March 1987: U2 Releases "The Joshua Tree"

The Joshua Tree gatefold
Photo Credit
(Island)

Irish band U2 had spent a majority of the first five years of the 1980s on the road. Like most aspiring groups from that side of the pond, much of that touring time was in the United States. As Bono and company crisscrossed the United States over the years, a fascination with "America" would turn into something of an obsession.

As Bono delved into the writings of Raymond Carver and Norman Mailer, the band would reconvene with producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, who'd helped them make previous album, The Unforgettable Fire, both a critical and commercial success.

"I love being there, I love America, I love the feeling of the wide open spaces I love the desert, I love the mountain ranges, I even love the cities," Bono would marvel in a 1987 interview. "So having fallen in love with America over the years that we've been there on tour, I then had to deal with America and the way it was affecting me, because America's having such an effect on the world at the moment. On this record, I had to deal with it on a political level for the first time, if in a subtle way."

Recording throughout 1986, the band would take a couple of months off to embark on the six-date Conspiracy of Hope tour for Amnesty International. They would return to recording sessions reinvigorated by the experience until the tragic death of Bono's personal assistant, Greg Caroll, in a motorcycle accident. He was only 26 years old. The incident would inspire the song, "One Tree Hill."

U2 would work feverishly until the last possible moment working on the album, they would hand over the master tapes to Island Records in January 1987. Released on March 9, 1987, The Joshua Tree would go on to be one of the biggest albums of the year, peaking at #1 over the week of April 25, 1987. The record would remain in the top spot for more than two months. It would finally relinquish #1 on June 27, 1987, to Whitney Houston's Whitney album.

There would be three huge singles on The Joshua Tree. Lead single, "With or Without You," came out on March 21, 1987, going on to become the band's first #1 in America over the week of May 16, 1987. Second single "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" would follow suit, soaring up the Hot 100 before taking the #1 spot on for the week of August 8, 1987. The album's third single, "Where the Streets Have No Name," would only reach #13 on the Hot 100, but came with a memorable music video recorded guerilla style on the streets of downtown Los Angeles.

In 2017 and 2019, U2 would travel the world on a pair on concert tours celebrating The Joshua Tree. These massively successful jaunts would pull in more than $380 million, selling more than three million concert tickets along the way.

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