- 21 Jun 17
On their 1984 European tour, U2 talked to Bill Graham about The Unforgettable Fire's realization in Slane Castle - what they called the most ambitious journey yet.
November 30, 1984
While playing on the Phoenix Park stage during the War tour, the band announced resurrection and reincarnation to be their new aim: "U2 are dead; long live U2!"
Dissatisfied with how recording studios tend to deaden and depersonalize a band's sound, they aimed to search for an alternative venue that meets their ideals - which turned out to be Slane.
Contrary to muscular exhortations of War, the outlines of Unforgettable Fire is "more European rather than American", according to The Edge, who spoke of the band's decision to tap Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois to produce the follow-up album to their breakthrough War.
Bono remembered the conversation with Chris Blackwell, head of Island Records, about the pre-production of the follow-up album, on which Eno wanted to put a fresh take.
“We said to him, ‘If you’re over here because you’re concerned about a group that you are a fan of, well then we appreciate that concern and we’ll talk to you. But if you’re over here guarding your investment, then maybe you should leave now.' And he said 'No'... and he ended up leaving as fan and with a better idea of what we were trying to do."
Trying not to become one of those bands vampirized by the American popular music business, the band needed to bring new life into their music - charting a new course that would sustain U2 for the remainder of the decade.
Surprisingly, they decided to go backwards instead of forward. “It’s probably regression rather than progression in some ways because it’s what we started out doing. We started out as a group innovating in the three-piece format. I don’t want to sound pompous but that’s how we started, we wrestled with that. Whereas “War” was a deliberate stripping-down into the three-point format,” Bono spoke about the reasoning behind U2's new policy.
At Slane, U2 found their own way to release the pressure.
The moody, almost mystical album Unforgettable Fire took the band into their own modern mystic, including the short and pensive lullaby 'MLK', Bono's improvised slow-downed track 'Elvis Presley in America' and more.
The true worth of The Unforgettable Fire lies in the band's communication across barriers, unreeling a thread to the unconverted and pressing beyond the arid formalities of institutionalized practice.
You can also see all of U2's Hot Press covers in the flesh as part of our 40th Birthday Exhibition in the National Photographic Archive in Meeting House Square, Temple Bar, Dublin. Open seven days a week, admission free!