In the recent weeks, I strayed from highlighting bands featured early in the history of the blog. That is going to be remedied today because I’m looking back at one of the best-selling acts of all time—but one I haven’t talked about since 2014. In fact, this group was the second-ever post within the ‘Tunes Tuesday’ umbrella. What a great eight year run it has been!
In 1976, Larry Mullen, Jr was fourteen years old attending school in Dublin, Ireland. He posted a note on the school bulletin board about searching for musicians to start a band. A handful of kids responded and the first practice took place in Mullen’s kitchen. A guy named Paul Hewson and another named David Evans showed up that day—and if you fast forward just a few years, they’d later be known as Bono and the Edge. While Larry felt he was kind of the leader due to assembling them all, Bono made it clear from the drop he was going to be “the guy”.
After some band member flux, they started going by the name Feedback because it was one of few technical terms the guys actually knew. They played a lot of punk rock covers, and their first paid gig was in 1977 at a high school show. They changed their name to The Hype shortly after and decided to move on from a member who was getting on to college, feeling he didn’t fit in anymore. Around March of 1978, they decided to change the group’s name yet again—this time going with U2 which was chosen out of six potentials because of the ambiguity and open-ended interpretation. That final name change seemed to flip a switch with the group.
Soon after adopting the new moniker, U2 won a paid talent contest in Ireland that came with a recording session. They also got noticed by Irish magazine Hot Press, where journalist Bill Graham introduced U2 to the man who became their manager. That gentleman set them up with demos and eventually a record deal. The first studio album came out in 1980 and last time I discussed their fifth studio album, Joshua Tree, which just so happens to be one of the best selling in history. Today however, I’m fixated on their seventh commercial release titled Achtung Baby that debuted in November of 1991.
After the critical acclaim of Joshua Tree, U2 was looking for an identity. Their follow-up album was heavily criticized and the band needed a new direction. They decided on a darker, introspective album for their seventh, shifting to a more alt-rock theme—one that was going to become more of the rage, but in a very different manner. The style incorporated a bit of an industrial rock theme at times, and even snuck some electronic dance in spots. It was clear U2 was trying to do something they’d never done before.
Let’s talk charts: top five in 11 different countries, including No. 1 in the U.S. Let’s talk singles: five commercially released from the album, including “One” which would be one of their biggest anthem tracks which, even today, is constantly on the radio. Finally, let’s talk sales: $25 million (a conservative estimate) of sales to date. Did their experimental album work? I should think so. Critically, most had nothing but the highest of praise. One called U2, “the most impressive band in the entire world.”
I think the personal critic in me feels that the album can’t be a top-tier, five-plus-star effort—only because it’s a hair below Joshua Tree—but I won’t quibble much if you like to call them 1a and 1b. Achtung Baby won a couple of Grammy Awards as well, sort of cementing U2 as one of those bands that not only the fans knew and other bands respected, but one that had full recognition of the industry. When you get to that point, what else is left?
U2 has never stopped touring and making music since 1976. What’s even crazier? The band’s still the same four guys from the kitchen too—I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that. I didn’t get too much into my personal feel of the record, but it’s U2—do I really have to? Sing along with the funky guitar intro to Mysterious Ways and enjoy your Tuesday!
Top 3 Tracks:
- Even Better Than The Real Thing
- Mysterious Ways