Last updated: 01/10/2014 08:00:59 AM
FORMED: 1976, Dublin, Ireland
In autumn 1976, drummer Larry Mullen put a note on the notice board at Mount Temple Comprehensive School in Dublin, looking for people to join a band. Four friends joined up: Paul Hewson (aka Bono Vox), Dave Evans (aka The Edge), Dik Evans, and Adam Clayton. Dik soon left to join the Virgin Prunes, while the remaining four formed 'Feedback' before changing to 'The Hype' and then settling on U2.
The band's first break came in 1978, winning ?00 in a talent contest on St. Patrick's Day (March 17th) in Limerick. Bono later recalled that they had beaten off many technically better bands because of what he called 'a spark', which had produced a great atmosphere on stage. One of the judges that week was Jackie Heyden of CBS Records, who was impressed and arranged their first demo session. It was not a great success - the band's inexperience and lack of studio time combining to hinder their efforts - but it was a start.
Their reputation for intense and electrifying live shows meant that U2 soon built up a dedicated following of fans. One was Bill Graham, a journalist with the music paper 'Hot Press', who was an early champion of the band and also introduced them to their manager, Paul McGuinness. A three-year contract with CBS Ireland soon followed, and with it the release of their first record in September 1979 - a three song EP entitled 'U23' comprising Out of Control, Boy/Girl, and Stories for Boys. A second single followed, before the band signed a world-wide contract with Island Records in March 1980.
Having secured the all-important record deal, the rest of 1980 was spent touring extensively. Despite this, the band also found time to record their first LP, 'Boy', which received widespread critical acclaim on its release in October. A year later came 'October' a much more mellow and spiritual record that reflected the Christian beliefs of Bono, Edge and Larry, and built on the success of 'Boy'.
U2 really hit the big time with the 'War' LP, released in March 1983. Boosted by the success of the 'New Year's Day' single, the record entered the UK charts at Number 1, and established the band as a mainstream act. Further tours followed through the US and Europe, where the songs for the mini Live LP 'Under A Blood Red Sky' were recorded. This record marked the end of an era, as it was the last record before Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois were engaged to work on future LPs.
The next record to be released, 'The Unforgettable Fire', marked a distinct change in direction towards a more complex style, moving away from the 'anthems' of the War era. Despite a few teething problems incorporating the newer songs into the band's live set, the material was well received on the subsequent European and US tours. The mini LP 'Wide Awake in America' was comprised of 2 new tracks and 2 live recordings from the European tour. It was at this time, in April 1985, that 'Rolling Stone' magazine dubbed U2 "The Band of The Eighties".
That summer U2 played in the Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium in London, where they gave a memorable performance, as the song 'Bad' over-ran to about 12 minutes! Bono actually considered leaving the band at that point, as he feared that his antics during that show (dancing with girls from the audience while leaving the band to play on regardless) had ruined the set for the rest of the band - Pride had to be dropped from the set due to lack of time. Only when a friend told him that it was one of the high points of the day did he come round. The following year U2 played Self Aid, a benefit for Ireland's unemployed, and joined the Conspiracy of Hope tour for Amnesty International.
U2's 7th LP was 'The Joshua Tree', another Eno/Lanois collaboration which was released in March 1987. This was to be their most successful record to date, becoming the fastest selling record ever in the UK on its release, and reaching number one in 22 countries. The accompanying sell-out tour included over 100 shows, and cemented their reputation as what what 'Time' magazine called "Rock's hottest ticket". During the tour, director Phil Joanou was chosen to put together a film which would capture the live shows, and also depict the band's perceptions of America. Filmed chiefly in Denver Colorado and Tempe Arizona, the resulting movie ('Rattle and Hum') and the LP of the same name were released in October 1988. Taken from this LP, the single 'Desire' gave U2 their first UK mumber one single. Other songs on the record, such as 'When Love Comes to Town' featured blues legend BB King, and he joined U2 on the Love Town tour which concentrated on Australia, New Zealand and Japan.
At the end of the 1980s, U2 played a series of 4 concerts at The Point Depot in Dublin, culminating with a show on New Year's Eve which was broadcast throughout the world. Bono announced that night that it was "time to go away and dream it all up again". This led some to believe that U2 were considering splitting up, but those fears proved to be unfounded with the release of 'Achtung Baby' in November 1991. A much more electronically processed record than their earlier releases, it marked a new beginning in U2's career. The subsequent ZooTV tour was a huge extravaganza which used giant video screens to create a stunning visual spectacle, and at the end of each show of the tour Bono attempted to call VIPs such as Bill Clinton, Pavarotti, or Princess Diana.
On a break from the tour, U2 recorded 'Zoooropa' which was released in July 1993. Less commercially successful than previous releases, it was called U2's most experimental work to date. It was to be 4 years before their next LP was released, although they continued working on various outside projects, such as the soundtrack for Batman Forever which yielded the single 'Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me. Larry and Adam worked on the 'Mission Impossible' soundtrack, while Bono and Edge worked on 'Goldeneye'. U2 also donated songs to good causes such as the AIDS fundraiser 'Red, Hot and Blue' and 'A Very Special Christmas'.
In March 1997 U2 released 'Pop' which Edge described as being "about as far away from U2 as it is possible to be". Yet another massive world tour followed, which utilised the world's largest video screen at 150 feet wide and 50 feet tall to show live pictures of the band performing, along with computer generated animation sequences. Other props included a giant rotating lemon shaped mirrorball (from which the band would emerge for the encores) and a huge olive on a 100 foot high cocktail stick. According to recent reports, this was to be the last tour of such proportions that the band would undertake. Future shows are more likely to be 'back to basics' in terms of the sets used etc.
A new LP entitled 'All That You Can't Leave Behind' was released on the 30th October 2000 (31st in the US). In a recent interview, manager Paul McGuinness stated that because of the high price of CDs in the UK and Ireland and because U2's earliest fans came from those countries, there would be a bonus track (The Ground Beneath Her Feet) on the UK release of the album. A new single taken from the album (Beautiful Day) was released and went straight into the British charts at number one, and 'Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of' has been released everywhere except the US, where no singles are due to be released at all. The new LP reached number one in the British album charts in its first week of release, but did not manage this feat in the America, where sales were not what many had hoped.
In support of All That You Can't Leave Behind, the Elevation tour started in Florida on March 24th 2001 and the first three legs have so far covered North America, Europe and back to North America, where the shows seemed to take on a new meaning in the wake of September 11th. More dates are expected to be announced for Europe in the near future, probably for large outdoor venues. Sadly, Australasia and South America have so far missed out on the tour for economic reasons. The weakness of the currencies in those regions means that a tour would not be financially viable at the moment.
Thanks to Armsey01@netscape.com for submitting the biography.