U2 is an Irish rock band featuring Bono (Paul David
Hewson) on vocals and sometimes guitar, The Edge (David
Howell Evans) on guitar and sometimes pianos, vocals,
and bass, Adam Clayton on bass and sometimes guitar,
and Larry Mullen, Jr. on drums.
U2 were one of the most popular rock groups of the 1980's
and 1990's. The band is politically active in human
rights causes especially Bono. U2 have been together
for over two decades. Their long and eventful history
is best described by their music, and often even by
the album titles. The band was formed in Dublin in October
1976. 14-year-old Larry Mullen, Jr. posted a note on
his secondary school bulletin board seeking musicians
for a new band. The response that followed that note
resulted in a 5-piece band, known at the time as Feedback,
with Mullen on drums, Adam Clayton on bass guitar, Paul
Hewson on vocals, Dave Evans and his brother Dik on
guitar. Bono was named after Bonavox (meaning 'beautiful
voice'), a store that sold hearing aids, and The Edge
got his name from Bono who thought it was an accurate
description of his head.
Indisputably one of the most popular rock acts in the
world, this Irish quartet's achievements since the late
70s have been extraordinarily cohesive and consistent.
U2 began their musical career at school in Dublin in
1977. Bono (b. Paul David Hewson, 10 May 1960, Dublin,
Eire; vocals), The Edge (b. David Evans, 8 August 1961,
Barking, Essex, England; guitar), Adam Clayton (b. 13
March 1960, Chinnor, Oxfordshire, England; bass) and
Larry Mullen Jnr. (b. Laurence Mullen, 31 October 1961,
Dublin, Eire; drums) initially played Rolling Stones
and Beach Boys cover versions in an outfit named Feedback.
They then changed their name to the Hype before finally
settling on U2 in 1978.
After winning a talent contest in Limerick that year,
they came under the wing of manager Paul McGuinness
and were subsequently signed to CBS Records Ireland.
Their debut EP U2:3 featured "Out Of Control" (1979),
which propelled them to number 1 in the Irish charts.
They repeated that feat with "Another Day" (1980), but
having been passed by CBS UK, they were free to sign
a deal outside of Ireland with Island Records. Their
UK debut "11 O'Clock Tick Tock", produced by Martin
Hannett, was well received but failed to chart. Two
further singles, "A Day Without Me" and "I Will Follow",
passed with little sales while the band prepared their
first album, produced by Steve Lillywhite.
Boy, a moving and inspired document of adolescence,
received critical approbation, which was reinforced
by the live shows that U2 were undertaking throughout
the country. Bono's impassioned vocals and the band's
rhythmic tightness revealed them as the most promising
live unit of 1981. After touring America, the band returned
to Britain where "Fire" was bubbling under the Top 30.
Another minor hit with the impassioned "Gloria" was
followed by the strident October. The album had a thrust
reinforced by a religious verve that was almost evangelical
in its force. In February 1983 the band reached the
UK Top 10 with "New Year's Day", a song of hope inspired
by the Polish Solidarity Movement.
War followed soon afterwards to critical plaudits.
The album's theme covered both religious and political
conflicts, especially in the key track "Sunday Bloody
Sunday", which had already emerged as one of the group's
most startling and moving live songs. Given their power
in concert, it was inevitable that U2 would attempt
to capture their essence on a live album. Under A Blood
Red Sky (recorded at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado,
USA) did not disappoint and, as well as climbing to
number 2 in the UK, it brought them their first significant
chart placing in the USA at number 28. By the summer
of 1984, U2 were about to enter the vanguard of the
Bono duetted with Bob Dylan at the latter's concert
at Slane Castle and U2 established their own company,
Mother Records, with the intention of unearthing fresh
musical talent in Eire. The Unforgettable Fire, produced
by Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, revealed a new maturity
and improved their commercial and critical standing
in the US charts. The attendant single, "Pride (In The
Name Of Love)', displayed the passion and humanity that
were by now familiar ingredients in U2"s music and lyrics.
The band's commitment to their ideals was further underlined
by their appearances at Live Aid, Ireland's Self Aid,
and their involvement with Amnesty International and
guest spot on Little Steven's anti-Apartheid single,
During this same period, U2 embarked on a world tour
and completed work on their next album. The Joshua Tree
emerged in March 1987 and confirmed U2's standing, now
as one of the most popular acts in the world. The album,
which became the fastest-selling album in history and
topped both the US and UK charts, revealed a new, more
expansive sound that complemented their soul-searching
lyrics. The familiar themes of spiritual salvation permeated
the work and the quest motif was particularly evident
on both "With Or Without You" and the gospel-tinged
"I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For", which
both reached number 1 in the US charts, confirming U2
as indisputably the most successful European act to
cross the Atlantic for several years.
They became the first rock band since the Who to appear
on the cover of Time magazine. After such a milestone
album, 1988 proved a relatively quiet year for U2. Bono
and the Edge appeared on Roy Orbison's Mystery Girl
and the year ended with the poorly received double album
and documentary film, Rattle And Hum. The portentous
tone of the film did the band little favours, with Bono's
po-faced self-mythology attracting particular critical
ire. The band also belatedly scored their first UK number
1 single with the R&B-influenced "Desire", one of several
new studio tracks written for Rattle And Hum, which
despite its indifferent critical reception went on to
sell over 14 million copies.