n 1976, fourteen-year-old drummer Larry Mullen, Jr., placed an ad on the bulletin board of Dublin, Ireland's Mount Temple High School looking for musicians to form a band. Six or seven students came to his house to audition, but a few in particular stood out. One was Dave Evans, whose guitar-playing skills seemed well beyond his years. Another was Adam Clayton, who looked the part of a rock and roller, with his bushy hair and caftan coat, bass guitar, and amp. Then Paul Hewson arrived, and though he could neither play guitar nor sing, this "charismatic character" was let into the band anyway. "I was in charge for the first five minutes," Mullen told Time magazine. "But as soon as Bono got there, I was out of a job." None of the four teenagers realized that out of that first meeting in Mullen's cramped kitchen they would form one of the most influential bands of the last twenty years.

ut the ragtag group was still in need of a name. For a while, they performed under the monikers Feedback (because that was the sound they made) and Hype (for the lack of it surrounding the band), but they were looking for something a little more ambiguous. A friend suggested U2 because there were so many items with that name, including the spy plane, the submarine, a battery, and the obvious references to "you, too" and "you two." Now they had a name and had learned a few cover tunes, but there was still one problem: U2 was bad. So bad that they had to stop butchering other people's songs and start writing their own. Because it was the late seventies, the band was categorized as punk (the fact that Hewson shaved his head and showed up at school wearing a chain from ear to lip didn't hurt this image), which was just fine with Paul, Dave, and Adam. However, Larry was opposed to the idea of being in a punk band, so the other members just didn't tell him.

y 1978, Paul Hewson had been re-christened "Bono Vox" by a friend, a name he despised for its connection to a brand of hearing aids, until he learned it was Latin for "good voice." Bono then turned around and dubbed Evans "The Edge," saying the new name captured the sharpness of his features and his mind. Evans said the nickname fit because he had a tendency to observe things from the perimeter. That same year, the band also released their first EP, titled U2:3, which featured the tracks "Out of Control," "Stories," and "Boy-Girl." You could find it only in Ireland, but it was a local hit, topping the charts. But the group's success did not translate to the U.K. in general, and on their first tour they found themselves wrongly billed as V2 and playing to empty venues. In 1980, the band signed with Island Records, sealing a deal that allowed a great deal of creative control. 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 group prepared their first album, produced by Steve Lillywhite. This first Island release, Boy, was an album of undeniable quality and was full of an infectious youthful passion, best heard on tracks such as "I Will Follow" and "Out of Control." In December of 1980, U2 embarked on a small, successful East Coast tour of America. At one performance at a club in Boston--where they were opening up for a popular local band--the crowd was so enthusiastic that they wouldn't let U2 leave the stage without performing three encores. By the time the local boys were ready to go on, the place was empty.

ven with that kind of grass-roots support, U2 still hadn't had a huge hit. Another U.S. tour commencing in March of 1981 saw them playing in larger venues to adoring crowds, and they soon headed back into the studio to work on a new album, hoping to capitalize on the momentum generated on the tour. By this point, the band's dynamic was changing. Bono, the Edge, and Larry all had strong ties to their religious faith, and all four members were trying to decide whether they were Christians in a rock band, a Christian band, or something in between. U2's sophomore effort, October, reflected their identity crisis, and songs such as "Gloria," "Fire," and "With a Shout" were rife with religious imagery. Unfortunately, the album still did not produce that huge hit they needed.

t was with the release of 1983's War that the band found its true calling. One of the cuts on the album, "Sunday, Bloody Sunday," was a song about violence in Northern Ireland, and it immediately painted the band as at once idealistic and political. Before long, the image of Bono raising the white flag while performing the song became the band's trademark, and the song became their anthem. War was U2's strongest album to date, and its success and the band's growing popularity allowed them to renegotiate their contract with Island, effectively giving them complete ownership of all their songs, and making them all very wealthy men. They followed up War with the eight-song mini-album Under a Blood Red Sky, which went on to become one of the most popular live albums of its time, and cemented the band's reputation as dynamic live performers.

's next studio album, 1984's Unforgettable Fire, was a less straightforward effort--produced by Brian Eno--that found the band attempting to move into new territory, as witnessed on songs such as "Elvis Presley and America" and "Fourth of July." But the Edge's signature chiming guitar was evident on two of the album's best cuts, "Bad," about heroin addiction, and "Pride (in the Name of Love)," a song about the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. The spring tour in 1985 saw U2 selling out arenas across America, prompting Rolling Stone to dub them "The Band of the Eighties," concluding that "for a growing number of rock-and- roll fans, U2 has become the band that matters most, maybe even the only band that matters."
Also in 1985, U2 released the 4-track mini-album Wide awake in America. The album contained 2 live versions of the Unforgettable fire album, "Bad" (brilliantly played 8 minutes long version) and "A sort of homecoming", and 2 new songs: "Three sunrises" and "Love comes tumbling".

ut the group's record sales still lagged behind the power and popularity of its live performances, and U2 had yet to achieve a No. 1 album or single in the U.S. The band soon embarked on a spate of charitable performances for everything from famine relief to ending apartheid. The group's altruistic tendencies weren't without rewards. The image--beamed worldwide--of Bono pulling a young woman from the crowd during the group's performance of "Bad" at Live Aid in July of 1985 did nothing to hurt their popularity, nor did performing the following summer on Amnesty International's twenty-fifth anniversary tour with artists such as Peter Gabriel and Sting.

ith the release of The Joshua Tree in 1987, U2 had finally arrived. The album entered the U.K. charts at No. 1, and became the fastest-selling album in U.K. history at that time. Before long, The Joshua Tree (the name was inspired by the giant desert tree the group posed in front of for the album cover) reached the top of the U.S. charts--and stayed there for nine weeks. "With or Without You" and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" became No. 1 pop singles, and suddenly U2 had the commercial success that had previously eluded them. The band was featured on the cover of Time magazine, only the third rock-and-roll band granted that honor (after the Beatles and the Who) with a headline declaring them "Rock's Hottest Ticket." The Joshua Tree showcased U2's love-hate relationship with America, reflected in songs such as "Bullet the Blue Sky," about U.S. involvement in El Salvador, and "In God's Country." While on tour to support the album, the band arrived in Arizona and discovered that Governor Evan Mecham had canceled the state's observance of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. They considered canceling their sold-out concerts, but instead, they made a contribution to the Mecham Watchdog committee, further proof that U2 not only talked the talk, they also walked the walk. By the end of 1987, U2 was selling out stadiums the world over.

2 followed up The Joshua Tree with Rattle and Hum, a collection of new material ("Desire," "All I Want Is You"), covers ("All Along the Watchtower," "Helter Skelter,"), and live tracks (a gospel version of "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For") that was U2's tribute to America's roots music. The album and the accompanying rockumentary (directed by Phil Joanou) were widely regarded as a vanity project.
But whatever doubts fans and critics may have had that U2 had gone mainstream, or had grown too confident, were erased with the release of 1991's Achtung Baby. The sometimes raucous, sometimes dark twelve- song collection, recorded in Berlin, saw the group re-invigorated and re-invented as glam-rockers. Songs such as "One" and "Mysterious Ways" helped propel the album to the top of the charts worldwide. While recording the album, someone managed to steal a tape out of the recording studio's. Material from this tape could (obviously?) be found on the bootleg-market not too long after the theft: The Achtung sessions. Although the quality of the songs is not always too brilliant yet, it is interesting to hear U2 songs in a "preliminary" stadium. The song "GOT to GET together NOW" clearly is an immature version of Achtung Baby's "Zoo Station", while the song "HI as a KITE" will evolve to become "Salome" (which U2 uses as an extra track on one of the "Who's gonna ride your wild horses" single-releases).
In 1992, the group launched the hugely successful Zoo TV tour. The ambitious project saw Bono take on a new persona or two--including "The Fly" and "MacPhisto"--and had the band performing onstage beneath dozens of television monitors, satellite dishes, and Trabants, a utilitarian East German car. U2 also found time to participate in a Greenpeace protest at Sellafield, the site of a nuclear processing plant in England.

uring a break in the Zoo TV tour, U2 went back into the studio to record an EP, which eventually turned into the ten-song album Zooropa. The album surprised many, both because it was released so soon after Achtung, Baby, and because it showed that U2 was moving in ever different directions. The first single, "Numb," featured the Edge's monotone vocal over a pumping bass line, and the album itself was full of images car crashes and futuristic landscapes. Zooropa went on to win the 1993 Grammy for Best Alternative Album--not bad for a group that had been around for over ten years. U2 again hit the road with an offshoot tour, Zooropa '93, that saw them visit eighteen countries in four months.

2 took a long break after the conclusion of the Zooropa tour, their first in fourteen years. The band members spread out around the globe: Adam Clayton studied music in New York and broke off his engagement to supermodel Naomi Campbell; Larry Mullen traveled to New York before returning home to Dublin where his longtime companion gave birth to their first child, a baby boy; the Edge began a relationship with the "Mysterious Ways" belly dancer from the outdoor portion of the Zoo TV tour; and Bono spent time with his wife, Ali, and his two daughters in between collaborations with Frank Sinatra and Luciano Pavarotti. Mullen and Clayton also collaborated on a new version of the Mission: Impossible theme for the Tom Cruise film, and the band did reconvene briefly to record "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me" for the Batman Forever soundtrack.

n the summer of 1995, all four members of U2 came back together with Brian Eno to record an atmospheric album titled Original Soundtracks 1 under the name the Passengers, and while it didn't turn out exactly as they had hoped, it pointed them in the direction they wanted to go. During the 1996 sessions for the band's next major album, U2's goal was to incorporate a rock-and- roll sound with the dance elements they were hearing from British artists such as the Prodigy, the Chemical Brothers, and Massive Attack. As Bono told Spin, they "wanted to make a record that would actually feel like your life." The album that rose out of this desire was the long-awaited Pop, released in March of 1997. Before the release of the album, U2 announced their ambitiously kitschy Pop-Mart Tour in a Kmart in New York City. Pop tracks such as "Discotheque," "If You Wear That Velvet Dress," and "Staring at the Sun" destroyed any doubts that U2 would mature quietly. The new U2 that emerged in 1997 is quite different from those four dour fellows who appeared on the cover of The Joshua Tree, and it looks like they're trying to make rock and roll fun again.

1998 rought the release of the first ever official 'best of' release; U2, The best of 1980-1990. This release became available as a regular 'best of' and a 'best-of-plus-b-sides' double-cd.
U2 promised to come up with a 'best of 1990-2000' pretty shortly however this promise is unconfirmed yet. 1999 brought the release of a CD called "Pride; The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Plays U2", the title is pretty self-explaining I guess... As far as the members of U2 were concerned, 1999 was a year of recording, making movies and basically preparing for the next, giant step to do what the fans want them to do most; releasing a new album and getting their asses on the road to perform live shows. Bono spent most of 1999 and 2000 trying to move the IMF and world-leaders to 'drop the debt' of third world countries and realizing a dream of his; he co-wrote the film "The Million Dollar Hotel" (starring Mel Gibson and Milla Jovovich). The film was accompanied by a soundtrack which included The Ground Beneath Her Feet, of which the lyrics are taken from the Salman Rushdie novel with the same name.

ut the major event of 2000 was of course the release of "All That You Can't Leave Behind, a brand new CD released on October 30th containing 11 new classics. The first single drawn from this album was "Beautiful Day" which was used by several TV Stations around the world as the tune for their Sidney 2000 Olympic broadcasts. U2 performed this song on a Dublin hotel-rooftop (their own rooftop, that is) for BBC's Top of The Pops in September. This was their first 'live' performance on a music show in 17 years! Actually, it wasn't live, not even semi-live; the band chose to play the track straight from the album, with Bono singing over the top of pre-recorded music and backing vocals, to great disappointment of a great number of fans, including myself.
ATYCLB was a huge commercial success, picking up Grammy's left and right in both 2000 and 2001. The accompanying tour, that took up most of the year 2001, was an even bigger succes. One of the highlights, certainly for me, were the "homecoming" concerts the boys did in Slane Castle (outside of Dublin) on August 25th and September 2nd. The first of these 2 shows (which I attended) came only one day after Bono's father Bob Hewson was buried. This of course made it into a very intense and emotional homecoming concert. The second of the 2 concerts was filmed and released on DVD in 2003: "U2 Go Home". A year prior to that, the second best-of album had been released: "The Best Of 1990 - 2000".

he rest of 2003 and most of 2004 was used for recording, mixing, re-recording, remixing and even more re-recording and re-mixing for the follow-up album that was to be released beginning of 2004. Which of course did not happen until late november 2004. It had to do with Bono's new daytime job as the voice of third-world countries (debt relief and people getting proper treatment for HIV and AIDS). But it also had to do with the boys not being happy with the progress in the studios with producer Chris Thomas. Therefore, longtime friend and producer of their first 3 albums Steve Lillywhite was asked to take over as lead-producer. Finally, when all the hard work was done, 2004 gave us "How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb". A great new album with an equally great tour to follow: the Vertigo tour. The tour kicked off in San Diego in March 2005 and lasted up to December 2006 in Honolulu. New songs from the U2 18 compilation album, including "Window In The Skies" and "The Saints Are Coming" featured prominently at several shows.

returned to the big screen in 2007, with the premiere of the groundbreaking U2 3D at the Cannes Film Festival in May. The band began work on new songs in Morocco with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois as co-writers, but the only new material released in 2007 was a few outtakes that appeared on the November re-release of The Joshua Tree, celebrating the album's 20th anniversary. Word was that a new album was to be released late 2008, but it took until the end of February 2009 for No Line On The Horizon to be released. NLOTH got raving reviews all over the world, Rolling Stone magazine gave it the full 5-start rating and described the album as "being their best, in its textural exploration and tenacious melodic grip, since 1991's Achtung Baby".

On the 30th of June 2009, Camp Nou in Barcelona had the premiere of the U2360 tour which got its name from the revolutionary new stage design. The idea was to set up the stage so that it offers a 360-degree view. You have to see it to believe it, but I can tell you the result is spectacular. All speakers and a full 360-degree screen, that can change size AND shape, are positioned above the stage, carried by a spider-like structure named The Claw. On July 20 & 21 2009, the U2360 circus came to Amsterdam, if you want to see some pictures of these shows click here.




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