I had the privilege of watching “From The Sky Down” (see, right off the bat you know I’ll have good things to say about it!) last night. It is a documentary film about the band U2 and the making of their 8th studio album “Achtung Baby,”
The film starts out with the interesting historical explanation that U2 was on the last flight into a divided Germany at the time when they were getting ready to record “Achtung Baby” which was partially recorded at Hansel Studios in Berlin Germany. the film then switches to footage from the U2360 Tour which was the most recent world tour that the band has undertaken to date. Bono explains that they view music as a sacrament, as the reason they are all here doing what they do as U2. In a scene, the band is seen rehearsing “The Fly” for a performance at Glastonbury on the 360 Tour. Bono realizes that they are actually messing up the song and then suggests that they listen to a version of it so that they can remember how it goes. One of their roadies cues up a version which was played at some previous show for them to listen to, but Bono does not like how that mix sounded exclaiming “What was that? Was that actually played in front of human beings gathered together for the purpose of music!” They then proceed to listen to a different mix of “The Fly”
For the remainder of the film, the group time travel back to 1990 and 1991 when they were actually working on “Achtung Baby.” It was an interesting time to be doing anything in Europe back then as the Berlin Wall was coming down and Germany was being reunified and could start fresh. Interestingly enough, U2 was at the same point in their career. They had risen up through the Irish club scene as far as playing gigs was concerned and they had “finally made a break through album” with the release of “The Joshua Tree” in 1987. This propelled them from an arena band to an all out stadium band. At the time, they thought the stadiums they were playing were almost too big for their sound. Also their previous album and movie “Rattle and Hum” received much negative criticism which had started to have its effect on the band These negative ideas brought on the famous line at the end of the Love Town Tour “This is the end of something for U2. We’ve got to go away for a while and dream it all up again!”
Dreaming it all up again was the very reason they found themselves in Berlin. Feeling the need to get away from everything they knew about recording in Dublin, the band headed to Berlin and was influenced by Electronic music over there. Realizing that Electronic dance music was the way of the future (at least for the next little while) U2 tried to implement that into their sound without losing who they were as a band.
Armed with this new found knowledge, U2 entered Hansel Studios to record. They tried to bang out an album. However, there was argument as to the direction of the sound of the new album. Bono, Edge, and Adam wanted to move forward with this new element of electronic music while Larry was tentative…however he eventually figured out how to put his natural self into the work and was persuaded. This beats having to break up as a band.
U2 was still having a terrible time figuring out where to go with the album until they started jamming out to songs that would eventually become “One” and “The Fly.” After they found those songs, that was the pivot point for the outcome of the rest of the album. It had finally found an identity. They would also gain ideas as to what to do for a stage show. A large screen TV with their own station. The “Zoo TV” Tour was born, and they took that all over the world with their new songs from “Achtung Baby.”
The band seemed to grow a lot during those recording sessions. Some of the toughest sessions they ever had, because they were trying to keep U2 relevant and exciting to the changing world around them. The band continues to be on the edge, always trying to be progressive and relevant with their music. Had they not gone through all the stress of recording “Achtung Baby” who knows if they would have ever reached the “next level” as a band. I’m glad they decided to press on and not give up.
Related: “From The Sky Down”