Great Rock Albums of 1987: U2- The Joshua Tree

Naturally, I was quite excited when I heard that U2 had a new album out in early 1987, so were a lot of people around the world. Like I said when I wrote about their debut album, “Boy,” way back when, U2 was one band which Duranies and Metalheads could both listen to and not be accused of betraying their beliefs. This was even more the case when their fifth album, “The Joshua Tree,” was released.

Speaking of the debut album, what I like most about “The Joshua Tree” is that it seems to go back to those early times. While, the band experimented more on the previous album, “The Unforgettable Fire,” here they go back to basics. This is not to say that the band didn’t evolve further with the album, it certainly did. When Bono wrote the lyrics to the songs, he was deeply influenced by the events which were happening around at the time. “Red Mining Town” was about the 1984-5 miner’s strike in the UK, only it was written from the viewpoint of a family effected by the strike. “Bullet the Blue Sky” was written in response to Bono’s trip to Central America in 1986 and the effects that then president Ronald Reagan’s sponsored wars had on the region and the people there. Although some people balked at the increasing political lyrics on some of the tracks, it didn’t matter to most because the songs are that good.

It wasn’t just the political lyrics a few naysayers had a problem with. Three of the four members of U2 are born again Christians and some non believers complained about it seeping into their music. Having listened to Stryper quite a lot, I can say that if there is religious connotation, then it’s very subtle. One song and it’s my favourite on the album, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” Bono does appear to be questioning his faith because while he still believes, he hasn’t found that thing to cement those beliefs but all I know is that I like the song. “Where the Streets Have No Name” is another example. Bono sings about how in Belfast, where one lives is defined by their religion. As I said before, they could write songs about doing terrible things to dogs with a fork but if the music’s good, the lyrics won’t effect me.

Bono’s songwriting is a minor reason why “The Joshua Tree” is such a good album. After all, it is U2’s best selling album ever. My reason for liking the album so much is what the other three members bring to the table. The Edge does more little tricks with his guitar and does it even better. Furthermore, for me, this album is Adam Clayton’s best performance on the bass and drummer Larry Mullins Jr., a very underrated drummer, shows that fact here. Also, I can’t fault Bono’s vocals, he has always been a good singer and he sings well on this album, especially on “Red Mining Town” which is why it eeks out the other tracks to be the hidden gem. Though the intro to “In God’s Country” gives a good account of itself and also reminds me of what I have always liked about U2. In short, while many other bands were trying too hard to sound ‘commercial.’ U2 continued to do what made them stars and this album is all the better for it.

Track Listing:

  1. Where the Streets Have No Name
  2. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
  3. With or Without You
  4. Bullet the Blue Sky
  5. Running to Stand Still
  6. Red Mining Town
  7. In God’s Country
  8. Trip Through Your Wires
  9. One Tree Hill
  10. Exit
  11. Mothers of the Disappeared

Bono- lead vocals, harmonica, guitar

The Edge- guitar, backing vocals, piano

Adam Clayton- bass

Larry Mullins Jr.- drums, percussion

Additional Musicians:

Brian Eno- keyboards, backing vocals

Daniel Lanois- tambourine, omnichord, guitar on tracks 2 and 5, backing vocals

The Armin Family- strings (One Tree Hill)

The Arklow Silver Band- brass (Red Mining Town)

When music seemed to be chopping and changing in the late 1980s, it’s great to see one band stick to what it did best. It’s no wonder “The Joshua Tree” is U2’s most successful album. On another note, if U2 and Stryper were to play a show together, even if it was to spread the word of God, I’d definitely go.

Next post: Billy Idol- Whiplash Smile

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20 Responses to “Great Rock Albums of 1987: U2- The Joshua Tree”

  1. Ahhhh, yes! I remember that one well! I loved the songs “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m looking For” and “With or Without You.” Great songs from about March of 1987.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is my personal favorite of theirs because as you said, the writing was so good. Bullet the Blue Sky was my favorite song, but how good are those first four songs on the album. U2 hitting their prime is as good as it gets.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What an album….such great memories

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I. Love. This. Album.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a great opening track. Love how it just builds and builds…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m a bit played out on the first three songs but the whole record is great – ‘One Tree Hill’ (a single in NZ) and ‘Trip Through Your Wires’ are great deep cuts.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Yeah, great album and despite there being a few tracks that I’ve probably oversubscribed to over the years, I can still listen to it without feeling I need to skip songs. Start to finish it’s just a great, great album.

    Liked by 1 person

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