Hot Press - - Contents -

THIRTY YEARS. It’s a long time. So many days and nights. So many hours and min­utes. Sec­onds stretch­ing into in­fin­ity al­most. Can it re­ally be that long since all of this hap­pened?

Some­times, you look at the clock and won­der might it be wrong. It gets late so early! You stare at the di­ary. Look at the year. Do the maths. The re­sult is al­ways dif­fer­ent only the same. The tick­ing never stops. It is al­ways later than you think. And so you reach for the play but­ton. It re­ally is 30 years. The world changed then. The cen­tre of grav­ity shifted. No longer pe­riph­eral to what was go­ing down, Ire­land felt closer to the heart of the con­tra­dic­tion. And it was.

The world looked at us dif­fer­ently as a re­sult of

The Joshua Tree. Mary Robin­son was elected Pres­i­dent soon af­ter­wards and things shifted again. The mo­men­tum to­wards peace in the North gath­ered pace. Ire­land kept pro­duc­ing great singers, great bands. The power of the Church be­gan to crum­ble.

All of that didn’t hap­pen be­cause of this.

That’s not the way things hinge. But this we can say: noth­ing would ever be the same af­ter it. U2 had played their part in style. The Joshua Tree was epoch mak­ing. Some years later, writ­ing

U2: The Sto­ries Be­hind Ev­ery Song, I had to try

to ex­plain it... FLASH­BACK 1 July 13, 1985. Live Aid. In front of the big­gest tele­vi­sion au­di­ence for a live mu­sic event ever, U2 stole the show. Sales of their fourth al­bum, The

Un­for­get­table Fire, soared. Sud­denly U2 were not just a big band. They were one of the big­gest in the world. It gave them some breath­ing space. The Edge wrote the sound­track for Paul Mayer­berg’s film Cap­tive. Bono went trav­el­ling; lis­tened to the blues; did ‘Sil­ver and Gold’ for the Sun City al­bum project with Keith Richards and Ron­nie Wood; recorded ‘In A Life­time’ with Clan­nad. The whole band did two tracks in a Dublin stu­dio with Rob­bie Robert­son, for­merly of The Band, for his epony­mous solo al­bum.

In ‘86, they emerged in fits. For TV Gaga. The Con­spir­acy of Hope tour in the US. Self Aid in Ire­land. A dif­fer­ent band! They did dirty, loud, noisy cover ver­sions of Ed­die Cochran (“There ain’t no cure for the sum­mer­time blues!”) and Bob

Dy­lan (“I ain’t gonna work on Mag­gie’s farm no more”). They’d trav­elled a long, long way from the cul­ti­vated Euro­pean at­mo­spher­ics of The

Un­for­get­table Fire.

Bono was lis­ten­ing to roots mu­sic, folk, the blues. He was think­ing about songs, read­ing about the Deep South. The Edge had looked east on Cap­tive. The band moved west with The

Joshua Tree. Into the arms of Amer­ica. Bono’s song­writ­ing had more fo­cus now. Greater depth. He was drag­ging him­self up there along­side On March 9, it will be 30 years since the re­lease of The Joshua

Tree, a record that trans­formed U2 into the big­gest rock band in the world. In this is­sue of Hot Press, we look back to the ge­n­e­sis of the al­bum, how it was put to­gether and and what made it work. And ask: has it stood the test of time? Open­ing gam­bit: Niall Stokes Dy­lan, Mor­ri­son, Lou Reed.

“It’s our most lit­er­ate record yet,” he said. That was a whop­per of an un­der­state­ment. It went straight to No.1 in the US and the UK. In Amer­ica, it be­came the fastest-sell­ing al­bum of all time. It also de­liv­ered the first plat­inum-sell­ing CD.

In the arid waste­land of the Ne­vada desert, the Joshua tree sur­vives de­spite the dirt, bonedry sand and stone in which it is em­bed­ded. Some­where down there is wa­ter. Some­where down there is the source of life.

Some­where down there is hope. The chal­lenge is to find it. With Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois on pro­duc­tion du­ties, U2 went drilling. FLASH­BACK 2: ‘I STILL HAVEN’T FOUND WHAT I’M LOOK­ING FOR’ The Edge held a party in his newly re­con­structed house in Monkstown on the south coast of Dublin, on New Year’s Eve, 1986. By this stage the bulk of the work on The Joshua Tree was done and the band were re­lax­ing. But Bono couldn’t quite let go. One of the U2 singer’s most en­dear­ing qual­i­ties is the naked en­thu­si­asm he shows for the band’s own mu­sic. And so he ex­plained to me that this was an al­bum of songs, that U2 had fi­nally learned what the word meant, and that he was con­vinced that they had just made by far their best al­bum to date as a re­sult. “There’s one in par­tic­u­lar,” he ex­plained, “that’s amaz­ing.” And then he started to sing it to me. “It goes like this: ‘I have climbed/ the high­est moun­tain/ I have run/ through the fields/ only to be with you/ only to be with you’. And it’s got this re­frain,” he ex­panded and sang on till he came to it. “‘But I still haven’t

found what I’m look­ing for’.”

The bass drum of some thump­ing dance track was whack­ing away next door, and the hub­bub of party voices reigned all around – and yet I’ll swear that I could hum the song the next day. It was im­mensely catchy. A per­fect piece of pop mu­sic, it went to No. 1 in the US when it was re­leased there as a sin­gle, and no one could have been in the least bit sur­prised. From the start, Bono clearly

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