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U2’s sophomore album, October, celebrates its 40th anniversary

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Island Records/Universal Music

U2‘s second album, October, was released 40 years ago today, October 12, 1981.

The album helped the young Irish rockers continue their ascendance as a popular new wave band following their memorable 1980 debut, Boy, and that record’s standout track “I Will Follow.”

Many fans in the U.S. got their introduction to U2 thanks to the music video for October‘s second single, “Gloria,” which was the first video by the group to be put in heavy rotation on MTV during the network’s early days. The clip famously features the band performing on a barge at the Canal Basin in their hometown of Dublin.

October was not a commercial success in the U.S., reaching only #104 on the Billboard 200. Things were different in the U.K., where the album reached #11.

The first single from October, “Fire,” was released in July of 1981, and it became U2’s first top-40 hit in the U.K., peaking at #35.

October was a challenging project for U2, largely because of an infamous incident that occurred while the band was on tour in the U.S. early in 1981 while promoting Boy. At a show in March of that year in Portland, Oregon, a briefcase with Bono’s lyrics and song ideas for the album went missing backstage. This led to the singer having to quickly pen new lyrics or improvise words when it came time for U2 to record the album.

In comparison with Boy, October‘s songs featured more religious and spiritual themes, exemplified by tunes such as “Gloria,” “With a Shout (Jerusalem),” “Rejoice” and “Tomorrow.”

The album also featured guitarist The Edge contributing his piano talents to a number of songs.

October has gone on to sell more than a million copies in the U.S.

Here’s the October track list:

“Gloria”
“I Fall Down”
“I Threw a Brick Through a Window”
“Rejoice”
“Fire”
“Tomorrow”
“October”
“With a Shout (Jerusalem)”
“Stranger in a Strange Land”
“Scarlet”
“Is That All?”

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