The Unforgettable Fire reached the stores in the first week of October 1984, six weeks into the band’s latest world tour. Gigs sold out weeks in advance of the shows, let alone the album, and the single was already nestled high in the Top 20 as the main attraction came crashing in, topping the chart in the U.K., hitting the Top 10 again in the United States.
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After three albums all carved in a similar rocking vein, the band members knew that they were in danger of falling into a simple parody routine, becoming fatally stereotyped as a band that could do nothing more than churn out an endless stream of strident guitar rockers. Just as Brian Eno had swerved away from the preconceptions of his “rock” audience, U2 believed themselves capable of making music that would display them in a completely new light. Eno obviously agreed with them.
While their fans lapped up the “old” U2, the band members themselves were preparing to inaugurate the “new” band. After three albums recorded with producer Steve Lilywhite, they had already decided they needed a change, even before they realized that their musical ambitions, too, were shifting. Their choice of a new producer — and their persistence in recruiting him — astonished everybody.