U2 (formed 1976)
U2 are an Irish rock band, consisting of Bono (vocals), Larry Mullen Jr. (drums), Adam Clayton (bass) and The Edge (guitar, keyboards and vocals).
U2: The Early Years
The members of U2 formed the band when Larry Mullen Jr., aged 14, posted a note on the notice board at Mount Temple Comprehensive School, looking for people to form a band with.
All four members off the band attended the initial practice, in Mullen's kitchen and chose the name Feedback. There were three other boys at the rehearsal, none of whom made the final grade. Dick Evans lasted the longest, eventually walking offstage at a farewell gig at Howth Presbyterian Church. It was at this moment that the band changed their name to U2.
The band won a talent show in 1978, winning £500 and the chance to record a demo tape. Paul McGuiness agreed to be their manager and their first EP was released in Ireland only. Entitled Three, the EP was their first success in the Irish charts.
U2: The Mainstream
In 1980, U2 were signed to Island Records. '11 O'Clock Tick Tock' was the band's debut internationally released single. Steve Lillywhite was drafted in to produce their debut album, Boy, which was well received by music critics.
October was the band's second album. It did not sell well outside of the UK and Island records put pressure on the band to improve. U2's answer to this pressure was the album, War. The album's artwork featured the photography of Anton Corbijn. War went straight to number one in the UK charts and the debut single was 'New Year's Day' became their first overseas hit single. The live album, Under a Blood Red Sky was recorded on the promotional tour for War, which saw the band playing to sold-out venues across Europe and the States.
In 1984, the band released The Unforgettable Fire. Produced by Brian Eno, the album saw a more experimental change in direction. The debut single from the album, 'Pride (In The Name of Love)', written about Martin Luther King was the band's best-selling single at that point in their career, including an entry in the US charts, which had eluded them until that point. The live tour for the album saw the band playing in indoor arenas and their performance at Wembley Stadium's Live Aid concert is still considered one of their most memorable gigs ever.
Acting on criticism that The Unforgettable Fire was somewhat fuzzy and unfocused, the band's next album featured more conventional song structures. In March 1987,The Joshua Tree was released. The album was number one in the US for nine weeks and was their fastest-selling album in the UK. The band were rewarded with two Grammy Awards and the first two singles 'With or Without You' and 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For' both went to number one in the US. The accompanying tour became the subject of the documentary Rattle and Hum. The double album of the same name featured live tracks of the tour and nine studio tracks. The film featured tracks recorded with B.B. King and Bob Dylan.
Achtung Baby was U2's seventh studio album. Released in 1991, the album was influenced by dance, industrial and alternative music. Recorded initially in East Berlin, this album was again produced by Brian Eno and his engineer, Daniel Lanois. In 1992/3, the band embarked on the Zoo TV tour. The tour was an ambitious multimedia event, with hundreds of video screens, flying cars and mock transmissions towers.
The Zooropa album was originally intended as an EP and incorporated techno music influences and electronic music. The final track on the album, 'The Wanderer', was sung by Johnny Cash.
Original Soundtracks 1 was an experimental album released in 1995. Brian Eno was this time not just a producer, but contributed to the writing and performing of the songs. It was released under the name Passengers, to distinguish it from U2's conventional releases. One track, 'Miss Sarajevo' featured Luciano Pavarotti was a hit, though the album performed poorly compared to other U2 albums.
Pop, released in 1997 saw U2 continue with their experimentation, involving tape loops, sampling and sequencing. The album debuted at number one in 35 countries and was a critical success. A month after the PopMart tour - which saw U2 being the first rock band to play in Sarajevo following the Bosnian war - the band appeared on an episode of The Simpsons entitled 'Trash of the Titans'.
In October 2000, the band released All That You Can't Leave Behind. The album was number one in 22 countries and spawned the singles 'Beautiful Day', 'Walk On', 'Stuck in a Moment You can't Get Out Of', and 'Elevation', all of which won Grammy awards.
How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb hit the stores in 2004 and the single 'Vertigo' was the soundtrack to a widely publicised advert for Apple's iPod. Apple also manufactured a limited edition U2 iPod and an iTunes U2 box set. The tour saw the band playing songs that they had not played since the 1980s. The next year, U2 were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Bruce Springsteen.