U2 have always had an intensely personal relationship with the United States, embracing the vast and dynamic country from the outset, recognising both its greatness and its dark side equally, and reflecting all those contradictions in their musical output.
This love affair was very consciously reflected in their 1987 album, the Joshua tree, and it was equally evident in Ryan Tubridy’s interview this morning with the band’s bass player, Adam Clayton, where he spoke about his memories of touring the album across the United States and the political tensions of the day.
“It was a tense time, I think there was great division, particularly in America around the politics… At the time of that tour, they were trying to bring in Dr Martin Luther King’s birthday as a national holiday. In Arizona, for instance, the governor wouldn’t allow it. He was ultimately impeached in the course of that tour.”
The same period also saw significant interventions by the United States in Central America, including in El Salvador, in a time Adam Clayton describes as “messy”. And during his interview with Ryan, he revealed his deep concern at the existing tensions in a country that has always embraced his band as much as they have embraced it.
“It’s a very divided America at the moment. It’s a fascinating but frightening time for the world.”
Describing the band as naturally “democratic” (presumably with a capital D), Adam Clayton was not shy about expressing his own feelings on the issue of the upcoming presidency, that replacing the administration of Barack Obama.
“It’s very hard to predict what the current US presidency is going to produce, but the signs don’t look good … I think it’s fair to say that process of democracy that has brought Donald Trump to the presidency is flawed.”
In that context, it’s worth recalling a line from a 1987 Rolling Stone review of the album, The Joshua Tree, and how its message retains its relevance even today. “The title befits a record that concerns itself with resilience in the face of utter social and political desolation…”
The Joshua Tree will be 30 years old this year, 2017, and U2 are now preparing for an anniversary stadium tour across the United States, crossing over to Europe in the summer, and coming to Croke Park on July 22nd of this year. It was an extraordinary album, yielding some of the most enduring songs of the band’s career, including ‘With or without You’, ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking for’, and ‘Where the Streets Have No Name”.
Adam Clayton now lives in the house in Rathfarnham, in Dublin, where the album was recorded, but he also recalled how, after intense touring of the world, the band reached a point where they had to move on. Ryan recalled how the follow-up album, Achtung Baby, was described by Bono as sounding like “four men chopping down the Joshua tree.”
“The Joshua tree had become such a big thing within two or three years, that we really felt we needed to get away from it. As the Joshua tree was ascending, there seemed to be this new sound and music coming in that was much more internal, much more clubby. As opposed to the Joshua tree, which was widescreen, big landscape, very cinematic.”
Tickets for the U2 (Subject to licence) The Joshua Tree Tour 2017 are on sale from Monday, January 16th in Ireland, the UK and Europe, and from Tuesday, January 17th in the US and Canada. Each show on the tour will include a performance of The Joshua Tree in its entirety, with support in Dublin from special guest Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds.
To listen to the full interview, click here.
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