Music History

35 years ago today, U2 released The Joshua Tree

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.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38513 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

One thought on “35 years ago today, U2 released The Joshua Tree

  • Eno was talking to David Byrne about recording an album with U2. He told David that he’d been told about a studio in Hamilton and had no idea what that would be like.
    David Byrne told him that Hamilton was a great place, the people were friendly and would leave you alone so you could get on with your work.
    How did he know that? His father was a British electrical engineer who had been recruited from Britain to move to North America. The company was Westinghouse and he was assigned to their Longwood plant in Hamilton. David spent about age 6 to 12 growing up in Westdale before his father was transferred to the U.S.. The album was Joshua Tree, recorded at Grant Ave. Studio, co-produced with Daniel Lanois.


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