On this day in music history: December 7, 1991 – “Achtung Baby”, the seventh studio album by U2 hits #1 on the Billboard Top 200 for 1 week. Produced by Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno, it is recorded at Hansa Ton Studios in Berlin, Germany, STS Studios, Elsinore Studios and Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin, Ireland from October 1990 – September 1991. the band re-invent their sound, experimenting with industrial, electronic dance rhythms and alternative rock. The result win the veteran Irish band a new generation of fans and regains critical favor lost on their previous album “Rattle And Hum”. It spins off five singles including “Mysterious Ways” (#9 Pop) and “One” (#10 Pop). “Baby” becomes U2’s second largest selling album after “The Joshua Tree” with worldwide sales of over eighteen million copies. It wins a Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal in 1993, with producers Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno winning the Producer Of The Year Grammy (Non-Classical) (tied with L.A. Reid & Babyface) for their work on the album. “Achtung Baby” is reissued for its twentieth anniversary in 2011 in various editions including a mammoth ten disc box set containing six CD’s, four DVD’s, five 7" vinyl singles and other memorabilia connected with the album. "Achtung Baby" is certified 8x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 23, 2004 – “How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb”, the eleventh studio album by U2 is released (UK release date is on November 22, 2004). Produced by Steve Lillywhite, Chris Thomas, Jacknife Lee, Nellee Hooper, Flood, Daniel Lanois, Brian Eno and Carl Glanville, it is recorded at Hanover Quay in Dublin, Ireland and in the South Of France from November 2003 – August 2004. “Atomic Bomb” like its predecessor “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” features a more traditional rock sound. In between sessions for the album, a demo recording featuring unfinished versions of several songs is stolen during a magazine photo shoot in France. Surprisingly, the demos are not leaked on to the internet. The album is a major critical and commercial success upon its release. Along with the standard CD issue, it is also released as a limited edition set with a bonus DVD featuring a documentary on the making of the album, and five music videos featuring live performances at Hanover Quay in Dublin. It spins off four singles including “Vertigo” (#1 Modern Rock, #31 Pop) and “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own” (#29 Modern Rock, #97 Pop). The album wins a total of nine Grammy Awards in 2005 and 2006 including Album Of The Year and Song Of The Year". “How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb” spends one week at number one on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 3x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 19, 1991 – “Achtung Baby”, the seventh studio album by U2 is released. Produced by Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno, it is recorded at Hansa Studios in Berlin, Germany, Elsinore Studios in Dalkey, Ireland, STS Studios and Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin, Ireland from October 1990 – September 1991. It marks the beginning of a major shift in U2’s musical direction. The album takes its title from a line in the Mel Brooks comedy “The Producers”, both as a tongue in cheek reference to the bands’ recording in Germany, and to add some levity to intensity of the music contained on it. Initial sessions for the album take place at Hansa Studios in Berlin which prove so arduous that the band nearly breaks up in frustration. The writing and recording of the track “One” (#10 Pop) allows them to regroup and creatively refocus their efforts, leading the way to the rest of the albums’ completion. The resulting work is a huge critical and commercial success, spinning off five singles including “Mysterious Ways” (#9 Pop) and “Even Better Than The Real Thing” (#32 Pop). The albums’ cover art, designed by Steve Averill, features a series of various photos (taken by photographer Anton Corbijn) also includes a full frontal nude picture of bassist Adam Clayton on the back cover. The original limited vinyl LP release features this photo uncensored, while the CD pressing includes the photo with an “X” drawn over Clayton’s private parts. The album is remastered and reissued to commemorate its twentieth anniversary in October of 2011, including a single CD, a double CD “Deluxe Edition”, and double vinyl LP releases (with a bonus 12" EP featuring remixes, pressed on blue vinyl). Also released is a “Super Deluxe” that contain six CD’s, four DVD’s and a ninety-two page hardbound book. And finally, a limited (to only six hundred copies) and numbered “Über Deluxe” edition containing all of the contents of the Super Deluxe version, plus the double LP set, and reproductions of all of the albums’ singles pressed on clear vinyl, and packaged with their corresponding picture sleeves. It also features a copy of Propaganda, the bands’ fan club magazine, art prints of the album cover artwork, four badges, stickers, and a pair of Bono’s “Fly” sunglasses. “Achtung Baby” debuts at number one on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 8x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 31, 2000 – “All That You Can’t Leave Behind”, the tenth studio album by U2 is released. Produced by U2, Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno, it is recorded at Windmill Lane Studios, Hanover Quay Studios, Westland Studios and Totally Wired Studios in Dublin, Ireland from Late 1998 -Mid 2000. Following the “PopMart” world tour, U2 take a much needed break before returning to work. Though the tour is successful, the commercial response to the album “Pop” is disappointing, becoming the lowest selling U2 release since “October”. Spending much of the 90’s experimenting with their sound, the band are acutely aware that it is time for another reinvention at the turn of the new millennium. Pulling back slightly from the more experimental aspects of “Achtung Baby”, “Zooropa” and “Pop”, U2 put more emphasis on melody and hooks, making a return to the sound that brought them to prominence during the 80’s. The initial writing and demo sessions last for three weeks before the band move to another studio to begin recording. A few months later, a laptop computer containing lyrics and song ideas written by Bono is stolen out of his car in Dublin. The singer offers a £2,000 reward for its safe return, and is given back to him by the man who had purchased the computer from a second hand shop, unaware at first that it had been stolen. Continuing to work over the next year on the album, it is finally completed by the Summer of 2000. Production wise, some songs on “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” maintain their experimental edge, but do not overwhelm the quality of the songs themselves. This more basic approach also extends to the album packaging, featuring stark black & white photography taken by photographer Anton Corbijn in the terminal of Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. The band also shoot the music video for the first single “Beautiful Day” (#21 Pop) is also filmed at the airport, directed by Jonas Akerlund (Madonna, Prodigy). The album is released to an enthusiastic reception and returns U2 back to the top of the charts. It spins off three more singles including “Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” (written for Bono’s friend, late INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence) (#52 Pop), “Elevation” (#8 Modern Rock) and “Walk On” (#10 Modern Rock). “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” is also showered with accolades, winning a total of seven Grammy Awards including Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal. It also wins for Record Of The Year in 2001 and 2002 for the singles “Beautiful Day” and “Walk On”, making them the first artists to win the award in consecutive years since Roberta Flack had in 1973 and 1974. “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” peaks at number three on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 4x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 20, 1980 – “Boy”, the debut album by U2 is released. Produced by Steve Lillywhite, it is recorded at Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin, Ireland from March – September 1980. The Irish rock band’s first album was originally to have been produced by Joy Division producer Martin Hannett, but he drops out of the project, still bereaved over the suicide of JD’s lead singer Ian Curtis. Many of the songs focus on the trials and tribulations experienced during adolescence. The album spins off two singles including “I Will Follow” which givea the Irish band a toehold in the US, peaking at #20 on the Mainstream Rock charts. They support the album by touring the UK and US. The original European release of the album features a photograph of a young Irish boy named Peter Rowen. He is the younger brother of Virgin Prunes vocalist “Guggi” (aka Derek Rowen), a childhood friend of lead singer Bono. Peter is also featured on the cover of several other U2 albums and singles over the years including on the cover of “War” in 1983. The original US LP cover instead includes a photo of the band when the American arm of Island Records fears the band will be accused of pedophilia by featuring a bare chested, waifish looking pre-pubescent child on the cover. The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 2008, with a deluxe boxed edition (issued in Europe and South America only) featuring a bonus with single edits, B-sides and live tracks. The set also comes packaged with a T-shirt featuring the original album cover photo printed on the front, and the members of U2 on the back. First released on CD in 1986, it is remastered and reissued in 2008. The US reissue is a two disc set with the first containing the original twelve song album. The second disc contains fourteen additional bonus tracks including alternate mixes, single edits and previously unreleased live performances. The UK release features the same track listing, with a limited edition set containing a T-shirt which is sold exclusively through HMV record stores in the UK. The album is also reissued as a 180 gram vinyl LP the same year. “Boy” peaks at number sixty three on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 12, 1981 – “October”, the second album by U2 is released. Produced by Steve Lillywhite, it is recorded at Compass Point Studios in Nassau, Bahamas in April 1981 and Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin, Ireland from July – August 1981. Immediately after the end of the tour in support of their debut album “Boy”, U2 begin writing material for their sophomore release. The song “Fire” is actually written and recorded while the band are taking a break from their first tour, recording it at Island Records’ founder Chris Blackwell’s Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas. The remainder of the sessions take place over the Summer at Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin. With Bono, the Edge and Larry Mullen, Jr. involved in the Shalom Fellowship, a Christian faith group that three members belong to, is influential in the songs written for the new album. With bassist Adam Clayton not sharing the same spiritual values as the other three, and with Bono, Edge and Larry torn between the “rock & roll lifestyle” they’re living and their faith, it threatens to tear the band apart. Having come from a family where his parents were Catholic and Protestant respectively, Bono is able to reconcile the differences between his religious beliefs and drive to be a successful musician after manager Paul McGuinness convinces him not to leave the band. U2 suffer another set back during the recording sessions when Bono loses a briefcase filled with lyrics for the in progress songs, leading him to largely improvise new ones during the two months it takes to complete the recording. The album is initially met with a mixed and decidedly less enthusiastic response than their debut “Boy”, and for many years is the lowest selling album of U2’s career. In later years, the transitional release is reassessed more favorably and is seen as the bridge to their next album “War” and beyond. It spins off two singles including “Fire” (#35 UK, #4 IRE) and “Gloria” (#55 UK, #10 IRE). In the US, the music video for “Gloria” is the first clip from U2 to receive significant airplay on MTV, which helps increase their exposure and growing fan base. “October” is remastered and reissued on CD in 2008, as a standard single disc, a deluxe two disc edition with the second CD containing live tracks and the songs “A Celebration”, “Trash, Trampoline and the Party Girl”, and “J. Swallo”, previously released on singles only. A remix of the track “Tomorrow” issued on the compilation album “Common Ground” is also included. “October” peaks at one hundred four on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 10, 1988 – “Rattle And Hum”, the sixth album by U2 is released. Produced by Jimmy Iovine, it is recorded at Sun Studios in Memphis, TN, Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin, Ireland (studio tracks), Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, AZ, Justin Herman Plaza, Embarcadero Center in San Francisco, CA and McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, CO (live tracks) from Mid 1987 – Early 1988. Named for a lyric in the song “Bullet The Blue Sky”, the seventeen-track double LP serves as an accompanying soundtrack to the film documenting the US leg of the “Joshua Tree Tour” in 1987. It combines live recordings along with several new songs recorded in the studio both in Ireland and in the US, including a collaboration with blues legend B.B. King on “When Love Comes To Town” (#68 Pop, #2 Mainstream Rock). The album and film receive mixed reviews from critics, feeling that it is “misguided and bombastic”, and that the band come across as “pretentious”. But both are well received by the public, and is and major success for U2. It spins off four singles including “Desire” (#3 Pop) and “Angel Of Harlem” (#14 Pop). Much like the singles for “The Joshua Tree”, Island Records issues the 7" singles with standard paper picture sleeves and printed on heavier cardboard stock. The release of the first single “Desire” comes in a limited edition gatefold picture sleeve with the inner spread featuring a black and white photo of the band taken by photographer and video director Anton Corbijn. “Rattle And Hum” spends six weeks at number one on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 5x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 1, 1984 – “The Unforgettable Fire”, the fourth album by U2 is released. Produced by Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno, it is recorded at Slane Castle in County Meath, Ireland and Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin, Ireland from May 7 – August 5, 1984. The band’s first collaboration with producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, it marks the beginning of a dramatic shift in U2’s sound, showing a greater willingness to experiment with different sonic textures than before. Initially, Island Records boss Chris Blackwell tries to talk them out of working with Eno, feeling that he will divert them into “avant-garde nonsense”, but the band eventually prevail in their choice of producers. The collaboration turns out to be an inspired one, with U2 pushing their musical boundaries further, as their popularity continues to rise. The albums’ title is inspired by art exhibit about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima that band sees while touring Japan. It spins off four singles including “Pride (In The Name Of Love)” (#33 US Pop #2 Mainstream Rock), a tribute to Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.. U2 also release a long form video titled “The Unforgettable Fire Collection” that includes versions one and two of the music videos for “Pride”, the title cut and “A Sort Of Homecoming”. It also includes a live performance clip of “Bad” as well as a thirty minute long documentary on the making of the album. The documentary is later reissued on DVD in 2003 as part of the release “U2 Go Home: Live from Slane Castle”. The album is remastered and reissued in 2009 for its twenty fifth anniversary on CD in standard, deluxe editions, as a limited edition box set, also reissuing it on vinyl for the first time in many years. “The Unforgettable Fire” peaks at number twelve on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 3x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: September 1, 1979 – “Three”, by U2 is released. Produced by U2 and Chas de Whalley, it is recorded at Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin, Ireland in Summer 1979. The three song 7" and 12" EP (all written by U2) is the first release by the fledging Irish rock band, and is initially issued on CBS Records only in Ireland as a limited edition of 1000 individually numbered copies. Consisting of the songs “Out Of Control”, “Stories For Boys” and “Boy/Girl”, the former two are re-recorded for their debut album “Boy” in 1980. The EP is reissued several more times (six in all) by CBS in the UK after U2’s breakthrough success with “War”. “Boy/Girl” and “Stories For Boys” become staples of their early live performances, but are dropped not long after the “Boy” tour in 1980. “Out Of Control” however, is performed consistently by the band over the years, mostly recently on the “Elevation”, “Vertigo” and “U2 360° Tour” shows. “Three” receives its first CD release in 2008 as part of the remastered release of their first album “Boy”.
On this day in music history: August 8, 1987 – “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” by U2 hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks. Written by U2, it is the second chart topping single for the rock band from Dublin, Ireland. The song originates as a demo recording built up from a drum pattern created by drummer Larry Mullen, Jr.. Lyrically, much of the song is influenced by gospel music that Bono is listening to at the time, and begins writing the lyrics based on themes of questioning personal faith, and looking for spiritual enlightenment. From there, guitarist The Edge comes up with the songs main chord sequence, with the rest of song coming together in short order. The track is recorded at Danesmoate House just outside of Dublin, an 18th century Georgian styled home, and the former residence of Irish politician William Southwell (now owned by U2 bassist Adam Clayton). Initially, “I Still Haven’t Found” wasn’t in the running for release as a single. The band had originally intended “Red Hill Mining Town” to be issued as the follow up to “With Or Without You”. They change their minds when they are unhappy with the music video shot for “Red Hill”, and also end up dropping the song from the upcoming “Joshua Tree Tour” when Bono has difficulty singing the song in pre-tour rehearsals. A video for “I Still Haven’t Found” is quickly shot on the Fremont Street casino strip in Las Vegas in one evening (on April 12, 1987) with director Barry Devlin, after a concert performance in the city. The single is released as the follow up to their first chart topper “With Or Without You” on May 25, 1987. Entering the Hot 100 at #51 on June 13, 1987, it climbs to the top of the chart eight weeks later. “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” receives Grammy nominations for both Record and Song Of The Year in 1988.