The Johsua Tree

I would classify myself as a U2 fan, but unlike most of the U2 Nation, it wasn’t this album that got me into them, and actually, for a very long time I never really cared for U2 in their 80s incarnation.  But someone, I think it may have been ma soeur, gave me a copy of “Achtung Baby” on cassette back in the early 90s and after that I was hooked…at least on their 90s sound.  Soon I upgraded “Achtung” to the new fangled Compact Disc format, and when “Zooropa” came out I got that too.  And although I didn’t love their 80s sound, I picked up “The Joshua Tree” in one of those big CD orders when we were all scamming BMG for free CDs.  See you couldn’t scam Columbia House…they wanted you to buy about 12 overpriced albums to justify the 8 freebies they gave you up front.  But bless the folks at BMG…they only required you to buy 4 overpriced albums and they still gave you a bunch of freebies.  So that is how I originally got “The Joshua Tree” way back in the day.

Then came college and the “Pop” album, which was mostly forgettable, but did give rise to the PopMart Tour, which was a sight to behold.  And it came to the mecca of Ohio football, the Olde Horseshoe on the banks of the Olentangy River.  My good friend, Disco Bitch, was a huge U2 fan, and he convinced me to go to the show, even at the absolutely ridiculous price of $55 (it seemed exorbitant to pay that much for a concert back in 1997, but it was cheap compared to the $110 I paid to see U2 in 2001).  The concert was Memorial Day weekend, and we decided to throw a party at the house on Neil Avenue I was living in at the time.  Disco didn’t drink at all (he was a good Irish Catholic Boy), and actually he really didn’t have any vices or decadent desires, and he really wasn’t the Disco Bitch yet.  But he chipped in to buy one of the three kegs, and when it came time to tap the first keg, he decided to try a sip…and then a cup…and then several cups…and the Disco Bitch was born and a decade of decadence began.  As for the show the next day, it was pretty spectacular.  Bono flew in on a giant lemon.  ‘Nuff said.

So “The Joshua Tree” is my third favorite U2 album (after “Achtung Baby” and “All That You Can’t Leave Behind”).  To me (and likely most everyone else) it is the pinnacle it is the pinnacle of their 80s work, back when they were still a young and earnest band and before they transformed themselves into the multi-media spectacle of the 90s.  The Big 3 on this album (“Where the Streets Have No Name”, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, and “With or Without You”) have taken on an anthemic quality, and even though they still tend to be a bit overplayed on alternative rock radio, they still have an unmistakable power.  However, I think it is the smaller songs where this album really stands out….songs like “Running to Stand Still” and “One Tree Hill” are beautiful and moving while “Red Hill Mining Town” and “Mothers of the Disappeared” make poignant social statements.  I have no complaints about the music (Bono sings like Bono, the Edge plays the way only he plays, and Adam and Larry lay down some solid rhythm tracks), but I do have a minor complaint about the CD.  On the copy I have, the last 40 seconds of “One Tree Hill” are actually on the beginning of the track for “Exit”.  I guess this is a common error on all early pressings of the CD, but it bugs me just a bit.

Other lists: “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” is #93 and “With or Without You” is #132 on the Rolling Stone list of the Top 500 Songs of all time.  U2 is #22 on the list of the 100 Greatest Artists, Bono is #32 on the list of the 100 Greatest Singers, and the Edge is #38 on the list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists.  Rolling Stone also ranks “The Joshua Tree” as the third best album of the 80s.

Ch-ch-changes: This is the final album to be bumped down a spot by Robert Johnson’s “The Complete Recordings”.

My favourite track: “Running to Stand Still” (why are there so many great songs about heroin?)

Honourable mention: “Red Hill Mining Town”

Quote: “You’ve got to cry without weeping, talk without speaking, scream without raising your voice…”