At the end of the third night (Dec. 30, 1989) of a four-night run of hometown concerts by the band U2 in Dublin, singer Bono told the audience, “… we have to go away and .. and dream it all up again.”
Fans speculated that the band was breaking up. In many ways U2 was. They disagreed on what the band represented and where it should go musically. Twenty months later, U2 returned with Achtung Baby, an album that sounded like nothing before, and an album many consider to be their best.
On Dec. 7, 1991, Achtung Baby, U2’s eighth album, hit #1 on the Billboard 200 (their third consecutive #1 album in the US). The album was recorded in Hansa Ton Studios in Berlin (where David Bowie had recorded parts of Low and all of Heroes ) and also at several Dublin studios. The Berlin recordings began ten months after the Berlin Wall fell. It was a time of great change, and U2 changed as well.
The band’s musical anthems and political commentaries were less overt on Achtung Baby. The songs had a personal feel of introspection – although Bono’s lyrics could still be grandiose, as in “Until the End of the World.” Their sound was rawer, with The Edge’s guitar piercing through the rhythm. From the opening discordant-guitar crashings on “Zoo Station,” to the closing ambience of “Love Is Blindness,” with its dirge-like pulsations, the songs ran a gamut of emotions and sonics.
The first of the five singles to be released from the LP, “The Fly,” went straight to #1 in the UK, but topped out at #61 on the US singles charts. “Mysterious Ways” and “One” would go on to (barely) crack the Top Ten in America.
A performance of “Zoo Station” can be seen here: http://youtu.be/FoUSx2hWdWc (embedding for the clip has been turned off).
U2 at their 2005 induction into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame performing “Until the End of the World”