Who is U2? The basics you need to know.

Last week Apple's big iPhone and AppleWatch event ended with a surprise performance from the band U2. Apple CEO Tim Cook also revealed that they would be giving all 800 million iTunes users the new U2 album for free. This was exciting news for lots of middle-aged people. On the other hand, millions of younger people suddenly found a new U2 album on their iPhones/iPads and proceeded to freak out and ask who the heck U2 is. This collective freak out spawned this f'bomb riddled website.  As a 41 year old who has travelled the world to see U2 live I was offended people didn't know who U2 was. I figured it was just moronic young people from the internet who don't know anything about music or culture and have trouble tying their shoes. I decided to do some research on my own to determine if U2 really had become completely unknown to the younger crowd. 

Last night I was with 7 young adults who are 20 or 21 years old. I asked them, "Do you know who U2 is?"  Sadly, 5 of them were completely clueless, while the other two were  somewhat familiar with U2 and could name a few songs. When I finished mourning this generation's tragic ignorance of the musical greatness that is U2 I decided I would do something about this. What follows is an extremely brief synopsis of who U2 is followed by 10 songs you should listen to before you decide you should continue in your blindness regarding the greatest band of the 80's and 90's. This is for educational purposes for all of my millennial friends.

Early picture of U2, before they were known as U2 they called themselves The Hype.

Early picture of U2, before they were known as U2 they called themselves The Hype.

U2 consists of 4 members named Bono (real name Paul Hewson), The Edge (real name Dave Evans), Adam Clayton (real name Adam Clayton), and Larry Mullen Jr. (real name Larry Mullen Jr.). They grew up in Ireland. They met as teenagers while they were still in high school. Larry wanted to be a drummer in a band so he posted a piece of paper on a bulletin board at their school looking for potential band mates. U2 was spawned out of that notice and started in one of their kitchens. They didn't  know what they were doing, could barely play their instruments and were inspired by bands like The Ramones and The Clash (if you don't know who U2 is then you sure as heck don't know those bands). Here are some bullet point style facts about U2 (the young folks like their bullet points):

  • They released their first album, Boy, while they were still teenagers in 1980. 
  • They have released 12 studio albums.
  • Those albums have sold over 150 MILLION copies.
  • All of their albums after Boy have reached number one on the charts somewhere in the world.
  • The Joshua Tree album has sold over 25 million copies
  • They have been on the cover of Rolling Stone eleven times
  • They had number one albums in the 80's, 90's, and 00's.  
  • Played at the Super Bowl
  • Their last tour was the largest grossing tour in history. It brought in 760 million dollars.
  • Have appeared on the cover of Time magazine several times.
  • Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
  • They have a Greatest Hits album that actually has tons of real hits.
  • They've been involved with a whole bunch of things aimed at making the world a better place and have rubbed shoulders with numerous Presidents and other heads of state.

As you can see, they have had quite the career. But the reason they have had a huge career is because of the music, so if you aren't familiar with U2, I've put together a list of 10 songs that you need to discover to get a sense of who they are and how great they have been.  Here we go:

1. Their Biggest Hit Song, also the Best - With Or Without You from The Joshua Tree - 1987. This is my favorite song of all time, by anyone, ever.

2. The other biggest song the song that had 3 videos -  One from Achtung Baby   1991. This song means so many things to so many people. It may be the most universally loved song ever.

3. The song that made them famous  - Sunday Bloody Sunday from War - 1983  This live version is what catapulted them into the mainstream.  Also made them politically and spiritually interesting.

4. The song that you still hear all the time - Beautiful Day - All That You Can't Leave Behind -  2000  Nearly every politician has used this song as their walk in music at some point.

5. The song you have to see live! - here the Streets Have No Name - The Joshua Tree -1987 When we get to heaven this is pretty close to how it will start. When you see this song live you don't see it, you experience it, you get caught up in it and you worship something, if you're in the know with U2 you know what you're worshiping is Jesus.

6. The love song with the little person in the video - All I Want Is You - Rattle and Hum - 1988
If I had any musical talent at all I would have used this one to propose to my wife. I don't, I didn't.

7. The performance at Live Aid that sent them into the stratosphere.  Bad - Unforgettable Fire - 1984 A bunch of really big acts played at Live Aid ( Paul McCartney, Queen, Sting, Elton John, The Who, David Bowie) after it was over everyone talked about U2.

8. The anthem about MLK and Jesus. - Pride - Unforgettable Fire - 1984. It's hard to get tired of this song.

9. The one everyone likes. I Still Haven't Found What I'm looking For - The Joshua Tree - 1987

10. Their first "hit song". I Will Follow - Boy - 1980
This is painful to watch because they are 19 year olds at the time, plus music video technology was painfully bad.