The roots of U2 can be traced to Dublin’s Mount Temple High School, where Bono, The Edge, drummer Larry
Mullen and bassist Adam Clayton began rehearsing together. What the players lacked in skill was made up
for in invention. For instance, the unique chordal style of the Edge came largely from his inability to
play complicated leads. U2 quickly gathered a local following in Ireland and found a manager in Paul McGuiness,
who has remained with them. The group signed with Island Records in 1980.As the group ventured into the 80’s, they renounced the electronic gimmicks that were considered “standard issue”
in music, opting for a more honest, open approach. U2’s first albums, “Boy” and “October,” combined religious
imagery with youthful explorations in hope to create such songs as “I Will Follow” and “Gloria.” Videos for
both singles were heavily played on a young MTV which helped to propel the band into the limelight of pop music.
With the release of “War” (produced, like the earlier albums, by Steve Lillywhite), U2’s political consciousness
began to evolve. In the track “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” the group focused on “the troubles” in Northern Ireland.
They wrapped up their 1983 tour with a live EP, “Under A Blood Red Sky,” recorded at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado.
The next studio venture for U2 paired the group with legendary producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois. The result
was “The Unforgettable Fire.” “Fire” generated the group’s first top 40 single in the ode to Martin Luther King Jr.,
“(Pride) In The Name of Love.” By this time U2 was headed for superstardom. “Rolling Stone” had proclaimed U2
the “band of the Eighties.” It was at this time that the group made a historic appearance at Live Aid and hit the
road with Lou Reed, Sting, Peter Gabriel and a host of rock greats for the Conspiracy of Hope Tour benefiting Amnesty
U2 hit #1 with the release of “The Joshua Tree” in 1987. The release spawned the #1 hits “With Or Without You” and
“Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” The album also earned the band their first two (of seven) Grammys, for
Album of the Year and Best Rock Performance.
That following year U2 released the album “Rattle and Hum,” an album of live tracks combined with studio material and
guest appearances by Bob Dylan and blues legend B.B. King. A subsequent documentary was hailed by critics and fans of
the band worldwide. The group was featured on 1990’s “Red Hot + Blue” performing Cole Porter’s classic “Night and Day.” The next studio
release from the band, “Achtung Baby,” shot to #1, drawing more rave reviews. The album marked a conscious departure
from the band’s trademark sound and into the realm of “metallic textures, funkier beats and intimate, world weary love songs.” The album featured such hits as “One,” “Even Better Than The Real Thing,” and “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses.” Another single “Until the End of the World” was featured in the Wim Wenders film of the same name.
In 1992, U2 embarked on one of rock’s most ambitious tours – Zoo TV. The flashy multimedia circus was a sharp contrast
to the simplicity of previous tours. Nevertheless, fans flocked to the shows. For the tour, like David Bowie, Bono
adopted the personalities of a cast of characters. Macphisto was used for show encores and the Fly for press conferences.
As the tour wound down, the band reentered the studio to record “Zooropa.” The album featured another single used by
Wim Wenders, “Stay (Far Away, So Close)” in the film “Far Away, So Close” – a sequel to the classic “Wings of Desire.”
Other singles from the 1993 album included the experimental “Numb” and “Lemon.” 1993, U2 renewed its long standing contract with Island records for a reported $170 million. Two years later the band proved
their worth with a hit single on the “Batman Forever” soundtrack – “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me.” Other recent projects
include “Melon,” a remix album available only to U2 fan club members, and “Original Soundtracks Volume I.” The “Soundtracks”
album was created by the Passengers, a collaboration that included the band plus Luciano Pavarotti and avant-gardists Howie B,
Brian Eno and Holi. Band members worked on some actual soundtracks, too: Bono and Edge performed the theme to the James Bond remake
“Goldeneye,” and Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen hit the charts in the summer of ’96 with the “Theme From Mission: Impossible.”
Now, in early 1997, U2 are preparing for the release of their first album (“Pop”) and first concert tour
since 1993. The side projects and singles suggest that the band is up to something new and exciting, and U2 promise this year’s
massive PopMart tour will be even more spectacular than Zoo TV.
In October 2000, U2 released their first album in 3 years, All That You Can’t Leave Behind. “Beautiful Day,” the first single (and accompanying video) from the album, was released in late summer the same year. It marked a triumphant return for the band and its rock n’ roll roots, and it led to the band dominating the Grammy Awards two years in a row. In 2001, the single, “Beautiful Day,” won Song of the Year, Record of the Year and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or a Group. The album wasn’t eligible until 2002 when U2 took home four Grammys, including Record of the Year, Best Rock Album, Best Rock Performance and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or a Group.
Source(s): Rolling Stone Rock & Roll Encyclopedia, RollingStone.com