1976 – present (46 years)
Dublin, County Dublin, Leinster, Ireland
- Adam Clayton
- Larry Mullen, Jr.
- The Edge
U2 is an Irish alternative rock band from Dublin formed in 1976. The group consists of Bono (lead vocals and rhythm guitar), the Edge (lead guitar, keyboards, and backing vocals), Adam Clayton (bass guitar), and Larry Mullen Jr. (drums and percussion). Initially rooted in post-punk, U2's musical style evolved throughout their career, yet has maintained an anthemic sound built on Bono's expressive vocals and the Edge's effects-based guitar textures. Their lyrics, often embellished with spiritual imagery, focus on personal and sociopolitical themes. Popular for their live performances, the group has staged several ambitious and elaborate tours over their career.
The band formed at Mount Temple Comprehensive School in 1976 when the members were teenagers with limited musical proficiency. Within four years, they signed with Island Records and released their debut album, Boy (1980). Subsequent work such as their first UK number-one album, War (1983), and the singles "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "Pride (In the Name of Love)" helped establish U2's reputation as a politically and socially conscious group. By the mid-1980s, they had become renowned globally for their live act, highlighted by their performance at Live Aid in 1985. The group's fifth album, The Joshua Tree (1987), made them international superstars and was their greatest critical and commercial success. Topping music charts around the world, it produced their only number-one singles in the US, "With or Without You" and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For".
Facing creative stagnation and a backlash following their documentary/double album, Rattle and Hum (1988), U2 reinvented themselves in the 1990s through a new musical direction and public image. Beginning with their acclaimed seventh album, Achtung Baby (1991), and the multimedia-intensive Zoo TV Tour, the band integrated influences from alternative rock, electronic dance music, and industrial music into their sound, and embraced a more ironic, flippant image. This experimentation continued through their ninth album, Pop (1997), and the PopMart Tour, which were mixed successes. U2 regained critical and commercial favour with the records All That You Can't Leave Behind (2000) and How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (2004), which established a more conventional, mainstream sound for the group. Their U2 360° Tour of 2009–2011 is the highest-attended and highest-grossing concert tour in history. The group's thirteenth album, Songs of Innocence (2014), was released at no cost through the iTunes Store, but received criticism for its automatic placement in users' music libraries.
U2 has released 14 studio albums and is one of the world's best-selling music artists in history, having sold more than 170 million records worldwide. They have won 22 Grammy Awards, more than any other band, and in 2005, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility. Rolling Stone ranked U2 at number 22 on its list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time". Throughout their career, as a band and as individuals, they have campaigned for human rights and philanthropic causes, including Amnesty International, Jubilee 2000, the ONE/DATA campaigns, Product Red, War Child, and Music Rising.
Foundation: The band originally formed in 1976 when Larry Mullen posted a bulletin in his school asking for musicians to form a rock band. The band then consisted of the four current members plus three additional guitarists, including The Edge’s brother Dick Evans (later a member of Virgin Prunes), Ivan McCormick and Peter Martin. According to legend, Bono originally auditioned as a guitarist but couldn’t play. He auditioned as lead vocals, but really couldn’t sing. He was, however, incredibly enthusiastic about the band, extremely charismatic, a great writer, and was strangely able to reach the audience when the band played, something he is known for still today. Bono will reach out into the crowd and dance or mess with someone in the crowd at every concert. He was kept as a member. The extra guitarists would soon leave the band and the group would go through the names “Feedback ” and “The Hype” before finally settling on U2.
The 70s & 80s: 1978 was a jumping point year for the band, finally finding their sound / voice. U2 won a talent contest in 1978: £500 and funds to make a record. Paul McGuinness became the band’s manager and U2 released an EP called Three and the single Another Day, the following year. U2 went on to release their first album, Boy and then more critically acclaimed albums incl.: October, War, Under A Blood Red Sky, and The Unforgettable Fire (featuring the song PlayMLK dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr). Seen by many as a political band with more charisma than others, they were called “a different kind” of band. After a short break U2 returned with The Joshua Tree & the USA music inspired Rattle And Hum (also a movie of the same name, based on the tour).
The 90s: Promising ”to dream it all up again”, they added industrial and dance styles to their music. Trying to drop a goody two shoes image, they went to Berlin (Germany), supposedly to develop new self-expressions. From there they started to make fun of themselves and had a good time of it in albums like Achtung Baby (meaning ”watch out, baby”, artwork feat. make-up artist Nassim Khalifa) & Zooropa. Bono took on many stage personae such as “The Fly”, “Mirrorball Man” and “Mr. MacPhisto” for the gigantic ZOO TV Tour. Later they continued to make fun of Pop culture and all its extremes with the album Pop and consequent PopMart tour which was announced to be launched at a Kmart store and included a giant golden arch across the stage.
The 00s: At the end of the 90’s into 00’s U2 became less image and more reality. With the death of Bono’s good friend Michael Hutchence, the lead singer of INXS, Bono wrote more songs from the heart surrounding ideas like life and death, children, hope, and the real world past all the pop culture and TV. Some say they’ve returned to a more band-centric sound with albums like All That You Can’t Leave Behind which features a song, Kite, dedicated to Bono’s father who passed away shortly after the album’s conception and 2004’s How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb.
The 10s: U2 went on the U2 360° Tour in 2009 and 2010. This tour set records for the highest-grossing concert tour. The band worked with producer Danger Mouse for their thirteenth album Songs of Innocence, which was released on 9 September 2014 for free to all Apple iCloud users.
The Name: There are many theories as to the origin of the name U2. For example, U2 was an intelligence airplane that was in use by the United States during the Cold War. Other obvious candidates include “You too” and “You two”, etc. Nonetheless the official line on the name’s origins remains unknown. The band has been quoted as saying that they did think of the U2 spy plane, but remain hushed about other reasons… U2
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