U2 - The Follow Up
U2’s second album released in October 1981, a year after their debut with ‘Boy’, and the first of many musical changes. Again, this album was recorded at Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin and was produced once again by Steve Lillywhite.
It is often stated that this album was originally going to be called Scarlet. October has often been called U2’s most overtly Christian album. This album was recorded against the background of Bono’s briefcase being stolen, which contained the lyrics to the new album. It was under a highly pressurised circumstance that the album was produced. Not renowned as a favourite album amongst many U2 fans, it still has a number of tracks that have become live favourites over the years, such as ‘Gloria’ and ‘I Threw A Brick’. Despite the fans' thoughts, the album still reached number 11 in the album charts and earned the band their first silver disc.
‘Gloria’, the introduction to the album, starts with some very grandiose drumming from Larry Mullen, before Bono cuts in with the vocals. The song is very fast-paced, with the Edge playing the slide guitar for the first time on a recorded track. The song is a live favourite and can also be found on ‘Under a Blood Red Sky’, both the record and the video of the live recording at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Denver.
‘I Fall Down’ - this song was completely different to what the band had produced before. This track has The Edge playing both the electric piano and the acoustic guitar. The song is said to be quite autobiographical of the band, in that the recognised they made mistakes and had to get up again.
In ‘I Threw A Brick Through The Window’, the heavy drumming of Larry Mullen punctuates the song, which also has the noticeable slide guitar of The Edge. It is said the song is self-accusing, looking at the things they have done and their personal fight with God.
‘Rejoice’ is probably one of the most aggressive songs that U2 wrote in the early days. It also shows the flux that they were having with their Christian beliefs at the time.
‘Fire’ - this track had been recorded in advance of the album, as it was designed specifically to be a single. It was recorded in Nassau in the Bahamas, during a break in the USA spring tour of 1981. It was released as a single in June 1981 and reached the lofty position of 35.
‘Tomorrow’ - the melody is haunting on this track, which is made even stronger by the use of uillean pipes. The song looks back at the funeral of Bono’s mother, and also forward to the second coming of Christ.
‘October’ features The Edge playing piano, an instrument that he had only just learnt to play. Again very strong Christian connotations in the lyrics, but a very quiet track.
‘With A Shout (Jerusalem)’, as the title suggests, is another very pro-Christian song on the album. There was a heavy bass line from Adam and a heavy drum beat from Larry, it is also boosted by the use of horns.
‘Stranger In A Strange Land’ - Bono has given a number of reasons about what this song was written about: i) An East German Border Guard as they were on their way to an West Berlin gig ii) about being in Minneapolis during their first coast to coast tour of America.
‘Scarlet’ was originally suggested as the title for the album, but by the time of the recording of the track it was quite a week track with Bono singing rejoice all the way through. The song may have been totally different if the bag containing Bono’s lyrics hadn’t been stolen.
‘Is That All?’ - The opening riff on this track has become known as the “Cry” and is played as the introduction for ‘The Electric Co’ when played live. It is one of two tracks on the album that has never been played live.