U2 – October (1981): Review


Produced by Steve Lillywhite
Label – Island

Following the success of their debut “Boy”, and the subsequent tour that was greeted with fervent fans and reviews for Bono’s charismatic performances, the band returned to Dublin to begin work on the follow up. Firstly they had some serious spiritual issues to resolve. Three members of the band (Bono, The Edge, and Larry Mullen) were struggling with the relationship with the rock ‘n roll lifestyle and their devout Christian worship. Indeed, so strong were their concerns they had considered breaking up. The non practicing bass player Adam Clayton managed to persuade the band to stay together and treat their faith as an advantage to drive them to success. This theme may account for the large number of Religious songs on “October”, as the band attempt a conglomeration of Faith and rock.


The song writing rehearsals didn’t start well. Bono’s personal lyric book was stolen, and it contained many words that had been written for the forthcoming album. The problem was exacerbated by the fact that studio time had already been booked, so the lead singer would have to write lyrics “on the hoof”, so to speak. The album was released at the end of 1981 to less than favourable reviews. Certainly the performance is as committed as ever, with The Edge’s unique reverberated guitar playing to the fore, and Bono almost screaming the lyrics from every sinew, but the songs certainly are far from strong. With the exception of the excellent single “Gloria”, the remainder is musically un-dynamic, most of the songs use less than 3 chords, and one simply can’t fill space in songs with echoed reverb ad-infinitum. There has to be more musical exploration. Bono’s lyrics are sparsely repetitive; for example on Side 1 of the album he uses the word “fall” or “falling” 37 times (don’t worry, I counted). Obviously he really DID miss that lyric book. Not even the expert hands of producer Steve Lillywhite can raise the standard of the final release.

There really isn’t one track that cuts it in a manner that justifies all the hype.


Track Listing
1. “Gloria” 4:14
2. “I Fall Down” 3:39
3. “I Threw a Brick Through a Window” 4:54
4. “Rejoice” 3:37
5. “Fire” 3:51
6. “Tomorrow” 4:39
7. “October” 2:21
8. “With a Shout (Jerusalem)” 4:02
9. “Stranger in a Strange Land” 3:56
10. “Scarlet” 2:53
11. “Is That All?” 2:59

4 responses to “U2 – October (1981): Review

    U2’s masterwork. Hackskeptic, one of those rare occasions where we are poles apart. great playing, great songs, terrific production values.
    Post punk was worthwhile.

  2. I think we’ve discussed this one before Kenny, and yes you’re right. It’s one of the few occasions where we are indeed poles apart.

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