A true monster of the international rock scene, U2 is a major Irish band that is still a crowd pleaser today. A group deeply committed to political and humanitarian goals, Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen Junior, have, in the space of 20 years, been propelled by a worldwide success that surpasses the ambitions of their record companies. According to several sources, they are even one of the most downloaded bands in the world!

U2’s Career

Island Record signs U2 for their debut album “Boy”

U2 - MelicansMatkin - cc

U2 – MelicansMatkin – cc

The story of the group begins in 1976, when 4 Dubliners decide to form a rock band. Dave Evans (later renamed The Edge), Adam Clayton, Paul Hewson (later renamed Bono Vox, then Bono), respond to this call. The band was then named Feedback, then The Hype, and finally adopted the name U2, more in a spirit of communion with its audience than a reference to the American spy plane, which according to legend was shot down in the Soviet Union on the day Bono was born.

Things move quickly, and already, the young Dubliners meet Paul McGuinness, who agrees to become their manager. The goal now is to land a contract and harpoon a record company. The first steps turn out to be big failures: the record companies are not convinced, nor the EMI representatives, who leave their concert in the middle of their performance.

Their manager, Paul McGuinness, did not admit defeat: shortly afterwards he got a contract with Island Record, a record company that signed a contract with the band in 1980.

In October, their debut album “Boy” was released. Their first single “I will follow” was a hit, and the group embarked upon a European and American tour. The group developed a more and more special relationship with the public: Bono gets the crowds involved, climbs on amps, scaffolding, brings people on stage with him… His lightheartedness and his fishing electrify the audience.

October 81: U2 released their 2nd album: October, then released in 83 “War”, which deals with wide-ranging political issues and tackles the conflict in Northern Ireland (“Sunday Bloody Sunday”). Success was immediate: number 1 in the UK charts, the album exploded sales records all over the world.

The fourth album “The Unfogettable Fire” came out afterwards. During the tour, Bono continued to put across a number of political messages: the strategic defence initiative project, the arms race, apartheid in South Africa, the conflicts in El Salvador and Nicaragua… Bono’s commitment is one of the explanations for his success.

On the road to global success

On March 9, 1987, “The Joshua Tree” is released. “With Or Without You” became a worldwide hit in the summer of 87 and the album went platinum in the United States within 48 hours of its release. A record which crowned them as the biggest rock band on the international scene!

The following year, U2 released “Rattle and Hum”, then decided to devote himself to humanitarian projects (fight against AIDS, African debt, etc.).

Shortly afterwards, he discovered Berlin, a city that would become a source of musical inspiration, and which gave birth to “Achtung Baby” in 1991. The band’s sound is radically different from their previous albums. The use of phasing on Bono’s voice and distortion effects on the drums is a new evolution of their musical maturity: “The Fly is the sound of four guys sawing the Joshua Tree,” explains The Edge.

Achtung Baby’s tour was called the Zoo TV Tour. Inspired by the power of the media demonstrated during the Gulf War, the show was totally interactive. Bono becomes a full-fledged character: “The Fly”. He monkeys in a bitter and caricatured criticism, the influential characters of modern society.

Increasingly committed albums and tours

U2 in concert - U2start - cc

U2 in concert – U2start – cc

In 1993, the band recorded the album “Zooropa”.. The album was shunned by the public and shot down by the critics. The Zooropa Tour sees the advent of a new character played by Bono: McPhisto, an evil double dressed in a red and gold suit and wearing horns. At the end of each concert, McPhisto picks up the phone and makes live calls to often controversial personalities. Among the most noticed, Mussolini’s niece, or Jean-Marie Le Pen..

In 1997, the album “Pop” was released and U2 organised a stadium-only tour.

In 2000, the album “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” once again confirmed U2’s success with the public.

In 2003, the band takes part in the live 46664 on the occasion of Nelson Mandela’s birthday and his fight against AIDS in Africa. At the same time, Bono starts an awareness campaign for the DATA programme, with the aim of cancelling the debts of African countries and facilitating the medical process in the fight against AIDS. Bono meets with George W. Bush, Jacques Chirac, and other politicians on this occasion to secure funding for the project. His involvement earned him the Légion d’Honneur, and put him close to the Nobel Prize.

In 2004, U2 released “How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb”, which once again proved to be a huge hit with the public, with the hit song Vertigo.

In 2009, U2 released a new album, much awaited but with mixed success: “No Line on the Horizon”: the songs are less rock and more consensual. Nevertheless, the band’s original signature is still there, and fans flock to stadiums and concert halls to see them…

With no less than 12 albums on the counter, U2 is still today an emblematic band of today’s rock. And there’s nothing to say: they still have a good time ahead of them!

So much more to discover...