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8EEZ Playlist: U2

Four Irish Rock Chameleons. One Killer Band.

Courtesy of Island Records

"It's alright, it's alright, it's alright.

She moves in mysterious ways."

Hello, one and all.

This one's a special list, as it profiles a band that both my BFF, Oates, and I love. They're a band from Dublin, Ireland who had already established themselves as stars in their native UK, but took awhile to make a stronger dent here in the states — and it happened exactly 30 years ago!

The band roster is as follows: Paul Hewson: a.k.a. "Bono"; the lead singer/guitarist with harmonica; David Evans, the guitarist who christened himself as "The Edge"; Bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. round out this brilliant band. Here's the scoop on how they became the super-band that we know and love today.

In 1976, the band had formed when they were just school boys with the name Feedback as their name — subsequently, changing their name again to The Hype. In 1978, after a few early band member changes, there was a final decision to rename the band U2 (a name that even I have questions as to what inspired it; as it just alludes to the catchphrase: "You Too"). Their musical repertoire was mostly a very strong punk influence. Their first major performance at a church, while saying goodbye to a leaving band member, would give them the incentive to record a demo tape. Despite some bumps, they were gaining momentum in Ireland as a band to watch.

Island Records signed the band up and released their debut album: Boy in 1980. The band, along with their producer Steve Lillywhite, would experiment with different approaches to their sound. As the group gained momentum with their concert shows, with Bono as the group's most dynamic performer, radio took notice and "I Will Follow" became be their first, unofficial hit. Soon, though, tension arose as both Bono and The Edge embraced Christianity and found it conflicted with the lifestyle of a rock and roll band. This would be reflected in their followup album: October in 1981. They found some moderate success with "Gloria" on MTV. The conflicts would almost unravel the group as both the tour and music did little to improve the initial promise. Thankfully, it didn't stop the band from going for it with their next musical endeavor — the album War from 1983.

It broke the bank for the group, finally, with two major hits: "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "New Year's Day." The band would channel their political views, mostly about human injustices, into their music, making the band one of the rare rock bands to have a more political stance than most of the popular rock/dance/new wave bands of the era. The Unforgettable Fire, their followup studio album, was released in 1984, as they parted with producer Lillywhite and began work with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois. It brought the band even more exposure here in the states, while finally netting them their first US Top-40 hit, the Martin Luther King Jr. tribute, "Pride (In The Name of Love)." An EP in 1985 and a performance in the Live Aid concert (a concert that was to benefit the famine in Ethiopia) would be just the tip of the iceberg for this group. In 1987 — 30 years ago — it all went uphill statewide and globally for them with The Joshua Tree.

March 1987 would see the release of this iconic album, their fifth studio album total, and would bring the band universal acclaim and brought about two smash hits out of the box. "With or Without You," a dark, torch rock ballad would become a worldwide smash hit, going to Number 1 here in the US and other countries. Their followup single, the spiritually conscious, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" would also go to Number 1. Two more hits: "Where The Streets Have No Name" and "In God's Country" would net them fame and fans and made them staples on MTV. Bono became a thinking-man's sex symbol and made him more accessible to the female population. Their next project would, however, test their newfound global fame as the make-or-break for this group.

In 1988, Paramount Pictures would release their documentary-concert film, Rattle and Hum. The film bombed, but the album did exceptionally well, netting them a Top-3 hit with "Desire," with Bono prominently on harmonica. The album found the band breaking boundaries with their music, experimenting with folk, gospel and blues and working with likes of legends like B.B. King and Bob Dylan. It took three years for their next album. With the likes of Michael Jackson and Prince releasing new studio material in 1991, U2 was also the hot act that year that awaited a highly-anticipated album. It was also the year the Seattle grunge scene had it's first breakthrough, Nirvana, but the 9EEZ playlist has yet to have its inception. So, until then ... we're back to the 80s and U2.

Okay, so, we're actually in the 1990s now. Achtung Baby would be their first 90s album. They were also one of the few 80s rock bands embraced by the now Alternative Rock scene. Even dabbling in industrial rock and and R&B/dance/funk didn't hurt the band. "Mysterious Ways," a dancey/rock/funk track, gave them new fans in the world of black/hip-hop music and would go top-10. "One," a slower, more retrospective single, would also re-affirm the group's spiritual stance. "Who's Going To Ride Your Wild Horses?" was the last hit song released and showed a more romantic side to the group. In 1993, Zooropa found them experimenting even further with grunge, alternative rock, hip-hop, funk, industrial and even electronica. Pop, released in 1997, found them dialing back the rock and even playing with genres ranging from dance pop, new wave, and disco.

After the 2000s rolled in, one figured this super-group couldn't enter the decade successfully. All That You Can't Leave Behind, released in 2000, gave the band a major commercially successful album and world tour. Smash hits continued, like: "Beautiful Day" and "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of," which was a tribute to the late INXS lead singer, Michael Hutchence. In 2004, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb continued the band's hot streak. Tours continued as Bono and his band still continued philanthropy. Even in 2017, the band shows no signs of slowing down as they are releasing their fourteenth studio album and smash seminal album The Joshua Tree for its 30th anniversary.

My best bud, Oates has the honors.


5. Pride (In the Name of Love) (1984)

Potent rock track that was a tribute to one of the most famous civil rights leaders, Martin Luther King, Jr, it wasn't a very big hit here in the US, but it gave the group a taste of what was yet to come.

4. Mysterious Ways (1991)

Strong, Prince-like funk grooves and a bit of light hip-hop distinguishes this hit from the pack. It is a top-10 hit that was a departure from their previous 80s sound.

3. One (1992)

This open-ended rock/gospel track put the band back in their spiritual roots as it also explored themes as diverse as unity, disillusionment, abandonment, and even salvation. Pity, I couldn't do a Top-10, because it's up there.

2. Magnificent (2009)

Off their 2009 album, "No Line on the Horizon," has all the ingredients of a great U2 track, complete with a deep, spiritual theme and a little bit of a disco vibe. The music video was shot in Fez, Morocco.

1. With or Without You (1987)

Their signature torch rock ballad, a thumping bassline and drum gets the groove going, while Bono croons beautifully about love lost. It is on my list as well. Read on.


5. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For (1987)

The band's second US Number 1 would be their last one here stateside. A deeply spiritual song, it is a rarity for a rock band getting mainstream airplay with such a song.

4. Numb (1993)

Numb is a song cut off their 1993 album, Zooropa, a big, mainstream rock hit on radio and a complete departure from the band's usual fare, opting for a rock/electronica sound. Also, it has the distinction for having The Edge on monotone vocals with Bono doing backup. The bizarre music video has him also being a visual guinea pig for a host of strange acts using his face.

3. Pride (In the Name of Love) (1984)

This made my list also. Moving on.

2. Mysterious Ways (1991)

It also made my list - a little higher than my friend's. I like this track immensely and even wonder if the band had listened to Prince often. The rhythmic guitars and sexy drum/percussion alludes heavily to his hit, "Let's Go Crazy," from 1984.

No surprise, without further adieu ... just like Oates!

1. With or Without You (1987)

This was too easy to call. It's their most flawless track, with a dash of soul and blues to compliment the rock chords. Even the video showcases Bono in his smoldering best.

That's it for today, folks.

Next up: A late-80s hit-maker from Chicago we all happily waited for. 

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