30 Facts About U2’s Greatest Album

THIS year marks the 30th anniversary of U2’s The Joshua Tree – the album with which they conquered America and which made them a global stadium- filling band.

The Dublin group’s fifth album was a staggering success – to date it has racked up 25million sales worldwide, and still counting.

Yesterday U2 announced that to mark the anniversary, this summer they will tour the world with The Joshua Tree, playing it in full.

Here, NICK PRITCHARD presents 30 facts about how the world-beating release was put together.


Bono recalled the weather was freezing on the day the band shot the album artwork
Bono recalled the weather was freezing on the day the band shot the album artwork

1. MUCH of the recording took place in a Georgian mansion in South Dublin. Bassist Adam Clayton liked it so much he later bought it as his own home.

2. Producer Brian Eno almost scrapped Where The Streets Have No Name. He tried to erase the tapes as he wasn’t happy with it but an engineer restrained him.

3. U2’s roadie and Bono’s pal Greg Carroll died in a ­motorbike crash in Dublin. The song One Tree Hill was written in his memory.

4. Bono recorded the vocals in just one take as he was too ­emotional to do it again.

The song One Tree Hill was written in memory of Bono’s pal Greg Carroll
The song One Tree Hill was written in memory of Bono’s pal Greg Carroll

5. Bono was inspired to write the lyrics to Exit after reading ­Norman Mailer’s 1979 novel The Executioner’s Song, about US double murderer Gary Gilmore.

6. At the 1991 trial of Robert John Bardo, who murdered US actress Rebecca Schaeffer, he claimed Exit had influenced his actions and sang along as it was played in court.

7. The lone Joshua tree in the album artwork died in 2000. In 2015 the stump in California’s Mojave Desert was vandalised.

8. The tree was unusual, as they usually grow in clusters.

9. In 2011, Dutch tourist Guus Van Hove and his wife Helena died while looking for the tree in the desert, which can hit 40C.

The album’s title was coined on a trip to the Mojave Desert
RECORD COMPANY, The album’s title was coined on a trip to the Mojave Desert

10. Despite the desert’s usual heat, Bono recalled on the day the band shot the album artwork in 1986: “It was freezing and we had to take our coats off so it would at least look like a desert. That’s one of the reasons we look so grim.”

11. At the site of the tree someone placed a plaque reading: “Have you found what you’re looking for?” — a reference to the album’s second track I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.

12. The track has been played on every U2 tour since its release.

13. The song emerged from an unreleased demo called The Weather Girls. This track was scrapped but the band loved the unconventional drum beat and used it as the basis for the final tune.

14. Bono wrote the lyrics to With Or Without You while struggling to reconcile his responsibilities as a married man and as a musician — two parts of his life he felt were in constant conflict. The song became the band’s first ever US No1.

Bono panicked about whether the album was any good
GETTY IMAGES, Bono panicked about whether the album was any good

15. Both Bullet The Blue Sky and Mothers Of The Disappeared were inspired by Bono and his wife Ali’s trip to El Salvador and Nicaragua. The US financed the right-wing Contra rebels in the 1970s and 80s, who used terrorism to fight the ­Nicaraguan goverment. Bono said: “I became aware of how dangerous American foreign policy could be.”

16. Running To Stand Still was written about a heroin-addicted couple living in Dublin’s Ballymun flats — in the 1980s the city was gripped by heroin addiction and Bono visited the flats before writing the song.

18. Bono has said that he originally didn’t know if the track In God’s Country was about Ireland or America, but eventually he dedicated it to the Statue of Liberty.

19. The album has been preserved by the US Library of Congress for future generations, adding it to the collection of works considered “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant”.

Kirsty MacColl was chosen to decide the album’s track order
REDFERNS, Kirsty MacColl was chosen to decide the album’s track order

20. The band asked singer Kirsty MacColl to decide the album’s track order while it was being mixed. They did ask that it opens with Where The Streets Have No Name and closes with Mothers Of The Disappeared.

21. Just as the album was being pressed, Bono panicked about whether it was any good and nearly rang the production plant to stop the pressing.

22. The album was released on March 9, 1987, and was the first to be made available on CD, vinyl and cassette on the same date.

23. Island Records spent more than £82,000 on store displays ­advertising the album.

24. The Joshua Tree received critical acclaim and topped the charts in more than 20 countries. Its 25million sales make it U2’s most successful album and one of the best-selling of all time.

U2 plan to tour the world with The Joshua Tree playing it in full
AP:ASSOCIATED PRESS, U2 plan to tour the world with The Joshua Tree playing it in full

25. During the original Joshua Tree tour, a white nationalist threatened to shoot Bono on stage if the band continued to support the honouring of Martin Luther King Day.

26. Several years later the album Achtung Baby was described by Bono as “the sound of four men chopping down The Joshua Tree” as they attempted to embrace more of a rock ’n’ roll image.

27. The album’s title was coined on a trip to the Mojave Desert. The band had never heard of the hardy, twisted desert plant — a relative of the yucca plants grown in British gardens — before their photographer Anton Corbijn pointed them out.

Bono wrote With Or Without You while struggling to reconcile his responsibilities as a married man and musician
REDFERNS, Bono wrote With Or Without You while struggling to reconcile his responsibilities as a married man and musician

28. Band manager Paul McGuinness said the idea for the album’s US theme came from the band’s “great romance” with the United States. It was inspired by the deep-rooted spiritual and musical connections between America and Ireland.

29. The Edge’s guitar playing on the album is characteristic of what became his trademark sound. The Irish axeman views notes as “expensive” and prefers a minimalist style with lots of reverb.

30. U2 interrupted recording to play several benefit concerts for Amnesty International. The band say the tour added extra focus to what they wanted to say on the record.


Report by The Sun