35th Anniversary Of U2's Big Break

. (Gibson) Today (February 26), marks the 35 year anniversary of the gig that landed U2 their record deal. The band had been gradually building up a following in Ireland and the UK over the past few years, and had recently won five categories in a Hot Press readers poll. In order to make the most of this minor success, U2 manager Paul McGuinness booked the band (who was essentially broke) on a headlining tour to try and get that ever elusive record deal.

By this time U2 had been a band for a few years, and had gradually started to find their sound. On a trip to New York with his family, The Edge had bought a Gibson Explorer. "It was the zig-zag shape that set it apart but the sound and the feel were great too. Everyone was playing the same kinds of guitars and I thought, we sound different, let's look different," said The Edge in U2's autobiography U2 By U2. Armed with his new guitar, The Edge soon started fiddling around with echo units, and was developing what would become his signature sound.

The band needed a recording contract that came with touring support as well, because without it they could never afford to finance a US tour, and would be stuck touring the neighboring European countries, not getting the chance to make it Stateside. For the culmination of their headlining tour, McGuinness had booked the band to play Dublin's National Stadium. It was a brave move, seeing how the venue could hold over 2,000 people, and was regularly used for established Irish acts, as well as visiting bands from the US, and the UK.

Having exhausted many of the major record labels, U2's manager turned his attention to Island Records. The (at the time) rather small label had made a name for itself by releasing reggae music, most prominently Bob Marley & the Wailers, but McGuinness was starting to exhaust all his options, and figured it was worth a shot. It didn't hurt that Island's publicist Rob Partridge happened to be a fan of U2. So for the National Stadium gig the band had invited Island Records A&R man Bill Stewart in hopes that a deal could be struck. Read more here.

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