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U2’s The Joshua Tree gets written up by the Library of Congress

Every year, the Library of Congress designates a number of recordings as having important historical significance. In 2013, The Joshua Tree from U2 was recognized that way. Here’s the official write-up. (Via Michael)

Across four studio albums, beginning with their 1980 debut, “Boy,” the Irish rock band U2 created a signature sound and built an adoring international fan base, delivering spiritual (and increasingly political) songs and live performances brimming with the irrational exuberance of youth. But it was their fifth studio album, 1987’s “The Joshua Tree,” that cemented the band iconic status.

The astonishing success of “The Joshua Tree” may, in retrospect, seem to have been inevitable. A critically-acclaimed work that has sold more than 25 million copies, produced two chart-topping singles, and inspired not one but two of the highest-grossing concert tours ever, it’s become ingrained in the popular imagination–particularly in America, the country whose myths, legends, and ideals inspired its creation. Yet, at the time of its release, “The Joshua Tree” bloomed in stark contrast to the pop music landscape that surrounded it.

In an era when popular culture gleefully celebrated unabashed materialism and professed a credo of “greed is good,” here was an album that seemed to herald asceticism as ideal. Dutch photographer Anton Corbijn’s austere cover photos present the band’s members (singer Bono, guitarist the Edge, bassist Adam Clayton, and drummer Larry Mullen Jr.), as four modern-day sons of the Desert Fathers, casting wary eyes upon the Day-Glo fashions, big hair silliness, and conspicuous consumption that epitomized the times.

Taking its title from the hardy desert plant native to the more arid portions of the American southwest (which was itself named by early Mormon missionaries who saw in it the Old Testament image of Joshua raising his hands to the sky in prayer), “The Joshua Tree” represented all of the things most of U2’s contemporaries renounced: earnestness, austerity, and introspection.

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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.

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