U2 - Achtung Baby - Amazon.com Music

2020 Album Draft- Round 4 Pick 3- MSJADELI selects- U2- Achtung Baby.

MSJADELI’s blog Tao Talk can be found at- https://tao-talk.com/

At the instant we were recording it, I got a very strong sense of its power. We were all playing together in the big recording room, a huge, eerie ballroom full of ghosts of the war, and everything fell into place. It was a reassuring moment, when everyone finally went, ‘oh great, this album has started.’ It’s the reason you’re in a band—when the spirit descends upon you and you create something truly affecting. ‘One’ is an incredibly moving piece. It hits straight into the heart.

—The Edge, on the recording of “One”

I’m fairly sure the first U2 album I bought was “The Joshua Tree,” which was in 3-way tug of war with this one and “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” as contenders for my draft pick today.  Once hooked, I bought the new ones as they came out; a practice that ended after the purchase of “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.”  I did go back and buy the first four as well, but for one reason or another haven’t listened to them much.  You may be asking, “Why this one out of a discography than rivals any musician, solo or group, for excellence in musical instrument skill, lyrics, melodies, harmonies, subjects, cohesiveness, inventiveness – yes, The Edge is a guitar God – and any other aspect of music you care to trot out?  I flipped a coin.

Achtung [Listen] Baby  is the seventh studio album by Irish rock band U2. It was produced by Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno.  Seeking inspiration from German reunification, U2 began recording Achtung Baby at Berlin’s Hansa Studios in October 1990. The sessions were fraught with conflict, as the band argued over their musical direction and the quality of their material. After tension and slow progress nearly prompted the group to disband, they made a breakthrough with the improvised writing of the song “One.”  It was their first album in three years and their first comprising entirely new material in over four years.  U2 composed all of the tracks, and Bono was the sole lyricist, as usual. 

Released in November 1991, it debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 Top Albums while topping the charts in many other countries. Five songs were released as commercial singles.  The album has sold 18 million copies worldwide and won a Grammy Award in 1993 for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. Achtung Baby has since been acclaimed by writers and music critics as one of the greatest albums of all time.  On Halloween 2011, Achtung Baby was reissued in five formats; in July 2018 it was re-released on vinyl.


The album has 12 cuts and is just over 55 minutes long.  Here’s a cut by cut commentary and favorite lines from each tune except a couple.  (I’m putting asterisks into this as separations as my formatting hasn’t been carrying over.)


Zoo Station  The raucous guitar that squawks the first notes sets the tone for this album, which starts the machine clinking and clanking.  U2 is large and in charge, so lay back and enjoy the ride. Favorite lines:

“I’m ready for the shuffle, I’m ready for the deal

I’m ready to let go of the steering wheel, I’m ready for the crush.”


Even Better than the Real Thing   the monotonous guitar on the front end is a set up for when it falls into lush.  When someone says it’s better than the real thing you have to wonder what the catch is.  Could this be a setup for a let down?  Caught up in the heat of the moment, does anyone care?  Favorite line:

 “Give me half a chance to ride on the waves that you bring.”


One  The experts say that the lyrics are about Germany’s reunification and the band members’ own struggles with relationships.  I really don’t see it as being about Germany’s reunification at all, other than the title.  The Edge described the song on one level as a “bitter, twisted, vitriolic conversation between two people who’ve been through some nasty, heavy stuff.”  This, I can see.  One is one of Bono’s best-written songs ever. Favorite lines:

Have you come here to play Jesus?
To the lepers in your head
Well, did I ask too much, more than a lot?
You gave me nothing, now it’s all I got


“You say love is a temple, love is a higher law
Love is a temple, love is a higher law
You ask me of me to enter, but then you make me crawl

And I can’t keep holding on to what you got, ’cause all you got is hurt”


Until the End of the World  There is a tribal calling-out in the beginning of this with dark tones pounding.  At first Bono’s lyrics are defensive, but as they continue the sorrow in his voice is a moving lament.  The experts say the song is about “an imagined conversation between Jesus Christ and his betrayer, Judas Iscariot,” which I never considered until reading it, but it would fit.  Favorite lines:

“In my dream I was drowning my sorrows
But my sorrows, they learned to swim”

*******************************************************Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses   Machine tones and distortion portend what’s coming next.  It’s a tongue lashing from one side of a broken relationship to the other party.  Is the other person there to hear them?  Probably not.  Maybe if he would have said these things while she was still there she wouldn’t have left him.  I love the bridge towards the end.  Aural ecstasy!!!!! 

He wants her to return to him….  Favorite lines:

“Well you left my heart empty as a vacant lot
For any spirit to haunt”


So Cruel   The song starts out as a thumping heartbeat, which is a tell it’s about a relationship.  Clipped lines with tension mounting.  As he gets into the meat of the matter the music becomes more lush.  Again, this methodical beat with growing tension is a setup for the exquisite bridge.  Aural ecstasy!!!!  Favorite lines:

She wears my love like a see-through dress


“Her heart is racing, you can’t keep up
The night is bleeding like a cut
Between the horses of love and lust
We are trampled/Underfoot”


The Fly  The Edge gets down and dirty with the distortion to begin with and keeps it up throughout (favorite guitar on the album for me), in sharp contrast to Bono’s falsetto, part  singing and half whispering.  Reading about the recording of this song, they did some weird mixing and used an unusual combo of beat and time signature.  Bono described it as “like a crank call from Hell… but [the caller] likes it there”  Favorite lines:

“It’s no secret that a conscience can sometimes be a pest
It’s no secret ambition bites the nails of success”


Mysterious Ways  This is a song you immediately recognize with the opening riff.  I love love love the bass on this song!  Pretty straightforward melody and lyrics.  Yet another beautiful bridge!  Favorite lines:

“To touch is to heal
To hurt is to steal
If you want to kiss the sky
Better learn how to kneel (on your knees boy!)”


Tryin to Throw Your Arms Around the World   to me this is about one person too busy for love and her lover is feeling neglected and wants to get her attention.  Nice and easy, good cruisin’ music on a warm summer night.  Favorite lines:

“And a woman needs a man
Like a fish needs a bicycle”


Ultraviolet (Light My Way)   Bono’s vulnerable voice sounds like a cry in the wilderness, a soft beginning that shifts into a declaratory rhythm as the lyrics are half reproach about why things aren’t what they used to be like and half plea to keep trying in the relationship.  Favorite lines:

“You bury your treasure
Where it can’t be found
But your love is like a secret
That’s been passed around”


Acrobat  Edge’s guitar starts out like a combination fire alarm and bomb shelter alert.  Bono is giving advice to someone who is struggling.  Clipped lyrics that fire off like a blitz poem.  More great guitar work later in the song.


Love is Blindness   church organ music starts this lament of quiet desperation.  Favorite lines:

“Love is drowning
In a deep well
All the secrets
And no one to tell”


Personnel:  Bono – lead vocals, guitar;  The Edge – guitar, keyboards, vocals;   Adam Clayton – bass guitar; Larry Mullen Jr.– drums, percussion; Brian Eno – additional keyboards; Daniel Lanois – additional guitar; additional percussion; Duchess Nell Catchpole – violin and viola


Many of the “facts” come from wikipedia, here:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Achtung_Baby It’s difficult to pick a favorite song so let’s go with the first song on the album


  1. One… is my favorite song by them. It would have been a hit in 1972 or anytime. It’s timeless. This is the second U2 album I bought with the first being Rattle and Hum…I eventually got all of the others before… This was played constantly in my car in 91 as I was moving into a new apartment. Great pick Lisa!

  2. While my favorite U2 album will always be The Joshua Tree- I think Achtung Baby is actually the better album from start to finish. Great selection Lisa.

  3. A great album and high time U2 showed up here! They were one of the (I guess not so many) bands I was big on before most…I got the initial ‘Boy’ album sometime not too too long after it was out and was a huge fan by ‘The Unforgettable Fire.’ This one I likely bought on day of release. that said, I’d forgotten two or three of those tracks, glad you reminded us Lisa! I didn’t find all the tracks to be equally great but it was an album I liked well enough to listen to frequently start to finish without wanting to jump up and skip tracks on…and that’s a compliment !

  4. U2 had been my favorite band in high school. The Joshua Tree tour was my first concert, then it seemed like they disappeared. I remember exactly where I was the first time I heard Mysterious Ways. I was really caught off guard by their new direction, but once I adjusted I thought it’s a great album. Still do.

  5. Now that’s what I call a breakdown of an album. I get the feeling you like this one. I’ve always liked U2 and this album was no exception. Lots of cool musical ideas. I just might listen to it today. Thanks.

  6. Great album, great post. Joshua Tree and Achtung were two of the earliest albums I ever owned (on cassette). I was far too young to appreciate 99% of what was going on on those albums as a young kid. Have relistened to Joshua Tree over and over throughout the years but never really revisited Achtung in any kind of deliberate way. I think it’s time!

    • Very cool on Joshua Tree and Achtung. Have you heard All That you Can’t Leave Behind? It’s right up there with these two. Also a big fan of Zooropa, although it is in another dimension than the others. If I’ve inspired you to go back to Achtung, my work is done 😉 Glad you liked the post.

  7. I loved Sunday Bloody Sunday. I think people underestimate the impact of their music. I think it helped many of us in the UK, see a different perspective on the troubles in Ireland. I also love Mysterious Ways. I think their modern stuff is less edgy than their old music.

  8. I remember when this album came out, but never heard much from it other than Mysterious Ways. I really like U2’s sound, but for some reason, after about 30 seconds of a song, I’m ready to move on. This one is truly different. I listened to all of this and thoroughly enjoyed it. I see why you have it in your top 10.

  9. One is the band’s best for me. I think even Bono finds it difficult to elaborate on it. Probably, it was an inspired moment when he wrote it. Nice piece you have here. Kudos!!!😊😊😊

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