"October" - U2

Album (Original Release)

Track Listing:

Background Information

“October” was the second album by U2, released in 1981. The album was a tough one for U2 to record. On March 22, 1981, while playing a show at the Fog Horn in Portland, Oregon, Bono’s briefcase went missing. The briefcase included a working visa for Bono, notebooks and lyric sheets, letters to Bono from Ali as well as tour documents, letters from fans, and numerous photos. Some of these notes lost included lyric ideas for the new album, in various stages of development, from “I Fall Down” which was fully fleshed out, to a song called “Sunday Bloody Sunday” which was in the earliest stages of development.

Just weeks later during a tour stop in Minneapolis, on April 9, 1981, the band was frantically trying to get new songs ready for the recording studio. They spent much of that soundcheck working on new material which would eventually lead to “October”. And at the end of the month, while on a break from the “Boy” tour, the band visited Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas (founded by Chris Blackwell, owner of Island Records), where they recorded the song “Fire”. “Fire” was released a single well in advance of the “October” album, which they were just starting to record while “Fire” was starting to climb the charts.

The band entered the studio to record in earnest in July 1981. They used Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin, and had already booked time in the studio from July – August of 1981. So even with the loss of the lyrics, they had to continue. Steve Lillywhite returned as a producer for the album. The album was recorded under a lot of pressure to get the project finished and delivered, and at times Bono was found writing lyrics while recording them, improvising as he was recorded.

The design of the cover was done by a close friend of the band, Steve Averill. The design was simple and featured a photograph of the band at the Dublin canal, near to where the album was recorded. The album title and band name were featured prominently on the front cover, something that had not been done with the first release, which had led to some criticism by the record label. The album has the logo in brown, and the photo is in tones of yellow and brown, and both are meant to suggest the month October. On most releases there is a white border around the cover image, and the track listing is printed in this border area. The band would go back to the docks for the photo shoots for 2000’s “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” and even toyed with calling that album “Grand Canal Docks” but eventually moved on to another idea. The track listing printed on the front cover of some releases always lists “With a Shout” instead of “With a Shout (Jerusalem)” but the “Jerusalem” included in the inside / back track listing in some countries including much of Australia, Asia, South America and Europe. In North America, this track was labeled without the “Jerusalem” even in the main track listings. The later releases for Europe in the Island Masters series would also remove the mention of “Jerusalem” from the track listing.

The album was released on October 12, 1981 and the following day in North America. The album was released on both 12-inch vinyl and cassette, with CD releases coming later after the invention and adoption of the compact disc.

Two singles were released from the album. The first was “Fire”, released while the recording of the album had barely begun. Being short on material for this album the song was also included on the album. The second single was “Gloria” and was issued much closer to the release date of the album. The single for “Gloria” was backed with a live version of “I Will Follow”, one of the stronger songs from the previous album. A promotional video was filmed for “Gloria” by Meiert Avis, and was shot in the same canal area that the cover photos were taken in. MTV was just starting to become popular, and U2 did benefit from having an early video to share with that station.

Live in concert, most of the songs from “October” have been performed. The exceptions are “Stranger in a Strange Land” and “Is that All?” A short snippet of “Stranger in a Strange Land” was used during “The Electric Co” during “The Unforgettable Fire” tour. Some of the songs still make it into the set lists to this day. During the U2360 tour, U2 would start using “Scarlet” live during the performance.

The album was released to mixed reviews. It reached number 11 in the UK album charts, and reached number 104 in the US charts. Today it is considered by many to be one of U2’s weaker albums.

The return of Bono’s briefcase suggested some of the alternate song names that could have been on “October” had the notebook not been lost. A number of the songs were known from live performances including “Speed of Life”, “Pete the Chop”, “False Prophet” and “Father is an Elephant”, but other songs have never materialized such as “Cars and Aeroplanes”, “Shelter from the Storms”, “Buzz” and “Love is a Word”.

The album “October” was remastered and released on July 21, 2008 in the UK, with a North American release the following day. At the same time, “Boy” and “War” were also released, and a special three-pack was issued in the USA. The remastered versions were issued on 12-inch vinyl, standard format (one disc) and deluxe format (two 5-inch CDs). The bonus disc in the deluxe version included a number of outtakes and bonus tracks, detailed in the discography entry for that release.

Liner Notes

Vocals: Bono. Guitars, piano: The Edge. Bass: Adam Clayton. Drums: Larry. Producer: Steve Lillywhite. Studio: Windmill Lane, Dublin, July – August ’81. Manager: Paul McGuinness. All songs written by U2. All songs published by Island Music Inc., BMI.

Recognition and Awards

  • Certified Gold (RIAA, USA, May 23, 1994)
  • Certified Platinum (RIAA, USA, September 11, 1995) [This is the most recent certification as of 2017]

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