It all began in 1976 when Larry Mullen pinned a 'musicians wanted' ad to the notice board at Dublin's Temple Mount School: Drummer seeks musicians to form band. 'This odd group of people convened in my kitchen in Artane. And that's where it started.'
Adam Clayton had discovered rock'n'roll as a thirteen-year-old, buying his first acoustic guitar and then talking his parents into buying him a bass guitar. 'It just sounded good to me.”
From the beginning, U2 were marked out by their passion. "A band before we could play" was how Bono put it in early interviews. Edge remembers reading UK music papers NME and Sounds every week and then hearing about this 'wild kid called Paul Hewson.'
The four teenagers, who initially called themselves 'Feedback', rehearsed in Larry's Dublin kitchen, Bono on vocals, The Edge on guitar, Adam Clayton and Larry making up the rhythm section of bass and drums. Inspired by punk, but insulated from the standoffish cool by the Irish Sea, Feedback had become 'The Hype' and then 'U2' and were soon building a local reputation based on the passion of their performances.
'I suppose a watershed moment would have been seeing The Jam on Top of the Pops, 'remembers `Edge. 'And realizing that actually not knowing how to play was not a problem... music was more about energy and trying to say something and not necessarily about great musicianship.'
After a brief period being managed by Adam, they had met up with Paul McGuinness but an early Irish release in 1979, the 'U23' EP on CBS, proved a one-off. They would wait until the following year to sign a long-term deal with Chris Blackwell's Island Records. 'I was amazed at the quality and talent and ambition of these four musicians and yet we couldn't get a record deal.'recalls McGuinness. 'Everyone in the world passed on U2 before we finally found a home at Island Records.'
Back in the 1980's, the nine-month tour following the release of 'The Unforgettable Fire' took in 54 US dates and led to the band's unforgettable appearance at Live Aid in July 1985.
The Joshua Tree went on to sell more than 20 million copies and at the 1987 Grammy Awards, won the band 'Album Of The Year' and 'Best Rock Performance', the first of what has become a record-breaking run of Grammy wins. In 2007 a remastered version of the album was released to mark the 20th anniversary of its original release and in their book, 'U2byU2' the band talked in detail about how many of the songs came together. At the 1987 Grammy Awards, U2 won Album Of The Year and Best Rock Performance for The Joshua Tree, their first Grammy Award wins.
“The Joshua Tree” was a high-water mark of an era when leading rockers were eager to be role models and do-gooders, putting on benefit concerts like Live Aid and Amnesty International’s Conspiracy of Hope tour, which both included U2. A backlash would soon dismiss similar efforts as naïve or pretentious, but U2 has persisted. It doesn’t write scolding protests; it strives for empathy, hope and, ultimately, exaltation.’