In 1991 U2 embraces Alternative Rock and hit No.1 with “The Fly”

The Irish band dropped their 1980’s winning formula and went Alternative with the albums “Achtung Baby” and “Zooropa”

In 1991 U2 embraces Alternative Rock and hit No.1 with “The Fly”

When Alternative Rock started to rule the music charts and airwaves all across the planet in the early 1990’s, the well established and very successful U2, jumped quickly on the band wagon. After a decade filled with smash hits, millions of albums sold and memorable songs, the Irish band decided for the first time to try the Alternative formula. As a song, The Fly” introduced a more abrasive sounding U2, featuring danceable hip-hop beats, industrial textures, distorted vocals, and an elaborate guitar solo. Despite the many hits and popular songs they had during the 1980’s, it wasn’t up until 1991 that they achieved a second No.1 on the British singles charts. Until then, their only No.1 song in the U.K had been “Desire”, from 1988, and it when U2 decided to change their winning formula, some were surprised, but Bono and company were beginning to see the quickly rise of Alternative Rock, and between 1991 and 1993 fully embraced the genre. “The Fly”, released on October 21, 1991, was the first single of their new album “Achtung Baby” though at the beginning struggled to find airtime outside the Alternative Rock stations, it entered the Top 75 of the U.K singles charts straight-in No.1 ending the record breaking 16-week run at the top of the UK Singles Chart for Bryan Adams’ “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You”. However, despite the big success that the song had in Europe, in the U.S, the song only managed No.61 on the Hot 100, but curiously, their next album’s singles “Even Better Than the Real Thing,” “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses,” and “Mysterious Ways” reached higher positions on the Hot 100 Chart. Both the song and its video were also a showcase for “The Fly,” the persona that Bono adopted for the Zoo TV Tour, in which he played the part of a stereotypical leather-clad rock star known for wearing large wrap-around sunglasses and strutting around the stage and remains his most iconic look. During the second half of the 1990’s U2 dropped the Alternative Rock sound and returned to more polished, radio friendly Rock. Behind, they left some of their best songs, including “The Fly”.

Look back at the 1991 U2 music video “The Fly”

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