Once the embers of 1984’s The Unforgettable Fire subsided, U2 decided to go on a different kind of tour. (No, not that Amnesty International tour in 1986 with Sting.) This tour delved into the band’s wonder with America, and it gave birth to one of best albums of all time.
The Joshua Tree will be forever defined as U2’s dive into the United States, from its roots music to its symbolism and everything in between. Add in a recent visit to Ethiopia by Bono and his wife, Ali, where they saw first hand the vast difference in the quality of life, and the mixture of the album’s emotions all of a sudden start to make sense.
The longing and beautiful ache from the one-two punch of “Where The Streets Have No Name” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For…”
The scathing “Bullet The Blue Sky…”
The pains and yearnings of love on “With Or Without You” and the grossly underappreciated “Trip Through Your Wires…”
The gut-wrenching struggles of heroin addiction explored on “Running To Stand Still…”
Somehow all of this and more made its way onto 11 tracks. In theory, such complexity shouldn’t have lead to packing arenas and stadiums the world over. But once the lead single “With Or Without You” dropped, there was no turning back. By the end of 1987, The Joshua Tree sold four million copies in the U.S. alone.
It bears mentioning the other great gift of The Joshua Tree would come about four-and-a-half years later with 1991’s Achtung, Baby. Of course, in order to get to the album referred to by Bono as “the sound of four men chopping down The Joshua Tree,” they had to dig deep for this one-of-a-kind breakthrough first. If that was the goal, it’s clear U2 found what they were looking for.