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Members include Bono (originally Bono Vox; born Paul Hewson on May 10, 1960), vocals; Adam Clayton (born on March 13, 1960), bass; The Edge (born David Evans on August 8, 1961), guitar; Dick "Dik" Evans (left group, 1976), guitar; Larry Mullen, Jr. (born on October 31, 1961), drums. Addresses: Record company--Interscope Records, 2220 Colorado Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90404, website: http://www.interscope.com. Website--U2 Official Website: http://www.u2.com.
In 1984, U2 lead singer Bono told Jim Miller in Newsweek, "The message, if there is a message in our music, is the hope that it communicates." Nearly ten years later, after being called everything from "pompous and self-righteous social crusaders" to "sincere and involved political activists," U2 decided it was time to step out of the identities the world had superimposed on them. Bono Vox, who by this time had become simply Bono, told Robert Hilburn of the Los Angeles Times, "We felt we were being made a cartoon of 'the good guys of rock and so forth' so we decided to make some cartoons of our own and send them out as disinformation." U2 forged ahead to reach rock icon status with multiplatinum albums including Rattle and Hum, War, The Joshua Tree, Achtung Baby, All That You Can't Leave Behind, and How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.
U2 started off humbly enough as a Dublin, Ireland, school boy band formed in response to an ad placed on the Mount Temple High School notice board by Larry Mullen, Jr. in 1976. Of the several students that came to his house to audition for the rock band, Mullen noted that, although some could play, technical merit wasn't the decisive factor. Mullen told Jay Cocks of Time that the original band consisted of one fellow who "meant to play the guitar, but he couldn't play very well, so he started to sing. He couldn't do that either. But, he was such a charismatic character that he was in the band as soon as he arrived." That fellow was Paul Hewson, who later adopted the name Bono Vox (Latin for "good voice," which Hewson appropriated from a billboard advertisement for a hearing aid retailer). David "The Edge" Evans, a guitarist who could play, Adam Clayton, a bassist who "just looked great and used all the right words, like gig," Mullen on drums, and second guitarist Dick "Dik" Evans, The Edge's older brother, made up the rest of the band.
U2 began their musical odyssey as Feedback. After playing mainly cover tunes for a few shows in small local venues, Dik Evans left the band to form the Virgin Prunes, and the band changed its name to the Hype. Clayton, acting as band manager, sought advice from all the music industry sources he knew, including Steve Rapid, a singer for the local band the Radiators, who suggested that they change their name. Clayton wanted something ambiguous; Rapid suggested U2 because there was a U2 spy plane, a U2 submarine, a U2 battery made by Eveready, as well as the obvious "you, too" and "you two."
U2 Got Serious
In March of 1978, U2 entered a talent competition sponsored by Guinness at the Limerick Civic Week. They won 500 and the opportunity to audition for CBS Ireland, after which they secured supporting spots on tours with the Stranglers and the Greedy Bastards. In September, they recorded additional demos at Dublin's Windmill Lane Studios with Chas de Whalley, which subsequently lead to their signing by CBS Ireland. After building a considerable following in Ireland, they released their first EP, U2:3, which featured the tracks "Out Of Control," "Stories," and "Boy-Girl." It was available only in Ireland, where it topped the charts and where U2 found themselves playing sold-out shows. It was in December of the next year that U2 played their first United Kingdom dates--to a cool reception.
In Ireland, their single "Another Day" peaked on the charts at number one. U2 was to remain popular in Ireland, while struggling for years to get a foothold in both England and the United States. Although signed to an English record company, Island Records, fairly early in their struggle, U2 found success first in the United States with a 1981 tour--their second in the U.S.--that pushed Boy into the charts. England was a miss with "11 o'clock Tick Tock" and with Boy, until "Fire" finally hit the charts (followed by Boy as a latecomer). In mid-1982 the band retired to the studio to record new music. It was that October, during a concert in Belfast, that they introduced "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" to their fans. That song carried a message of peace in Northern Ireland that would later become the focal point of the band, seemingly fusing their lyrics and politics. Beginning in February of 1983, U2 played a 27-date sold-out tour in the United Kingdom.
In November of 1983, as U2 was constantly meeting the demand for concerts and chart-topping hits in both the United States and the United Kingdom, they released Under a Blood Red Sky--their first live album--to again meet the demand for new work. It became the most successful live album of the time.
Their next studio album, 1984's The Unforgettable Fire, reached number one in the United Kingdom. The band headlined at Madison Square Garden in 1985, and Rolling Stone touted them as "The Band of the Eighties." In between the philanthropy that was to become an ever-increasing indentifying aspect of the band--participating in "Do They Know It's Christmas" for Ethiopian famine relief, singing for Artists Against Apartheid, raising funds for Irish unemployed, and doing gigs for Amnesty International--they released the EP Wide Awake in America and resumed world touring in 1986.
Although it seemed that U2 were the social crusaders of their generation, Bono assured Time's Cocks that he "would hate to think everybody was into U2 for `deep' and `meaningful' reasons. We're a noisy rock 'n' roll band. If we got on stage, and instead of going `Yeow!' the audience all went `Ummmm' or started saying the rosary, it would be awful." Regardless of how Bono saw it, the band's social consciousness is one of the main reasons, according to Christopher Connelly of Rolling Stone, U2 "has become one of the handful of artists in rock (and) roll history ... that people are eager to identify themselves with."
Finally Won Critical Acclaim
In 1987 U2 embarked on a 110-date world tour. Their new album, The Joshua Tree, entered the United Kingdom charts at number one and the album went platinum in 48 hours, making it, at the time, the fastest-selling album in United Kingdom history. In mid April, The Joshua Tree reached the top of the American charts where it remained for nine weeks. Shortly thereafter, the band appeared on the cover of Time with the headline: "U2: Rock's Hottest Ticket." The Edge released a soundtrack for the political kidnapping film Captive. In November, Eamon Dunphy's book Unforgettable Fire: The Story of U2 was released. It became a bestseller in the United Kingdom although the band retracted their support of the volume after they could not get parts of the text changed that they maintained were inaccurate.
In 1988 U2 received the award for Best International Group at the British Record Industry Awards, which was followed by their first Grammy Awards for Best Rock Performance by a Group and Album of the Year for The Joshua Tree. That same year, the Iovine-produced double album Rattle and Hum, featuring live recordings from the previous two years as well as studio tracks, was released and topped the charts in both the United States and the United Kingdom. U2 also released the live documentary film Rattle and Hum, directed by Philip Joanou. As if these achievements hadn't raised their profile high enough, the band also appeared on the live television show Smile Jamaica for Jamaican Hurricane relief, where they were joined onstage by Keith Richards and Ziggy Marley.
The year 1989 brought the group the British Record Industry Award for Best International Group for the second year in a row. Grammy Awards for Best Rock Performance for "Desire," Best Performance Music Video for "Where The Streets Have No Name," and an MTV Music Video Award for their collaboration with B. B. King on "When Love Comes to Town," followed. The rest of the year, the band spent working tirelessly, touring Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and then finally returning home to Dublin, where the tour culminated with a New Year's Eve show that was broadcast live on the radio. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Radio Telefís Éireann (RTE), Ireland's National Public Service Broadcasting Organization, collaborated to transmit the show throughout Europe and the former U.S.S.R. to a listening audience estimated at more than 500 million.
Although they had not released an album since 1988, U2 discovered new diversions in 1990. In February, the Royal Shakespeare Company produced A Clockwork Orange 2004, which featured music by The Edge. In June, Mullen wrote the official Eire World Cup Soccer team's song. But as always, busy as they were, U2 found time for good works. This time they contributed to an anthology of Cole Porter songs that was released as Red Hot + Blue and benefitted AIDS education. They also traveled to Berlin to film a video featured in a television special airing on International AIDS Day.
In November of 1991, U2's next, long-awaited album finally surfaced, but without the media blitz that seemed to accompany all the other year-end major releases. U2 had decided that the album would sell itself to their fans just fine without the fanfare. They were right, as initial shipments of Achtung Baby totalled upwards of 1.4 million units.
Zoo TV Tour and Beyond
In February of 1992, U2 began their Zoo TV tour. They took the radio transmission concept inaugurated on New Year's Eve 1989 one step further by incorporating a satellite dish into the show. A short European tour followed, during which a contest winner had the show beamed live by satellite to his home in Nottinghamshire from Stockholm, courtesy of MTV. The tour concluded with a Greenpeace concert in Manchester in which barrels of contaminated United Kingdom sand were delivered back to a nuclear power plant site where U2 and others were protesting the opening of a second plant. In August, they went back on the tour circuit, taking Zoo TV to the stadiums of the United States with their outside broadcast tour. When the tour ended in mid November in Mexico City, U2 had played to an estimated 2.5 million people.
During a break in the Zoo TV tour, U2 took the time to record an EP. That EP eventually became the ten-song Zooropa album, winner of the Grammy Award for Alternative Album of the Year in 1993. On May 9th the Zoo TV tour, which had since mutated into the Zooropa '93 tour, started an ambitious schedule of visiting 18 countries in four months and closing the trip back in Dublin in August.
The group released the techno-oriented Pop in March of 1997, which featured the singles "Staring at the Sun" and "Discotheque." Though some fans and critics found the album to be a stylistic puzzle of sorts, Time magazine's Christopher John Farley called the album "passionate, futuristic and completely engaging." The group embarked on the massive PopMart arena tour in support of the album in May. Staging for the tour included the world's largest video screen, a 35-foot mirrorball lemon, a 12-foot wide stuffed olive, and a 100-foot high golden arch. About the tour, Bono told Chris Willman of Entertainment Weekly, "We thought ... let's have some fun with our bigness. You know, we can't be hung for that. Because humor is the evidence of freedom, isn't it?"
Following the success of Pop, U2 released All That You Can't Leave Behind in 2000, an album that returned to the "generous spirit that flowed through their best '80s records," according to Stephen Thomas Erlewine of All Music Guide. The album spawned the single "Beautiful Day," for which the band won Grammy Awards for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, Song of the Year, and Record of Year. David Browne of Entertainment Weekly called the album "unwaveringly assured" and said that the group "no longer seems wary of their tendency toward the anthemic and grandiose, and they shouldn't be; it still sets them apart for nearly everyone else...." Maclean's called All That You Can't Leave Behind U2's "strongest album in years." The group again headed out in support of their newest release, this time on the worldwide Elevation tour.
Continued Social Activism
In addition to their musical pursuits, social activism remains important to U2. The group has championed the causes of eliminating Third World debt and gun control. U2 often uses concert performances to address the audience about these issues. "We're treading a very fine line between artists and wanting to lecture Americans about issues that are important. It's basically turning a mirror on the audience," The Edge told Rolling Stone's Jenny Eliscu. Bono has appeared in front of the United States Congress to urge the country's participation in erasing the debt of Third World nations, and he met with Pope John Paul II to lobby support for the issue. As the Daily Telegraph stated in 2000, "[O]ne senses that for him (Bono) and his colleagues in U2, rock stardom is a complicated business in which the freedom that success has brought them is counterbalanced by responsibility."
In 2004, the band released How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. In Time, Josh Tyrangiel wrote that the album "references old sounds for the devoted, integrates fuzzy new ones for the kids and delivers a staggering number of indelible hooks." In that same year, the band was inducted into the first U.K. Music Hall of Fame, as an honorary member.
In 2005, U2 won three Grammy Awards, including best rock performance by a duo or group with vocal, best short form music video, and the songwriter's award for best rock song, all for "Vertigo." They were also inducted into the U.S. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
When asked what they're all about, bassist Adam Clayton explained it best in an interview with Robert Hilburn of the Los Angeles Times when he said, "I feel we made a decision then (going into the 90s) that if we are going to be the righteous men of rock 'n' roll, we are going to be very miserable. I think we realized that issues are more complicated than we once thought, and we don't want to be continually earnest about what we do. We are not a religious cult ... we are not a political theory. We are a rock 'n' roll band."
by Charlie Katagiri
Group formed in Dublin, Ireland, 1976; began as Feedback, then toured locally as the Hype, playing mainly cover tunes; changed name to U2, 1977; won talent competition, signed with CBS Ireland, released first EP, U2:3, 1978; signed with Island Records, U.K., 1980; released debut album, Boy, 1980; appeared in Live Aid, 1985; released The Joshua Tree, 1987; embarked on tour, 1987; released double-album Rattle and Hum, 1988; released Achtung Baby, 1991; launched Zoo TV tour, 1992; released Zooropa, 1993; released Pop, 1997; launched PopMart tour, 1997; released single "Beautiful Day" and album All That You Can't Leave Behind, 2000; released How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, 2004.
Grammy Award for best rock performance by a duo or group with vocal, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, for The Joshua Tree, 1987; Grammy Award for album of the year, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, for The Joshua Tree, 1987; viewers's choice award, MTV Video Music Awards, for "With or Without You," 1987; Grammy Award for best rock performance by a duo or group with vocal, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, for "Desire," 1988; Grammy Award for best performance music video, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, for "Where The Streets Have No Name," 1988; British Record Industry Award for best international group, 1988; British Record Industry Award for best international group, 1989; best video from a film, MTV Video Music Awards, for "When Love Comes To Town" (with B. B. King), 1989; Grammy Award for best rock performance by a duo or group with vocal, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, for Achtung Baby, 1992; best group video, MTV Video Music Awards, for "Even Better Than The Real Thing," 1992; best special effects in a video, MTV Video Music Awards, for "Even Better Than the Real Thing," 1992; Grammy Award for best alternative album, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, for Zooropa, 1993; Grammy Award for best music video, long form, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, for "Zoo TV-Live From Sydney," 1994; Grammy Award for best rock performance by a duo or group with vocal, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, for "Beautiful Day," 2000; Grammy Award for song of the year, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, for "Beautiful Day," 2000; Grammy Award for record of year, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, for "Beautiful Day," 2000; BRIT Award for best international group, 2001; BRIT Award for outstanding contribution to the British music industry, 2001; Grammy Award for record of the year, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, for "Walk On," 2001; Grammy Award for pop performance by a duo or group with vocal, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, for "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of," 2001; Grammy Award for rock performance by a duo or group with vocal, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, for "Elevation," 2001; Grammy Award for best rock album, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, for All That You Can't Leave Behind, 2001; inducted into U.K. Music Hall of Fame, 2004; inducted into U.S. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 2005; Grammy Awards for best rock performance by a duo or group with vocal, best short form music video, and the songwriter's award for best rock song, all for "Vertigo.".
- Selected discography
- U2:3 (EP; includes "Out of Control," "Stories," and "Boy-Girl"), CBS Ireland, 1979.
- Boy (includes "A Day Without Me" and "I Will Follow"), Island, 1980.
- October (includes "Fire" and "Gloria"), Island, 1981.
- War (includes "New Year's Day" and "Two Hearts Beat as One"), Island, 1983.
- Under A Blood Red Sky (live), Island, 1983.
- Unforgettable Fire (includes "Pride (In the Name of Love)"), Island, 1984.
- Wide Awake in America (EP; includes live version of "Bad," "Three Sunrises," and "Love Comes Tumbling"), Island, 1985.
- The Joshua Tree (includes "With or Without You," "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," and "Where the Streets Have No Name"), Island, 1987.
- Rattle and Hum (includes "Desire," "Angel of Harlem," "When Love Comes to Town," and "All I Want Is You"), Island, 1988.
- Achtung Baby (includes "The Fly," "Mysterious Ways," "One," "Even Better Than the Real Thing," and "Wild Horses"), Island, 1991.
- Zooropa (includes "Numb" and "Lemon"), Island, 1993.
- Pop (includes "Discotheque" and "Staring at the Sun), Island, 1997.
- (Compilation) Best of 1980-1990 , Island, 1998.
- All That You Can't Leave Behind (includes "Beautiful Day," "Wild Honey," and "Stuck in a Moment"), Interscope, 2000.
- How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb Interscope, 2004.
- Dickey, Lorraine, The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Rock, Carlton Books, 1993.
- Dolgins, Adam, Rock Names, Citadel Press, 1993.
- Rees, Dafydd, and Luke Crampton, Rock Movers & Shakers, Billboard Books/ABC CLIO, 1991.
- Robbins, Ira A., Trouser Press Record Guide, fourth edition, Collier Books, 1991.
- Billboard, November 16, 1991.
- Daily Telegraph,October 28, 2000.
- Entertainment Weekly, May 9, 1997; November 3, 2000.
- Hollywood Reporter, March 2, 1994.
- Los Angeles Times, March 1, 1992; March 22, 1992; June 4, 1993; September 12, 1993.
- Maclean's, November 2, 1987; November 20, 2000.
- Melody Maker, May 30, 1992; December 5, 1992.
- Musician, March 1992; September 1992.
- Newsweek, December 31, 1984.
- People, April 1, 1985.
- Rolling Stone, October 11, 1984; March 14, 1985; May 7, 1987; September 8, 1988.
- Spin, August 1993.
- Time, April 27, 1987; March 10, 1997; March 4, 2002, p. 62; November 22, 2004, p. 80.
- Village Voice, December 10, 1991; December 22, 1992.
- "Robbie Williams, U2, Coldplay Dominate Brit Awards," MTV News, http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1440978/20010226/u2.jhtml?paid=1022 (September 20, 2001).
- "U2,"All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (September 20, 2001).
- CNN.com, www.cnn.com/2005/SHOWBIZ/Music/03/15/music.rockhall.ap/index.html (March 15, 2005).
- Grammys.com, www.grammys.com/awards/grammy/47winners (February 14, 2005).
- "U2,"RollingStone.com, http://www.rollingstone.com (August 15, 2001).
- USA Today, www.usatoday.com/life/music/news/2004-11-12-brit-music-faves_x.htm, (November 15, 2004).
- Additional information was obtained from the Wasserman Group, Island Records, and MTV, 1994.
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