1976, drummer Larry Mullen put a note on the notice board at Mount
Temple Comprehensive School in Dublin, looking for people to join
a band. Four friends joined up: Paul Hewson (aka Bono Vox), Dave
Evans (aka The Edge), Dik Evans, and Adam Clayton. Dik soon left
to join the Virgin Prunes, while the remaining four formed 'Feedback'
before changing to 'The Hype' and then settling on U2.
The band's first break
came in 1978, winning £500 in a talent contest on St. Patrick's
Day (March 17th) in Limerick. Bono later recalled that they had
beaten off many technically better bands because of what he called
'a spark', which had produced a great atmosphere on stage. One
of the judges that week was Jackie Heyden of CBS Records, who
was impressed and arranged their first demo session. It was not
a great success - the band's inexperience and lack of studio time
combining to hinder their efforts - but it was a start.
Their reputation for
intense and electrifying live shows meant that U2 soon built up
a dedicated following of fans. One was Bill Graham, a journalist
with the music paper 'Hot Press', who was an early champion of
the band and also introduced them to their manager, Paul McGuinness.
A three-year contract with CBS Ireland soon followed, and with
it the release of their first record in September 1979 - a three
song EP entitled 'U23' comprising Out of Control, Boy/Girl, and
Stories for Boys. A second single followed, before the band signed
a world-wide contract with Island Records in March 1980.
Having secured the
all-important record deal, the rest of 1980 was spent touring
extensively. Despite this, the band also found time to record
their first LP, 'Boy', which received widespread critical acclaim
on its release in October. A year later came 'October' a much
more mellow and spiritual record that reflected the Christian
beliefs of Bono, Edge and Larry, and built on the success of 'Boy'.
U2 really hit the big
time with the 'War' LP, released in March 1983. Boosted by the
success of the 'New Year's Day' single, the record entered the
UK charts at Number 1, and established the band as a mainstream
act. Further tours followed through the US and Europe, where the
songs for the mini Live LP 'Under A Blood Red Sky' were recorded.
This record marked the end of an era, as it was the last record
before brian Eno and Daniel Lanois were engaged to work on future
The next record to
be released, 'The Unforgettable Fire', marked a distinct change
in direction towards a more complex style, moving away from the
'anthems' of the War era. Despite a few teething problems incorporating
the newer songs into the band's live set, the material was well
received on the subsequent European and US tours. The mini LP
'Wide Awake in America' was comprised of 2 new tracks and 2 live
recordings from the European tour. It was at this time, in April
1985, that 'Rolling Stone' magazine dubbed U2 "The Band of
That summer U2 played
in the Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium in London, where they
gave a memorable performance, as the song 'Bad' over-ran to about
12 minutes! Bono actually considered leaving the band at that
point, as he feared that his antics during that show (dancing
with girls from the audience while leaving the band to play on
regardless) had ruined the set for the rest of the band - Pride
had to be dropped from the set due to lack of time. Only when
a friend told him that it was one of the high points of the day
did he come round. The following year U2 played Self Aid, a benefit
for Ireland's unemployed, and joined the Conspiracy of Hope tour
for Amnesty International.
U2's 7th LP was 'The
Joshua Tree', another Eno/Lanois collaboration which was released
in March 1987. This was to be their most successful record to
date, becoming the fastest selling record ever in the UK on its
release, and reaching number one in 22 countries. The accompanying
sell-out tour included over 100 shows, and cemented their reputation
as what what 'Time' magazine called "Rock's hottest ticket".
On the 3rd leg, U2 even opened some of their own shows as a country
and western band known as The Dalton Brothers. During the tour,
director Phil Joanou was chosen to put together a film which would
capture the live shows, and also depict the band's perceptions
of America. Filmed chiefly in Denver Colorado and Tempe Arizona,
the resulting movie ('Rattle and Hum') and the LP of the same
name were released in October 1988. Taken from this LP, the single
'Desire' gave U2 their first UK mumber one single. Other songs
on the record, such as 'When Love Comes to Town' featured blues
legend BB King, and he joined U2 on the Love Town tour which concentrated
on Australia, New Zealand and Japan.
At the end of the 1980s,
U2 played a series of 4 concerts at The Point Depot in Dublin,
culminating with a show on New Year's Eve which was broadcast
throughout the world. Bono announced that night that it was "time
to go away and dream it all up again". This led some to believe
that U2 were considering splitting up, but those fears proved
to be unfounded with the release of 'Achtung Baby' in November
1991. A much more electronically processed record than their earlier
releases, it marked a new beginning in U2's career. The subsequent
ZooTV tour was a huge extravaganza which used giant video screens
to create a stunning visual spectacle, and at the end of each
show of the tour Bono attempted to call VIPs such as Bill Clinton,
Pavarotti, or Princess Diana.
On a break from the
tour, U2 recorded 'Zoooropa' which was released in July 1993.
Less commercially successful than previous releases, it was called
U2's most experimental work to date. It was to be 4 years before
their next LP was released, although they continued working on
various outside projects, such as the soundtrack for Batman Forever
which yielded the single 'Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me.
Larry and Adam worked on the 'Mission Impossible' soundtrack,
while Bono and Edge worked on 'Goldeneye'. U2 also donated songs
to good causes such as the AIDS fundraiser 'Red, Hot and Blue'
and 'A Very Special Christmas'.
In March 1997 U2 released
'Pop' which Edge described as being "about as far away from
U2 as it is possible to be". Yet another massive world tour
followed, which utilised the world's largest video screen at 150
feet wide and 50 feet tall to show live pictures of the band performing,
along with computer generated animation sequences. Other props
included a giant rotating lemon shaped mirrorball (from which
the band would emerge for the encores) and a huge olive on a 100
foot high cocktail stick. According to recent reports, this was
to be the last tour of such proportions that the band would undertake.
Future shows are more likely to be 'back to basics' in terms of
the sets used etc.
A new LP entitled 'All
That You Can't Leave Behind' was released on the 30th October
2000 (31st in the US). In a recent interview, manager Paul McGuinness
stated that because of the high price of CDs in the UK and Ireland
and because U2's earliest fans came from those countries, there
would be a bonus track (The Ground Beneath Her Feet) on the UK
release of the album. The new LP reached number one in the british
album charts in its first week of release, but did not manage
this feat in the America, where sales were not quite what many
In support of All That
You Can't Leave Behind, the Elevation tour started in Florida
on March 24th 2001 and covered North America, Europe and then
back to North America, where the shows seemed to take on a new
meaning in the wake of September 11th. More dates were expected
to be announced for Europe, but this didn't happen. Sadly, Australasia
and South America missed out on the tour for economic reasons.
The weakness of the currencies in those regions meant that a tour
was not financially viable. On 3rd Feb 2002 the band appeared
at the halftime show of Superbowl XXXVI where they performed Beautiful
Day, MLK and Where the Streets Have No Name to the backdrop of
a touching tribute to the victims of Sptember 11th.
A second Best
Of CD was released in November 2002, which included The Hands
That Built America from the soundtrack to The Gangs of New York,
which was nominated for an Oscar in March 2003. Since then nothing
new has appeared although a new album is expected in November
of this year (2004) with a single named 'Vertigo' being released
in September. The album title has been confirmed as 'How to Dismantle
an Atomic Bomb'. The band hit the headlines in July 2004 when
Edge's CD demo of the new album was stolen in the south of France.
Despite a detailed investigation by French police, it has yet
to be found.
The Edge Biography
Adam Clayton Biography
Larry Mullen Biography