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The Joshua Tree And Me (30th Anniversary Upcoming)


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Its been quite the year of anniversaries for the band - not least of all the 40th celebrations of course, and as I scanned through the latest digital version of Propaganda (no.7) which was posted up the other day on U2.com subscribers site, it struck me pretty soon we are going to hit the Joshua Tree 30th... I am transported back those 3 decades and right now am playing what is still my all time no. 1 U2 record… TJT.

I guess its one of those times (as Bono reminded us on last years i+e tour), that I need to revisit that past, so I don’t end up stuck there. 


I am 21 again and the whole world in from of me -  golden years, (bap bap bap… :)

Let me be your tour guide on a trip through my wires to 1987…



Having been won over to U2 by the War album a few years previous I was more than excited I remember even now, waiting the release of the Joshua Tree back in ’87. 30 years ago... I remember taking the bus in town on the day it was released. Its chilly at that time of year (March) up in Geordieland. We even used to get snow back then… 

If memory serves correct, this is the record shop I queued up outside and bought the vinyl from that freezing day* : ‘Listen Ear’ (who also used to look after local legends The Toy Dolls)




I grew up listening to my sister’s old vinyl records played on some ancient record player, a connection was formed early with the touch, the feel, the smell, the album artwork. You really had to make an effort to listen to music on records, it was an active thing, unlike radio back then, or iTunes now, where everything is available in an instant..


A return to ‘the Toon’ (Newcastle city centre to you soft southerners) on the bus back then was cheap, maybe a quid, & I think maybe TJT cost £9.99 or something similar.. A tenner, which would today equate to maybe £25-£30. On one album, back then when times were quite tough ‘up north’, miner's strikes, land of Maggie Thatcher hope and glory and all that… I must have really wanted this album.


Back in my bedroom, on my own, on the floor, on headphones, on a record player. The opening atmospheric anthem organ drone setting the scene… transporting me to the desert landscape perfectly portrayed on the album sleeve. Its like it was all designed this way, just for me, just for this moment…


‘Beaten and blown by the wind… and when I go there, I go there with you. It’s all I can do’.


I remember the day I first heard a guitar band live, kids like me as Punk rock was born, the local Scouts hut rattling and shaking with bouncing drums and bass and rasping jangling guitars and shouty singing. 

This new sound coming out of my record player into headphone covered ears was a world away from that in so many ways, yet it took me back there, maybe not physically, but back to that feeling of hearing something new, something irresistible. A sound so pure and true that it could not be denied. Something that grabbed a hold of some part of me, and pulled me so close that I just fell into it all. (I might be far too easily led I know.. a lifelong weakness). 


Regardless, I stand by my belief that first 3 songs on TJT might just be the best opening to an album ever. They have stood the test of time, 30 years of airplay and live performances. To me they still sound as fresh and perfect as they did back then. Its one hit after another, one incredible production on top of every great song. In fact, as BTBS kicks in and changes the course of side 1 into something you could never have expected and then that journey takes you into RTSS my emotional state is completely wrecked. As it was back then… 


In my teens I had a girl, lost a girl, I had a band, lost a band, had a friend, lost a friend… you get the picture…. its like all these things do matter, and are addressed completely in songs like WOWY, ISHFWILF and RTSS - but its like also there is more to the understanding behind the why’s and wherefores of life, experience, love loss and faith, all wrapped up in one side of a piece of plastic than I had ever encountered in my 20 years or so to that date. All done to a wondrous musical landscape that you could practically walk in. Look  again closely at the album cover, that land behind the 4 figures offset to one side. It has possibilities, mysteries - it invites you to look beyond, dares you to explore and walk towards those not so distant mountains and lakes. Maybe there was something out there that has been waiting for you all this time to come and find it…


Some bits that still stop me dead in my tracks, and I don’t know why, just listen to them and decide for yourself :

The guitar suspended chords bit near the end of WOWY.

The A la la de day bit in RTSS.

The stopping of side A, the natural pause required to physically turn over the record, a breather for the listener, a short chance for brief recovery, before venturing into side B. Not possible to be anywhere as good as side A would it?. Lots of records had one good side and one side made up from leftovers, thats how its worked didn’t it? Not this record though… When I hear side 2 now all I can see in my head are images from the Rattle & Hum movie, so its difficult to remember what hearing it for the first time conjured up back then,… but… I lived next door to a Red Hill Mining Town, a whole steel industry shut down by Maggie T right on my doorstep. ‘Lights go down on Redhill’… indeed they did.



When we are born we get ‘stamped’ with a birth certificate. Married, a marriage cert, & a ring. These symbols define us at a base level, rightly or wrongly. I think music has to the power to do that too, be it a record or a live performance. More so a record perhaps; this record for sure, for me. Burned into my soul it is.



Things TJT Gave Me.


The musical production on TJT is something else… a classic album in the mould of Aja (Steely Dan), Hotel California (Eagles), Thriller (Michael Jackson) - breaking new ground, new sound, new ways of doing things that in their own way became industry benchmarks. How do I know this? Well, I think TJT unlocked something in my brain in that way, set me on a road of listening to music differently… closer to each element, Edge’s multiple guitar layering. the Bono vocal techniques and style, and of course the lyrics*. The big bass and drum anthemic thumps and grinds… in a way led me to later (as a mature student), go on to study Music Production and gain some qualifications in it, and bits of work in that field. 


A dodgy mullet through my 20’s.

An interest in America and the understanding of it being more and idea that a country or continent, still not been there yet tho…

The drive to want to be in a band just like U2. No, I’ll admit it, to be in THE band U2. I will hang on to that possibility until they lower me into the ground. (Even if its just for a song or 2 on a B stage :)


It might take some of us a long time, some of us may never find, something that we can have speak for us… identify with and hang our cowboy hats on.. subscribe to. Our voice, our spirit… our aspirations. Thats a good thing to have, a hero, doesn’t have to be a rock star, can be yer mam, yer best mate, football team. Our tribe.

These U2 rhythms are tribal, as is the chanting and echo-y repeating guitar chimes that disappear off into the ether, drawing out the webs of connectivity to and between each verse, chorus, song…



*lyrics like these.. 

Wrestling angels

burning crosses


I can see those fighter planes

Outside its America… America

The poison stream, the poison rain

A la la de day

Black belly of cloud

Hanging on, all thats left to hold on to..

Oh great ocean, oh great sea

Run to the the ocean, Run to the sea


The harmony 5ths, the gospel cries the dynamics, lowest lows, highest highs. We hear their heartbeat.


Imagine if you can that this album never got made. I cannot imagine my life without it. I am still discovering the ways to this day of how it impacted my life. Its been a signpost, a giant neon illuminating billboard of a map that I am still looking back at, to, in… those not too distant mountains are still giving up nooks and crannies, the vista and shelter they provide are still looking down over God’s country. Indeed.


Almost half the album made it on to my #U2Playlist. I stand by those decisions.. in fact is there room to add another one… or two…?



Soon after its’ release in 1987 came TJT live tour of course.. I am still in wonder as to how those songs transcended from the intently personal headphone first listen to the mega stadium shared love in and singalong. How? Something way way beyond human design. A suggestion, more than a suggestion of something entirely more divine. These were also my first live U2 shows. Murrayfield Edinburgh Sat. August 1st.. Runrig, Sisters Of Mercy, Pogues, then the main event. From the opening chords of Stand By Me to the crowd singing 40 all the way to the train station..

I was right at the back, wanted to be at the front, wanted to be that kid they pulled up on stage to play the 3 chords of People Get Ready. 


The tour and what became Rattle & Hum, well thats another story for another day.


And to think, Mr. McGuiness said about all of this way back in Propaganda Issue 7 :


'The best thing about The Joshua Tree is that they can do ten times better than that.'


In many ways we are all still waiting, Paul.

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Very beautifully said there, Bigwave.  Reading through it, I had to pause a few times because my mind would start wandering to when I got it and moments during 1987-1988 that were directly surrounded by listening to The Joshua Tree and wondering what my life would have been like without it.  Needless to say, drastically different.  Thanks for sharing that with us.

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I'm 19, I'm from the north side of Ireland, like all northsides,

It has it's good, and it has it's bad...but we're movin' on..

This is a journey called Croke Park. It's 1987. You still have to convert your sterling to the punt travelling across the border from the north to the south. 

This could be a really good thread as we continue.....


It's a musical journey. Whaoh 30 years.

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Yup, there'll be a momentum to this one methinks. Excellent post by the way Bigwave. 

I'm thinking, no internet. What did we do?

I remember ticket stubs with character - still have my ticket stub for the gig at Croke Park 87. (interesting story of that weekender that I may chose not to share on here!).

I recall the release of the album and the build up as something. Yeah, just something. We watched 5 channels on TV only in mainstream UK - OK, in Northern Ireland you could by a good aerial and watch RTE 1 & 2 if you so wished, but...we still read newspapers, made out of paper, gig guides, that sort of stuff lol.


For me the first real dress rehearsal was when they did a gig at BBC studios in Belfast just pre release - didn't think 'Exit', 'In Gods Country' were stunningly performed on the night, but you can hear a true raw kinda performance in front of hard crowd right here. It was always good though to hear via the Old Grey Whistle Test -  U2 announce an arrival of sorts. Just a couple of weeks pre album release as I recall, but a long time ago! :)

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Great thread, thanks Bigwave. Also a great clip above - Bono's voice has changed so much in the past 29 years.


The Joshua Tree is a seminal album for me too. It was my introduction to U2.


If I may indulge you with a story - It was October time, must have been 1989 - I was 12 years old, second year of senior school. My school is in a place a called Beckenham, Kent, just out side of London. The school owned a converted chapel in Youlgrave, in the Peak District, Derbyshire, and we were heading up there for a weekend of getting frozen, sorry I mean 'fun' walks and orienteering in the country! We were travelling in a VW minibus, an LT28 (still remember it now - maroon colour, and struggled to do 50mp/h!, bench seats, no seat belts, and 6 hours of being squashed in there...)


I had my Sony Walkman, listening to throwaway pop and recordings off the radio... all this was about to change...


I felt something down the back of the seat - a battered cassette (remember those!) Clear plastic, case scratched, but the reels seemed ok. What is this? U2 The Joshua Tree. No box or sleeve to look at.


Vaguely aware of the band from earlier songs being played on the radio, and the Live Aid concert of 1985, but knew nothing else really.


Well, I am stuck on this bus, let's have a listen...


Wow! mind blowing! Bigwave has described the intro far better than I could, but I just remember being hooked from that moment on. I hoped the tape would hold out, and it did, side one finished, flipped over to side two, then back again and again, and again! I don't think I listened to anything else, and all the way back home. The opening three songs, the aggression of BTBS, my all time favourite of RTSS, and then the second side (don't want to call it B side as it suggests its not as good as the A...) RHMT, IGC, Exit, just amazing.


So how to I find out more about U2? No internet back then, so out shopping! bought the whole back catalogue listened to those non stop too.


At Christmas that year Rattle & Hum was on tv - persuaded my mum to record it for me. watched that over and over too! To see the tracks played live and sound as good, if not better than the album. Opening my young mind to live music, to concerts, to politics in general, but especially the Irish situation, to 'new' music (to me!!) - the Beatles with the cover of Helter Skelter, the snippets of Ruby Tuesday and Sympathy for the Devil...


When I saw this thread the other day, I put TJT on in the car, and it still sounds amazing, took me back to that first listen, and the next 27 years of following U2.


So a bit of an insight into my connection with U2!

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Greetings from Austria !


Great News ! A 30th Anniversary Tour 2017.

It's still my favourite era of my u2 fan life and I am still collecting all from 1987.


In Austria we had a Problem with buying the Album in March 1987. The record comany believed, that that there is not a high interest in this record and

so the ordered only a few hundreds of the Album for the whole Country.

Our local record dealer told us every day that tommorow he will get some copies but he needed over a month for the Joshua Tree Album.


But i still remember hearing the celtic pipe of Streets for the first time.


In the same year I (15 years old) saw my first U2 concert in Munich and i rembering as it was yesterday.


I still like the design of the Joshua Tree Album and it's Commercials.

So last year  I changed my U2 room in a Joshua Tree room.









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That's monster all that JT stuff. Very nice collection there mate.

Nice piece BW, enjoyed reading :) .

I was 11 when JT came out, thanks to my sister I was into them quite early for my age as she used to blast streets out every day. I'm really looking forward to the special shows, I hope they do it justice and play it in full like most other bands have done with their anniversary album tours. These are good times to be a u2 fan with SOE out as well and surely touring that as well!

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Greetings from Austria !


Great News ! A 30th Anniversary Tour 2017.

It's still my favourite era of my u2 fan life and I am still collecting all from 1987.


In Austria we had a Problem with buying the Album in March 1987. The record comany believed, that that there is not a high interest in this record and

so the ordered only a few hundreds of the Album for the whole Country.

Our local record dealer told us every day that tommorow he will get some copies but he needed over a month for the Joshua Tree Album.


But i still remember hearing the celtic pipe of Streets for the first time.


In the same year I (15 years old) saw my first U2 concert in Munich and i rembering as it was yesterday.


I still like the design of the Joshua Tree Album and it's Commercials.

So last year  I changed my U2 room in a Joshua Tree room.










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