Our next Montauk Madness matchup pairs two legends, one who sadly (and triumphantly) passed away last year and another struggling to remain relevant after spending the better part of four decades as the world’s greatest rock band. David Bowie vs. U2.
Had I faced this decision before Bowie’s passing, I likely would have gone with U2. Apart from the hits, I knew Bowie’s work mostly by reputation. Of course, Bowie’s hits alone put him in contention, but I own almost all of U2’s albums and consider them at worst enjoyable and at best masterpieces (The Joshua Tree remains one of the seminal listening experiences in my life as a music fan).
Best Albums of the 80s – #7
The Joshua Tree – U2 (1987)
Here’s the second album I purchased on CD after receiving my first CD player (a boombox style contraption that I think I might still have sitting around somewhere).
I had fallen in love with The Joshua Tree on vinyl during my sophomore year of high school, playing it endlessly in my bedroom while reading and playing video games (I wasn’t a very exciting child).
It just hit me, as I was reading up on today’s selection, that this is the third album in a row on my list of greats that was a massive hit. U2’s The Joshua Tree, released in 1987, has sold more than 25 million copies worldwide to date.
How nice to see quality work rewarded on the charts. As I look over the other titles on my list, a pattern emerges: the older albums fared far better, sales-wise, than the more recent ones. Sure, the music industry in general has taken a major hit in the last decade, but it also seems like the mega-sellers these days are not the best records.
In 1987, U2 released The Joshua Tree and pretty much changed the face of popular music. The album not only propelled them to superstardom but made the marketplace safe for hyper-literate rock anthems, influencing the work of both contemporaries like R.E.M. and descendants like Coldplay.
This was my first U2 album and I went nuts over it, playing it nonstop in my bedroom that whole summer. It was also right around the time Paul Simon’s Graceland and Peter Gabriel’s So came out, and those three albums formed my holy trinity of new music.
But I write about The Joshua Tree (and my selected track, ‘In God’s Country’) not just to sing its praises 21 years later, but to reflect on the geeky association it forever carries in my mind.