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U2 History - Part 3
After a hectic and successful tour, U2 settled down to record music
for their second album "October". One of their songs "Fire" was
already completed during a rest period they had while performing in
America. The song was recorded in a studio in the Bahamas used by
artists signed up by Island records.
Just when things appeared to go smoothly, Bono realized that he had
lost his notes for the songs and the briefcase that stored them while
on tour in America. Either his case was stolen by two girls who had
entered the studio, or Bono had simply misplaced it, no one really
knows. Nevertheless, U2 were sent into a tailspin and the making of
their new record became a constant struggle against time and
commitment for the band and the producer Steve Lillywhite.
U2 had a three week deadline to meet for the new record, which did not
allow for much time to write the songs. For each recording session, U2
and the producer were under immense pressure to deliver the results.
Bono - "I had a choice, panic or meet the situation. Maybe that's how
I should work; every time I put pen to paper my head gets in the way
anyhow. The pressure was enormous. Lillywhite himself has said it was
the hardest record he has ever worked on in his life. I'd come in and
he'd quietly say, "Sing?? I'd say, "no, it's not right today." The
pressure was so ridiculous that one day our manager asked Lillywhite
if he'd dealt with another band that worked like us. Lillywhite put
his head on his hands and sighed". The song "Gloria" tended to reflect
this situation, where Bono asks God to help him sing - "I try to speak
up/ But only in you I'm complete".
Musical issues aside, the band members Bono, Larry and the Edge, had
to juggle their music life with Christianity. They were already
involved with a Christian sect called Shalom where they hoped would
help them better understand Christianity. Their involvement in Shalom
had a negative affect the band's commitment toward music, a fact which
McGuiness flatly pointed out to the group and something he thought
would not have contributed greatly to producing their album. In
addition, Adam would have also been a focal point as he did not belong
to any religion, had he not respected their views on religion during
this time. It was this religious journey that inspired the music on
In October 1981, their new album "October" was released. The result of
"October" was a much improvised album with many of the songs being
sung instead of being written beforehand. In contrast to "Boy",
"October" examined the themes of the living spirit, human nature and
Christianity which were evident in songs such as "Gloria" and
"October". But spirituality was to be examined across many more
levels. "Gloria" examined the spiritual nature in providing confidence
for the band in expressing their beliefs. "October" looked at
spirituality as a source for continuing life that whenever "kingdoms"
fell, one will always rise in its place. Spirituality could also be
seen at work in "Is that all" where Bono asks God about where his life
could be directing him, does he sing to make people happy, sad or
dance, or is there something more he must achieve to make his life
And there is also "Tomorrow", where Bono seeks to rationalize the
death of his mother with God so that he can be given the strength to
continue on with his life and look towards the future with optimism.
As with any other inexperienced band, U2 made the mistake of mixing
this theme of hope with heavy-edged rock 'n' roll, thus spoiling the
overall beauty of the song.
On the other hand, U2 also wrote about the tensions in Northern
Ireland in "Stranger in a Strange land". It examines human nature from
a different angle, how one is treated as an outcast of another because
of what they believe in and the loneliness that is triggered due to
U2 further explore the dark side of human behavior with "I threw a
brick through a window" where all belief in life and destiny is lost
and the main antagonist is left to react against their own
"reflection". In contrast to the positive aspects of human nature,
this song also showed its destructive nature when all vision and hope
is lost, leaving one defenseless because they have lost their will to
But fans who bought "Boy" were disappointed, even though the album
managed to make it into the UK top 20. Many critics questioned the
overall structure of the songs and the musical style in the album,
contributed by the lack of preparation and fine-tuning of the record.
Fortunately for U2, this had no damage on their attendances at live
performances with many of the UK dates selling out.