In Profile: U2 (1981)


1981 began with an extensive tour of the of Europe, starting in Belfast Queen’s University on January 23rd and ending in Paris at Le Palace on February 21st.

On February 28th the band made an appearance on UK rock show “The Old Grey Whistle Test”, performing “The Ocean”, “11 O’Clock Tick Tock” and “I Will Follow”.

To coincide with the North American release of debut album “Boy” (distributed by Warner Bros), the band embarked on a mammoth tour to promote the album. Initially 40 dates beginning on the album’s release date (March 3rd), the band traveled across the continent including four concerts in Canada. Significantly, the March 22nd show in Portland Oregon was the venue where Bono lost his treasured brief case which contained song lyrics and ideas.

A break following the Pittsburgh show on April 21st and a well earned vacation in the Bahamas, the band would resume the tour in Gainsville Florida on May 3rd and for the rest of the month play their remaining dates climaxing in a final performance in Asbury Park New Jersey on May 31st.

During their break from the tour the band would record forthcoming single “Fire” at Compass Point studios, teaming up with Steve Lillywhite once again. The song was played live for the first time on May 27th at a New Haven CT show.

On June 4th the band appeared on The Tom Snyder show, their first U.S. TV appearance. A short interview with The Edge and Bono followed “I Will Follow” and as the closing credits ran they performed “Twilight”.

During July and August the band wrote and recorded their sophomore long player “October” at Windmill studios Dublin. The recording process was fraught with difficulties, as Bono was having to compose lyrics with little preparation time. He stated, “I remember the pressure it was made under, I remember writing lyrics on the microphone, and at £50 an hour, that’s quite a pressure. Lillywhite was pacing up and down the studio… he coped really well. And the ironic thing about October is that there’s a sort of peace about the album, even though it was recorded under that pressure. A lot of people found October hard to accept at first, I mean, I used the word ‘rejoice’ precisely because I knew people have a mental block against it. It’s a powerful word, it’s lovely to say. It’s implying more than ‘get up and dance, baby.’ I think October goes into areas that most rock ‘n’ roll bands ignore. When I listen to the album, something like ‘Tomorrow,’ it actually moves me.”

On July 27th, “Fire” the first single from the forthcoming “October” album was released. It would peak at number 35 in the U.K. chart.

U2 – Fire Single
Recorded at Compass Point Studios
Produced by Steve Lillywhite
Label: CBS/Island

Side 1 – Fire (7)
Side 2 – J.Swallow (5)

On August 28th the band made their debut appearance on the UK premier pop chart show, Top Of The Pops, performing current single “Fire”.

A second single from “October”, “Gloria” was released on October 3rd, and was the first to be accompanied by a promotional video directed by Meiert Avis. It was filmed during October on a barge in Grand Canal Basin in Dublin near Windmill Lane.

U2 – Gloria Single
Recorded at Windmill Lane Studios
Produced by Steve Lillywhite
Label: CBS/Island

Side 1 – Gloria (7)
Side 2 – I Will Follow (Live at The Paradise Club, Boston March 6 1981) (7)

“October” was released on October 12th and would peak at number 11 in the UK album charts, and reach number 106 in the Billboard charts.

U2 – October Album
Produced by Steve Lillywhite
Label: CBS/Island

Here’s The Hackskeptic’s review of “October”.

U2 – October (1981): Review

The band would spend the remainder promoting “October” on tours that encompassed Europe and North America. They recorded a live session for Kid Jenson’s BBC radio 1 show which was aired on October 14th.

In Profile:U2 (1976 – 79)

In Profile:U2 (1980)

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