Producers: Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno

Track listing: 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 / In God’s Country / Trip Through Your Wires / One Tree Hill / Exit / Mothers of the Disappeared

Joshua Tree

April 25, 1987
9 weeks

Prior to 1987, Ireland’s U2 was considered one of the most important rock acts of the ’80s, despite the fact that they had yet to break into the top 10 of the Top Pop Albums chart. The band’s highest-charting albums to that date had been 1983’s War and 1984’s The Unforgettable Fire, both of which had reached number 12.

It was a measure of U2’s importance that the band was one of the star attractions of Amnesty International’s Conspiracy of Hope tour, which included such star talent as Sting, Peter Gabriel, Lou Reed, Bryan Adams [see 2911, Joan Baez, and Jackson Browne. “We kind of got started on The Joshua Tree, but we had already committed to the Conspiracy of Hope tour, so we had to stop halfway through,” says bassist Adam Clayton. Although the tour put more stress on the band, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. “It was good for us, because we wanted to try this new material and we wanted [the album] to be performance-based,” says Clayton.

The Conspiracy of Hope tour ran from June 4 to June 15, 1986. Once it was completed, the members of U2 — singer Paul “Bono” Hewson, guitarist Dave “The Edge” Evans, drummer Larry Mullen Jr., and Clayton — resumed the recording of their fifth full-length album at a number of different locations, including Clayton’s future home in Dublin. “Rather than use a commercial studio, we set up a studio in a room that we liked the sound of, and we made the room work for us,” he says.

For the second consecutive studio album, Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno were enlisted as producers, and the sessions had a loose feel. “There was always someone playing an instrument, and everyone else just kind of joined in as they saw fit, including Danny and Brian,” says Clayton. “It seemed that the division of control room and playing room didn’t exist.”

The album would capture U2 at a significant point in the band’s career, as they were beginning to jell both instrumentally and lyrically. ” ‘Bullet the Blue Sky’ was a song that definitely realized the potential of where Edge was going as a guitar player,” says Clayton. “And lyrically, it was a real milestone for Bono. He really managed to write about some tough topics in a very clear way.”

Some of Bono’s finest lyrics were featured on the haunting ballad “With or Without You,” the soul-searching “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” and the heartfelt “One Tree Hill,” dedicated to the late U2 roadie Greg Car¬roll, who had died in a motorcycle accident. Other standouts included the blistering “Bullet the Blue Sky” and “Mothers of the Disappeared.”

Says Clayton, “We all kind felt like it was going to be a breakthrough record. We were quite clear about the album we wanted to make. We had this image of a spiritual desert, which was ¬what we felt America had become in the mid-’80s. Greed and money was the big issue. We wanted to step back from that and look at the spirituality heart.”

America heard U2’s message, or at least its music, loud and clear. The Joshua Tree entered the chart at number seven on April 4, 1987. Three weeks later, the album hit the top. In the following months, U2 scored its highest-charting singles, as both “With or You” and “I Still Haven’t Found, I’m Looking For” topped the Hot 100.

THE TOP FIVE
Week of April 25, 1987

1. The Joshua Tree, U2
2. Licensed to Ill, Beastie Boys
3. Slippery When Wet, Bon Jovi
4. Look What the Cat Dragged In,
Poison
5. Graceland, Paul Simon