U2 – The Irish Rockers’ Masterpiece Album ‘THE JOSHUA TREE’ Released 30 Years Ago…

‘The Joshua Tree’ by U2

On 9 March 1987 – 30 years ago – U2 released their worldwide masterpiece album
THE JOSHUA TREE. The Irish rockers fifth album, produced by Daniel Lanois and Brian
Eno
, made them 24 Karat superstars all over the planet. Influenced by their American
tour experiences, relating literature and Uncle Sam’s politics and probably because of
their commercial and competitive desire to confirm their already huge status in the U.S.
of A., the band chose America as a central theme for the record. Legendary American rock magazine Rolling Stone was undoubtedly impressed with the new LP and journalist Steve Pond wrote this classic review back then in 1987:

The stakes are enormous, and U2 knows it. Its last album, The Unforgettable Fire, contained “Pride (In the Name of Love),” its biggest-selling single ever, and last year the band was the musical heart of Amnesty International’s Conspiracy of Hope tour. Now, it seems, U2 is poised to rise from the level of mere platinum groups to the more rarefied air above. For a band that’s always specialized in inspirational, larger-than-life gestures — a band utterly determined to be Important — The Joshua Tree could be the big one, and that’s precisely what it sounds like.
That’s not to say that this record is either a flagrantly commercial move or another Born in the U.S.A. The Joshua Tree is U2’s most varied, subtle and accessible album, although it doesn’t contain any sure-fire smash hits. But in its musical toughness and strong-willed spirituality, the album lives up to its namesake: a hardy, twisted tree that grows in the rocky deserts of the American Southwest. A Mormon legend claims that their early settlers called the Joshua tree “the praying plant” and thought its gnarled branches suggested the Old Testament prophet Joshua pointing the way to the Promised Land. The title befits a record that concerns itself with resilience in the face of utter social and political desolation, a record steeped in religious imagery.

Since U2 emerged from Dublin in 1980 with a bracing brand of hard, emotional, guitar-oriented rock, its albums have followed a pattern. The first and third (Boy and War) were muscular and assertive, full of, respectively, youthful bravado and angry social awareness; the second and fourth studio albums (October and The Unforgettable Fire) were moody and meandering and sometimes longer on ideas than on full-fledged songs.
But The Joshua Tree isn’t an outright return to the fire of War. The band ruled that out years ago: Songs like “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “New Year’s Day” hit with driving force on the 1983 album and subsequent tour. But U2 saw itself in danger of becoming just another sloganeering arena-rock band, so the group closed that chapter with a live record and video. The band swapped longtime producer Steve Lillywhite for Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois and, with The Unforgettable Fire, declared its intention to no longer be as relentlessly heroic.
On the new album, U2 retains Eno and Lanois, brings back Lillywhite to mix four songs and weds the diverse textures of The Unforgettable Fire to fully formed songs, many of them as aggressive as the hits on War. U2’s sonic trademarks are here: the monumental angst of Bono’s voice, the driving pulse of Adam Clayton’s bass and Larry Mullen Jr.’s drums and the careening wail of the Edge’s guitar. But for every predictably roaring anthem there’s a spare, inventively arranged tune, such as “With or Without You,” a rock & roll bolero that builds from a soothing beginning to a resounding climax.

The band still falls into some old traps: Bono’s perpetually choked-up voice can sound overwrought and self-important; some of the images (fire and rain, say) start to lose their resonance after a dozen or so uses; and “Exit,” a recited psychodrama about a killer, is awkward enough to remind you that not even Patti Smith could regularly pull off this sort of thing.
More than any other U2 album, though, The Joshua Tree has the power and allure to seduce and capture a mass audience on its own terms. Without making a show of its eclecticism, it features assertive rock (“Where the Streets Have No Name”), raw frenzy (“Bullet the Blue Sky”), delicacy (“One Tree Hill”), chugging rhythms (“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”) and even acoustic bluesiness (“Running to Stand Still”) — all of it unmistakably U2.
But if this is a breakthrough, it’s a grim, dark-hued one. At first, refreshingly honest, romantic declarations alternate with unsettling religious imagery. Then things get blacker. The raging, melodramatic “Bullet the Blue Sky” ties Biblical fire and brimstone with American violence overseas and at home. In the stomping, harmonicaspiked rocker “Trip Through Your Wires,” what looks like salvation could easily be evil seduction; “One Tree Hill” is a soft, haunting benediction on a U2 crew member who died in a motorcycle accident; and “Red Hill Mining Town” echoes Peter Gabriel’s “Don’t Give Up” in its unsparing look at personal relationships savaged by economic hardship — here, the aftermath of the largely unsuccessful British miners’ strike of 1984.
But for all its gloom, the album is never a heavy-handed diatribe. After the first few times through “Running to Stand Still,” for instance, you notice the remarkable music: the wholly unexpected blues slide guitar, the soft, Nebraska-style yelps, the ghostly harmonica. It sounds like a lovely, peaceful reverie — except that this is a junkie’s reverie, and when that realization hits home, the gentle acoustic lullaby acquires a corrosive power that recalls “Bad,” from the last LP.
The Joshua Tree is an appropriate response to these times, and a picture bleaker than any U2 has ever painted: a vision of blasted hopes, pointless violence and anguish. But this is not a band to surrender to defeatism. Its last album ended with a gorgeous elegy to Martin Luther King Jr.; The Joshua Tree closes with a haunting ode to other victims. “Mothers of the Disappeared” is built around desolate images of loss, but the setting is soothing and restorative — music of great sadness but also of unutterable compassion, acceptance and calm. The Unforgettable Chill, you might call this album, and unforgettable is certainly the right word.

Time for some music. Here are 3 of my (and of millions of others) favourite tracks…

I STILL HAVEN’T FOUND WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR

WHERE THE STREETS HAVE NO NAME

WITH OR WITHOUT YOU

The classic in full on Spotify…

U2: The Joshua Tree Tour 2017 – Website – Facebook


See you in Brussels next August…

THE DAMNED Released DAMNED DAMNED DAMNED 40 Years Ago…

Looking back in time. Memorable moments in sonic history!

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‘Damned Damned Damned’ by THE DAMNED
Red-hot debut LP released 18 February 1977

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Here’s a public announcement from the veteran punk band’s record label BMG:

“The Damned blazed a trail when they became the very first British punk band to release a single, the mighty New Rose on October 22nd 1976, which was swiftly followed by the release
of the very first British punk album, their classic debut long-player Damned Damned Damned originally released by a nascent Stiff Records on February 18th 1977. Now, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the band’s dramatic breakthrough, BMG will release a very special Deluxe 40th Anniversary Edition of that incredible debut album on February 17th, almost exactly 40 years to the day since its original issue.”

All details about the Deluxe Edition here.

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From left to right: bassist Captain Sensible – guitarist Brian James – frontman/singer Dave Vanian and drummer Rat Scabies

Eccentric bassist Captain Sensible reflecting on that smashing first LP: “ ’Damned
Damned
Damned’ was almost ‘un-produced’ by our Stiff stablemate Nick Lowe, who managed to capture the energy of our live set spectacularly. Nick was known as ‘Basher’ as there was no messing about. It’s fairly manic, but also tuneful and, listened to now, still sounds pretty fresh to my ears. The guitars don’t sound nice – they’re a raw, fuzzed-out thrash – that’s punk rock. Pathway was a rough and ready studio round the back of an Islington garage. It was so dark and dingy in there – you had to be careful or you’d knock your beer over. The sessions took two days, after which the tape was recycled for an Elvis Costello album so there’s no chance of a remix… Not that you’d want one – it’s perfect!”

About time to hear that thunderous beast
in full and going MAD MAD MAD…

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The band (with original members Captain Sensible & Dave Vanian) start a massive tour in North America on April 6th. Tour dates here. And if that’s not enough the band revealed
to be working on a brand new album too. For more info visit Pledgemusic.

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MANIC STREET PREACHERS – Debut Album ‘GENERATION TERRORISTS’ Released 25 Years Ago Today –

Looking back in time. Memorable moments in sonic history!

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‘GENERATION TERRORISTS’ by MANIC STREET PREACHERS – Released 10 February 1992

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Welsh legends MANIC STREET PREACHERS released their debut album, a double one, twenty-five years ago – on 10 February 1992. I fell in love with the Manics for the reasons most of us of fell in love with them at the very start: they looked bloody ‘cool’, they ranted like newborn punks and, most important of all, they sounded anthemic & really big. But in my opinion (all opinions are subjective of course) GENERATION TERRORISTS would have been a 24 Karat Gold debut album as a single not a double one with the following tracklist:

Slash ‘n’ Burn / Motorcycle Emptiness / You Love Us / Little Baby Nothing / Stay Beautiful /
So Dead / Repeat UK / Spectators Of Suicide / Crucifix Kiss and Methadone Pretty.

Anyway Generation Terrorists overall was a hellish rock ‘n roll manifesto in sound
and content and the start of a brilliant career. Here we go back in history…

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Fun to read: on the occasion of the album’s 20th birthday British music weekly NME claimed to have 20 reasons why you should love Generation Terrorists. Check them here

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Young preachers – rest in peace, Richey…

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MANIC STREET PREACHERS: Website – Facebook – Discography

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TELEVISION – Masterpiece Debut Album ‘MARQUEE MOON’ Released 40 Years Ago…

Timeless in sound and vision.…

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MARQUEE MOON by TELEVISION – Debut LP released 8 February 1977

Television, St.Marks Place NYC 1977 L to R: Billy Ficca, Tom Verlaine, Fred Smith, Richard Lloyd
TELEVISION in New York City 1977 – L to R: Billy Ficca, Tom Verlaine, Fred Smith, Richard Lloyd

TELEVISION was one of the most fascinating and innovative bands to emerge from the mid-seventies punk scene of New York City. With debut LP MARQUEE MOON, released
40 years ago – 8 February 1977 – they changed guitar rock drastically. It sounded like nothing else before. The magical interplay between guitarists Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd and most of all their sonic approach in structure and composition revolutionized garage guitar rock impressively. Add Verlaine‘s lyrics and his peculiar and distinctive
voice and what you got was totally fresh, poetic, urban electricity with a lasting impact…

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A classic album deserves a classic professional review. Here’s how British music weekly NME perceived ‘Marquee Moon’…

“Justifiably regarded as one the greatest and most influential albums of the punk era, Television’s debut album is the polar opposite of what that word ‘punk’ has come to mean: a crisp-sounding record, beautifully played, featuring lengthy improvised guitar solos and, in Tom Verlaine, a singer who you could justifiably claim was crooning on certain tracks – albeit obtusely. So although they will forever be synonymous with CBGB in the ’70s, ‘Marquee Moon’’s sound is rooted in many other places, giving the record a timeless quality that even their lofty contemporaries’ best records have struggled to match.

What sets them apart is that they had already been together for a few years, and were so comfortable and familiar with the material they had for the record that being recorded live in the studio was not a problem for them. Plus, they could really play. That’s not to say the group weren’t infused with the energy around at the time – the opener ‘See No Evil’ revolves around a gloriously infectious dumb riff, while the likes of ‘Fiction’ and ‘Prove It’ are taut, clinically precise rockers, which gives the record a crucial balance. Because such was the dexterity of Verlaine and fellow guitarist Richard Lloyd’s playing, if it wasn’t reined in there’s a good chance they could have ended up with a sprawling, self-indulgent mess of a debut album. Underpinned by Fred Smith’s reliably solid bass parts and drummer Billy Ficca’s satisfying but relatively economical clatter, the two combine to devastating effect, creating something radically new from old parts – ’60s garage rock, psych, country and, yes, jazz.

The title track is the undoubted highpoint, a 10-minute epic which could stretch to over half an hour when they were playing live. But then, they were also capable of moments of economical beauty – the celestial ‘Guiding Light’ being the nearest Verlaine ever got to writing an out-and-out love song. It wasn’t a particularly big record in the band’s native America, although they scored a Top 30 album in the UK on the back of a lengthy review raving about the record by the legendary writer Nick Kent.

The influence of ‘Marquee Moon’ cannot be overestimated. The post-punk movement certainly took on board numerous aspects of the record – the clinically precise instrumentation, the clean sound and the introspective, vaguely gloomy feel. That filtered through to the indie movement of the ’80s, for whom the record became one of the sacred texts, while even bands like The Strokes have clearly taken inspiration from it. It would not be an overstatement to say that ‘Marquee Moon’ is to the ’70s what ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico’ was to the ’60s.

Here’s the magnum opus in full…

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TELEVISION: Biography – Discography

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HÜSKER DÜ – Sixth & Final LP ‘WAREHOUSE: SONGS AND STORIES’ Released In 1987… Thirty Years Ago

Looking back in time. Memorable moments in sonic history!

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‘Warehouse: Songs And Stories’
HÜSKER DÜ
Released 19 January 1987

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Minneapolis noisemakers HÜSKER DÜ released WAREHOUSE: SONGS AND STORIES,
their sixth and final (double) album thirty years ago, on 19 January 1987. The highly praised, vigorous trio excelled in constructing turbulent, red-hot powerhouses fueled
with an army of multi-tracked guitars and imposing choruses. Their last effort was also packed with steamrollers. Like these smoking guns: Charity, Charity, Prudence And Hope / Standing In The Rain / Ice Cold Ice / Could You Be The One? / Tell You Why Tomorrow/ Actual Condition/ You Can Live At Home and promo single She’s A Woman (And Now He’s A Man) which they performed live, back then, on the legendary, American The Late Show…

The razor-sharp DIY punk attitude of the early days (‘Revolution starts at home, preferably in
the bathroom mirror
‘ was an uncredited quote on one of the inner sleeves) still was intact on Warehouse, musically as well as lyrically, although the production was way smoother and more polished than before. The competitive ego’s of Bob Mould and Grant Hart,
the DÜ’s two songwriters were a blessing for the ongoing creativeness during the group’s career (1979-1988) but, finally, in the end the chemistry went down the toilets and both wayward characters wanted to be in front all the time. So taking this backbreaking rivalry into account this double LP (20 songs) is quite a startling victory. A slashing goodbye with
a ruthless big bang. Press the button, turn it up, attack your ears…

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You can read the laudable review by Rolling Stone Magazine
journalist David Fricke published in March 1987 right here

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HÜSKER DÜ: Bio – Discography

7 Significant Debut Albums Turning 15 in… 2017

Looking back in time… memorable moments in sonic history!

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The year 2002 was quite significant for debut albums. Here are seven that stood out,
7 thrilling longplayers turning 15 in 2017 and still sounding impressive. Here we go…

1/ ‘Behind The Music’ by THE SOUNDTRACK OF OUR LIVES
Released (UK): 16 January
Top trackThe Flood
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2/ ‘Original Pirate Material’ by THE STREETS
Released: 25 March
Top trackLet’s Push Things Forward
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3/’Highly Evolved’ by THE VINES
Released: 14 July
Top track: Outtathaway
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4/ ‘The Coral’ by THE CORAL
Released: 29 July
Top trackDreaming Of You
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5/ ‘Turn On The Bright Lights’ by INTERPOL
Released: 19 August
Top trackNYC
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6/ ‘Up The Bracket’ by THE LIBERTINES
Released: 14 October
Top track: I Get Along
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7/ ‘They Threw Us All In A Trench And Stuck A Monument On Top’ by LIARS
Released: 30 October
Top track: The Garden Was Crowded And Outside
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LOU REED – Grieving And Gripping ‘MAGIC AND LOSS’ Album Released Twenty-Five Years Ago…

When it’s timeless in sound & and vision, it’s a…

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MAGIC AND LOSS – Released 14 January 1992

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LOU REED (50 years old back then), started to work on his 16th solo album MAGIC AND LOSS with themes of magic in his head, after hearing stories about magicians in Mexico. But when tragedy occurred during the writing, the late New York City legend incorporated cutting thoughts and songs on mortality, loss and death as well. The illnesses and eventual deaths of two of his close friends caused by cancer – Doc Pomus, Reed‘s mentor when he started his career and a ‘Rita‘, assumed to be Rotten Rita, who also was a familiar figure
at Andy Warhol‘s studio ‘The Factory‘ in the early days – was obviously extremely hard to bear. In the end the album was more about loss than magic and not an easy one to listen to when you have experienced the same kind of feelings, which I did last year when I saw my father being tortured mercilessly by that awful disease. Listening to the record again now wasn’t actually a truly joyful happening, on the other hand it made me associate my father with Lou Reed for the first time ever and that felt weirdly good. Also, I remember very well when the LP came out 25 years ago, that British music weekly NME rewarded
it with a very rare 10/10 and that me and my mate praised Reed‘s guts to make such a difficult album while we were having a long night out – solving all world problems for the umpteenth time – in our beloved café. Mixed emotions, indeed. A sort of ‘the beauty and the beast’ feel. That’s what life is all about, I guess…

American journalist David Fricke wrote a compelling album review
for Rolling Stone Magazine back then. You can read it here .

The masterpiece in full (the only way to listen to it)…

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LOU REED: Website – Facebook – Discography

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2 March 1942 – 13 October 2013

10 Splendid Albums Turning 10 in… 2017

Looking back in time… memorable moments in sonic history!

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Here’s my selection (chronological order) of 10 splendid albums released in 2007,
turning 10 in 2017 and still sounding smashing today. Champagne! Let’s rollllllll…

1/ ‘Hats Off To The Busker’ by THE VIEW
Released: 22 January – debut album
Top trackSuperstar Tradesman
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2/ ‘Neon Bible’ by ARCADE FIRE
Released: 2 March – the Canadians’ second LP
Top track: Intervention
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3/ ‘Strange House’ by THE HORRORS
Released: 5 March – mental debut album
Top track: She Is The New Thing 
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4/ ‘Grinderman’ by GRINDERMAN
Released: 5 March – debut album by Nick Cave’s side project
Top trackHoney Bee (Let’s Fly To Mars)
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5/ ‘Sound Of Silver’ by LCD SOUNDSYSTEM
Released: 12 March – second longplayer
Top trackNorth American Scum
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6/ ‘Because Of The Times’ by KINGS OF LEON
Released: 30 March – 3rd album
Top track: Black Thumbnail
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7/’Baby 81′ by BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB
Released: 27 April – their 4th longplayer
Top track: Not What You Wanted
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8/ ‘Mirrored’ by BATTLES
Released: 14 May – debut LP
Top trackAtlas
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9/ ‘Icky Thump’ by THE WHITE STRIPES
Released: 15 June – 6th album
Top track: Rag and Bone
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10/ ‘In Rainbows’ by RADIOHEAD
Released: 10 October – 7th longplayer
Top track: House Of Cards
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10 Historic Debut Albums Turning 40 in… 2017

Looking back in time… monumental moments in sonic history!

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Here are 10 memorable debut albums from 1977. A 24 Karat Gold year for alternative music. The undisputed heydays of Punk and New Wave it was, with remarkably inventive and new sounding music coming, mostly, out of the UK and America. No more mega stars, no more special effects to hide the ‘safety and money first’ attitude, no more old-fashioned and unworldly rock and oll pricks acting like doped gods. It was the blessed year when a new generation of young, unexperienced but open-minded and highly talented musicians came out of their smelly basements with impressive longplayers. Unknown adolescents who had the guts and the immense creativity to explore different sonic fields and/or vitalize older vibes with a totally fresh, modern & most exciting approach. Check these
ten masterpieces – turning 40 next year – they still shine LOUD and CLEAR…

1/ ‘Marquee Moon’ by  TELEVISION
Guitar rock never sounded so revolutionary and innovatory. Electrifying garage poetry…
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2/ ‘Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols’ by THE SEX PISTOLS
The grinning filth and the working class fury. Best punk rock album ever to my ears…
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3/ ‘The Clash’ by THE CLASH
Machine-gun riffs, radical sloganeering and kick ass anthems for the desperate ones…
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4/  ‘1977’ by TALKING HEADS
A landmark LP in sound and rhythm with a psycho killer like voice on top of it. 1977 indeed!
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5/ ‘New Boots And Panties!!’ by IAN DURY
Dury’s razor sharp observations on British life wrapped in stellar pub-rock-disco tunes…
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6/ ‘My Aim Is True’ by ELVIS COSTELLO
Before turning in a more classic singer-songwriter Costello showed his Zeitgeist teeth too…
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7/ ‘In The City’ by THE JAM
Angry young man Paul Weller and his sidekicks talked fiercely about their generation…
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8/ ‘Suicide’ by SUICIDE
Martin Rev‘s deranged electro machines and Alan Vega‘s chilling vocals. S-C-A-R-Y!…
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9/ ‘Pink Flag’ by WIRE
Probably the most adventurous and unconventional album of all this 1977 madness. ACE!
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10/ ‘Damned Damned Damned’ by THE DAMNED 
First punks to release a single (the brill New Rose), first to release an LP. Underrated havoc!
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U2 – Masterpiece Album ACHTUNG BABY Released 25 Years Ago…

Looking and listening back – Memorable moments in sonic history…

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ACHTUNG BABY by U2

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The Joshua Three album turned Irish rockers U2 into a worldwide stadium band in 1987. After 2 years of non-stop touring Bono & his gang went to Berlin, as so many other artists did before and after, to reinvent themselves musically and mentally. New impulses from
a legendary – for wrong and good reasons as we know – city. Artistically an extraordinary place that inspired outstanding albums by David Bowie, Iggy Pop & Nick Cave among others. And it worked for U2 too! ACHTUNG BABY was/is without a shadow of a doubt their best record ever. New sound, new drive, new look. Big vibes, big tunes, big grooves! Magnum opus! An adventurous, inventive, electr-o-fying and no fillers/all killers album. The LP was released on 18 November 1991. Twenty-five years ago. Champagne! Here are three ace firecrackers to celebrate…

ZOO STATION

MYSTERIOUS WAYS

THE FLY

Album review by Rolling Stone Magazine
‘Achtung Baby’ in full on Spotify
U2: Website – Facebook

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Berlin days…