Photo by Kevin Mazur
U2 Set to Release 20th-Anniversary Edition of ‘Achtung Baby’
By Mike Duffy
Twenty years ago, world-beating band U2 released the seminal album Achtung Baby to massive success.
Critical acclaim and a Grammy win for Best Rock Performance ensued, launching U2’s torrid run through the 1990s and 2000s.
Now, on the 20th anniversary of that record, U2 is putting out an anniversary of the 1991 offering, complete with a truckload of extras that would make any U2 fan salivate.
Five complete physical editions of the release will be made available on Nov. 1, including vinyl, CD, DVD and digital options after unreleased material, video, remixes and documentary footage was unearthed.
At the time when Achtung Baby hit the market, John Pareles of The New York Times wrote that “stripped-down and defying its old formulas, U2 has given itself a fighting chance for the 1990s.”
U2’s seventh studio album — desbribed by lead singer Bono as “the sound of four men chopping down The Joshua Tree” — produced five singles, including “The Fly,” “Mysterious Ways,” “One,” “Even Better Than The Real Thing” and “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses.”
Bono and his bandmates – the Edge, Larry Mullen Jr. and Adam Clayton – understood that U2 needed Achtung Baby to evolve past the rootsy rock of Tree.
With a darker, introspective theme, Achtung Baby explored electronic dance music and industrial and alternative rock.
Perhaps the best examples of their new sound came with the searing guitar riffs that jump-start “Mysterious Ways” and “Even Better Than The Real Thing,” or the distortion-laden “The Fly,” which was the album’s first single.
Earlier this year, U2 returned to Berlin’s Hansa Studio to reflect on the importance of the release for Academy Award-winning director Davis Guggenheim (It Might Get Loud, An Inconvenient Truth) and his documentary, From The Sky Down.
The rock doc, which is included in the anniversary set, dissects the challenging process it took to record Achtung Baby — from band turmoil to sessions in Berlin as the Cold War ended. As well as interviewing the quartet, Guggenheim culled interviews from the producers and engineers who worked on the album.
The film also features an interesting moment when the band winces at the sound of the earliest recordings of Achtung, which were made on DAS cassettes.
It wasn’t all cringe-inducing, however, as the “Mysterious Ways” riff was borne out of those tapes.
Watch the trailer below, and head here for complete details on the anniversary release.