Music HistoryOngoing History of New Music

The Ongoing History of New Music, Episode 787: U2 and The Joshua Tree, 30 Years Later (Part 1) [Music and Podcast Embedded]

On March 9, 1987, a little more than ten years after a bunch of kids met up in a Dublin kitchen, U2 released their fifth album. Expectations for the record were running pretty high, too. After establishing themselves with their first two albums, there was a leap ahead with their War album in 1983. Then came The Unforgettable Fire in 1984, which represented another leap forward. The band’s sound grew more sophisticated, stronger, bigger, better.

Much of the credit has to go to their new production team of Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, two guys who found new ways to bring out the best in the band. That partnership worked so well that everyone agreed they should work together on the next album, too. Maybe they could take things even further.

The result was The Joshua Tree, an album that has somewhere north of 25 million copies, making it one of the all-time bestsellers. It was a #1 album in two dozen countries. Five of the eleven songs were released as singles, several of which sold more than a million copies on their own.

The tour in support of the record had to grow from arenas to stadiums. It resulted in a live album, Live in Paris, and the documentary and soundtrack, Rattle and Hum. And it earned U2 two major Grammy Awards: Album of the Year and Group of the Year.

The Joshua Tree set the band up as one of the biggest in the world and over the coming decade, they would become the biggest. The album has been studied at all levels of academia, its songs covered thousands of times. The material has even been adopted as hymns for modern church services. And in 2014, the album was added to the US Library of Congress as a recording deemed to be “culturally, historically and aesthetically significant.”

That’s a lot of stuff to unpack about just one album. But doesn’t it make you curious about what went into making it? That was my thinking, so I thought I’d talk to one of the guys who was in the studio with the band the entire time. Let’s hear some stories from co-producer Daniel Lanois, shall we? We’ll go through the album track-by-track.

Where the Streets Have No Name

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

With or Without You

Bullet the Blue Sky

Running to Stand Still

Red Hill Mining Town

Officially playlistist Eric Wilhile had an easy time putting this one together.


Don’t forget that you can get the podcast version of this podcast through iTunes or wherever you get your on-demand audio.

The Ongoing History of New Music can be heard on the following stations:

We’re still looking for more affiliates in Calgary, Kamloops, Kelowna, Regina, Saskatoon, Brandon, Windsor,  Montreal, Charlottetown, Moncton, Fredericton, and St John’s and anywhere else with a transmitter. If you’re in any of those markets and you want the show, lemme know and I’ll see what I can do.

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 38031 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

2 thoughts on “The Ongoing History of New Music, Episode 787: U2 and The Joshua Tree, 30 Years Later (Part 1) [Music and Podcast Embedded]

  • Hey Alan: Long time fan of the Ongoing History…THRILLED to have it in podcast format. (“Alan on the Go!”) Question: Episode 787: U2 and the Joshua Tree/30 Years Later…I cant find *this* podcast online…not in the iTunes store ether? What gives? am I premature and it hasn’t been released yet?
    I will be checking them out this summer (I have never seen them live!) when they come to Toronto and I am interested in this podcast to get me into gear for what should be an awesome event!


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