The band didn’t release a record in 1986, and yet still maintained a relatively high profile, and at the end of the year would complete recording sessions for “The Joshua Tree.”
In January Bono and Larry Mullen were interviewed for the RTE show TV Ga Ga. The band would perform three numbers live,”Womanfish”, a rough early version of “Trip Through Your Wires”, and a cover of “Knocking on Heaven’s Door.”
In February, U2’s fanclub issued “Propaganda”, a magazine dedicated to U2 and their causes.
The February 27th issue of Rolling Stone magazine sees U2 selected as band of the year by both fans and critics.
On May 17th the band perform at Self Aid (highlighting Irish unemployment) with a large number of other Irish performers held at the Royal Dublin Showground. After U2’s set, is a tribute to the recently deceased singer of Thin Lizzy, Phil Lynott, involving the remaining members of the band. Bono joins them for a verse of “Whiskey In The Jar.” At the end of the show, Bono and Larry are involved in a rendition of the concert’s anthem, “Make It Work.”
Between June 4th – 15th, writing for the forthcoming album is interrupted to serve as a headline act on Amnesty International’s A Conspiracy of Hope tour. The purpose of the tour was not to raise funds but rather to increase awareness of human rights and of Amnesty’s work on its 25th anniversary, and to invite a new generation to take action to free prisoners of conscience.
On July 3rd U2 crew member Greg Carroll is killed in a motorcycle accident in Dublin. The band perform at his burial a week later in Kai-iwi Marae, New Zealand.
In mid July, Bono and wife Ali travel to Nicaragua on a visit organised by Central American Mission Partners (CAMP), which is dedicated to human rights and economic development in Latin America. They visit Ernesto Cardenal of the Sandinista government and musician Carlos Mejía Godoy. On 19 July, the group listens to President Daniel Ortega speak on the country’s Revolution Day. The following day, Bono is moved by churchgoers calling out the names of loved ones who have died fighting the contras. A few days later Bono and Ali’s group flies back to Nicaragua and meet the group COMADRES “the Mothers of the Disappeared.” They are a group of women whose children have been killed or disappeared at the hands of the government. As the group walks through a remote rural area north of San Salvador, government troops shoot in their direction.
On August 1st the band recommences recording the as yet untitled 5th studio album at Windmill studios, Dublin.Bono’s first-hand experience of the conflicts in Central America become a major influence on songs such as “Bullet The Blue Sky” and “Mothers of the Disappeared”. The band look back to the roots of rock music, and Bono focuses his skills as a song and lyric writer.
Between December 14th – 16th the band travel around the Californian desert with photographer Anton Corbijn and designer Steve Averill, shooting pictures in the desert landscape for the new album’s cover. On the evening after the first day’s shooting, Corbijn tells the band about Joshua Trees and suggests their use on the sleeve. The following day they find an unusual lone standing tree, images of which are used for the album sleeve and the album is named “The Joshua Tree.”