The sounds of the late 1980s was dominated by U2’s fifth studio album, The Joshua Tree, and by its lead single: With or Without You.
Released on March 16, 1987, the troubled love song was developed by the band from a demo first written in 1985 during The Unforgettable Fire tour, and was part of the sessions with producers Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno.
The song reflects lead singer’s Bono’s views of being a public persona versus a private person with his relationships. The band first convened at Larry Mullen Jr.’s home to work on songs before going into the studio.
Starting their recording sessions at Danesmoate House in Dublin, the band experimented with many ideas for the song, but weren’t happy with arrangements and thought about ditching the track from album consideration.
Wanting to give it a last try, Bono worked with his friend/musician Gavin Friday to work on the song, using influences from Scott Walker’s album Climate of Hunter.
Once the album was completed in studio, the band decided on With or Without You as their first lead single, which band manager Paul McGuinness disagreed that it should be the pick.
Released in March, the single debuted at number 64 on the Billboard Hot 100, and in May became the band’s first number one single, and is credited as being the breakthrough song to America.
The song hit number one in the USA, Canada and Ireland and consequently has become of the band’s most beloved songs of all time.