U2 was founded in 1976 and features Bono (Paul David Hewson) on vocals, The Edge (David Howell Evans) on lead guitar, keyboards, and background vocals, Adam Clayton on bass guitar, and Larry Mullen, Jr. on drums and background vocals. The band found popularity in the mid 1980’s and is still wildly popular today. They have sold about 50.5 million albums in the United States alone, and approximately 170 million across the globe.
Six of U2 albums were #1 in the U.S., and the band has won more Grammy Awards than any living or past recording artists, with 22 under their belt. In its April 2004 issue, Rolling Stone magazine, named U2 in its 50 “greatest rock & roll artists of all time” and in the following year, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility. Arguably, one of the most successful bands of all time, the band continues to top music charts and sell out stadiums and arenas all around the globe.
U2 was initially formed in Dublin, Ireland in the fall of 1976. Mullen, Jr., posted a notice on his secondary school’s bulletin board seeking musicians to form a new band. Seven boys would attend the band’s first ever practice, but only Mullen, Jr., Clayton, Evans, and Hewson would be left by the time the band was performing at a talent show in Limerick, Ireland on March 17, 1978. The band won the top prize at the top show and impressed Jackie Hayden, one of the judges for the show, who also worked for CBS Records. Hayden would provide the band with studio time to record their first demo. Before releasing their first single, the band went through multiple band names, starting with The Larry Mullen Band, then changed it to Feedback, and then to The Hype, and then finally settled on U2. Under the CBS label, U2 would release their first two singles in the Irish market. Neither singles generated much attention from audiences and critics.
In March of 1980, U2 signed with Island Records and released their first international single “11 O’ Clock Tick Tock,” and their first album, Boy. The album included their first hit single, “I Will Follow.” The album, along with the band’s first tour outside of Ireland and the U.K., were well received amongst music critics and their fans. In the following year, U2 released October, an album that exhibited strong spiritual, Christian overtones. In 1983, U2 released their third album, War, which included the band’s first international hit single, “New Year’s Day”. The song would peak at the #10 position on UK charts and climb just under the top 50 on US music charts. MTV placed the “New Year’s Day” music video into heavy rotation, which helped introduce mainstream America to U2. From that point on, performing at sold-out concerts in Europe and the U.S. was nothing out of the norm.
In 1984, U2 released The Unforgettable Fire, which included hit single, “Pride (In the Name of Love).” The album contained a new sound from the band that was more atmospheric, effects-driven, and symphonic. The single, about civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., would penetrate the U.S. Top 40 and U.K. Top 5. The album also included “Bad,” a song that would go on to become a fan favorite, particular at live concerts. In 1987, the band released The Joshua Tree, which would debut at #1 on UK charts and also peak at #1 on U.S. charts. The album, which included hit single “Where the Streets Have No Name” and #1 hit singles “With or Without You,” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” would go on to win the coveted Grammy Award for Album of the Year. The album to date, has sold an estimated 25 million copies. Later that year, U2 was featured on the cover of Time magazine, with the headline reading, “Rock’s Hottest Ticket”. The band’s Joshua Tree Tour was a commercial success, as the band consistently played in front of sold out arenas and stadiums. In 1988, U2 released a double album entitled Rattle and Hum. The album, which featured tracks performed with Bob Dylan and B.B. King was well received by fans, but with lukewarm reviews from music critics. In the following year, U2 announced they would take some time off from touring.
In 1991, the band reentered the music scene with the release of Achtung Baby, which included smash hit single, “One”. The album was well received by both fans and critics. To date, it has sold over 17 million copies. In 1993, U2 released Zooropa, an album that infused techno style and electronic effects to U2’s traditional alternative guitar rock sound. The album, which included tracks, “Zooropa,” “Stay (Faraway, So Close!)” and “The Wanderer,” featuring country and rock legend, Johnny Cash, expanded the band’s reach and sustained their popularity going into the 90s and beyond.
In 1997, the band released Pop, an album that would debut at #1 in 28 countries. The album was also noted for mixing elements of popular 90s techno with traditional US alternative guitar rock. Critics were mixed on the album, which despite being an early commercial success, has lifetime sales that are among the lowest in U2’s catalogue. On September 20, 2007, U2 would set a new European record at that time for the largest attendance at a concert for a single band, thanks to the 150,000 Italians that went to see them at the “Campovolo” in Reggio Emilia. In 1999, U2 released All That You Can’t Leave Behind, which included several hit singles, such as: “Beautiful Day,” “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out of” and “Elevation”. In 2001, the band would highlight the halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVI, set in New Orleans, Louisiana.
In November 2004, U2 released How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, which would debut at #1 in 32 countries. The album, featuring hit singles “Vertigo” and “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own” would sell an estimated 840,000 copies in the U.S. in its first week, a record for the band. U2 would go on to make a huge splash at the 2005-2006 Grammy Awards, taking home five Grammy’s including: Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, Best Rock Song, and Best Rock Album.
U2 is also well-known for their active participation in the cause for human rights, particularly in Africa. Most recently they have been encouraging fans and the general public to take part in the ONE campaign, even taking time during their concerts to talk about the cause. Frontman Bono was named as one of TIME magazine’s Persons of the Year in December of 2005 for his participation in worldwide humanitarian efforts. Their most recent album, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, has sparked a hugely popular worldwide tour. Recent singles include “One” with Mary J. Blige, “All Because of You,” “City of Blinding Lights,” and “Vertigo.” U2 has gone on record to intimate a new album to be released in late 2006 or in 2007.
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