- 09 Mar 17
Having championed U2 since their earliest days, and been instrumental in introducing them to Paul McGuinness, the late Bill Graham was the music writer who perhaps knew the band best. In a landmark review of the record that made U2 superstars, he analyses the American influences the band had taken onboard – and highlights the qualities that turned the album into a phenomenon.
With The Joshua Tree, the U2 pendulum swings back to America again. If The Unforgettable Fire, partially through Brian Eno’s guidance, was their most European record, this, their fifth studio album, turns their sights again on the Big Country, sometimes howling off in pursuit of the ghosts that possess the American soul. In time, it may be reckoned their most influential album to date.
It also clarifies how U2’s vocation has become the revival and renewal of rock and the recovery of its most romantic values. Between the increasingly mercenary implosion of hard rock into a static vaudeville routine and the intervention of pop dance-floor values, rock has lost its lustre and mystique of genuinely redeeming passion.
From one angle, The Unforgettable Fire can now seem a strategic retreat, to regroup, reassess the situation and gain new ammunition. But if that album necessarily circumvented some of the issues, The Joshua Tree returns to a frontal assault.