November 18/19 of 1991...
U2 release Acthung Baby worldwide. The album cover features a colorful collage of 16 small photos, a vivid change from the black and white image that distinguished The Joshua Tere e Rattle and Hum albums. The inner sleeve includes a small photo of a naked Adam Clayton, prompting many stores in North America to threaten not selling the album because of the full-frontal nudity. Island Records quickly covers Adam, adding na black "X" or green shamrock over the picture on the CD and cassete version of Acthung Baby. The small amount of vinyl that is printed in North America retains the original, uncensored the photo.
Acthung Baby is a dramatic shift from all of the band's previous work, fulfilling Bono's promise from late 1989 that U2 would "dream it all up again". The album begins with the industrial guitar sounds of "Zoo Station", which also features heavy treatments on Bono's vocal. The lyric are some of the most personal and introspective Bono's ever written, dealing mostly with love and relationships. It is, in short, U2 as we've never heard them before; a complete departure in sound and style from almost everything they've done to date.
Despite the change in musical direction, the album is an instant success. It debuts at number two in the UK (behind Michael Jackson's Dangerous"). The album spends nearly 30 weeks on the Billboard Top 20 albums chart; in the UK, it's immediately certified Platinum (300.000+ sould). Critics respond to the album with universal praise. Writing in Hot Press, Niall Stokes says, "Acthung Baby plunges into the rich complexity of adult experience, the spiritual, the cerebral and the sensual all clashing in a cauldron of ambition, insecurity and desire. Ostensibly decadent, sensual and dark, it is a record of, and for, these times. " In Time magazine, Jay Cocks writes, "The album is full of major-league guitar crunching and mysterious, spacy chords. Evanescent melodies float seamlessly between songs of love, temptation, lose political parable and tight personal confession. There's a lot indeed to be cheered on Acthung Baby. And celebrated. It's a monster."
Acthung Baby is an album of firsts for U2. It's their first album since Island Records was sold to Polygram. From a marketing perspective, being with Polygram is easier because of the company's size and internacional reach. It's also the first U2 album the band allows to be sold in South Africa sales of Acthung Baby and all its albums to anti-apartheid musicians groups.
With Achtung Baby, U2 also makes a quiet decision to fight the US retail industry's preference for releasing CDs inside a cardboard "long box". Retailers like the long box because it's more difficult to shoplift, but the music industry and others consider the packaging environmentally wasteful. Acthung Baby CD is released in the long box and standart jewl case formats, but retailers are given substancial discounts on their orders of the jewel case version.
1. "Zoo Station"
2. "Even Better Than the Real Thing"
4. "Until the End of the World"
5. "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses"
6. "So Cruel"
7. "The Fly"
8. "Mysterious Ways"
9. "Tryin' to Throw Your Arms Around the World"
10. "Ultraviolet (Light My Way)"
12. "Love Is Blindness"
Total time: 55:27
Bono explains U2's new direction: "We've always this idea that what was special about U2 was the spirit, that you could tear away at the flesh of the group, but the spirit would remain intact. With Atchung Baby, we wanted to see just how far we could go in defacing the idea of U2 that had grown around us"
Source: U2 a diary.