Hailing from Dublin, Ireland, the members of U2 came together in 1976 while they were still attending high school.
Most mainstream fans probably don’t know the band went through several name changes in its infancy, having originally been called “The Larry Mullen Band” (for less than a day) then immediately changing to “Feedback” due to the coolness factor this technical term brought them. They later changed the name again in March 1977, choosing to go with “The Hype” as their band’s new call sign. They finally settled on the name “U2” a full year later because of its ambiguous nature and that it was a name that didn’t sound as bad as all the other options they could think of.
Although originally having very little proficiency in music, they were able to sign on to Island Records for the release of their debut album, Boy. They became a class-act by the mid-1980s, with smash hit albums like “The Joshua Tree”, “Live Aid”, and the totally unforgettable success, “Rattle and Hum”.
Originally influenced by punk rockers like The Jam, The Clash, and The Sex Pistols, U2 went through a series of major changes throughout its lifetime. Their 1981 “October” album contained blatant spiritual overtones, while their “War” album, released in 1983, demonstrated their anti-war sentiment and deep commitment to pacifism, especially through its politically controversial “Sunday Bloody Sunday” song. It was this album’s first single, “New Year’s Day” that became the band’s first hit outside of Ireland and the United Kingdom.
Yet it was their 1984 album release, “The Unforgettable Fire” that marked the band’s most significant shift in direction. Unlike previous albums, this album was notable ambient and abstract, making a complete departure from their previous punk rock style. This change was mostly due to the band’s fear of becoming too generic and lost in the sea of mainstream, commercial drivel that was so common at the time.
July of 1985 saw another major milestone in the band’s career, when its members participated in the Live Aid concert for Ethiopian famine relief at Wembley Stadium. It was this concert that showed their main vocalist, Bono, was capable of making personal connections with the crowd, as demonstrated by his ability to embrace and dance with fans during live performances.
Not about to stop with musical experimentation, U2 began to explore American blues, folk and even gospel music with their next album, “The Joshua Tree”. Released in March 1987, this album tried to give the band a sense of tradition as it explored what it really is like to be American. October of the following year saw the release of their documentary, “Rattle and Hum”.
Although highly praised by Rolling Stone magazine as possibly the best band of the 1980s, U2 remained successful through the 1990s and equally to present day. Having been named one of eight “Artists of the Decade” by Rolling Stone in 2009, this served as a positive momentum for the bands 360° Tour, which began in June 2009 and is scheduled to continue in Europe through the year and in North America in 2011.