If you’re of a certain vintage, you’ll remember U2’s march to glory in the early 80s. They were interesting with Boy (1980) struggled with October (1981), roared ahead with War (1983), and teetered on greatness with The Unforgettable Fire (1984). But then came The Joshua Tree.
Released 35 years ago today–March 9, 1987–everyone associated with the band just knew that U2 was about to explode into something extraordinary. Digging deep into their fascination with America, U2 delivered a record for the ages, one that’s sold well beyond 30 million copies worldwide.
Here’s my memory. There was a press event for the album at the now-defunct McLaughlin Planetarium in Toronto. As the music began, the lights went down and the dome began to be covered in stars. As the opening track, “Where the Streets Have No Name,” built, it got darker as the stars got brighter. And when the Edge’s chiming guitar mated with Adam’s bass and Larry’s drummer, the stars began to roll across the sky. The effect was electric.
The Joshua Tree marked the beginning of U2’s imperial phase, a stretch of about six years where they just couldn’t seem to do anything wrong. The album has aged extremely well. The hairstyles, not so much.
This was one of the two number one singles from the album.
This was the other.
Maybe it’s time to pull out the record and give it a full listen from front to back, huh?
If you’re a subscriber to the special feed of The Ongoing History of New Music podcast on Apple Podcasts, you can check out my one-on-one interview with Joshua Tree co-producer Daniel Lanois on the making of the record. It’s available as of today.