U2: 31 years in 31 pictures
12th Aug 2009 | 22:04
MusicRadar's U2 gallery starts here
Dublin band The Hype changed their name to U2 in 1978. 31 years ago they’d yet to play outside Ireland.
Now they’re bringing their enormous U2 360 shows to Wembley Stadium (14 and 15 August).
Love them or hate them, U2 are a rare band - four individuals who have remained together for 30-plus years, and still get bigger and bigger.
Here, MusicRadar delves into the archives to bring you the career of The World’s Biggest Band in pictures.
Warning: this gallery contains guitar porn, photos of Adam Clayton’s ‘banana’, and The Edge with hair.
Next page: 1978, and U2 are born
U2 take flight
1978 and one of the earliest pictures of the fledgling U2.
Larry Mullen Jnr appears to be wearing his school tie, while Paul ‘Bono Vox’ Hewson’s hair can only be called ‘in development’.
When they were The Hype (1976-1978) the band mostly played various post-punk covers and also featured The Edge’s brother Dik Evans on guitar. So much for brotherly love – Dik was ousted by mid-’78.
Next page: London Calling
At home with U2
By 1979, U2 had moved to London, sharing a flat in Orme Place, Notting Hill.
They played their first show outside Ireland, in London, in December 1979, but their first singles – the Three EP and Another Day – remained Ireland-only releases.
The band signed to London’s Island records in 1980.
Next page: The Edge has hair
The Edge in 1982
By 1982, U2 had released the well-received Boy and October albums.
The Edge was making a name for himself as one of ‘new wave’s premier guitar stylists – listen to the delay-drenched hit I Will Follow – and, impressively, he still had hair.
Next page: live in London
U2 live in 1982 at the Hammersmith Palais
The sound of early U2 was defined by the sound of Edge’s Gibson Explorer and Electro-Harmonix Memory Man delay pedal.
Edge bought his first Explorer in 1976 in New York City. “It was the first guitar I bought with the idea I might play with a band,” he says. “I was 17. When I brought it back I did think: 'Shit, it’s a little strange looking!’
"But everyone loved the sound.”
Edge auctioned that particular Explorer in 2008 with all proceeds to benefit the Music Rising charity and the musicians of the Gulf Coast. (More later.)
Here, Adam Clayton plays an Ibanez bass.
Next page: U2 vs America
Bono crowd surfs in California
1983 was the year U2 broke the US with their now-legendary performance at Red Rocks, documented on the live album Under A Blood Red Sky.
The band also sold out a big US tour and won over the crowd at (pictured) the US Festival, San Bernardino, California.
New Year’s Day became their first international hit.
Next page: Live Aid
U2 at Live Aid
U2 took to Wembley Stadium’s Live Aid stage at 17:19 hours and played only two of their songs in 20 minutes: Sunday Bloody Sunday and Bad.
The latter was extended to 12 minutes and included lyrical excerpts from Satellite Of Love (Lou Reed), Ruby Tuesday and Sympathy For The Devil (The Rolling Stones), and Walk On The Wild Side (Lou Reed).
Global superstardom was achieved.
Plus, Bono rocked the Mullet Of The Day. (Correction: Mullet Of The Decade.)
Next page: The Joshua Tree
The Joshua Tree
1987’s album The Joshua Tree remains U2’s biggest seller. With sales of over 28 million copies it remains one of the biggest-selling non-compilation albums ever.
Tinged with blues rock, folk rock, country and gospel, The Joshua Tree crystallises U2's growing fascination with America (as shown on the following year’s film/album Rattle And Hum).
It delivered massive hits from its opening trio: Where The Streets Have No Name, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For and With Or Without You.
On the latter, Edge debuted his ‘Infinite Guitar’ system, as developed by his friend, the Australian avant-garde composer Michael Brook.
Next page: Uh-oh, it’s a rockumentary
Rattle And Hum
Largely filmed on the US legs of 1987’s Joshua Tree tour (pictured), on Rattle And Hum U2 mixed originals with hugely ambitious covers.
U2 took on The Beatles’ Helter Skelter, Dylan’s All Along The Watchtower and Jimi Hendrix’s take on The Star Spangled Banner.
Not everyone liked it. “That was our experiment,” says Edge. “Delving into traditional musics.”
Bono increasingly played second guitar on stage from this era: here he is with his Washburn Festival acoustic
Next page: Achtung! Reinvention!
Bono is The Fly
1991’s Achtung Baby saw U2 update with a sleeker, more-European dance-oriented sound.
Recorded in Berlin’s Hansa Studio (famed for use in the ‘70s by David Bowie and Iggy Pop), it saw The Edge take the lead musically while Bono constructed an alter ego of The Fly. The silly man.
Still, after hits in The Fly, Mysterious Ways, One, Even Better Than The Real Thing and Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses, no-one was complaining about Bono’s louche leather ‘n’ cheroots combo.
The upside? Edge’s guitar playing on Achtung Baby just might be his best ever. Discuss.
Next page: Edge’s Skeleton Strat
The Edge plays Clapton?
When playing The Fly live on the Zoo TV shows, Edge toted a Fender Eric Clapton Signature Stratocaster decorated with custom-added snake and skeleton decals.
The Fly boasts one of his longest guitar solos on a U2 single. This EC signature guitar now sits in Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame.
Ever chopping and changing, Edge played The Fly on his white (faded to cream) Gibson Les Paul Custom on the Elevation tour (2001), and on a Line 6 Variax 700 acoustic on the Vertigo tour (2005).
Next page: PopMart
1997’s Pop album was somewhat underwhelming. U2 admit they released it before it was really finished and have since talked about completing it properly for re-release.
No matter, as the PopMart tour took U2 shows to another level. The stage boasted a 50-metre-wide LED screen, a 30m-high golden arch, a giant cocktail stick and olive, plus a huge ‘lemon’ pod from which the band emerged.
And Spinal Tap-style, U2 got stuck in the lemon in Oslo and had to climb out the back to start the show.
Pictured is the vainglorious PopMart show at Wembley Stadium. PopMart took a tidy $80m in revenue. Unfortunately, it cost U2 $100m to stage.
Next page: Adam Clayton’s banana
Adam Clayton's custom fetish
Adam Clayton has largely relied on Fender Precisions and Jazz basses for most of U2’s career, but he had a custom bass made for the visual extravaganza of the PopMart tour.
“It complements the Precision,” Clayton says. “That big yellow thing - the banana bass - that I played on the Pop tour is a great-sounding example. It was made by Auerswald, the German guy who makes Prince's guitars.”
Clayton’s banana is wonderfully mad. Swoon at Jerry Auerswald’s futuristic guitars here.
Next page: Bono’s red Gretsch
Bono goes Gretsch
It was in the late ‘90s that Bono cemented his taste for Gretsch guitars.
This red one, pictured from the 1997 PopMart tour, is a Chet Atkins Tennessean played on the live version of Pop track Gone.
Edge says: “Bono knows more about guitars than you might think. I think he’s got nicer guitars than I have.”
Next page: U2 2000: they like roofs
U2 launch All You Can't Leave Behind
Rooftops have been a staple of U2’s promo since they performed Where The Streets Have No Name in 1987 on top of a liquor store in Los Angeles.
They reprised the idea (pictured) to launch All You Can’t Leave Behind in 2000, playing atop their own Clarence Hotel in Dublin.
They did it again in early 2009, playing a balcony at the BBC in central London to launch No Line On The Horizon.
Who do they think they are? The Beatles? "We've ripped off The Beatles many times before," hummed Bono in 2008.
Next page: Grammys galore
U2 grab the Grammys
2000’s All You Can Leave Behind album put U2 back in the ascendancy.
Beautiful Day took Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group at February 2001’s Grammy awards.
The sound of Edge’s Explorer was back, back, back…
Next page: U2 go home with ‘Jesus’ and ‘Judas’
U2 go home
The live DVD U2 Go Home: Live From Slane Castle (filmed 1 September 2001) remains a high-point of U2 live shows.
Bono had lost his father to cancer only days before the first of two concerts, but it only seemed to galvanise the quartet into a special live show.
One of the most theatrical performances was Achtung Baby’s Until The End Of The World, in which Bono plays Judas – and by giving a kiss of betrayal to the guitarist – Edge is, erm, Jesus? Or is it about Edge’s then-recent divorce?
Religion + martyrdom + divorce + loud guitars. It’s a complicated thing.
Next page: Edge elevates guitar fuzz
Edge elevates the Gibson SG
Here’s The Edge pictured again in 2001 playing Elevation.
The song’s unique clipping fuzz tone came from his marrying of his red 1966 Gibson SG and a rare Ampeg Scrambler pedal from the ‘60s. The Ampeg Scrambler has since been reissued, mostly due to Edge’s patronage.
Next page: Adam Clayton returns to Jazz
Edge and Adam Clayton, 2001
For U2's Elevation tour of 2001, old instruments were back in.
Here. alongside Edge and his '76 Explorer, Adam Clayton plays his Fender Jazz.
Says Clayton: "I find the Jazz neck suits my left hand better. The Precision is a painful, physical thing to do battle with. The Jazz is a bit more ladylike." His two main Jazzes are a '61 and '72.
U2 open Live 8
U2 opened 2005’s Live 8 concert at Hyde Park with a duet with Paul McCartney on The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
It was a song McCartney had never performed live himself. Bono later said that he felt "sick with nerves", and McCartney was also apprehensive. U2 + Macca got away with it. Just about.
U2 went on to play Beautiful Day, Vertigo (pictured) and One.
It's possibly the only time U2 have been the first band on a stage in 30 years.
Next page: Larry Mullen, man of oak
Larry Mullen Jnr, man of oak
Here’s Larry Mullen Jnr clattering his Yamaha Beech Custom Absolute kit at Twickenham stadium in 2005.
Mullen always plays Yamaha kits, Paiste cymbals and uses Pro-Mark PW5AW sticks made of Japanese oak – they are heavier than their hickory counterparts.
Mullen is U2’s real enigma. He notes: “People say, ‘Why don't you do interviews? What do you think about this? What do you think about that?’
“My job in the band is to play drums, to get up on stage and hold the band together. That's what I do.”
Next page: Edge’s white Les Paul has a final outing
The Edge plays his white Les Paul Custom
The Vertigo tour of 2005 saw the last outing for Edge’s 1975 white Les Paul Custom.
He later auctioned it for the Music Rising charity. Speaking of which…
Next page: Edge hears Music Rising
Edge hears Music Rising
U2 singer Bono can campaign for everything from debt relief to Aids treatment. U2’s serene guitarist The Edge sticks to what he knows.
U2 lost gear in Hurricane Katrina (2005) after they’d played a show only days before. Edge signed up pronto for the Music Rising charity, which raises funds for New Orleans’ rich musical community, some of whose instruments perished in the Hurricane Katrina disaster.
Edge has since auctioned one of his Gibson Explorers and his white Gibson Les Paul Custom for the cause.
In April 2006, at the reopening of Preservation Hall during JazzFest, Edge played with the Dave Matthews Band and The New Birth Brass Band. That’s charity.
Next page: U2's U2 By U2
U2 By U2
U2 penned their autobiography – U2 By U2 – in 2006.
Here’s Bono at the tome’s launch in London. No doubt, he’s reminiscing about his long-lost cheekbones and Edge’s disappeared hair.
Next page: hello, Dr Dave!
As a teenager, young David Evans dreamed of becoming a medical scientist.
Indeed, Bono’s ‘other’ nickname for Edge is ‘The Scientist’ due to the guitarist’s methodical, analytical ways.
In 2007, Boston’s famed Berklee School Of Music awarded Edge an honourary Doctor Of Music degree.
Hey, it even got him a new hat. Much needed.
Next page: Bono – signature guitar player?
Bono's got guitar 'soul'
Bizarrely, it’s Bono and not The Edge who has his own signature guitar.
Bono's Gretsch Irish Falcon is (a rather non-Irish) Cadillac green with a pickguard emblazoned with ‘The Goal Is Soul’. Bono is pictured here at Chorzow, Poland, 6 August 2009.
It’s a quality Gretsch guitar, but all the bling will still cost you $3000-plus.
Any takers? Thought not.
Next page: New album, old guitars
Edge goes to the Casino
For current album No Line On The Horizon, Edge dug out more new 'old' guitars.
His faded-tobacco '60s Epiphone Casino has become one of his main guitars. It's played on No Line On The Horizon's Breathe, currently the song to open U2 360 shows.
Next page: where the streets have their name
U2 Way? Way!
On 3 March 2009, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg temporarily renamed West 53rd street U2 Way in honour of U2's latest album, No Line On The Horizon.
Okay, it was a publicity stunt.
Question: how long until LA 'honours' Green Day with a Boulevard Of Broken Dreams?
Next page: the Claw!
'The Claw' of U2's current 360 tour
U2's 360 shows take place under an outrageous new set known as the Claw.
At 164 feet tall, the Claw is twice as high as the previous largest stadium stage set, from the Rolling Stones’ A Bigger Bang tour.
Each of the Claw’s four sides has its own full-size sound system - each powerful enough for an entire arena. There are 72 separate subwoofers.
120 trucks cart it from show-to-show. In fact, there are three Claws because it takes so long to assemble/dissemble, another is already in another city.
Basically, it's the biggest stadium stage set you'll probably ever see.
Genius or folly? Discuss!
Next page: Edge gets loud
It Might Get Loud
A cinema-release film about three guitar players is surely a first.
Showing from September, It Might Get Loud pits the Edge against/with Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page and The White Stripes' Jack White.
Can Edge play Trampled Underfoot? Will Page nail the delay of Where The Streets Have No Name? Will White ban talk of bass players?
Who knows. It Might Get Loud is certainly the guitar nerd's movie of choice for 2009.
Next page: flashback
Funny how people change.
Here's U2 in 1980, in one of their first 'proper' publicity shots. Who'da thunk this lot would get so big....?