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  •  

     U2

    This successful group began life in Dublin, Ireland, in September 1976 after the guitarist Larry Mullen Jr. put up an advert at Mount Temple Comprehensive School looking for musicians when he was fourteen.  He initially called the band The Larry Mullen Band but this was very quickly changed into Feedback.  The group consisted of Paul Hewson aka Bono on lead vocals, Adam Clayton on bass, the guitarist brothers Dik Evans and Dave Evans aka The Edge and Larry Mullen on drums.  There was also Peter Martin and Ivan McCormick, but they had both left within the first month.

     

    Their first performances were of cover versions of the popular punk and new wave music of the time and in March 1977 renamed themselves The Hype.  This new name lasted for almost exactly a year until Dik Evans, who was now at college, left them in the middle of a farewell concert and they continued the rest of the show performing their own material and using the name U2.  Apparently they chose the name U2 out of the six choices they had to rename the group because it was the one they least liked and because it could be interpreted in several ways.

     

    On March 17th 1978 they entered a St. Patrick’s Day talent competition in Limerick and won themselves the opportunity to make a demo at CBS Ireland and £500.  In May 1978 they recorded their demo and a got the manager Paul McGuinness and a year later they released the EP Three, which found the band entering the Irish charts. 

     

    In 1979 they decided to spread their wings a little and perform outside of Ireland.  They went to London but the concerts gathered little interest.  They went back to Ireland and released “Another Day” in February 1980 as their second single and aimed at their own national market.

     

    A month later, in March 1980, they changed their record label to Island Records.  Just two months later they were releasing their first single “11 O’Clock Tick Tock” which was aimed at the international market.  Another few months down the line and their debut album Boy appeared with the production being done by Steve Lillywhite.  The album contained their next single, “I Will Follow”, which became their first hit in the UK.  They then embarked on their first European and US tour and Bono began to get noticed as a showman with critics describing him as “passionate” and “charismatic”.  

     

    The following year in 1981 they released October but the recording wasn’t without problems when Bono and The Edge were thinking of leaving the band because they had become members of the “Shalom Fellowship” Christan group and were questioning what they were doing.  They also had a briefcase of lyrics stolen while they were performing in Portland, Oregon.  They did, however, leave the Fellowship in order to continue their work with U2 and released the next album, War, in 1983.  War produced the hit “Sunday Bloody Sunday” which got the band recognised for their politically charged and meaningful lyrics and “New Year’s Day” became their first hit outside the UK and Ireland.  The album itself debuted at No. 1 in the UK album chart and  the tour that followed was sold out in Europe and the US and produced the live album Under a Blood Red Sky and the film Live at Red Rocks.

     

    In 1984 they extended their contract with Island Records and negotiated terms that were an improvement on their copyrights and royalties.  That same year they released The Unforgettable Fire which was a slight change in their sound from rock to the more artful and ambient.  The album produced their biggest international hit up to that point “Pride (In the Name of Love)” which was written about Martin Luther King Jr. 

     

    In July 1985 the Live Aid concert was performed at Wembley Stadium and their extended version of “Bad” went down a storm and had Bono jumping into the audience to and dancing with a fan.  This was pivotal in bringing them even more positive attention and at the end of that year they were named the “Band of the 1980s” by Rolling Stone.

     

    In 1986 they began recording their acclaimed The Joshua Tree where Bono worked on his talents as a songwriter and explored more traditional forms of music.  They put the recording on hold in order to be the headliner for A Conspiracy of Hope tour for Amnesty International.  This led to Bono going to Nicaragua and San Salvador in 1986 to experience the plight of the peasants.  Their return to the studio saw the album completed and issued in March 1987 and it became the fastest seller in the UK in chart history and remained in the top position of the US album charts for nine weeks.  It achieved two Grammy Awards and the resultant singles, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “With or Without You” topped the charts in the US and were Top 10 hits in the UK.  Just a year later they issued the album and documentary film Rattle and Hum which had mixed reactions from the film and music critics and made the band go away and change the direction of their music.

     

    It wasn’t until 1991 that they released their seventh album, Achtung Baby which they started to record in East Berlin in 1990 just before the re-unification of Germany.  The band argued about the direction their music was taking but after rallying together for the song “One”, they went back to Ireland and finished the recording in Dublin in 1991 and released it in the November of that year.  It turned out to be one of the most commercial albums released by U2 and produced the hits “One”, “The Fly” and “Mysterious Ways”.

     

    1992-3 saw the launch of their multimedia extravaganza, Zoo TV Tour.  The concerts were purposely excessive and represented the way that cable TV and home entertainment had changed things, introduced stage characters, made prank telephone calls and aired controversial live satellite links to Sarajevo during the Bosnian War.  In 1993 they had a break during the tour to record their Zooropa which had started out as an EP but became an album, with Johnny Cash singing on “The Wanderer”.

     

    A couple of years after the Zoo TV Tour they collaborated with their previous producer Brian Eno with him performing and involved in the writing this time.  The result was the 1995 Original Soundtracks 1 which was given the name Passengers for its release.  It produced the successful “Miss Sarajevo” which featured Luciano Pavarotti, but the album itself was ultimately unsuccessful by U2 standards.

     

    1997 saw them gaining back popularity with their Pop, although it still received very mixed reviews and had a relatively poor number of sales.  They commenced the PopMart tour in the April of that year and once again they used it as a vehicle to make fun of the pop culture, have extravagant stage shows and gave them an image that was deemed too kitsch by many.  One of the events during the tour was a concert in Sarajevo following the war, which had quite a profound effect on them.  However the tour was not as well received as it could have been and the group decided that they would be “reapplying for the job…of the best band in the world”. This saw them looking back to their more conventional style of rock.

     

    They maybe achieved some of their target of winning back people with their 2000 release All That You Can Leave Behind.  It made its debut at the top of the album charts of 22 countries and gained three Grammy Awards for its single “Beautiful Day”.  The following Elevation Tour saw them scaling down their shows and performing at Madison Square Garden the month after the 9/11 attack. 

     

    2002 came along and they were asked to give the halftime performance of Superbowl XXXVI, which resulted in them getting rave reviews.  Two years later in 2004 they released How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb with its “Vertigo” gaining huge Airplay when it was used in a commercial for Apple iPod.  Apple, in turn, released an iTunes U2 boxed set which debuted at No. 1 in the US and set a record in their first week’s sales.  The Vertigo tour was a huge commercial success and the album and ensuing singles garnered a Grammy Award from each of the eight categories they were nominated in.  2008 saw them releasing U2 3D which was recorded during the Vertigo tour’s time in South America.

     

    In 2005 they were honoured for their contribution to music when Bruce Springsteen inducted them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The following year they moved their publishing business to The Netherlands once the Irish tax exemption for artists had been capped at 250,000 Euros but this caused some controversy and the band were criticised by the Irish parliament.

     

    When 2006 came along they began working on their No Line on the Horizon but shelved all the writing and work they’d done to start it again with Brian Eno and producer Daniel Lanois in 2007.  They went to Fez in Morocco where they experimented with African Music and continuing recording into 2008.  At the same time they landed a deal worth about £50,000 with Live Nation who would be the managers of their official website, their merchandise and their sponsoring.  In 2008 No Line on the Horizon was finally completed and it hit the shops in February 2009 with good reviews.  That same year they were pronounced one of the eight “Artists of the Decade” by Rolling Stone.

     

    They started the U2 360 degree Tour in June 2009 with the name of the tour describing the way they have the audience surrounding 360 degrees of the stage.  Their shows spanned from then until 2011 when extra dates have been added in North America.  During 2010 Bono injured his back and therefore the band had to cancel an appearance at the Glastonbury Festival and postpone the third leg of their tour until 2011. 

     

    The band has been recognised countless times for their work in the music industry and to date, aside from the nominations, have been the recipients of 22 Grammy Awards (tying them with Stevie Wonder for the most received), 15 Meteor Awards, 10 Q Awards, 7 BRIT Awards,  6 MTV Video Music Awards, 2 Juno Awards, an American Music Association Award, a People’s Choice Award, a Golden Globe and a Las Vegas Film Critics Society Award.

     

    Sources:

    1. http://www.u2.com/essentials/
    2. http://www.myspace.com/u2
    3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U2
    4. http://www.nme.com/artists/u2#biography
    5. http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2010/jul/15/u2-bono-feeling-strong
    6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_awards_received_by_U2
    7. http://www.u2.com/discography/

     

     

     

     

     

     

     



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