Top 10 U2 Album Covers

U2 Album Covers

Photo: Hariboneagle927, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Our Top 10 U2 Album covers list looks at the artwork, designs and photographs that have graced the covers of U2 albums for the past forty plus years. Since their debut album in 1980 entitled Boy, the group U2 have released fourteen studio albums. The group has also released three compilation albums with brilliant covers as well as one live album and nine EPs. The band has also released eighty three singles. None of that includes the countless import singles, 12 inch releases, promotional issues, and other U2 official rarities. The band has always been a very highly collectible band and so the record companies have released a lot of product over the years, at least during the years when fans actually brought product.

Our Top 10 U2 Album covers article will focus on just the official studio and live albums including Rattle And Hum which is a hybrid of an album filled with live and studio tracks as well as being a soundtrack album. When reviewing the album covers, it was at times tough to only pick ten of them because each album release had its own distinctive features that really represented the music and time period that the album was being released.

# 10 – Songs of Experience

We open up our top 10 U2 Album Covers list with the band’s most recent album entitled Songs Of Experience. The beautiful photograph on the album cover was taken by the brilliant photographer Anton Corbjin. The two young people featured in the photograph are the children of members of the band. The boys name is Eli who is the son of Bono. The young girl’s name is Sian who is the daughter of the Edge. The band wanted to keep the feel of the album personal, but did not want to feature themselves again on the cover. The members of U2 have appeared on so many album covers over the years, they decided they wanted to change it up. So the decision was to utilize family members of the band. The results were a stunning cover that looks as if it was photographed in the 1920s.

# 9 – No Line on the Horizon

Continuing with our top 10 U2 Album Covers list we showcase the wonderful album cover for U2’s album No Line on the Horizon. Sometimes the most wonderful art is expressed in simple form and this one truly defines that concept. The photograph that is presented on the cover of No Line on the Horizon was shot by the renowned Japanese photographer named Hiroshi Sugimoto. The photograph taken by Hiroshi Sugimoto is of the third largest freshwater Lake in Europe named Lake Constance. The Lake is so large it borders the countries of Germany, Switzerland and Austria. The photograph was called “Boden Sea.”  Many rock and roll artists have takes famous photographs or paintings and utilized them as cover art. This one is spectacular.

# 8 – October

In the number eight spot on our top 10 U2 Album Covers  list we present the bands album October. After the very ambiguous cover art of their first album entitled Boy in which all four members appeared as dotted line drawings, it was nice to see what U2 really looked like. It’s amazing how looking back at this cover art after so many years how young they look in this picture. Great design and logos make this one a memorable U2 cover.  The October album was released in October of 1981 which was pretty good timing one could say.

# 7 – War

It seemed when U2 arrived on the scene, every album release just kept getting better. Their third album entitled War really put the band on the map on a worldwide basis with the hits “New Year’s Day,” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” War is the first album where Bono and the rest of the band began to become advocates for peace as well as many other humanitarian ideals that they would take on throughout the band’s career. The name of the boy on the cover  who is no longer a boy is Peter Rowen who was the son of one of Bono’s friends.  he fragile image of a young boy who seemed angry about War spoke volumes to millions of fans who brought the album.

# 6 – Boy

Well, speaking of Peter Rowan, the cover of the band’s first album did not originally feature Peter Rowan as a young boy in the U.S. but it did in other countries and on the subsequent release of U2’s first album on CD. The band’s first album was released in 1981. I remember hearing the band in a record store in 1981 and asking the clerk who the group was because I had never heard anything like them. Compounding the mystery was the album cover in which the band just appeared as dotted line figures. That’s a cool album cover and I wish they had kept the original cover when they released it on CD.

# 5 – Under a Blood Red Sky

At the halfway point on our top 10 U2 Album Covers list is the mind blowing album cover Under A Blood Red Sky. Both the album title and album cover had a significant impact on the viewer the moment it was first seen. The Under A Blood Red Sky album was released in 1983. It was a live album based on the U2 tour to help promote the War album. The band’s anti war message that began with the War album is clearly evident  in the album’s title and photograph on the front cover. The red sky and silhouette of Bono kneeling on the stage is just striking.

# 4 – Achtung Baby

At the number four spot on our top 10 U2 Album Covers list we present the album Achtung Baby. The album was released in late fall of 1991, ten years after the band released their debut record. The Achtung Baby album defined a total reinvention of the band’s sound. It was both shocking and incredibly successful as the album hit number one in just about every country around the world who ranked album sales. The album cover was sort of a modern day color version of The Rolling Stones Exile On Main Street style cover with its collage of photographs. It was the perfect type of album cover to help define the bands new modern rock direction.

# 3 – The Joshua Tree

The Joshua Tree is easily U2’s most popular album. So it would be easy to argue that more people have seen this album cover that any other U2 album cover. Hands down, The Joshua Tree  is the band’s best album they have ever released. It’s a monumental musical work that stands as one of the greatest classic rock albums ever issued. The album cover is also just as phenomenal. The story behind the album cover is very deep as so much time effort and money went into the design and scouting of locations to shoot the album cover. The landscape featured on the album cover was shot along the Amargosa Range at  Zabriskie Point in Death Valley National Park in California. The Joshua  Tree itself was a Yucca Brevifolia tree found in the deserts of the SouthWest United States.

# 2 – Rattle And Hum

Just of the number one spot on our top 10 U2 Album Covers list we present the album  entitled Rattle And Hum. There was just something special about this album cover that represented U2’s embrace of American rock and roll which that album was all about. The labeling, the lighting and the image all cast an image that  defined the portrayal of a band paying tribute to great American rock and roll music. How  could you not respect that?

# 1 – The Unforgettable Fire

We wrap up our top 10 U2 Album Covers list with the raging cover to U2”s magnificent album entitled The Unforgettable Fire. The album was released in 1984. The album’s title is a reference to the fires that burned in the bombing of Hiroshima during World War II. The sames distance of time between the bombing in 1945 and when the album was released in 1984 is almost the same amount of distance between now and when the album came out which is pretty mind blowing when you think about it. The photograph on the cover of the album was a picture of Moydrum Castle which was located in Moydrum, Ireland. The band was sued over the way they depicted the castle on the cover as it was very similar to the cover of the book In Ruins: The Once Great Houses of Ireland. Nonetheless, the imagery and the title of the album was such an extremely powerful statement from a band that was making huge musical statements in every song they were releasing.

Top 10 U2 Album Covers article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021

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