Published on May 5th, 2017 | by Alan Cross2
The Ongoing History of New Music, Episode 787: U2 and The Joshua Tree, 30 Years Later (Part 1) [Music and Podcast Embedded]
On March 9, 1987, a little more than ten years after a bunch of kids met up in a Dublin kitchen, U2 released their fifth album. Expectations for the record were running pretty high, too. After establishing themselves with their first two albums, there was a leap ahead with their War album in 1983. Then came The Unforgettable Fire in 1984, which represented another leap forward. The band’s sound grew more sophisticated, stronger, bigger, better.
Much of the credit has to go to their new production team of Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, two guys who found new ways to bring out the best in the band. That partnership worked so well that everyone agreed they should work together on the next album, too. Maybe they could take things even further.
The result was The Joshua Tree, an album that has somewhere north of 25 million copies, making it one of the all-time bestsellers. It was a #1 album in two dozen countries. Five of the eleven songs were released as singles, several of which sold more than a million copies on their own.
The tour in support of the record had to grow from arenas to stadiums. It resulted in a live album, Live in Paris, and the documentary and soundtrack, Rattle and Hum. And it earned U2 two major Grammy Awards: Album of the Year and Group of the Year.
The Joshua Tree set the band up as one of the biggest in the world and over the coming decade, they would become the biggest. The album has been studied at all levels of academia, its songs covered thousands of times. The material has even been adopted as hymns for modern church services. And in 2014, the album was added to the US Library of Congress as a recording deemed to be “culturally, historically and aesthetically significant.”
That’s a lot of stuff to unpack about just one album. But doesn’t it make you curious about what went into making it? That was my thinking, so I thought I’d talk to one of the guys who was in the studio with the band the entire time. Let’s hear some stories from co-producer Daniel Lanois, shall we? We’ll go through the album track-by-track.
Where the Streets Have No Name
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
With or Without You
Bullet the Blue Sky
Running to Stand Still
Red Hill Mining Town
Officially playlistist Eric Wilhile had an easy time putting this one together.
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