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Tuesday, 18 December 2012

#51: Me Juan, Inspired by U2 — Part Two

The Joshua Tree was a Megatastical SuperSonic Soaraway of a hit record – the fastest-selling album in British chart history, and topped America’s Billboard 200 for nine successive weeks.

“With or Without You” quickly became U2’s first No.1 in the US. But Bono wasn’t satisfied, claiming: “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”. That gave Edge the idea for a song – which they added to the album – and that went to No.1, too.

Only the fourth rock band to grace the cover of Time magazine, U2 were now "Rock's Hottest Ticket". According to Edge’s dad, Ledge. And The Joshua Tree bagged them their first pair of Grammys.

How to follow such success? Well, Bono & the boys decided to make a documentary of the JT Tour (as in: Joshua Tree, obviously. Justin Timberlake hadn’t been born yet, had he?). They called it Rattle and Hum. Then made a (double) album of the same name; a ‘tribute to American music’.

Unfortunately it was a case of 'After the Lord Mayor’s Show', Rattle and Hum taking the role of the donkey-cart. The only thing it cleaned up was a steaming pile of manure from the Lord Mayor’s stallions.

As is so often the case after you strike gold in music (or art generally), you get complacent and follow up with a turkey. R&H was roundly panned by film and music critics alike, forcing U2 into hiding… on a yacht just off the coast of Barbados.

The band had to bounce back with studio album #7 – and did so, inspired by the bulldozing of the Berlin wall and German reunification. November 1991’s Achtung Baby was the result.

Recording the album was a fraught, fractious affair, as the band argued over their musical direction, quality of material – and whose turn it was to wear their hair as either a mullet, Afro or crew-cut. Edge rebelled, scowling: “Screw you! My hair’s receding faster than a tour promoter's budget. I’m wearing a woolly hat (/toque) from now on. I need a new edge.”

To read the rest of this column, check out BC Johnny's upcoming book: Chilled Almonds.

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