The Joshua Tree is the fifth studio album by Irish rock band U2. It was produced by Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno, and was released on 9 March 1987 on Island Records. In contrast to the ambient experimentation of their 1984 release, The Unforgettable Fire, the band aimed for a harder-hitting sound within the limitation of conventional song structures on The Joshua Tree. The album is influenced by American and Irish roots music, and through sociopolitically conscious lyrics embellished with spiritual imagery, it contrasts the group's antipathy for the "real America" with their fascination with the "mythical America".
Inspired by American experiences, literature, and politics, U2 chose America as a theme for the record. Recording began in January 1986 in Ireland, and to foster a relaxed, creative atmosphere, the group primarily recorded in two houses. Several events during the sessions helped shape the conscious tone of the album, including the band's participation in the Conspiracy of Hope benefit concerts for Amnesty International, the death of roadie Greg Carroll, and lead vocalist Bono's travels to Central America. Recording was completed in November 1986; additional production continued into January 1987. Throughout the sessions, U2 sought a "cinematic" quality for the record, one that would evoke a sense of location, in particular, the open spaces of the United States. They represented this in the sleeve photography depicting them in American desert landscapes.
The Joshua Tree received critical acclaim, topped the charts in over 20 countries, and became the fastest-selling album in British history. According to Rolling Stone, the album increased the band's stature "from heroes to superstars". It produced the hit singles "With or Without You", "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For", and "Where the Streets Have No Name", the first two of which became the group's only number-one singles in the US. The album won Grammy Awards for Album of the Year and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal in 1988. The group supported the record with the Joshua Tree Tour throughout 1987, during which they began to perform in stadiums for the first time in their career.
Frequently listed among the greatest albums of all time, The Joshua Tree is one of the world's best-selling albums, with over 25 million copies sold. U2 commemorated the record's 20th anniversary with a remastered re-release, and its 30th anniversary with concert tours and a reissue. In 2014, The Joshua Tree was selected for preservation in the US National Recording Registry, having been deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress.
Just prior to the release of The Joshua Tree, Bono was stricken with a sudden panic about the quality of the completed album. He said that he contemplated calling the production plants to order a halt of the record's pressing, but he ultimately held off. Island Records spent over $100,000 on store displays advertising the album; president Lou Maglia called it "the most complete merchandising effort ever assembled". The Joshua Tree was released on 9 March 1987, with an initial shipment of 300,000 copies in the US. It was the first new release to be made available on the compact disc, vinyl record, and cassette tape formats on the same date. Record stores in Britain and Ireland opened at midnight to accommodate the large number of fans who had queued outside to buy the album.
The success of The Joshua Tree brought U2 a new level of stardom internationally.
The Joshua Tree debuted on the UK Albums Chart on 21 March 1987 at number one with 235,000 copies sold in its opening week, making it the fastest-selling album in UK history to that point. It received a platinum certification in the UK within 48 hours of being released. The album spent two weeks atop the UK Albums Chart and spent its first 28 weeks within the top ten. In total, it charted in the UK for 201 weeks, ranking it among the longest-charting albums in the nation's history. On the US Billboard Top Pop Albums chart, the album debuted on 4 April 1987 at number seven, the highest debut for a studio album in the US in almost seven years. Three weeks later, it reached number one, becoming the group's first album to top the charts in the US. It remained at that position for nine consecutive weeks, the band's longest number-one reign on the chart and the second-longest reign in the US that year. The album spent a total of 120 weeks on the Billboard Top Pop Albums, 35 of them in the top ten. On 13 May 1987, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified the album double-platinum. All of the group's previous albums re-entered the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart in 1987. In Canada, the album debuted at number 51 on the RPM Top 100 Albums chart on 21 March 1987, and climbed to number one just two weeks later. Within 14 days of release, it sold 300,000 units in Canada and was certified triple-platinum. The Joshua Tree also topped the charts in Austria, Switzerland, New Zealand, and Sweden. In total, the album reached number one in over 20 countries. Rolling Stone said that the album increased the band's stature "from heroes to superstars". It was the first album by any artist to sell one million copies on CD in the US. U2 were featured on the cover of the 27 April 1987 issue of Time, which declared them "Rock's Hottest Ticket"; they were just the fourth rock band to appear on the magazine's cover, following the Beatles, the Band, and the Who.
U2 - The Joshua Tree
All Star Discs
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