Baby, Baby, Baby, light my way.
U2 have always had a touch of the Grandiose about them. From their early punk beginnings, Bono & the boys have always gone for the jugular with huge chords and even bigger vocals.
After Queen, U2 were the biggest surprise of Live Aid in that hot day of July 25th 1985. They performed a set which would launch them to Mega Stardom. Extended a version of Bad to such an extent they lost their last song, Pride. But the gamble paid off and they were handsomely rewarded. Following The Unforgettable Fire album, in which they worked with Brian Eno & Daniel Lanois for the first time, they went off to discover THEIR America. The result was the decade defining album, The Joshua Tree. With this album and the subsequent movie soundtrack/new album Rattle & Hum - released in 1988 - they explored their American Dreams just as millions of Irish have before them. Widescreen, panoramic music that encompassed the American landscape and huge ideas. They reached a point where their fame could not be surpassed. Just as Dire Straits had before them. It seemed that U2 would also follow in the same path as the Straits and disband at the top of their game. Where else could they go?
In a space of 3 years - to the end of 1991 - U2 set about reinventing themselves, both in sound, visuals and attitude. The result was the career defining album Achtung Baby. Indeed, when other bands try the same sort of reinvention, which is pretty rare, the subsequent album is often referred to as their 'Achtung Baby'.
The band decided to decamp to the Hansa Studio in Berlin. To say it was an fraught recording process is an understatement. The band had constant arguments about the new direction the band were taking and the quality of the material they were recording. But they stuck at it and produced one of the best albums ever committed to vinyl, or cd.
The opening track of the album, Zoo Station, although proceeded by the single The Fly, sets the tone for the album. Bold, Experimental and Direct. U2 had dispatched their American influences for a totally European feel. Hansa Studios had given birth and inspired some of the best albums in recording history, including Bowie's Low & Heroes albums, Iggy's Lust For Life and albums by Tangerine Dream & Depeche Mode amongst others.
The opening single The Fly was totally unexpected. I remember the reaction when it was released. People couldn't believe it was U2.
The Achtung Baby Tour was a landmark of live performance. I was lucky enough to catch them at the very first indoor gigs where they hung Trabant Cars from the ceiling of the venue. The band were dressed totally different in sequins, leathers and colour. It was dark, dangerous, moody, introspective, exceptionally camp and totally brilliant. An experience I will never forget.
The album lit the touchpaper for what was to become a new career for U2. They went on to have the fabulous ZOO TV tour and release albums that were challenging and new.
Probably the best known song from the album and the one that has turned into a classic was the song ONE.
From the disappointing response to their previous album Rattle & Hum, the new Achtung Baby garnered terrific reviews, as can be seen in the Rolling Stone review in the link below.
It is ironic now that U2 find themselves in the same position as they did following Rattle & Hum. I don't expect we'll see another Achtung Baby moment in the history of U2 - but wouldn't it be just totally fabulous Darling.
Twitter - @U2