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Old 11-27-2001, 10:58 AM   #1
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THE JOSHUA TREE REVISTED

The article is long, but gives great insights to the band at that time, and how those same ideals have brought them to the place that they are today...I found the article very insightful, enjoy! Lastly, the Joshua Tree rocks, and deserves the title of the best album of all time....along with Achtung Baby of course!

Chris

The Joshua Tree
The four members of U2 talk about the new album and the current tour

Propaganda, Issue 5, January 01, 1987

How does it feel to have finally finished the record?

BONO: "Finishing the album is like having a black hole, or a room with blinds closed and then you go out into the light and everything dazzles you, it's so brilliant. That's what it's like because essentially a studio is just a big black hole in the ground.

"When you start making a record you'll go into the studio for, say, ten hours, and you'll get eight hours work done, but towards the end of the project you'll be spending twenty hours in the studio and getting two hours work done. At the end of the recording we called everyone round for a party, a pool tournament to celebrate the end of the album, but we ended up not being able to go to our own party because we were working right up to the last minute, and that was our third night in a row!

"So that's what it is like -- it's like being down a black hole and coming out to the light. Everything looks clear again."

But you're pleased with the record, obviously?

"Yeah, I'm as pleased with the record as I can ever be pleased with a record -- y'know I'm very rarely happy with our own work. I suppose more than any other record, probably since our first, it's a very complete record...it's a collection of different points of view.

"The significant thing about the record for me is that I had to 'come clean' as a word-writer. Instead of trying to capture the elusive message of the music, which is what I'd normally try to do with my words, I wanted to speak out specifically, but without a placard, and without my John Lennon handbook!"

What were the chief inspirations for this record?

"America -- the continent as opposed to the country. It has had quite an effect on me, and on my own life.

"I love being there, I love America, I love the feeling of the wide open spaces, I love the deserts, I love the mountain ranges, I even love the cities. So having fallen in love with America over the years that we've been there on tour, I then had to 'deal with' America and the way it was affecting me, because America's having such an effect on the world at the moment. On this record I had to deal with it on a political level for the first time, if in a subtle way.

"I don't think it's my position to ever use the stage as a soapbox, so I've tried on this record to get across some of our feelings, hopefully in a more subtle and intelligent way, using symbols."


~ The Blues ~

"And then also, you see, I had discovered the blues in the meantime and discovered American music. In doing the 'Silver and Gold' session with Keith Richards, he was playing blues music for me, but not only blues music. He played country music, '50s American pop music -- all those influences. Then there was my own background in Patti Smith and Bob Dylan. I mean, there's always been that American input. So musically as well -- all that was coming through."

What do you hope people will get from this record?

"I've no idea. I've no idea what people will get from the record.

"I have to say that there's a side of me that can't quite work out why anyone would buy a U2 LP. I think I might buy one...It's the same as I feel about a U2 concert. I mean, I've never been to a U2 concert. I've been at one, but I've never been to one!"

Do you still feel U2's live work is important?

"Oh yes. I don't like making records. I really don't like making records. I like writing songs. I like writing words, but I don't enjoy making records.

"I do enjoy being on the road. There's sort of a travelling person in us all, the sort of gypsy, we are gypsies of a kind. I like moving about from place to place, but you can get lost along the way, y'know. I got lost along the way on the last tour definitely, on the Unforgettable Fire tour, I really did lose it a little bit.

"I'm attracted to that on-the-road feeling of fraternity, I suppose. Our entourage, if you want to call it that, is a kind of ball of chaos, but in a nice way. And as anyone who knows me will tell you, I feel at home in chaos, so the chaos of touring life suits me. In a way it's easy, maybe too easy for me, to stand there and be packed into a suitcase and taken away. I get up in the mornings in a hotel room, and I don't have to clean up. I don't have to do anything formal. Things like that tend to fall about my ears a bit unless there's good people looking after us."

What would you say is the common thread that runs through all U2's work?

"Us I suppose. U2 is the common thread. There's still the same commitment to each other, to four people. Four guys in the band.

"I was disappointed with Live Aid, with the Live Aid book, because of the fact that they didn't recognize that there was four people in U2. That bugged me. I mean, I don't think it bugged the others that much, they just found it funny, but it got to me, because we're four people."

So you feel the four of you are still a strong unit?

"The four of us feel pretty good together, but I must say that on tour, as much as the overall feeling is one of a family or street gang, I actually do spend a lot of time on my own within that structure.

"What I like about being on a bus or being on a plane is that I can read, for instance, or have a game of cards with someone, but generally I get into a kind of trance on my own, because it takes so much energy for me to go up on stage at night.

"Often, because I'm not a trained singer, I just can't sing for two hours and then talk the next day. I have to just sit there -- I do, and people will come up and talk to me and I nod and make signals, but generally, through the day I'm really out of order."

As well as the positive feelings, there seems to be a lot of darkness on The Joshua Tree...

"Well...1986 was a real paradox of a year. In 1985 we had achieved some sort of peak in our music life. The Unforgettable Fire, which was kind of a radical LP, had done very well for us. Our tours round the world had all sold out and it almost got silly with the demand for tickets.

"Then there were things like Live Aid; there was a reason to feel very good not only about U2, but about rock & roll music in general. Coming home from all that back down to earth in Dublin, in 1986, didn't prove to be as easy as I'd thought it might be.

"The year was difficult for other reasons, with a few personal tragedies, so I felt 1986 was something of a desert for me."


~ Where the Streets Have No Name ~

BONO: " 'Where the Streets Have No Name,' that's more like the U2 of old than any of the other songs on the LP. Because it's a sketch -- I was just trying to sketch a location, maybe a romantic location, I was trying to sketch a feeling.

"I often feel very claustrophobic in a city, a feeling of wanting to break out of that city, and a feeling of wanting to go somewhere where the values of the city and the values of our society don't hold you down.

"An interesting story that somebody told me once, is that in Belfast, by what street somebody lives on you can tell not only their religion, but tell how much money they're making -- literally by which side of the road they live on, because the further you go up the hill the more expensive the houses become. You can almost tell what the people are earning by the name of the street they live on and what side of the street they live on. That said something to me, and so I started writing about a place where the streets have no name."

I thought the photographs in the tour program from the ghost town were really powerful...

"I'm glad you found that, I found that too. I'm surprised nobody else is saying that. The shots I think are really special.

"It's Bodie, one of the oldest ghost towns in America. It's an interesting place to visit. It's a gold-rush town left as a monument to the mining community and to the out-west lifestyle. Literally, there's plates on the table, the whole thing. It's almost eerie, the feeling about it.

"The thing is though, if you drive through some of the European cities now, late at night, city centers that were once thriving, vibrant places now are shut down and closed. A lot of people just don't have money to go out anymore, so some of our own cities are ghost towns, and I liked the parallel with the western ghost town."

Tell me about the desert shoot -- how did you find that Joshua tree?

"I still don’t know where that Joshua tree is, we just spotted it by the roadside. Anton Corbijn, our photographer, was the first to see it, so he called 'stop the bus!' and went racing across the desert.

"The thing is though, Anton is Dutch and speaks with an accent, so he has quite a curious way of pronouncing 'Joshua tree.' He kind of says, 'Yoshua tree,' and this became quite a funny thing -- we were all talking about 'Yoshua trees,' so there was a bit of a sense of humor involved in calling the album The Joshua Tree, as well as for the more serious reasons.

"When we took the photographs, we thought it was a very powerful visual graphic image. We then drove off, and I don't know if we'll ever find that Joshua tree again. I don't know if anyone will ever find that Joshua tree again -- I hope that if people do find the Joshua tree they won't cut it down and take it home and stick it to the wall --- or bring it to a gig!! ('Hey Baaano! I got yer tree!')

"Anton really is a funny man, but his photographs are very serious, which is, in a way, quite like us, because people think that we're very serious people because we take our music seriously. It's just that when it comes to being on stage...Monty Python we’re not. Offstage it's a different story.

"Anton makes us laugh so much -- for a guy who portrays us in such a serious light, we spend most of our time calling for an ambulance!

ADAM: "I think the feelings of last year are contained in the record, in as much as that I think people seem to have become a lot more politically aware over the past couple of years. People seem to realize that to not vote is the worst possible thing you can do, you've got to get involved in what's going on.

"That's what started to develop with Live Aid. I think people became aware that their opinion was important and I think the record challenges people's opinions -- well, not challenging their opinions as such, but forces them to have opinions. If that's the ultimate effect of the record I think it's worthwhile."


~ Naivety ~

"It's a record that admits a few truths about ourselves. It says, 'yeah, we know the way things are but we’re not going to let it get us down.'

"I think a certain amount of the naiveté that was present in our earlier work is more in perspective. I think it's still there, I think it's essentially U2, but I think the maturing process has given us a self-confidence in what we are, which is a noisy rock & roll band, and there's no way that's gonna change!"


~ Barren ~

"With each record we've always looked for some sort of location to inspire the tone of what we were doing and I think the desert is so many things to us. The desert was immensely inspirational to us as a mental image for this record.

"Most people would take the desert on face value and think it's some kind of barren place, but I think in the right frame of mind it's also a very positive image, because you can actually do something with a blank canvas, which is effectively what the desert is.

"In the desert four people really stand out strongly, and I think the record reflects the four different personalities. At the same time, I found from our experience of doing the shoots and being in the desert, that it isn't really a lonely or frightening place, it's actually very peaceful and tranquil. There's something about it that is comforting.

"The most extraordinary thing was that the desert was actually freezing. It was a bit of a shock, because we'd psyched ourselves up into finally doing something where there'd be sunshine, and there was lots of buying of different lotions before we left, to make sure our noses didn't go read, and in fact our noses did go red -- but from the cold!"


~ Joshua Tree Park ~

"I don't think the '60s connotations of the Joshua tree are too relevant as regards what we're doing. I think it's a bit of a sidetrack, but at the same time an interesting sidetrack. To the best of my knowledge, Joshua Tree Park in California was where the center of mind-expanding drug culture developed -- I think a lot of people took acid and turned into Joshua trees as far as I can work out!"


~ Cooped Up ~

"Normally we haven't had that much time to hang out on street corners between tours. Since we've been off the road, we've had to get back to normal and learn how to live on our own and wash shirts and stuff. Having done all that for a while, with only the odd bursts of live activity, plus being cooped up in a studio for the best part of six months, I think we're actually dying for things to return to normalcy. Being on the road is very simple -- you know what you're doing the next day and you know the reasons why you're doing it. There's not really any time to get bored."


~ Hopes ~

"I hope we learn a lot on this tour. I hope we learn the weaknesses and the strengths of what we've done, to enable us to stretch ourselves even more the next time round. I wouldn't want for us to get bored by it. I hope the power of the music continues to build. It is there to get you through the next couple of years and it becomes your strength and your weakness. I'll be happy as long as at the end of the next two years we're saying, 'yeah, it was good, but I think we can do another one that's better.' "

What would you say would be an overall view of The Joshua Tree?

LARRY: "There isn't really an overall view of this album. Whereas with The Unforgettable Fire there was a real continuity between all the songs, this is slightly different. It's an album of songs, each song saying a different thing, touching areas that we haven't touched before. There's a lot more emotion, especially in the singing, that there hasn't been on any of the other records. It captures something that Bono has live, which we haven't done before.

"When you're making a record either the instruments serve the song, or the song serves the instruments. I mean, sometimes everyone's playing a certain part and it's all very correct and musical, but this isn't like that. It's more like we're serving the song, and we're also playing to the vocal. It's a different approach and one we've not really taken before, it's much more fluid.

"When I come off the road I'm a different person. On the road you become slightly tense, and it's difficult to conduct relationships. The relationship within the band becomes different -- not strained at all, but just different. Relationships with everyone become different. It's a working relationship."

THE EDGE: "The chief influences for The Joshua Tree really have been tours and time spent discovering that clichés about America weren't true. America is constantly surprising you and you discover that there's so many different sides to it, which you initially didn't imagine, were there.

"Yet at the same time it seems to be a land where clichés very easily spring up. It's so extreme. For a filmmaker or a musician it's a land full of things that are larger than life.

"The music of America we really weren't particularly interested in, or we really didn't know much about it when we first formed the band. Really, in going to the States and seeing the culture first-hand, we began to get closer to the music of America.."


~ Re-Assessing ~

"In just a social context, people like T-Bone Burnett, Robbie Robertson, the sort of artists that we've met, have made us reassess our opinion of American artists and American music, because there is this European, well, certainly English, attitude to American rock & roll. That it is in some way inferior -- that American rock is just jaded and lifeless, whereas in fact, like the country itself, the clichés about the music don't hold true under close inspection.

I think since really falling in love with the country -- this crazy place full of contradictions and paradoxes -- we've started falling in love with the music of the place. A lot of stuff that we didn't have much time for when we first formed the group. We've been discovering anything from B.B. King, Robert Johnson, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard -- all these artists who were a million miles from where we were coming from. I'm not suggesting that we love everything that they do, but there's certainly something that they're dealing with which is opening up for us now and has really only started becoming important for us recently."


~ Watershed ~

"So that's definitely one huge watershed of inspiration for the record. I think we've also discovered some of the same sort of music in Ireland through artists like Christy Moore and the Dubliners. It's very interesting to see how Ireland is so rich in music like that, call it 'folk' music, or whatever. Woody Guthrie called it music to live to, as opposed to music to die to.

The fact is that Irish folk music was a kind of seminal influence for a lot of early American folk. The Irish seem to provide a lot of the instrumentation, like fiddles, acoustic guitars and the way the music is presented is very similar. The ballad format of bringing in characters, and the stories, that's all very much an Irish tradition."


~ The Song ~

"The other great influence is a heightened awareness of the concept of 'the song,' as a sort of art form all its own. The song can at the same time be challenging and limiting, but limiting in a positive sense, in that there is a discipline in the art of songwriting. If you submit yourself to it you can do a lot within the final result. If you've done it well, it can be a timeless thing crossing all boundaries, universal in its appeal and hopefully have a life that will be bigger than any of the people who wrote it.

"That was also a bit of a revelation for us, to be thinking about songs in that way. Whereas before if songs came along it was really just luck, we never really considered the song as an essential part of our records.

"Up to now our records have been a collection of things that were songs, and also things that were very definitely not songs -- experimental musical pieces, lyrically experimental as well as musically experimental. I think on this record we've really attempted to strip down the music so it really has that kind of trim, disciplined outline. I think we've managed to -- every track on the record has an identity of its own, but the record holds together as one. That's because they are songs rather than parts of one whole concept."


~ Themes ~

"I think the open-endedness of previous records was because the lyrics were open-ended. They were obviously written with one idea in mind, but they could equally be interpreted in another way. I think this record is pinned down a little more. So that the lyrics have a more obvious single main theme. Within that main theme there are a number of ways the lyrics can be interpreted, but that one idea is expressed a little more concisely and forcibly than before.

"But there is still a good deal of positive ambiguity. I do like some songs that are a totally open book, but I do appreciate a bit of mystery where you can make up your own mind about the fine print."


~ The Desert Songs ~

"The desert idea was one which we'd had for a while which seemed right. The Joshua tree was an image which came to us really during the shoot, and just seemed like the right image to tie all our ideas together, in focus. We could have called the record The Desert Songs, but the Joshua tree has other images related to it and is a little more subtle in its connection with the desert. It's something we decided on instinct almost...it has a spiritual aspect, which this record has and also a great deal of mystery. It's appropriate on many levels.

"It's like hope pushed to the limit, and love pushed to the limit. There's a certain aridness to the album, but at the same time there is hope, there is life there, but still it's not a very pleasant landscape. It's still pretty bedraggled and parched.

"The Joshua tree is standing there in the middle of this barrenness, there's so many great images there. In fact, the sleeve photograph is taken in Death Valley, and you can see this dry riverbed down below, this dry riverbed in the desert, which is another fantastic image."


~ The Live Show ~

"I think it will be quite radically different to the Unforgettable Fire tour. I think it'll be probably closer to Live Aid and the Amnesty shows where there was an emphasis more on a dangerous feeling onstage, where we didn't really know quite what was going to happen. There was a certain energy that we were able to feed off. A feeling that literally anything could happen at any moment, and I, for one, really enjoyed that energy."


~ Danger ~

"As a band we've always been very cautious about destroying the carefully prepared show that we'd been working on for a number of weeks or months on tour. Obviously within it there was space for improvisation, but there was a certain level that we always worked to. We'd improve the show to a very high standard and not tamper with it too much.

"Maybe we're feeling now like we'd like to be a little less precious about it. Even if it means that we do some bad shows, we'd like to at least try and throw the whole thing into a state of flux, where every show was going to be different. Some nights I think it'll pay dividends and it'll be magic, some nights maybe not, but the instinct there is to try to push things as far as we can, and improvise a lot during the shows.

"It succeeded in the Amnesty shows, but I'm not sure how it'll fare when we've got two hours instead of 35 minutes. I'm looking forward to that. I think that it will just be a much more dangerous stage presence. It'll certainly keep us on our toes anyway."


© Propaganda, 1987. All rights reserved.


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"That's what's happening to U2 on tour in the United States at the moment - we're just a conduit for all this joy and hope and despair and it's all coming out - People say, 'Oh, Rock and Roll is great - just takes people's minds off of it' - No. That is not our job. Our job is to take people's minds through it." --Bono's take on the Elevation Tour since 9/11
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Old 11-27-2001, 11:26 AM   #2
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Ah, takes me back to that era.....ahhh....

Great article - thanks Spanisheyes!
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Old 11-27-2001, 02:18 PM   #3
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I love this quote, because it still holds true to the band even after 25 years together.

What would you say is the common thread that runs through all U2's work?

"Us I suppose. U2 is the common thread. There's still the same commitment to each other, to four people. Four guys in the band.


Chris

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"That's what's happening to U2 on tour in the United States at the moment - we're just a conduit for all this joy and hope and despair and it's all coming out - People say, 'Oh, Rock and Roll is great - just takes people's minds off of it' - No. That is not our job. Our job is to take people's minds through it." --Bono's take on the Elevation Tour since 9/11
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Old 11-27-2001, 07:44 PM   #4
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The article is long but definitely worth reading...I hadn´t read it yet, so thanks for posting it dear friend.


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"To me a rock and roll concert is 3-D, it´s a physical thing - it´s rhythm for the body. It´s a mental thing in that it should be intellectually challenging. But it´s also a spiritual thing, because it´s a community, it´s people agreeing on something, even if it´s only for an hour and a half." (Bono, as quoted in the book U2 The Road to Pop)

Brasil is the country of the future. And it will always be that way...(my translation of a popular saying)
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Old 11-27-2001, 07:47 PM   #5
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Here is an interesting fact about One Tree Hill that may be of interest to some of you.

Chris

One Tree Hill:
"Jara sang, his song a weapon in the hands of love". Jara was a Chilean, political, folk singer, who eventually was tortured and machined gunned down for his anti-dictatorship beliefs. His songs infuriated the new government in Chile, so they had broken all the bones in his hand so he couldn't play his guitar anymore. It was rumored that his hands had been cut off.

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"That's what's happening to U2 on tour in the United States at the moment - we're just a conduit for all this joy and hope and despair and it's all coming out - People say, 'Oh, Rock and Roll is great - just takes people's minds off of it' - No. That is not our job. Our job is to take people's minds through it." --Bono's take on the Elevation Tour since 9/11
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Old 11-28-2001, 01:14 AM   #6
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Still my favorite U2 album.
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Old 11-28-2001, 01:38 AM   #7
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Finding inspiration in the desert sky.


------------------
"That's what's happening to U2 on tour in the United States at the moment - we're just a conduit for all this joy and hope and despair and it's all coming out - People say, 'Oh, Rock and Roll is great - just takes people's minds off of it' - No. That is not our job. Our job is to take people's minds through it." --Bono's take on the Elevation Tour since 9/11
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Old 11-28-2001, 01:58 AM   #8
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The Joshua Tree
Track list : Where The Streets Have No Name * (5:37)
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For (4:37)
With Or Without You * (4:56)
Bullet The Blue Sky * (4:32)
Running To Stand Still (4:18)
Red Hill Mining Town * (4:52)
In God's Country (2:57)
Trip Through Your Wires (3:32)
One Tree Hill (5:23)
Exit (4:13)
Mothers Of The Disappeared (5:14)

In the Autumn of 1986 U2 began work on their seventh LP in Windmill Lane Studios, Dublin. Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois had been retained to produce this latest album, but Steve Lillywhite was brought in to mix a few tracks in January 1987 after the recording had been completed.

Originally the LP was to be called 'The Enduring Chill', but the name 'The Joshua Tree' was chosen after the band took a trip to the Death Valley area of California where Joshua trees are common. The whole desert image was consciously chosen for its spiritual and mysterious qualities, which it was felt would complement the album perfectly. Bono actually compared the desert landscape to many European town centres which are becoming ghost-towns in the present day. The photography that accompanied the album added to the already widely held impression that U2 were a humourless bunch of individuals who took themselves far too seriously. Stern facial expressions and barren desert landscapes served to reinforce this belief. However, as Bono is fond of pointing out, U2 don't take themselves seriously, but they do take their music seriously.

The initial sessions for the LP took place in a large house on the outskirts of south Dublin. Some songs such as With or Without You were finished fairly quickly, but others such as Where The Streets Have No Name took an age to get right. The main problem with 'Streets' was that it was actually written for live performance, and it proved difficult to record a satisfactory version of it in the studio. At one point Brian Eno even considered wiping the entire backing track in an effort to make the band start again from scratch.

After the first month or so of working on the album, Bono traveled to El Salvador where he met the 'madres'. These were women whose children had been imprisoned or murdered by the military regime in the country, but who continued to campaign for information about them. Bono's experiences there provided the inspiration for Mothers Of The Disappeared and also Bullet The Blue Sky. The music for 'Bullet' came from a jam session with Edge, Adam and Larry, and when Bono returned from his trip, the aggressive nature of the piece was exactly what he was looking for to go with his newly written lyrics about what he had seen. Since the Conspiracy of Hope tour in 1986, U2 had been strong supporters of Amnesty International who are heavily involved in working to free political prisoners. The Joshua Tree tour programme was the first to carry an article on the work of Amnesty, and an invitation from the band to join.

The last three songs on the album form what Edge has called a 'suite about death'. One Tree Hill was written about Greg Carroll who had been a member of U2's tour crew for 2 years when he was killed in a motorcycle accident in Dublin in 1986. The band had first met him on a hill outside Auckland, New Zealand which was known as One Tree Hill. On its release, Bono actually dedicated The Joshua Tree to Greg's memory. Sadly the tree on this particular hill has since been the victim of several acts of vandalism. The second part of this 'suite' is Exit, which had a working title of The Executioner's Song. A dark and intense piece, it was cited in the trial of John Robert Bardo who was accused of murdering a young TV actress named Rebecca Schaeffer in July 1989. He blamed the song (unsuccessfully) for driving him to commit the murder. Bono's reaction to this was to suggest that it sounded like a clever lawyer trying to create a novel defence. The 'suite' and the album finish with 'Mothers', a haunting piece about the madres Bono had met in El Salvador.

The Joshua Tree was released on 9th March 1987. It was the fastest selling album in UK chart history. It would go on to hit number one in 22 countries, and by the end of 1987 it had sold over 12 million copies. On the day of its release, U2 made a surprise appearance at a record shop named Makin' Tracks in my hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland. The store had opened specially at midnight on Sunday night to sell the first copies in the early hours of Monday morning. I had planned to go down for this opening myself, but changed my mind when a DJ on the radio announced (wrongly) that the release date had been put back a week, to March 16th. Thanks to that misinformation, I missed out on what will probably turn out to be my one and only chance to meet U2. Grrr!

Taken from the website, U2: Three Chords and the Truth

Chris



------------------
"That's what's happening to U2 on tour in the United States at the moment - we're just a conduit for all this joy and hope and despair and it's all coming out - People say, 'Oh, Rock and Roll is great - just takes people's minds off of it' - No. That is not our job. Our job is to take people's minds through it." --Bono's take on the Elevation Tour since 9/11
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Old 11-28-2001, 12:10 PM   #9
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I appreciate ya postin' that! Such a great read.
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Old 11-28-2001, 08:51 PM   #10
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I like this review of The Joshua Tree very much:

U2 Can Be Famous; Breaking Into the Big Time With 'Joshua Tree'
The Washington Post, March 22, 1987

Richard Harrington

Slowly, though not particularly quietly, Ireland's U2 has evolved into one of the most popular rock bands in the world and, some think, the best. With his charismatic presence, uplifting vocals and socially conscious songs, Bono Hewson is sometimes perceived as a Celtic Bruce Springsteen, an association more convenient than correct. Still, both are adherents of the new rock sobriety, masters of the epic song and inspirational gesture, and U2's "Pride (In the Name of Love)" and "Sunday Bloody Sunday" are humanist anthems that transform crowds into rallies reflecting not only the communal instincts of rock but also the idealism of many in its youthful constituency.

The Joshua Tree (Island 90581) is U2's first studio album since 1984's The Unforgettable Fire and much of it expands on the fearful fascination with America that's been evident since its October album in 1983. The group is still Wide Awake in America (the title of its live EP), absorbed in its vastness and power and disturbed by its contradictions, both physical and spiritual. Yet even though this promised land can prove a land of emptiness and disillusion, U2 clings to the possibility of hope and redemption. Hence the album's name: The Joshua tree is a giant cactus that grows only in the harsh desert wastelands of the Southwest. It's a potent symbol of the affirmation that courses through U2's music.

Bono has long been obsessed with borders, not just political, but personal and spiritual as well. The opening cut, "Where the Streets Have No Name," is a bit oblique lyrically, but the implications are clear in Bono's resolute delivery, Dave (The Edge) Evan's quavering guitar, Adam Clayton's cathedral bass and Larry Mullen's rolling thunder drums. Bono's first lines offer a credo born out of confusion: "I want to run, I want to hide/ I want to tear down the walls that hold me inside/ I want to reach out and touch the flame/ where the streets have no name."

Bono's spiritual concerns -- he's an avowed Christian more into the mystic than the dogmatic -- come through on the yearning "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," which suggests that faith is a beginning, not an end. "I believe in the Kingdom Come/ then all the colors will bleed into one/ but yes I'm still running/ You broke the bonds, you loosed the chains/ you carried the cross of my shame/ you know I believe it/ but I still haven't found what I'm looking for." "With or Without You," ostensibly a love song with an acid undercurrent, but just as easily about the moral complications of faith, builds from a whisper to a freight-train yowl at the end. In the past year Bono discovered the American country and blues idioms and his fascination is evident.

The most powerful and provocative song on the album, "Bullet the Blue Sky" is genuinely disturbing -- rough, distorted and fueled by an apocalyptic Edge solo that spews jagged shards of feedback-driven guitar before descending to a bleak ending, part talking blues, part Ginsberg howl. It's the harshest of four songs on America, and includes some caustic commentary on might-as-right and money-as-power: "In the locust wind comes a rattle and hum/ Jacob wrestled the angel and the angel was overcome," Bono rasps. "Plant a demon seed, you raise a flower of fire/ See them burning crosses, see the flames, higher and higher."

The first side of the album ends with "Running to Stand Still," a bluesy Ry Coorderish guitar and piano evocation, country-gospel simple and almost pastoral until you realize Bono's talking about the dead end of heroin addiction.

Side 2 opens with "Red Hill Mining Town," inspired by England's mining struggle. a catalogue of destruction ("we scorch the earth/ set fire to the sky/ stoop so low to reach so high") and vindication ("We're wounded by fear/ injured in doubt/ I can lose myself/ You I can't live without/ Because you keep me holding on."

The next three songs "In God's Country," "Trip Through Your Wires" and "Exit" are metaphorically ambivalent, with "Trip" a somewhat ungainly romp in blues structure. Hill" is a pop pavane for Greg Carroll, a U2 roadie killed in a motorcycle accident last year ("your sun so bright it leaves no shadows, only scars carved into stone on the face of the earth"). But it also makes clear the band's contention that music can, and should, act as a catalyst for change: "In our world a heart of darkness, a fire zone/ where poets speak their hearts/ then bleed for it/ Jara sang, his song a weapon, in the hands of love..."

The album ends with "Mothers of the Disappeared," reflecting not only U2's ongoing commitment to Amnesty International (there are addresses for the organization at the end of the album's lyric sheet), but also Bono's travels in Nicaragua and El Salvador. It is a simple lament of great beauty and sadness pleading for the realization that ideological battles about right and left obscure the more important issue of right and wrong.

So Joshua Tree is another bracing encounter with U2. Producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois (with the band's original producer Steve Lillywhite mixing three songs) have done a excellent job of capturing the band's live sound. Despite Bono's searing vocals and spotlit charisma, U2 is a great band, with a clearly identifiable sound. If earlier U2 albums sometimes seemed to emphasize sound and texture over song, a promising new balance is established here.

U2's world tour, which kicks off next month, is shaping up as the big rock tour of the year. Will The Joshua Tree break U2 through to a wider mainstream audience as Born in the USA did for Springsteen? Chances are the answer is yes. Despite the absence of clear-cut anthems like "Pride," U2's personal, spiritual and political idealism is quite clear and ultimately inspiring. It is a Joshua tree in the wasteland of rock.


© Washington Post. All rights reserved.




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"To me a rock and roll concert is 3-D, it´s a physical thing - it´s rhythm for the body. It´s a mental thing in that it should be intellectually challenging. But it´s also a spiritual thing, because it´s a community, it´s people agreeing on something, even if it´s only for an hour and a half." (Bono, as quoted in the book U2 The Road to Pop)

Brasil is the country of the future. And it will always be that way...(my translation of a popular saying)
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Old 11-29-2001, 12:48 AM   #11
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humble beginnings for the currently number one rated album of all time!

That poor Joshua Tree didn't make it though...
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Old 11-29-2001, 02:11 AM   #12
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In speaking of the Joshua Tree even today, I still get this proud feeling inside of just how special that album was back then, and even how important it has become to so many fans today. It is hard to believe that almost 15 years have elapsed since the release of The Joshua Tree, and yet when listened to even today, if feels as passionate and relevant as it did back then, and maybe even more so in this day that we live in.

I can still remember that day that I first heard a song from The Joshua Tree. I was on my way to a college class in the morning. My car stereo was playing the local alternative station in Los Angeles, but I wasn't listening intently...music in the mid eighties wasn't just moving me much. But I had never minded, because since 1980, I had an Irish band named U2 to remind me time and again just how music was suppose to played, and the impact that it should have on one emotionally, their ability to transcend the soul by way of revealing themselves personally, spiritually, as well as socially in a way that very few bands were doing back then.

As I rolled down the cement highway, the deejay came on and said that the next song would be a song from U2's new release...the song, 'With or Without You'. I remember that just the title alone set my mind into an almost hypnotic state...but still I was no way prepared for what I was about to experience...my band of seven years, that I had seen and heard on the verge of greatness with War and The Unforgettable Fire, and hear friend after friend say that that these two albums were the peak of this band and that they too would pass on like so many of the good bands of that era, and of the past.

But what I heard come from my speakers that day blew my mind, my heart, my emotions...that mesmerizing bass line, that whispering, subtle guitar, and that restrained, hypnotic drum beat sucked me in immediately...and then that voice, a soulful growl that seemed to resonate through my whole body and soul. I couldn't believe what I was hearing, not because I didn't think they were capable, but it was such a perfect song, all of the elements were beautifully arranged...no one instrument seemed to be out playing the other...each one seeming to need the other...like breath, like oxygen...I can honestly say that I was overwhelmed in a way that I had never before been with a song.

I was so overcome with emotion that I still remember pulling over to the side of the road...unable to drive because of the tears that begin to stream down my face. I had never felt so alive, never felt like I wanted to jump out of my car and stop every person I met and have them listen, have them feel the way I felt at that moment. This would be my first experience with The Joshua Tree, and yet, so unaware of what else I was soon to hear and experience...the queuing in line at midnight to buy the album and driving home to the sounds of 'Where the Streets Have No Name' and 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For'...getting home and hearing the bombastic, 'Bullet The Blue Sky', as well as 'Running to Stand Still' through Mothers of the Disappeared over and over again that night until I fell asleep from the shear exhaustion of my first night spent with what 15 years later, people are calling the greatest album ever made.

Chris


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"That's what's happening to U2 on tour in the United States at the moment - we're just a conduit for all this joy and hope and despair and it's all coming out - People say, 'Oh, Rock and Roll is great - just takes people's minds off of it' - No. That is not our job. Our job is to take people's minds through it." --Bono's take on the Elevation Tour since 9/11
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Old 11-29-2001, 03:29 AM   #13
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You can tell that came straight from the heart. Thats some piece of writing!

A very similar feeling comes over me when I listen to With or Without You. Even though I am not religious in the formal sense of the word at all, I clench both my fists tightly when the guitar kicks in, I look up and around me, and I want to grab anyone I see and tell them...'This! Hear this!'

Kind of amazing really.
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