Massive congratulations are in order this weekend as the most celebrated band to ever come out of Ireland reach an incredible 40 years old.
Yes, this coming Sunday, September 25, marks 40 years to the day when the “Larry Mullen Band” held auditions in self-same 14-year-old Larry Mullen’s kitchen, kicking off a four-decade adventure that would turn himself, Paul Hewson (Bono), David Evans (The Edge), and Adam Clayton into some of the biggest rockstars the world has ever seen.
After drummer Mullen placed a handwritten note on the noticeboard of his school, the group came together, quickly rushing through a string of names--The Larry Mullen Band, Hype and Feedback--before finally settling on U2.
They quickly found their footing on the Irish circuit, winning a talent contest in Limerick after their first 18 months together which allowed them to pick up a touring van with the cash prize and saw Clayton relinquish his role as manager for a real manager, Paul McGuinness.
By 1980 they had signed with Island Records and released their first album “Boy” before they hit a stumbling block with the infamously difficult second album “October”. The bad reception to their second attempt could have been the end of the road for Bono and his crew, with the record company in talks to drop them from the label. Bono, Edge and Larry finally choosing the U2 lifestyle over the Christian evangelical group they were also members of in Dublin, however, and the group cemented their future with a significantly better third album “War” (1983), which even knocked Michael Jackson’s influential “Thriller” album from its long-stint at the top of the UK charts.
It was “The Joshua Tree” in 1987 that would officially make the group international superstars. As one of their most successful albums it shot to number one in more than 20 countries. Their fifth studio album, featuring epic hit singles such as "With or Without You", "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For", and "Where the Streets Have No Name" (the first two of which became the group's only number-one singles in the US), “The Joshua Tree” won a Grammy for Album of the Year in 1988, and is still featured on many critics lists as one of the greatest ever records.
By this time, the group had already taken part in Live Aid in 1985, the start of the humanitarian work that would see Bono establish his own charity organization, The ONE Campaign.
When “The Joshua Tree” follow-up “Rattle and Hum” failed to spark the same kind of excitement, the group finished their 1989 tour with an announcement that they were to go away and “dream it all up again.” The dream returned in November 1991 with “Achtung Baby” and breakthrough song “One”, as well as “The Fly” and “Mysterious Ways”.
U2 became the highest paid rock group ever in 1993 when they signed a long-term, six-album deal to remain with their label Island Records, in an estimated deal worth $60 million to the band.
Again struggling with follow-up albums, it wasn't until 2000 when the band would return to form with their tenth album “ All That You Can't Leave Behind” featuring a more mainstream sound with tracks such as "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of", "Elevation" and its worldwide hit single, "Beautiful Day", which earned three Grammy Awards. The album became number one in 32 countries and Rolling Stone branded the album U2's "third masterpiece" alongside “The Joshua Tree” and “Achtung Baby”.
U2 have to date released 13 studio albums, the last of which “Song of Innocence” (2014) was made freely available to all iTunes users.
Having sold more than 170 million records, U2 are among one of the highest-selling artists of all time, and still pull major crowds for their worldwide tours.
Since winning their first Grammy in ‘88 for “The Joshua Tree”, U2 have taken 22 out of 34 nominations, with eight songs appearing on Rolling Stone’s 2010 “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”
And they’re not finished yet. With all band members still only in their mid-50s, there’s no sign of retirement as the band enter their fifth decade together. U2 have confirmed they will kick off their next tour in March 2017 and we can expect their next album “Songs of Experience” any time before then.
Here’s to many more. Happy Birthday, U2!
Do you have a favorite U2 memory from the last 40 years? Let us know in the comments section below?