced that ‘…this is the end of something for U2…we have to go away and … and dream it all up again.’

They did too, going away to Hansa Studios in Berlin with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois and dreaming up an album called Achtung Baby which took their music in a whole new direction. Band and production team had clashed over the direction they should be taking but out of this turmoil came one of their most acclaimed albums ever. As Daniel Lanois put it, ‘If you manage to get the four of them in one room with instruments in their hands you’re going to get results. That has a lot to do with my job – just getting them in the room and playing.’ With The Fly, Mysterious Ways, and One U2 began the nineties with a new sound, a new reputation on the dancefloor and a series of their biggest hits.

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