April 24, 2024
U2 War

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The early ’80s proved to be a frustrating time for U2. While hugely positive reviews for the Dubliners’ debut album Boy tipped the band for future greatness, their momentum slowed somewhat after the release of 1981’s October. While it became the quartet’s first Top 40 album in the UK, peaking at number 11, it failed to make much more of an impact than its predecessor elsewhere. 

There were a few reasons for this, the chief one being that October was a much more obtuse and unusual record than Boy. U2’s debut was rough and ready, but still had anthemic moments such as I Will Follow and The Electric Co, and while October started similarly with the drive of Gloria, it was a weirder, more experimental and insular record overall, dominated by jagged post-punk and folk influences. This may have been the result of the minimal amount of time the band had to prepare, with producer Steve Lillywhite calling the recording of the album “completely chaotic and mad”: songs were finished in the studio, with Bono’s lyrics often improvised on the spot.  

Ahead of the album’s release, U2 played what Bono considers one of their worst ever performances while supporting Thin Lizzy in front of 18,000 music fans at Slane Castle in August ’81. The aftermath of October emerging was also far from ideal, with the band aggrieved at the lack of radio play for its singles and what they perceived as a lack of financial support from Island Records. This all fed into an air of deflation around the band. 



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