U2 is an Irish rock band formed within Dublin in 1976. The band consists of: lead singer Paul "Bono" Hewson on vocals and guitar; Dave "The Edge" Evans on guitar, keyboards, and vocals; Adam Clayton on bass guitar; Larry Mullen, Jr. on drums and percussion; and for a brief amount of time, Dick Evans on guitar.
The band U2 was originally called "Feedback" and later "The Hype." The band was formed at Mount Temple Comprehensive School when the then 14 year old Mullen posted a note on a bulletin board looking for musicians. A group of young men responded to the ad and met with Mullen at his home. U2's five original members began playing small venues beginning with covers of the Clash, Sex Pistols, and The Jam. Dick Evans left the band during a March 1978 performance in Howth by walking off stage during a show. The remaining members of the band wrapped the show with it's new official name: U2. Evans went on to perform for Dublin's Virgin Prunes band and U2 went on to record their first demo following a St. Patrick's Day talent show win in Limerick. The band soon produced a studio album within Keystone Studios and was discovered by CBS Ireland in May 1978. Paul McGuinness signed on to be U2's manager and in September 1979, the band's first extended play, Ireland only release, entitled Three, became the first Irish chart success. Three months later, U2's first performance in London followed but garnered little attention. The band continued to perform, and in February 1980, released a second single entitled Another Day within Ireland. One month later, U2 was signed by Island Records and in May 1980, the band's first international single, entitled 11 O'Clock Tick Tock" was released. U2's debut album, entitled Boy, followed in October 1980 and rendered mostly positive reviews and the first United States release of the song I Will Follow. The band embarked on its first continental Europe and U.S. tour following the release of Boy and steadily gained attention for what critics deemed "charismatic" and "passionate" shows.
U2's second album, entitled October, was released in 1981 and during a nightclub performance at a nightclub in Portland, Oregon, many of the band's songs were stolen. October's mixed reviews and limited radio play thwarted sales extending beyond the United Kingdom. Contractual pressures from Island Records caused the band to alter their sound. Two years later the politically charged album War was released and the track Sunday Bloody Sunday garnered world wide attention for it's pairing of insightful songwriting and "rugged" guitars. The album gained commercial success, debuted at number one on UK charts, and featured photography from Anton Corbijn, who remains U2's principal photographer. Success of Sunday Bloody Sunday quickly grabbed international attention and led to a world wide tour with sold out shows within Europe and the U.S. U2's audience expanded with the release of Under A Blood Red Sky, a live album which quickly spread to MTV and radio airplay. In 1984, Island Records extended U2's contract and released The Unforgettable Fire. The album marked the band's shift of focus and featured tracks with, in Clayton's words, a "bit more serious, more arty" sound. U2 secured it's first U.S. number one with the song Pride (In The Name of Love). In July 1985, U2 participated in the Live Aid concert in support of the Ethiopian famine relief held at Wembley Stadium. The band's performance before 82,000 people highlighted a turning point for the band and secured their fame. The next year, Rolling Stone magazine rendered U2 the "Band of the '80s" and success with the band's fifth album, entitled The Joshua Tree, followed with its release in March 1987. The Joshua Tree was the fastest selling album in the history of British music charts and was number one within the U.S. for 9 consecutive weeks with the release of the singles With Or Without You and I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. The Joshua Tree led to U2's cover of Time magazine, two Grammy Awards, a documentary entitled Rattle and Hum, and citations by many media sources as "one of rock's greatest" bands. A tour followed and the band released a double album during 1988.
The band changed musical and thematic direction due to criticism and inner strife for the release of its seventh studio album entitled Achtung Baby in 1991. The album featured more alternative rock and disco themes inspired by 1990s era contemporary music. Achtung Baby quickly rose to top international charts and led to the Zoo TV Tour from 1992 until 1993. The tour was in stark contrast of U2's previous sounds and performances and led to the eventual full length album Zooropa in mid-1993. The album featured Johnny Cash's vocals for the song "The Wanderer" and incorporated dance influences and heavy electronic sound effects. U2 continued touring and featured many of the albums songs at locations within Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.
The release of an experimental album entitled Original Soundtracks 1 in 1995 under the moniker Passengers was largely unnoticed and received poor critical reviews. Despite the apparent failure of the album, the song Miss Sarajevo featuring Luciano Pavarotti was a success. In 1997, U2's Pop album debuted at number one throughout 35 countries. Sales were poor for the album though the album was given mostly positive reviews, particularly by Rolling Stone which offered U2 had "defied the odds and made some of the greatest music of their lives." The PopMart Tour in April 1997 followed the release of Pop and was highlighted by the band's performance in Sarajevo, the first major recording artists to perform following the Bosnian War. Following the PopMart Tour, U2 bandmates lent their voices for the 200th episode of The Simpson's entitled "Trash of The Titans." In October 2000, All That You Can't Leave Behind was released and the album was rendered U2's "Third Masterpiece" by Rolling Stone. The album quickly topped charts within 22 countries following it's release of the worldwide single Beautiful Day. The album eventually earned the band 6 Grammy Awards and paved the success of the Elevation Tour, a Madison Square Garden performance, and the 2002 Super Bowl XXXVI performance declared as one of the best halftime shows ever by Sports Illustrated.
In November 2004, U2 released How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb and the albums first single, Vertigo, was featured in international television commercials for the Apple iPod. The album debuted within the U.S. at the top of music charts and commercial success followed with the Vertigo Tour. The album earned the band an astounding 8 Grammy Awards and induction into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame. The 3-D film U2 3D followed with footage recording during Latin American and Australian performances from the Vertigo Tour.
Financial troubles during August 2006 caused U2 to incorporate its Netherlands based publishing business, a strategy heavily criticized by the Irish Parliament. Two years later, U2 signed an estimated $100 million dollar contract with Live Nation securing Live Nation's control of the band's sponsorship, merchandise, and official website. In February 2009, U2's twelfth album, entitled No Line On The Horizon was released and producer Rick Rubin assisted with some tracks, but they were shelved for later release. The album debuted at number one throughout thirty countries but sales were relatively low in comparison to previous albums. The 360° Tour followed and featured stops within Europe, Australia, South America, and North America. Tour stops within South Africa are planned for 2011. The tour was interrupted when Bono suffered a back injury with some dates delayed, including a stop at the 2010 Glastonbury Festival.
U2 is one of the most acclaimed bands of the century. U2 ranks as the 22nd Greatest Artists of All Time and one of the most best selling recording artists of contemporary music. The band has earned 22 Grammy Awards, sold 150 million albums, and contributed to multiple human rights and philanthropic causes.
Here are the 20 Best U2 Songs: