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30 Years Ago: U2 Embrace the Good and Bad of America on ‘The Joshua Tree’

When The Joshua Tree came out on March 9, 1987, it represented a seismic shift, spearheaded by U2, in popular music. Up until that point, the ‘80s were mostly thought of, with a handful of exceptions, as a decade of style without substance, with MTV leading the charge in helping to popularize an endless parade of catchy, but empty, one-hit wonders...

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U2 Trip Through Your Wires
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U2 Plays the Blues on ‘Trip Through Your Wires’: The Story Behind Every ‘ Joshua Tree’ Song

The first 'Joshua Tree' song to be played live, "Trip Through Your Wires" took its cues from American blues music.

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Larry Marano, Getty Images
Larry Marano, Getty Images
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U2’s ‘Red Hill Mining Town’ Explores Personal Costs in an Economic Downturn: The Story Behind Every ‘Joshua Tree’ Song

Both in scope and approach, U2's 'Red Hill Mining Town' was very much in keeping with the old American protest tunes which Bono had been delving into back then.

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Island Records
Island Records
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U2’s ‘Running to Stand Still’ Explores the Dark Territory of Addiction: The Story Behind Every ‘Joshua Tree’ Song

The lyrical approach on U2‘s “Running to Stand Still” was as meticulously particular as the music was extemporaneous.

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U2 In God's Country
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‘In God’s Country’ Sends U2 to the Desert: The Story Behind Every ‘Joshua Tree’ Song

'In God's Country' was the fourth, and final, single released from 'The Joshua Tree.' U2 were inspired by American politics in creating the rock tune.

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U2 With Or Without You
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U2 Goes Minimalist on ‘With or Without You’: The Story Behind Every ‘Joshua Tree’ Song

U2 almost got sick of 'With or Without You' before Bono helped rescue the slow-building song from the trash heap. It became the band's first No. 1 U.S. hit.

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U2 Bullet the Blue Sky
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U2 Mixes Scripture, Politics on ‘Bullet the Blue Sky’: The Story Behind Every ‘Joshua Tree’ Song

U2's propulsive song was inspired by Bono's visit to El Salvador in the midst of the country's civil war. He lashed out at the U.S.'s involvement in the lyrics.

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STILL2
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U2 Updates the Gospel on ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’: The Story Behind Every ‘Joshua Tree’ Song

How "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" became a key building block for U2's creative process.

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Island
Island
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U2 Gets Cinematic on ‘Where the Streets Have No Name': The Story Behind Every ‘Joshua Tree’ Song

Producer Brian Eno claims that it took about half of the 'Joshua Tree' sessions to complete 'Where the Streets Have No Name.' In the end, U2 had a classic.

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Kevin Winter, Getty Images
Kevin Winter, Getty Images
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U2’s Adam Clayton Talks Joshua Tree Tour, Says ‘We Think We’re There’ With New ‘Songs of Experience’ LP

Nostalgia might be a big reason for U2 fans to see the band perform its landmark The Joshua Tree LP on tour this year, but for bassist Adam Clayton, there are more compelling reasons to revisit.

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