N 1976, 14-year-old drummer Larry Mullen Jr. placed an ad on the bulletin board of Dublin, Ireland's Mount Temple High School looking for musicians to form a band. Six or seven students came to his house to audition, but a few in particular stood out. One was Dave Evans, whose guitar-playing skills seemed well beyond his years. Another was Adam Clayton, who looked the part of a rock and roller, with his bushy hair and caftan coat, bass guitar, and amp. Then Paul Hewson arrived, and though he could neither play guitar nor sing, this "charismatic character" was let into the band anyway. "I was in charge for the first five minutes," Mullen told Time magazine. "But as soon as Bono got there, I was out of a job." None of the four teenagers realized that out of that first meeting in Mullen's cramped kitchen they would form one of the most influential bands of the last twenty years.
But the ragtag group was still in need of a name. For a while, they performed under the monikers Feedback (because that was the sound they made) and Hype (for the lack of it surrounding the band), but they were looking for something a little more ambiguous. A friend suggested U2 because there were so many items with that name, including the spy plane, the submarine, a battery, and the obvious references to "you, too" and "you two." Now they had a name and had learned a few cover tunes, but there was still one problem: U2 was bad. So bad that they had to stop butchering other people's songs and start writing their own. Because it was the late '70s, the band was categorized as punk (the fact that Hewson shaved his head and showed up at school wearing a chain from ear to lip didn't hurt this image), which was just fine with Paul, Dave, and Adam. However, Larry was opposed to the idea of being in a punk band, so the other members just didn't tell him.
By 1978, Paul Hewson had been rechristened "Bono Vox" by a friend, a name he despised for its connection to a brand of hearing aids, until he learned it was Latin for "good voice." Bono then turned around and dubbed Evans "The Edge," saying the new name captured the sharpness of his features and his mind. Evans said the nickname fit because he had a tendency to observe things from the perimeter. That same year, the band also released their first EP, titled U2:3, which featured the tracks "Out of Control," "Stories," and "Boy-Girl." You could find it only in Ireland, but it was a local hit, topping the charts. But the group's success did not translate to the U.K. in general, and on their first tour they found themselves wrongly billed as V2 and playing to empty venues. In 1980, the band signed with Island Records, sealing a deal that allowed a great deal of creative control. Their first Island release, Boy, was an album of undeniable quality and was full of an infectious youthful passion, best heard on tracks such as "I Will Follow" and "Out of Control." In December of 1980, U2 embarked on a small, successful East Coast tour of America. At one performance at a club in Boston — where they were opening up for a popular local band — the crowd was so enthusiastic that they wouldn't let U2 leave the stage without performing three encores. By the time the local boys were ready to go on, the place was empty.
Even with that kind of grass-roots support, U2 still hadn't had a huge hit. Another U.S. tour commencing in March of 1981 saw them playing in larger venues to adoring crowds, and they soon headed back into the studio to work on a new album, hoping to capitalize on the momentum generated on the tour. By this point, the band's dynamic was changing. Bono, the Edge, and Larry all had strong ties to their religious faith, and all four members were trying to decide whether they were Christians in a rock band, a Christian band, or something in between. U2's sophomore effort, October, reflected their identity crisis, and songs such as "Gloria," "Fire," and "With a Shout" were rife with religious imagery. Unfortunately, the album still did not produce that huge hit they needed.
It was with the release of 1983's War that the band found its true calling. One of the cuts on the album, "Sunday, Bloody Sunday," was a song about violence in Northern Ireland, and it immediately painted the band as at once idealistic and political. Before long, the image of Bono raising the white flag while performing the song became the band's trademark, and the song became their anthem. War was U2's strongest album to date, and its success and the band's growing popularity allowed them to renegotiate their contract with Island, effectively giving them complete ownership of all their songs, and making them all very wealthy men. They followed up War with the eight-song mini-album Under a Blood Red Sky, which went on to become one of the most popular live albums of its time, and cemented the band's reputation as dynamic live performers.
U2's next studio album, 1984's Unforgettable Fire, was a less straightforward effort — produced by Brian Eno — that found the band attempting to move into new territory, as witnessed on songs such as "Elvis Presley and America" and "Fourth of July." But the Edge's signature chiming guitar was evident on two of the album's best cuts, "Bad," about heroin addiction, and "Pride (in the Name of Love)," a song about the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. The spring tour in 1985 saw U2 selling out arenas across America, prompting Rolling Stone to dub them "The Band of the '80s," concluding that "for a growing number of rock-and-roll fans, U2 has become the band that matters most, maybe even the only band that matters."
But the group's record sales still lagged behind the power and popularity of its live performances, and U2 had yet to achieve a No. 1 album or single in the U.S. The band soon embarked on a spate of charitable performances for everything from famine relief to ending apartheid. The group's altruistic tendencies weren't without rewards. The image — beamed worldwide — of Bono pulling a young woman from the crowd during the group's performance of "Bad" at Live Aid in July of 1985 did nothing to hurt their popularity, nor did performing the following summer on Amnesty International's 25th anniversary tour with artists such as Peter Gabriel and Sting.
With the release of The Joshua Tree in 1987, U2 had finally arrived. The album entered the U.K. charts at No. 1, and became the fastest-selling album in U.K. history at that time. Before long, The Joshua Tree (the name was inspired by the giant desert tree the group posed in front of for the album cover) reached the top of the U.S. charts — and stayed there for nine weeks. "With or Without You" and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" became No. 1 pop singles, and suddenly U2 had the commercial success that had previously eluded them. The band was featured on the cover of Time magazine, only the third rock-and-roll band granted that honor (after the Beatles and the Who) with a headline declaring them "Rock's Hottest Ticket." The Joshua Tree showcased U2's love-hate relationship with America, reflected in songs such as "Bullet the Blue Sky," about U.S. involvement in El Salvador, and "In God's Country." While on tour to support the album, the band arrived in Arizona and discovered that Governor Evan Mecham had canceled the state's observance of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. They considered canceling their sold-out concerts, but instead, they made a contribution to the Mecham Watchdog committee, further proof that U2 not only talked the talk, they also walked the walk. By the end of 1987, U2 was selling out stadiums the world over.
U2 followed up The Joshua Tree with Rattle and Hum, a collection of new material ("Desire," "All I Want Is You"), covers ("All Along the Watchtower," "Helter Skelter,"), and live tracks (a gospel version of "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For") that was U2's tribute to America's roots music. The album and the accompanying rockumentary were widely regarded as a vanity project. But whatever doubts fans and critics may have had that U2 had gone mainstream, or had grown too confident, were erased with the release of 1991's Achtung Baby. The sometimes raucous, sometimes dark 12-song collection, recorded in Berlin, saw the group reinvigorated and reinvented as glam-rockers. Songs such as "One" and "Mysterious Ways" helped propel the album to the top of the charts worldwide. In 1992, the group launched the hugely successful Zoo TV tour. The ambitious project saw Bono take on a new persona or two — including "The Fly" and "MacPhisto" — and had the band performing onstage beneath dozens of television monitors, satellite dishes, and Trabants, a utilitarian East German car. U2 also found time to participate in a Greenpeace protest at Sellafield, the site of a nuclear processing plant in England.
During a break in the Zoo TV tour, U2 went back into the studio to record an EP, which eventually turned into the 10-song album Zooropa. The album surprised many, both because it was released so soon after Achtung, Baby, and because it showed that U2 was moving in ever different directions. The first single, "Numb," featured the Edge's monotone vocal over a pumping bass line, and the album itself was full of images of car crashes and futuristic landscapes. Zooropa went on to win the 1993 Grammy for Best Alternative Album — not bad for a group that had been around for more than 10 years. U2 again hit the road with an offshoot tour, Zooropa '93, that saw them visit 18 countries in four months.
U2 took a long break after the conclusion of the Zooropa tour, their first in 14 years. The band members spread out around the globe: Adam Clayton studied music in New York and broke off his engagement to supermodel Naomi Campbell; Larry Mullen traveled to New York before returning home to Dublin where his longtime companion gave birth to their first child, a baby boy; the Edge began a relationship with the "Mysterious Ways" belly dancer from the outdoor portion of the Zoo TV tour; and Bono spent time with his wife, Ali, and his two daughters in between collaborations with Frank Sinatra and Luciano Pavarotti. Mullen and Clayton also collaborated on a new version of the Mission: Impossible theme for the Tom Cruise film, and the band did reconvene briefly to record "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me" for the Batman Forever soundtrack.
In the summer of 1995, all four members of U2 came back together with Brian Eno to record an atmospheric album titled Original Soundtracks 1 under the name the Passengers, and while it didn't turn out exactly as they had hoped, it pointed them in the direction they wanted to go. During the 1996 sessions for the band's next major album, U2's goal was to incorporate a rock-and-roll sound with the dance elements they were hearing from British artists such as the Prodigy, the Chemical Brothers, and Massive Attack. As Bono told Spin, they "wanted to make a record that would actually feel like your life." The album that rose out of this desire was the long-awaited Pop, released in March of 1997. Before the release of the album, U2 announced their ambitiously kitschy Pop-Mart Tour in a Kmart in New York City. Pop tracks such as "Discotheque," "If You Wear That Velvet Dress," and "Staring at the Sun" destroyed any doubts that U2 would mature quietly. The new U2 that emerged in 1997 was quite different from those four dour fellows who appeared on the cover of The Joshua Tree, and it looked like they were trying to make rock and roll fun again.
The Irish quartet's gargantuan Pop-Mart tour went over better with fans than did Pop the album. The trek wound up as the second highest grossing tour of 1997, earning a grand total of $79.9 million, just behind the Rolling Stones' Bridges Over Babylon extravaganza, which earned $89.3 million. Over the course of the extensive Pop-Mart campaign, U2 played such far-reaching locales as Bosnia, Chile, Belfast, Greece, and Mexico. Despite minor inconveniences along the way (the massive television screen that served as a stage backdrop malfunctioned from time to time), for the most part the tour ran smoothly and was well-received at every stop. The tour ended in Johannesburg, South Africa, on March 21, 1998.
The band took a much-deserved break when Pop-Mart wrapped, reuniting to play a concert in Belfast, Ireland, in support of the Northern Ireland peace accord in May. In September, a mega-deal was announced: U2 signed a $50 million contract with Polygram to release three Best Of albums. A limited edition package of the first title in the series, U2: The Best of 1980-1990, hit stores Nov. 3 with a bonus disc made up of B-sides from the same period. The two-CD package was available in stores for a week, or until it sold out. Then, on Nov. 10, the single-disc Best Of album was officially released.
At the end of November, U2 appeared on the television program The Late Late Show, a talk show broadcast live each Friday night in Ireland. This edition was a special tribute and fundraiser for victims of the Omagh (a city in Northern Ireland) bombing last August, in which a car exploded in the center of the busy market town, killing at least 28 people and injuring more than 220. During the two-and-a-half-hour broadcast, the quartet played "North and South of the River" and "All I Want Is You," and the show's host, Gay Byrne, interviewed Bono. The Corrs and Bob Geldof were also guests on the show, with some of the Omagh victims' families present in the audience.
Coming soon from the band is a new album, tentatively slated for release in the fall of 1999, featuring the handiwork of producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois. And though there are no plans to tour in the immediate future, they're definitely thinking about it. In an interview with the L.A. Times, The Edge made clear the band's desire to avoid another huge stadium tour, wanting instead to play in smaller venues.
"The mood at the moment would be to do something small, having done Zoo TV and PopMart, it's like we've done that," said The Edge. He went on, "The truth is it takes such an incredible amount of energy and time and money to do stadiums. It's not that we want an easy life, but having done it twice now, we are going to wait awhile before we think about it before making another commitment."
The hard rock four-piece Creed was formed by two Florida high school friends, vocalist Scott Stapp and guitarist Mark Tremonti. The duo lost touch after graduation, but reunited in Tallahassee after Stapp underwent a few years of hard times. Stapp and Tremonti became Creed with the addition of bassist Brian Marshall and drummer Scott Phillips, with many of the group's lyrics obliquely addressing themes of Christian spirituality (Stapp's father was a Pentecostal minister).
After being remixed for major-label release on Sony, the group's debut album, My Own Prison, did extremely well on the pop charts, selling over four million copies. Creed also scored four number one rock radio hits ("My Own Prison," "Torn," "What's This Life For," and "One"), making them the first band to accomplish the feat with their debut album.
It was still charting in the Top 100 when the follow-up, Human Clay, was released in 1999. Human Clay debuted at number one, and its lead single "Higher" spent 17 weeks on top of the mainstream rock airplay charts. Human Clay went on to sell over six million copies, and had returned to the Top Ten a full year after its release, following the group's successful summer tour in 2000. That year, Marshall left the group to pursue other interests; Brett Hestla was named as his replacement for their US tour and the immediate future.
In fall 2001, history repeated itself when Creed's third album, Weathered, debuted at number one. First single "My Sacrifice" bombarded radio and TV, defining that Creed's starpower was undeniable. Producer John Kurzweg helped recapture the band's signature vibe of thunderous guitar work and lyrical wizardry, allowing Weathered to reign over much of mainstream rock in 2002.
Last edited by ironman on Mon Feb 14, 2005 1:12 pm, edited 3 times in total.