Been a while since the last post, and a while since the last book sample, too. With the band about to release remastered versions of the first three albums, I thought I’d post the book entry for October 12, 1981 — that’s the date October was released. Hope you enjoy!
– Top Rank, Brighton, with Comsat Angels.
U2 releases its second album, October. The cover features an unflattering photo of the band at the Grand Canal Docks in Dublin. As the story goes, Island Records had reportedly sent a rep to Dublin to tell the band the label wasn’t happy with the album artwork they submitted. But when U2 objected to the interference, Island backed down and the album is released today as U2 designed it.
The songs reflect the difficulty U2 had in making it. Having lost his briefcase on tour in Portland, Bono makes up many lyrics as he sings the songs in the studio. Thematically, October is a deeply Christian album with lyrics that call out for and question God – just as three members of U2 have been dealing with their own spiritual questions.
The difficulties of the October era
Adam: “It was a case of, ‘We’ll make it up as we go along.’ I think we probably would have pulled it together okay if, in the middle of it, we hadn’t had Bono, Edge and Larry going, ‘Maybe this isn’t what we want to do.'”
Edge: “October was a struggle from beginning to end. It was an incredibly hard record to make for us because we had major problems with time. And I had been through this thing of really not knowing if I should be in the band or not. It was really difficult to pull all the things together and still maintain the focus to actually finish a record in the time that we had.
“At that stage we were going through our most out-there phase, spiritually. It was incredibly intense. We were just so involved with it. It was a time in our lives where we really concentrated on it more than on almost anything. Except Adam, who just wasn’t interested.”
Adam: “I didn’t have a problem at all with spirituality and identity. I just had a problem with the disruptiveness that it brought to the band’s activities. And then later, as we got into the October album, and the others were considering whether rock’n’roll was the right form of expression – I never wanted to go to those meetings. I didn’t like the tone of what was going on. It was another band. It was an exclusivity that I didn’t buy into.”
The album enters the British charts at number 11, and peaks there. It climbs no higher than 104 in the US.
Reviews are mostly positive. In Hot Press, Neil McCormick says: “October is a musical and spiritual growth for U2, a passionate and moving LP for me. U2 have evolved constantly, songs changing and growing over a period of time.” Dave McCullough raves about the album in Sounds: “It all breathes fire, recovering too from the pair of standouts appearing at the start of each side – ‘Gloria’ being possibly Their Finest Moment and ‘Tomorrow’, low and muted, gently oozing emotion. This October will last forever.” Writing in Rolling Stone, Jon Pareles calls the album “barely coherent” and dismisses Bono’s lyrics as cliché: “… the way to enjoy U2 is to consider the vocals as sound effects and concentrate, as the band does, on the sound of the guitar.”
Tracks: ‘Gloria’, ‘I Fall Down’, ‘I Threw a Brick Through A Window’, ‘Rejoice’, ‘Fire’, ‘Tomorrow’, ‘October’, ‘With A Shout (Jerusalem)’, ‘Stranger In A Strange Land’, ‘Scarlet’, ‘Is That All?’
(In case you missed it, I posted the book entry for War release earlier this year.)