Formed in Dublin in 1976, Paul “Bono” Hewson, Dave “The Edge” Evans, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jnr, U2 went on to become one of the world's biggest bands. In 1978, they won a talent show in Limerick, which awarded them valuable studio time, during which they recorded a demo tape, and were picked up by Ireland's Hot Press magazine, who introduced them to their future manager, Paul McGuinness.
After a few Ireland-only EPs, they signed to Island Records in 1980, and released “11 O'Clock Tick Tock” as their first real single, from the album, Boy (1980). In 1981, their second album, October, came out, which was more spiritual, less rocky, but didn't do well. It was followed by War, in 1983, and a tour, during which Bono established himself as a charismatic and flamboyant frontman. Songs from the album included the politically-charged “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, and the lead single, “New Year's Day”, which was their first hit outside the UK or Ireland. The live album, Under A Blood Red Sky (1983) was made during the War tour, as well as a concert film, Live At Red Rocks, which brought them to a much wider audience.
In 1984, they released The Unforgettable Fire, which contained one of their most famous songs, “Pride (In The Name Of Love)”, about Martin Luther King Jnr. The album was more artistic, and their appearance at Live Aid in 1985 consolidated their status as a major musical force. In 1986, they went to America to explore blues and folk, producing The Joshua Tree (1987), with the iconic singles “With Or Without You” and “I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For”, both US No.1 hits. The subsequent US tour was filmed as a cine-doc, Rattle & Hum (1987), and released into cinemas to a mixed reception, although the accompanying live double album sold well.
After a two year break, the band decamped to Berlin to begin work on Achtung Baby (1991), beginning their conceptual 'Pop Art' period, but the recording sessions were fraught with creative, musical and personal differences. The singles, “The Fly”, “Mysterious Ways” and “One” were all huge hits. They then embarked on the Zoo TV Tour in 1992-93, a deliberately over-the-top series of concerts, that saw Bono assume numerous stage identities including “The Fly” and “Mirrorball Man”. Their next album, Zooropa (1993), continued on from Achtung Baby, after which they over-indulged on the critical failure, Original Soundtracks 1 (released under the name Passengers).
In 1997, they released Pop, which experimented with more sampling and looping techniques, and backed it with the PopMart tour, which satirised celebrity, pop culture and capitalism, as illustrated by the single yellow arch that dominated their stage sets. After a rest, they released All That You Can't Leave Behind in 2000, which contained the global hit “Beautiful Day” and earned them three Grammys. The Elevation world tour followed, before How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb was released in 2004, and the single “Vertigo” was used by Apple for iPod and iTune cross-promotion. No Line On The Horizon (2009) was their next album, followed by the U2 360 Tour, incorporating the famous Giant Claw.
U2 celebrated the 20th anniversary of Achtung Baby by releasing the 2011 documentary film From The Sky Down, which followed the making of the album, and all the problems that went with it.
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