|Studio album by|
|Released||18 November 1991|
|Recorded||October 1990 – September 1991|
|Singles from Achtung Baby|
Achtung Baby (//) is the seventh studio album by Irish rock band U2. It was produced by Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno, and was released on 18 November 1991 on Island Records. Stung by criticism of their 1988 release Rattle and Hum, U2 shifted their musical direction to incorporate influences from alternative rock, industrial music, and electronic dance music into their sound. Thematically, Achtung Baby is darker, more introspective, and at times more flippant than their previous work. The album and the subsequent multimedia-intensive Zoo TV Tour were central to the group's 1990s reinvention, by which they abandoned their earnest public image for a more lighthearted and self-deprecating one.
Seeking inspiration from German reunification, U2 began recording Achtung Baby at Berlin's Hansa Studios in October 1990. The sessions were fraught with conflict, as the band argued over their musical direction and the quality of their material. After tension and slow progress nearly prompted the group to disband, they made a breakthrough with the improvised writing of the song "One". Morale and productivity improved during subsequent recording sessions in Dublin, where the album was completed in 1991. To confound the public's expectations of the band and their music, U2 chose the record's facetious title and colourful multi-image sleeve.
Achtung Baby is one of U2's most successful records; it received favourable reviews and debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 Top Albums, while topping the charts in many other countries. Five songs were released as commercial singles, all of which were chart successes, including "One", "Mysterious Ways", and "The Fly". The album has sold 18 million copies worldwide and won a Grammy Award in 1993 for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. Achtung Baby has since been acclaimed by writers and music critics as one of the greatest albums of all time. The record was reissued in October 2011 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of its original release.
After U2's 1987 album The Joshua Tree and the supporting Joshua Tree Tour brought them critical acclaim and commercial success, their 1988 album and film Rattle and Hum precipitated a critical backlash. Although the record sold 14 million copies and performed well on music charts, critics were dismissive of it and the film, labelling the band's exploration of early American music as "pretentious" and "misguided and bombastic". U2's high exposure and their reputation for being overly serious led to accusations of grandiosity and self-righteousness.
Despite their commercial popularity, the group were dissatisfied creatively; lead vocalist Bono believed they were musically unprepared for their success, while drummer Larry Mullen, Jr. said, "We were the biggest, but we weren't the best." By the band's 1989 Lovetown Tour, they had become bored with playing their greatest hits. U2 believe that audiences misunderstood the group's collaboration with blues musician B.B. King on Rattle and Hum and the Lovetown Tour, and they described it as "an excursion down a dead-end street". Bono said that, in retrospect, listening to black music enabled the group to create a work such as Achtung Baby, while their experiences with folk music helped him to develop as a lyricist. Towards the end of the Lovetown Tour, Bono announced on-stage that it was "the end of something for U2", and that "we have to go away and ... dream it all up again". Following the tour, the group began, what was at the time, their longest break from public performances and album releases.
Reacting to their own sense of musical stagnation and to their critics, U2 searched for new musical ground. They wrote "God Part II" from Rattle and Hum after realising they had excessively pursued nostalgia in their songwriting. The song had a more contemporary feel that Bono said was closer to Achtung Baby's direction. Further indications of change were two recordings they made in 1990: the first was a cover version of "Night and Day" for the first Red Hot + Blue release, in which U2 used electronic dance beats and hip hop elements for the first time; the second indication of change was contributions made by Bono and guitarist the Edge to the original score of A Clockwork Orange's stage adaptation. Much of the material they wrote was experimental, and according to Bono, "prepar[ed] the ground for Achtung Baby". Ideas deemed inappropriate for the play were put aside for the band's use. During this period, Bono and the Edge began increasingly writing songs together without Mullen or bassist Adam Clayton.
In mid-1990, Bono reviewed material he had written in Australia on the Lovetown Tour, and the group recorded demos at STS Studios in Dublin. The demos later evolved into the songs "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses", "Until the End of the World", "Even Better Than the Real Thing", and "Mysterious Ways". After their time at STS Studios, Bono and the Edge were tasked with continuing to work on lyrics and melodies until the group reconvened. Going into the album sessions, U2 wanted the record to completely deviate from their past work, but they were unsure how to achieve this. The emergence of the Madchester scene in the UK left them confused about how they would fit into any particular musical scene.
Recording and production
U2 hired Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno to produce the album, based on the duo's prior work with the band on The Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree. Lanois was principal producer, with Mark "Flood" Ellis as engineer. Eno took on an assisting role, working with the group in the studio for a week at a time to review their songs before leaving for a month or two. Eno said his role was "to come in and erase anything that sounded too much like U2". By distancing himself from the work, he believed he provided the band with a fresh perspective on their material each time he rejoined them. As he explained, "I would deliberately not listen to the stuff in between visits, so I could go in cold". Since U2 wanted the record to be harder-hitting and live-sounding, Lanois "push[ed] the performance aspect very hard, often to the point of recklessness". The Lanois–Eno team used lateral thinking and a philosophical approach—popularised by Eno's Oblique Strategies—that contrasted with the direct and retro style of Rattle and Hum producer Jimmy Iovine.
The band believed that "domesticity [w]as the enemy of rock 'n' roll" and that to work on the album, they needed to remove themselves from their normal family-oriented routines. With a "New Europe" emerging at the end of the Cold War, they chose Berlin, in the centre of the reuniting continent, as a source of inspiration for a more European musical aesthetic. They chose to record at Hansa Studios in West Berlin, near the recently opened Berlin Wall. Several acclaimed records were made at Hansa, including two from David Bowie's "Berlin Trilogy" with Eno, and Iggy Pop's The Idiot. U2 arrived on 3 October 1990 on the last flight into East Berlin on the eve of German reunification. While looking for public celebrations, they mistakenly ended up joining an anti-unification protest by Communists. Expecting to be inspired in Berlin, U2 instead found the city to be depressing and gloomy. The collapse of the Berlin Wall had resulted in a state of malaise in Germany. The band found their East Berlin hotel to be dismal and the winter inhospitable, while Hansa Studios' location in an SS ballroom added to the "bad vibe". Complicating matters, the studios had been neglected for years, forcing Eno and Lanois to import recording equipment.
Morale worsened once the sessions commenced, as the band worked long days but could not agree on a musical direction. The Edge had been listening to electronic dance music and to industrial bands like Einstürzende Neubauten, Nine Inch Nails, the Young Gods, and KMFDM. He and Bono advocated new musical directions along these lines. In contrast, Mullen was listening to classic rock acts such as Blind Faith, Cream, and Jimi Hendrix, and he was learning how to "play around the beat". Like Clayton, he was more comfortable with a sound similar to U2's previous work and was resistant to the proposed innovations. Further, the Edge's interest in dance club mixes and drum machines made Mullen feel that his contributions as a drummer were being diminished. Lanois was expecting the "textural and emotional and cinematic U2" of The Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree, and he did not understand the "throwaway, trashy kinds of things" on which Bono and the Edge were working. Compounding the divisions between the two camps was a change in the band's longstanding songwriting relationship; Bono and the Edge were working more closely together, writing material in isolation from the rest of the group.
U2 found that they were neither prepared nor well-rehearsed, and that their ideas were not evolving into completed songs. The group were unable to reach consensus during their disagreements and felt that they were not making progress. Bono and Lanois, in particular, had an argument that almost came to blows during the writing of "Mysterious Ways". During one tense session, Clayton removed his bass guitar and held it out to Bono, saying, "You tell me what to play and I'll play it. You want to play it yourself? Go ahead." With a sense of going nowhere, the band considered breaking up. Eno visited for a few days, and understanding their attempts to deconstruct the band, he assured them that their progress was better than they thought. By adding unusual effects and sounds, he showed that the Edge's pursuit for new sonic territory was not incompatible with Mullen's and Lanois' "desire to hold on to solid song structures". Ultimately, a breakthrough was achieved with the writing of the song "One". While working on "Sick Puppy"—an early version of "Mysterious Ways"—The Edge played two separate chord progressions sequentially on guitar at Lanois' encouragement, and finding inspiration, the group quickly improvised a new song that became "One". It provided reassurance and validated their long-standing "blank page approach" to writing and recording together.
U2 returned to Dublin for Christmas, where they discussed their future together and all recommitted to the group. Listening to the tapes, they agreed their material sounded better than they originally thought. They briefly returned to Berlin in January 1991 to finish their work at Hansa. Reflecting on their time in Berlin, Clayton called the sessions a "baptism of fire" and said, "It was something we had to go through to realize what we were trying to get to was not something you could find physically, outside of ourselves, in some other city—that there was not magic to it and that we actually had to put the work in and figure out the ideas and hone those ideas down." Although just two songs were delivered during their two months in Berlin, the Edge said that in retrospect, working there had been more productive and inspirational than the output had suggested. The band had been removed from a familiar environment, providing what they described as a certain "texture and cinematic location", and many of their incomplete ideas would be revisited in the subsequent Dublin sessions with success.
In February 1991, U2 moved the album's recording sessions to the seaside manor Elsinore in the Dublin suburb of Dalkey, renting the house for £10,000 per month. The band nicknamed the house "Dog Town" for the "tackiness" of its exterior dog kennels, and the location was credited as such in the album notes. Lanois' strategy to record in houses, mansions, or castles was something he believed brought atmosphere to the recordings. Dublin audio services company Big Bear Sound installed a recording studio in the house, with the recording room in a converted garage diagonally beneath the control room. Video cameras and TV monitors were used to monitor and communicate between the spaces. With Elsinore located within walking distance of Bono's and the Edge's homes, the sessions there were more relaxed and productive. The band struggled with one particular song—later released as the B-side "Lady With the Spinning Head"—but three separate tracks, "The Fly", "Ultraviolet (Light My Way)" and "Zoo Station", were derived from it. During the writing of "The Fly", Bono created a persona based on an oversized pair of black sunglasses that he wore to lighten the mood in the studio. The character, also named "The Fly", evolved into a leather-clad egomaniac meant to parody rock stardom. Bono assumed this alter ego for the band's subsequent public appearances and live performances on the Zoo TV Tour.
In April, tapes from the earlier Berlin sessions were stolen after the band reportedly left them in a hotel room, and they were subsequently leaked before the album was finished. The tapes' demos were bootlegged into a three-disc collection dubbed the "Salome - The [Axtung Beibi] Outtakes", named for a song that was prominently featured in the collection but did not make the album's final cut. The release is considered the most famous bootleg of U2 material. Bono dismissed the leaked demos as "gobbledygook", and the Edge likened the situation to "being violated". The leak shook U2's confidence and soured their collective mood for a few weeks.
Staffing schedules led to the band having a surplus of engineers at one point, and as a result, they split recording between Elsinore and the Edge's home studio to increase productivity. Engineer Robbie Adams said the approach raised morale and activity levels: "There was always something different to listen to, always something exciting happening." To record all of the band's material and test different arrangements, the engineers utilised a technique they called "fatting", which allowed them to achieve more than 48 tracks of audio by using a 24-track analogue recording, a DAT machine, and a synchroniser. The focus on capturing the band's material and encouraging the best performances meant that little attention was paid to combating audio spill. In issue 14 of U2's fan magazine Propaganda, Lanois said that he believed some of the in-progress songs would become worldwide hits, despite lyrics and vocal takes being unfinished.
During the Dublin sessions, Eno was sent tapes of the previous two months' work, which he called a "total disaster". Joining U2 in the studio, he stripped away what he thought to be excessive overdubbing. The group believes his intervention saved the album. Eno theorised that the band was too close to their music, explaining, "if you know a piece of music terribly well and the mix changes and the bass guitar goes very quiet, you still hear the bass. You're so accustomed to it being there that you compensate and remake it in your mind." Eno also assisted them through a crisis point one month before the recording deadline; he recalled that "everything seemed like a mess", and he insisted the band take a two-week holiday. The break gave them a clearer perspective and added decisiveness.
After work at Elsinore finished in July, the sessions moved to Windmill Lane Studios where Eno, Flood, Lanois, and previous U2 producer Steve Lillywhite mixed the tracks. Each producer created his own mixes of the songs, and the band either picked the version they preferred or requested that certain aspects of each be combined. Additional recording and mixing continued at a frenetic pace until the 21 September deadline, including last-minute changes to "The Fly", "One", and "Mysterious Ways". The Edge estimated that half of the sessions' work was done in the last three weeks to finalise songs. The final night was spent devising a running order for the record. The following day, the Edge travelled to Los Angeles with the album's tapes for mastering.
—The Edge, explaining the band's motivation for seeking a new sound
U2 is credited with composing the music for all of Achtung Baby's tracks, despite periods of separated songwriting. They wrote the music primarily through jam sessions, a common practice for them. The album represents a deviation from the sound of their past work; the songs are less anthemic in nature, and their musical style demonstrates a more European aesthetic, introducing influences from alternative rock, industrial music, and electronic dance music. The band referred to the album's musical departure as "the sound of four men chopping down The Joshua Tree". Accordingly, the distorted introduction to the opening track "Zoo Station" was intended to make listeners think the record was broken or was mistakenly not the new U2 album. Author Susan Fast said that with the group's use of technology in the song's opening, "there can be no mistake that U2 has embraced sound resources new to them".
For the album, the Edge often eschewed his normally minimalistic approach to guitar playing and his trademark chiming, delay-heavy sound, in favour of a style that incorporated more solos, dissonance, and feedback. Industrial influences and guitar effects, particularly distortion, contributed to a "metallic" style and "harder textures". Music journalist Bill Wyman said the Edge's guitar playing on the closing track "Love Is Blindness" sounded like a "dentist's drill". The Edge achieved breakthroughs in the writing of songs such as "Even Better Than the Real Thing" and "Mysterious Ways" by toying with various effects units.
The rhythm section is more pronounced in the mix on Achtung Baby, and hip hop-inspired electronic dance beats are featured on many of the album's tracks, most prominently "The Fly". Elysa Gardner of Rolling Stone compared the layering of dance beats into guitar-heavy mixes to songs by British bands Happy Mondays and Jesus Jones. "Mysterious Ways" combines a funky guitar riff with a danceable, conga-laden beat, for what Bono called "U2 at our funkiest... Sly and The Family Stone meets Madchester baggy." Amidst layers of distorted guitars, "The Fly" and "Zoo Station" feature industrial-influenced percussion—the timbre of Mullen's drums exhibits a "cold, processed sound, something like beating on a tin can", according to author Albin Zak.
Whereas Bono exhibited a full-throated vocal delivery on the group's previous releases, for Achtung Baby he extended his range into a lower register and used what Fast described as "breathy and subdued colors". On many tracks, including "The Fly" and "Zoo Station", he sang as a character; one technique used is what Fast called "double voice", in which the vocals are doubled but sung in two different octaves. This octave differentiation was sometimes done with vocals simultaneously, while at other times, it distinguishes voices between the verses and choruses. According to Fast, the technique introduces "a contrasting lyrical idea and vocal character to deliver it", leading to both literal and ironic interpretations of Bono's vocals. For several tracks, his vocals were treated with processing. These techniques were used to give his voice a different emotional feel and distinguish it from his past vocals.
As is often the case on U2 albums, Bono is credited as the sole lyricist. In contrast to U2's previous records, whose lyrics were politically and socially charged, Achtung Baby is more personal and introspective, examining love, sexuality, spirituality, faith, and betrayal. The lyrics are darker in tone, describing troubled personal relationships and exuding feelings of confusion, loneliness, and inadequacy. Central to these themes was the Edge's separation from his wife (the mother of his three children), which occurred halfway through the album's recording. The pain not only focused him on the record and led him to advocate more personal themes, but it also affected Bono's lyrical contributions. Bono found inspiration from his own personal life, citing the births of his two daughters in 1989 and 1991 as major influences. This is reflected in "Zoo Station", which opens the album as a statement of intent with lyrics suggesting new anticipations and appetites.
Of the album's personal nature, Bono said that there were a lot of "blood and guts" in it. His lyrics to the ballad "One" were inspired by the band members' struggling relationships and the German reunification. The Edge described the song on one level as a "bitter, twisted, vitriolic conversation between two people who've been through some nasty, heavy stuff". Similarly, "Ultraviolet (Light My Way)" describes a strained relationship and unease over obligations, and on "Acrobat", Bono sings about weakness, hypocrisy, and inadequacy. The torch songs of Roy Orbison, Scott Walker, and Jacques Brel were major influences, evidenced by tracks such as: "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses", a description of a couple's argument; "So Cruel", about unrequited love, obsession, and possessiveness; and the closing track, "Love Is Blindness", a bleak account of a failing romance.
U2 biographer Bill Flanagan credits Bono's habit of keeping his lyrics "in flux until the last minute" with providing a narrative coherence to the album. Flanagan interpreted Achtung Baby as using the moon as a metaphor for a dark woman seducing the singer away from his virtuous love, the sun; he is tempted away from domestic life by an exciting nightlife and tests how far he can go before returning home. For Flanagan, "Tryin' to Throw Your Arms Around the World" on the album's latter third describes the character stumbling home in a drunken state, and the final three songs—"Ultraviolet (Light My Way)", "Acrobat", and "Love Is Blindness"—are about how the couple deal with the suffering they have forced on each other.
Despite the record's darker themes, many lyrics are more flippant and sexual than those from the band's previous work. This reflects the group's revisiting some of the Dadaist characters and stage antics they dabbled with in the late 1970s as teenagers but abandoned for more literal themes in the 1980s. While the band had previously been opposed to materialism, they examined and flirted with this value on the album and the Zoo TV Tour. The title and lyrics of "Even Better Than the Real Thing" are "reflective of the times [the band] were living in, when people were no longer looking for the truth, [they] were all looking for instant gratification". "Trashy" and "throwaway" were among the band's buzzwords during recording, leading to many tracks in this vein. The chorus of "Ultraviolet (Light My Way)" features the pop lyrical cliché "baby, baby, baby", juxtaposed against the dark lyrics in the verses. Bono wrote the lyrics to "The Fly" in character as the song's eponymous persona by composing a sequence of aphorisms. He called the song "like a crank call from Hell... but [the caller] likes it there".
Religious imagery is present throughout the record. "Until the End of the World" is an imagined conversation between Jesus Christ and his betrayer, Judas Iscariot. On "Acrobat", Bono sings about feelings of spiritual alienation in the line "I'd break bread and wine / If there was a church I could receive in". In many tracks, Bono's lyrics about women carry religious connotations, describing them as spirits, life, light, and idols to be worshipped. Religious interpretations of the album are the subject of the book Meditations on Love in the Shadow of the Fall from the 33⅓ series.
Packaging and title
—Mat Snow, contrasting the title and artwork of Achtung Baby with U2's previous albums
The sleeve artwork for Achtung Baby was designed by Steve Averill, who had created the majority of U2's album covers, along with Shaughn McGrath. To parallel the band's change in musical direction, Averill and McGrath devised sleeve concepts that used multiple colour images to contrast with the seriousness of the individual, mostly monochromatic images from previous U2 album sleeves. Rough sketches and designs were created early during the recording sessions, and some experimental designs were conceived to closely resemble, as Averill put it, "dance-music oriented sleeves. We just did them to show how extreme we could go and then everyone came back to levels that they were happy with. But if we hadn't gone to these extremes it may not have been the cover it is now."
An initial photo shoot with the band's long-time photographer Anton Corbijn was done near U2's Berlin hotel in late 1990. Most of the photos were black-and-white, and the group felt they were not indicative of the spirit of the new album. They recommissioned Corbijn for an additional two-week photo shoot in Tenerife in February 1991, for which they dressed up and mingled with the crowds of the annual Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, presenting a more playful side of themselves. It was during the group's time in Tenerife and during a four-day shoot in Morocco in July that they were photographed in drag. Additional photos were taken in Dublin in June, including a shot of a naked Clayton. The images were intended to confound expectations of U2, and their full colour contrasted with the monochromatic imagery on past sleeves.
Several photographs were considered as candidates for a single cover image, including shots of: a cow on an Irish farm in County Kildare; the nude Clayton; and the band driving a Trabant, an East German automobile they became fond of as a symbol for a changing Europe. Ultimately, a multiple image scheme was used, as U2, Corbijn, Averill, and the producers thought that "the sense of flux expressed by both the music and the band's playing with alter egos was best articulated by the lack of a single viewpoint". The resulting front sleeve is a 4×4 squared montage. A mix of Corbijn's original images from Berlin and the later photo shoots was used, as the band wanted to balance the "colder European feel of the mainly black-and-white Berlin images with the much warmer exotic climates of Santa Cruz and Morocco". Some photographs were used because they were striking on their own, while others were used because of their ambiguity. Images of the band with Trabants, several of which were painted bright colours, appear on the sleeve and throughout the album booklet. These vehicles were later incorporated into the Zoo TV Tour set design as part of the lighting system. The nude photo of Clayton was placed on the rear cover of the record. On the US compact disc and cassette sleeves, Clayton's genitals are censored with a black "X" or a four-leaf clover, while vinyl editions feature the photo uncensored. The label of the physical CD and vinyl record features an image of a "babyface" graffitied by artist Charlie Whisker onto an external wall of Windmill Lane Studios. The babyface image was later adopted as a logo for Zoo TV Tour memorabilia and was incorporated into the Zooropa album cover. In 2003, music television network VH1 ranked Achtung Baby's sleeve at number 39 on its list of the "50 Greatest Album Covers". Bono has called the sleeve his favourite U2 cover artwork.
The German word Achtung (German: [ˈaxtʊŋ] (listen)) in the album title translates into English as "attention" or "watch out". U2's sound engineer Joe O'Herlihy used the phrase "achtung baby" during recording, reportedly taking it from the Mel Brooks film The Producers. The title was selected in August 1991 near the end of the album sessions. According to Bono, it was an ideal title, as it was attention-grabbing, referenced Germany, and hinted at either romance or birth, both of which were themes on the album. The band were determined not to highlight the seriousness of the lyrics and instead sought to "erect a mask" with the title, a concept that was further developed on the Zoo TV Tour, particularly through Bono's characters such as "The Fly". Of the title, he said in 1992, "It's a con, in a way. We call it Achtung Baby, grinning up our sleeves in all the photography. But it's probably the heaviest record we've ever made... It tells you a lot about packaging, because the press would have killed us if we'd called it anything else."
U2 considered several other titles for the album, including Man (in contrast to the group's debut, Boy), 69, Zoo Station, and Adam, the latter of which would have been paired with the nude photo of Clayton. Other titles in consideration included Fear of Women and Cruise Down Main Street, the latter a reference to the Rolling Stones' record Exile on Main St. and the cruise missiles launched on Baghdad during the Gulf War. Most of the proposed titles were rejected out of the belief that people would see them as pretentious and "another Big Statement from U2".
Release and promotion
As early as December 1990, the music press reported that U2 would be recording a dance-oriented album and that it would be released in mid-1991. In August 1991, sound collage artists Negativland released an EP entitled U2 that parodied U2's song "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For". Island Records objected to the release, believing consumers would confuse the EP for a new U2 record. Island successfully sued for copyright infringement but were criticised in the music press, as were U2, although they were not involved in the litigation. Uncut's Stephen Dalton believes that the negative headlines were tempered by the success of Achtung Baby's first single, "The Fly", released on 21 October 1991 a month before the album. Sounding nothing like U2's typical style, it was selected as the lead single to announce the group's new musical direction. It became their second song to top the UK Singles Chart, while reaching number one on the singles charts in Ireland and Australia. The single was less successful in the US, peaking at number 61 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Island Records and U2 refused to make advance copies of the album available to the press until just a few days before the release date, preferring that fans listen to the record before reading reviews. The decision came amid rumours of tensions within the band, and journalist David Browne compared it to the Hollywood practice of withholding pre-release copies of films from reviewers whenever they receive poor word-of-mouth press. Achtung Baby was released on 18 November 1991 in the UK and 19 November in the US on compact disc, tape cassette, and vinyl record, with an initial shipment of more than 1.4 million copies in the US. The album was the first release by a major act to use two so-called "eco-friendly" packages—the cardboard Digipak, and the shrinkwrapped jewel case without the longbox cardboard attachment. Island encouraged record stores to order the jewel case packaging by offering a four-percent discount.
Achtung Baby was U2's first album in three years and their first comprising entirely new material in over four years. The group maintained a low profile after the record's release, avoiding interviews and allowing critics and the public to make their own assessments. Instead of participating in an article with Rolling Stone magazine, U2 asked Eno to write one for them. The marketing plan for the album focused on retail and press promotions. In addition to television and radio advertisements being produced, posters featuring the sleeve's 16 images were distributed to record stores and through alternative newspapers in major cities. Compared to the large hype of other 1991 year-end releases, the marketing for Achtung Baby was relatively understated, as Island general manager Andy Allen explained: "U2 will not come out with that kind of fanfare in terms of outside media. We feel the fan base itself creates that kind of excitement."
"Mysterious Ways" was released as the second single five days after the release of Achtung Baby. On the US Billboard charts, the song topped the Modern Rock Tracks and Album Rock Tracks charts, and it reached number nine on the Hot 100. Elsewhere, it reached number one in Canada and number three in Australia. In addition to the success of the first two singles, the album performed well commercially; in the US, Achtung Baby debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 Top Albums on 7 December 1991, having sold 295,000 copies in its first week. The album fell to number three the following week, but spent its first 13 weeks on the chart within the top ten. In total, it spent 101 weeks on the Billboard 200 Top Albums. On 21 January 1992, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified it double-platinum. Achtung Baby peaked at number two on the UK Albums Chart, spending 92 weeks on the chart. In other regions, it topped the RPM 100 in Canada, the ARIA Albums Chart in Australia, and the RIANZ Top 40 Albums in New Zealand. The record sold seven million copies in its first three months on sale.
Three additional commercial singles were released in 1992. "One", released in March at the beginning of the Zoo TV Tour, reached number seven in the UK and number ten in the US charts. Like its predecessor, it topped the Modern Rock Tracks chart, and the singles charts in Canada and Ireland. The song has since become regarded as one of the greatest of all time, ranking highly on many critics' lists. The fourth single from Achtung Baby, "Even Better Than the Real Thing", was released in June. The album version of the song peaked at number 12 on the UK Singles Chart, while reaching number one on the US Album Rock Tracks chart. A "Perfecto" remix of the song by DJ Paul Oakenfold performed better in the UK than the album version did, peaking at number eight. "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses" followed in August 1992 as the fifth and final single. It peaked at number 14 on the UK Singles Chart, and number two on the US Album Rock Tracks chart. All five commercial singles charted within the top 20 in Ireland, Australia, Canada, and UK. Promotional singles for "Until the End of the World", "Salomé", and "Zoo Station" were also released. By the end of 1992, Achtung Baby had sold 10 million copies worldwide.
In October 1992, U2 released Achtung Baby: The Videos, the Cameos, and a Whole Lot of Interference from Zoo TV, a VHS and LaserDisc compilation of nine music videos from the album. Running for 65 minutes, it was produced by Ned O'Hanlon and released by Island and PolyGram. It included three music videos each for "One" and "Even Better than the Real Thing", along with videos for "The Fly", "Mysterious Ways", and "Until the End of the World". Interspersed between the music videos were clips of so-called "interference", comprising documentary footage, media clips, and other video similar to what was displayed at Zoo TV Tour concerts. The release was certified platinum in the US, and gold in Canada.
|1.||"Interference"||Maurice Linnane||[nb 2]|
|2.||"Even Better Than the Real Thing"||Kevin Godley||3:41|
|4.||"Mysterious Ways"||Stéphane Sednaoui||4:02|
|5.||"One" (version 1)||Anton Corbijn||4:34|
|6.||"The Fly"||Ritchie Smyth, Jon Klein||4:52|
|8.||"Even Better Than the Real Thing" (dance mix)||Smyth||4:35|
|9.||"One" (version 2)||Mark Pellington||4:34|
|10.||"Even Better Than the Real Thing"||Armando Gallo, Kampah||3:45|
|11.||"One" (version 3)||Phil Joanou||4:34|
|12.||"Until the End of the World"||Smyth||4:38|
|Los Angeles Times|||
|The New Zealand Herald|||
Achtung Baby received acclaim from critics. Elysa Gardner of Rolling Stone said U2 had "proven that the same penchant for epic musical and verbal gestures that leads many artists to self-parody can, in more inspired hands, fuel the unforgettable fire that defines great rock & roll." The review said that the album, like its predecessor Rattle and Hum, was an attempt by the band to "broaden its musical palette, but this time its ambitions are realized". Bill Wyman from Entertainment Weekly called it a "pristinely produced and surprisingly unpretentious return by one of the most impressive bands in the world". Steve Morse of The Boston Globe echoed these sentiments, stating that the album "not only reinvigorates their sound, but drops any self-righteousness. The songs focus on personal relationships, not on saving the world." Morse commended the album's "clanging, knob-twisting sound effects" and the Edge's "metallic, head-snapping guitar". In the Los Angeles Times, Robert Hilburn stated, "the arty, guitar-driven textures are among the band's most confident and vigorous ever". He said the album is a difficult one for listeners because of the dark, introspective nature of the songs, which contrasts with the group's uplifting songs of the past. Parry Gettelmen of the Orlando Sentinel said that Achtung Baby "shows U2 still has the power to surprise", highlighting the warmth of Bono's vocals, the imagery of his lyrics, and the producers for helping the Edge "achieve a spacious sound without getting anthemic". He commended the band's musical transformation, saying, "U2 proves much more adept at the dance-trance thing than the Happy Roses or Stone Carpets or other indistinguishable haircut bands". Jon Pareles of The New York Times lauded the record not only for featuring "noisy, vertiginous arrangements", but also for the group's ability to "maintain its pop skills". The review concluded, "Stripped-down and defying its old formulas, U2 has given itself a fighting chance for the 1990s."
Q's Mat Snow called Achtung Baby U2's "heaviest album to date. And best." Snow praised the band and its production team for making "music of drama, depth, intensity and, believe it, funkiness". Adam Sweeting of The Guardian said that with the album, U2 "evolved a raw, semi-industrial noise though [sic] which to filter strong melodies and thrusting funk-rock grooves". He praised the group for improving their songwriting and incorporating "black humour" into darker lyrical themes. He called the album "quite an achievement" in following up a successful record, responding to emerging musical influences, and expanding the band's sound while still pleasing existing fans. Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune felt the record "shows the band in a grittier light: disrupting, rather than fulfilling, expectations". He praised Lanois' production and said that due to the Edge's guitar playing, "U2 sounds punkier than it has since its 1980 debut, Boy". Kot concluded his review by calling the album "a magnificent search for transcendence made all the more moving for its flaws". Niall Stokes of Hot Press found the album to be paradoxical, calling it U2's bleakest record while containing "their most obvious singles", and saying, "It sounds less like the U2 that we know than anything they have done before and yet it is unmistakably them". He wrote, "Ostensibly decadent, sensual and dark, it is a record of, and for, these times." The New Zealand Herald found it "pretty damn good" and its sound "subdued, tightly controlled, [and] introverted". However, it said that too many "downbeat moments where songs seem to be going nowhere" prevented it from being a "truly wondrous affair". In Spin, Jim Greer was more critical of the album, calling it an "ambitious failure"; the review welcomed its experimentation but judged that when the group "strays from familiar territory, the results are hit-and-miss". Village Voice critic Robert Christgau rated it a dud, indicating a bad album unworthy of a review.
The success of Achtung Baby and the Zoo TV Tour re-established U2 as one of the most popular and critically acclaimed musical acts in the world. The group nearly swept Rolling Stone's 1992 end-of-year readers' polls, winning honours for "Best Single" ("One"), "Artist of the Year", "Best Album", "Best Songwriter" (Bono), "Best Album Cover", and "Comeback of the Year", among others. Critics at several newspapers, such as The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and the Chicago Sun-Times, ranked the album among the year's best. The album placed fourth on the "Best Albums" list from The Village Voice's 1991 Pazz & Jop critics' poll. At the 35th Annual Grammy Awards, Achtung Baby won the award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, and it earned Lanois and Eno the award for Producer of the Year (Non-Classical). The record was also nominated for the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, and was shortlisted for the 1992 Mercury Music Prize.
Zoo TV Tour
Following the release of Achtung Baby, U2 staged a worldwide concert tour, titled the Zoo TV Tour. Like Achtung Baby, the tour was intended to deviate from the band's past. In contrast to the austere stage setups of previous U2 tours, Zoo TV was an elaborately staged multimedia event. It satirised television and the viewing public's over-stimulation by attempting to instill "sensory overload" in its audience. The stage featured large video screens that showed visual effects, random video clips from pop culture, and flashing text phrases. Live satellite link-ups, channel surfing, crank calls, and video confessionals were incorporated into the shows.
Whereas the group were known for their earnest live act in the 1980s, their Zoo TV performances were intentionally ironic and self-deprecating; on stage, Bono portrayed several characters he conceived, including "The Fly", "Mirror Ball Man", and "MacPhisto". The majority of the album's songs were played at each show, and the set lists began with up to eight consecutive Achtung Baby songs as a further sign that they were no longer the U2 of the 1980s.
The tour began in February 1992 and comprised 157 shows over almost two years. During a six-month break, the band recorded the album Zooropa, which was released in July 1993. It was inspired by Zoo TV and expanded on its themes of technology and media oversaturation. By the time the tour concluded in December 1993, U2 had played to approximately 5.3 million fans. In 2002, Q magazine said the Zoo TV Tour was "still the most spectacular rock tour staged by any band". The tour's 27 November 1993 concert in Sydney was filmed and commercially released as Zoo TV: Live from Sydney by PolyGram in May 1994.
|The A.V. Club||A|
|Encyclopedia of Popular Music|||
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
|Spin Alternative Record Guide||10/10|
Achtung Baby is certified 8× platinum in the US by the RIAA, and according to Nielsen Soundscan, the album had sold 5.5 million copies in the country by March 2009. The record has been certified 5× platinum in Australia, 4× platinum in the UK, and diamond in Canada, the highest certification award. Overall, 18 million copies have been sold worldwide. It is U2's second-highest-selling record after The Joshua Tree, which has sold 25 million copies. For the band, Achtung Baby was a watershed that secured their creative future, and its success led to the group's continued musical experimentation during the 1990s. Zooropa, released in 1993, was a further departure for the band, incorporating additional dance music influences and electronic effects into their sound. In 1995, U2 and Brian Eno collaborated on the experimental/ambient album Original Soundtracks 1 under the pseudonym "Passengers". For Pop in 1997, the group's experiences with dance club culture and their usage of tape loops, programming, rhythm sequencing, and sampling resulted in their most dance-oriented album.
The record is highly regarded among the members of U2. Mullen said: "I thought it was a great record. I was very proud of it. Its success was by no means preordained. It was a real break from what we had done before and we didn't know if our fans would like it or not." Bono called the album a "pivot point" in the band's career, saying, "Making Achtung Baby is the reason we're still here now." Clayton concurred, saying: "If we hadn't done something we were excited about, that made us apprehensive and challenged everything we stood for, then there would really have been no reason to carry on... If it hadn't been a great record by our standards, the existence of the band would have been threatened." The group's reinvention occurred at the peak of the alternative rock movement, when the genre was achieving widespread mainstream popularity. Bill Flanagan pointed out that many of U2's 1980s contemporaries struggled commercially with albums released after the turn of the decade. He argued that U2, however, were able to take advantage of the alternative rock movement and ensure a successful future by "set[ting] themselves up as the first of the new groups rather than the last of the old". Toby Creswell echoed these sentiments in his 2006 music reference book 1001 Songs, writing that the album helped U2 avoid "becoming parodies of themselves and being swept aside by the grunge and techno revolutions". AllMusic called the album "a pivotal moment for dance-rock, happening late in the game but showing that even the biggest young band in the world had an eye on the dancefloor". In a retrospective review for AllMusic, Stephen Thomas Erlewine called the band's musical transformation "thorough", "effective", and "endlessly inventive". He concluded that few artists at that stage in their career could have "recorded an album as adventurous or fulfilled their ambitions quite as successfully as U2 [did]". A 2010 retrospective by Spin said that "U2 became the emblematic band of the alternative-rock era with Achtung Baby."
Achtung Baby has been acclaimed by writers and music critics as one of the greatest albums of all time; according to Acclaimed Music, it is the 80th-highest-ranked record on critics' lists. In 1997, The Guardian collated worldwide data from a range of renowned critics, artists, and radio DJs, who placed the record at number 71 on a list of the "100 Best Albums Ever". The record was ranked 36th in Colin Larkin's 2000 book All Time Top 1000 Albums. In 2003, the National Association of Recording Merchandisers ranked it at number 45 on its "Definitive 200" list, while USA Today featured it on their list of the top 40 albums of all time. Rolling Stone placed the record at number 62 on its 2003 list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Subsequent updates to the list re-ranked the album; the 2012 version ranked it 63rd, calling it "a prescient mix of sleek rock and pulsing Euro grooves" while saying "the emotional turmoil made U2 sound more human than ever"; the 2020 version of the list ranked it 124th. In 2006, the album appeared on a number of all-time lists, including Hot Press's "100 Greatest Albums Ever" at number 21, Time's list of "The All-Time 100 Albums", and the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. VH1 ranked it 65th on the "100 Greatest Albums of Rock & Roll" episode of its series The Greatest. Entertainment Weekly's 2013 list of the "All-Time Greatest" albums ranked the record 23rd, saying that instead of "coast[ing] forever on the cinematic storytelling they mastered on the excellently righteous The Joshua Tree", the group "ripped up the rule book" with Achtung Baby. The record topped Spin's list of the 125 most influential albums from 1985 to 2010; writer Charles Aaron said: "Unlike Radiohead with OK Computer and Kid A, U2 took their post-industrial, trad-rock disillusionment not as a symbol of overall cultural malaise, but as a challenge to buck up and transcend... Struggling to simultaneously embrace and blow up the world, they were never more inspirational." By contrast, Christgau remained unimpressed by the album more than two years after its release and reflected in retrospect: "After many, many tries, Achtung Baby still sounded like a damnably diffuse U2 album to me, and I put it in the hall unable to describe a single song."
20th anniversary releases
The 20th anniversary of Achtung Baby was marked by several releases in 2011. At the band's request, a documentary film about the album entitled From the Sky Down was produced. It was directed by Davis Guggenheim, who previously collaborated with the Edge for the documentary It Might Get Loud in 2008. From the Sky Down documents the album's difficult recording period, the band members' relationships, and U2's creative process. Archival footage and stills from the recording sessions appear in the film, along with unreleased scenes from Rattle and Hum. For the documentary, the band were filmed during a return visit to Hansa Studios and during rehearsals for the Glastonbury Festival 2011. The film premiered at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival, becoming the first documentary to open the festival, and in October, it was broadcast on multiple television networks worldwide.
On 31 October 2011, Achtung Baby was reissued in five formats. In addition to a single-disc release of the album, a deluxe edition included a bonus disc of remixes and B-sides from the album's five singles, and a vinyl edition included the album on two LPs with two additional LPs of remixes. The 10-disc "Super Deluxe" and "Über Deluxe" editions included: the Zooropa album; three additional CDs with remixes, B-sides, and outtakes; a "kindergarten" disc with nascent versions of Achtung Baby's 12 songs; four DVDs containing From the Sky Down, the Zoo TV: Live from Sydney concert film, music videos, and other bonus material; 16 art prints; and a hardback book. The "Über Deluxe" edition also contains a double-vinyl copy of the album, five 7-inch vinyl singles, a copy of U2's fan club magazine Propaganda, and a replica of Bono's "Fly" sunglasses. The media initially reported that the reissue was a remastered release. However, the reissue's official website initially excluded any mention of "remastering" before adding it and then removing it. The Edge confirmed that the album was not fully remastered since "the original was so right" and so much "artistry had gone into the original EQ'ing" but did say that they were able to "optimize it... tweak the levels, give it a bit of a polish". "Blow Your House Down", an outtake included in the deluxe editions, was released as a promotional single in October 2011.
Q commissioned an Achtung Baby tribute album, entitled AHK-toong BAY-bi Covered, that was included in the magazine's December 2011 issue. It features performances by Jack White, Depeche Mode, Damien Rice, Gavin Friday, Glasvegas, The Fray, Patti Smith, The Killers, Snow Patrol, Nine Inch Nails, and Garbage.
2018 vinyl reissue
Continuing a campaign by U2 to reissue all of their records on vinyl, Achtung Baby was re-released on two 180-gram vinyl records on 27 July 2018. Unlike the 2011 reissue, the album was remastered for its 2018 reissue, with direction from the Edge. Each copy includes a download card that can be used to redeem a digital copy of the album.
All lyrics are written by Bono; all music is composed by U2.
|1.||"Zoo Station"||Daniel Lanois||4:36|
|2.||"Even Better Than the Real Thing"||Steve Lillywhite, with Brian Eno and Lanois||3:41|
|3.||"One"||Lanois with Eno||4:36|
|4.||"Until the End of the World"||Lanois with Eno||4:39|
|5.||"Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses"||Lillywhite, Lanois, and Eno||5:16|
|8.||"Mysterious Ways"||Lanois with Eno||4:04|
|9.||"Tryin' to Throw Your Arms Around the World"||Lanois with Eno||3:53|
|10.||"Ultraviolet (Light My Way)"||Lanois with Eno||5:31|
|12.||"Love Is Blindness"||Lanois||4:23|
|Year||Title||Chart peak positions||Certifications|
|"Even Better Than the Real Thing"||3||11||3||8||32|
|"Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses"||4||9||5||14||35|
|"Until the End of the World"||–||–||69||–||–|
|"–" denotes a release that did not chart.|
|Australia (ARIA)||5× Platinum||350,000^|
|Austria (IFPI Austria)||Platinum||50,000*|
|Brazil (Pro-Música Brasil)||Gold||100,000*|
|Canada (Music Canada)||Diamond||1,000,000^|
|Denmark (IFPI Denmark)||2× Platinum||40,000|
|France (SNEP)||2× Platinum||600,000*|
|New Zealand (RMNZ)||5× Platinum||75,000^|
|Norway (IFPI Norway)||Platinum||50,000*|
|Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)||Gold||25,000^|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||4× Platinum||1,200,000^|
|United States (RIAA)||8× Platinum||8,000,000^|
*sales figures based on certification alone
- The recording location is credited in the album's liner notes as "Dog Town", based on the band's nickname for the house. Its official name is Elsinore.
- The three "interference" segments combined for a total running length of 25:46, according to the video release notes.
- "(Ăhk-to͝ong Bāy-bi) Covered". Propaganda. No. 15. U2 World Service. 1991.
- Dalton, Stephen (October 2003). "How the West Was Won". Uncut. No. 77.
- Fricke, David (1 October 1992). "U2 Finds What It's Looking For". Rolling Stone. No. 640. pp. 40+. Archived from the original on 20 April 2009. Retrieved 26 April 2010.
- Stokes (2005), p. 78
- Sullivan, Jim (22 February 1989). "'U2 Rattle and Hum': Lighten up!". The Boston Globe. p. 46.
- Gardner, Elysa (9 January 1992). "U2's 'Achtung Baby': Bring the Noise". Rolling Stone. No. 621. p. 51. Retrieved 2 July 2018.
- Flanagan (1996), p. 4
- Flanagan (1996), pp. 25, 27–28
- McCormick (2006), p. 213
- de la Parra (1994), pp. 138–139
- Eno, Brian (28 November 1991). "Bringing Up Baby". Rolling Stone. No. 618. pp. 42+.
- McCormick (2006), pp. 204–207
- McCormick (2006), p. 215
- Bailie, Stuart (October 2001). "Not Quite Better Than the Real Thing". Q. No. 182.
- McCormick (2006), p. 216
- McGee (2008), p. 132
- McCormick (2006), p. 221
- Graham (2004), p. 43
- Gardner (1994), p. xxv
- DeRogatis, Jim (1 May 2005). "Moving On". Chicago Sun-Times. p. 4.
- "Eno". Propaganda. No. 16. U2 World Service. Spring–Summer 1992.
- DeRogatis (2003), p. 194
- Tingen, Paul (March 1994). "ROBBIE ADAMS: U2's Achtung Baby & Zooropa". Sound on Sound. Archived from the original on 5 July 2015. Retrieved 8 January 2010.
- Graham (2004), p. 44
- Flanagan (1996), pp. 6–7
- Flanagan (1996), p. 2
- "The Berlin Sessions". Propaganda. No. 14. U2 World Service. 1991.
- Graham (1996), p. 28
- McCormick (2006), pp. 221–224
- Stokes (2005), p. 104
- Flanagan (1996), pp. 9
- Flanagan (1996), pp. 10–11
- Stokes (2005), p. 98
- U2, Davis Guggenheim (director) (2011). From the Sky Down (film). BBC Worldwide Canada.
- Flanagan (1996), pp. 11–12
- McGee (2008), pp. 134–135
- Dombal, Ryan (9 November 2011). "U2: Achtung Baby [Super Deluxe Edition]". Pitchfork. Condé Nast. Retrieved 9 November 2011.
- Achtung Baby (CD booklet). U2. Island Records. 1991.CS1 maint: others (link)
- McCormick (2006), pp. 224–225, 227, 232
- Stokes (2005), p. 96
- McCormick (2006), p. 225
- Light, Alan (4 March 1993). "Behind the Fly". Rolling Stone. No. 651. pp. 42+. Retrieved 2 July 2018.
- Brown, Mark (19 November 2004). "Leaking of CDs on internet on the rise". Rocky Mountain News. p. 26D.
- Lowry, Max (13 July 2008). "THE LOST MASTERS: THE ONES THAT GOT AWAY: What if the Beatles had secretly made one last album - or Damon Albarn's 'Cool Britannia' record had ever surfaced?". The Observer.
- O'Hagan, Sean (September 1992). "U2 Anew". Details. Retrieved 30 January 2013. (subscription required)
- Doyle, Tom (November 2002). "10 Years of Turmoil Inside U2". Q. No. 196.
- "Lanois". Propaganda. No. 14. U2 World Service. 1991.
- Gill, Andy (June 1995). "Brian Eno". Mojo. No. 19. Retrieved 30 January 2013. (subscription required)
- Gill, Andy (May 2001). "Brian Eno: 'So Why Are We Doing This?'". Mojo. No. 91. Retrieved 30 January 2013. (subscription required)
- Graham (2004), p. 45
- Flanagan (1996), p. 19
- McGee (2008), p. 137
- McCormick (2006), p. 232
- Fielder, Hugh (October 1993). "New 'Zooropa' Revue". Pulse!.
- DeCurtis, Anthony (14 October 1993). "Zoo World Order". Rolling Stone. No. 667. pp. 48–54+.
- Graham, Jill (29 November 1991). "Album review: Achtung Baby". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 15 October 2010.
- Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Achtung Baby – U2". AllMusic. Retrieved 13 October 2009.
- Howell, Peter (3 September 1992). "What U2 is broadcasting on Zoo TV channel". Toronto Star. p. E2.
- Hilburn, Robert (8 March 1992). "Soul-searching for a '90s Sound". Newsday. section Fanfare, pp. 13+.
- Mueller, Andrew. "U2 – The Joshua Tree Re-Mastered (R1987)". Uncut. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
- Dalton, Stephen (November 2004). "Achtung Stations". Uncut. No. 90. p. 52.
- Fast (2000), pp. 45–48
- Snider, Eric (29 November 1991). "Too Much of a New Thing". The St. Petersburg Times. sec. Weekend, p. 21.
- Morse, Steve (15 November 1991). "U2 bounces back". The Boston Globe. pp. 53–54. Archived from the original on 12 December 2009. Retrieved 13 October 2009.
- Gettelman, Parry (6 December 1991). "U2, Achtung Baby". Orlando Sentinel. sec. Calendar, p. 8. Retrieved 15 October 2010.
- Wyman, Bill (29 November 1991). "Burn, Bono, Burn". Entertainment Weekly. No. 94. p. 90. Archived from the original on 20 February 2009. Retrieved 6 March 2009.
- Gray, Christopher (30 March 2001). "Review – U2: Achtung Baby". Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 7 February 2011.
- Graham (2004), p. 47
- Stokes (2005), p. 102
- Zak (2001), pp. 68–70
- Fast (2000), pp. 49–50
- Pareles, Jon (17 November 1991). "U2 Takes a Turn From the Universal To the Domestic". The New York Times (National ed.). sec. Arts and Leisure, p. 29. Archived from the original on 28 September 2013. Retrieved 13 October 2009.
- Graham (2004), p. 49
- Flanagan (1996), p. 31
- Graham (2004), p. 46
- Stokes (2005), p. 100
- Flanagan (1996), p. 82
- de la Parra (1994), p. 139
- Hilburn, Robert (17 November 1991). "U2's Daring Descent into Darkness". Los Angeles Times. section Calendar, p. 58. Retrieved 31 December 2009.
- Flanagan (1996), pp. 14–15; Assayas (2005), pp. 64–66
- "U2". Legends. Season 1. Episode 6. 11 December 1998. VH1.
Maybe it summed up the way we felt as a band, trying to kind of go somewhere, but not being able to at the time.
- "Beyonce, U2 draw fans at MTV Europe Music Awards". USA Today. Associated Press. 5 November 2009. Retrieved 30 January 2013.
- Graham (2004), p. 50
- Stokes (2005), p. 108
- Snow, Mat (December 1991). "U2: Achtung Baby". Q. No. 63. Retrieved 30 January 2013.
- Flanagan (1996), p. 20
- Flanagan (1996), p. 187
- Stokes, Niall (14 November 1991). "Review: Achtung Baby". Hot Press. Vol. 15 no. 22. Retrieved 26 April 2011.
- Stokes (2005), p. 95
- Stokes (2005), p. 107
- Brothers (1999), p. 257
- Gilmour (2005), pp. 66, 76
- Stein (1999), pp. 269–272
- Catanzarite (2007), pp. 1–3
- McGee (2008), p. 138
- McGee (2008), p. 133
- McGee (2008), p. 136
- Godson (2003), p. 38
- "Zoo TV Station Talent". Propaganda. No. 16. U2 World Service. Spring–Summer 1992.
- "Trabantland." Zoo TV: Live from Sydney (DVD). Special Edition: Island / UMG. 2006.
- "Achtung Baby". U2.com. Live Nation. Retrieved 31 August 2009.
- McGrath, Shaughn (15 November 2011). "U2 Achtung Baby – a look back". AMP Visual. Retrieved 17 November 2011.
- "50 Greatest Album Covers". The Greatest. Episode 088. 20 September 2003. VH1.
- McCormick (2006), p. 234
- "achtung : German » English". Pons.eu. Pons GmbH. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
- Flanagan (1996), pp. 21–22
- Bailie, Stuart (13 June 1992). "Rock and Roll Should Be This Big!". NME.
- Gardner, Elysa (21 December 1990). "U2 Can Dance". Entertainment Weekly. No. 45. p. 10. Archived from the original on 21 December 2009. Retrieved 31 December 2009.
- Vanderknyff, Rick (8 May 1993). "Positively Outspoken Negativland". Los Angeles Times. section Calendar, p. 1. Retrieved 28 December 2009.
- "U2". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
- "Irish Singles Chart". The Irish Charts. Irish Recorded Music Association. Archived from the original on 5 January 2010. Retrieved 24 November 2009. Note: U2 must be searched manually.
- "U2 – Achtung Baby". australian-charts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved 29 October 2009.
- "U2 Chart History: Hot 100". Billboard.com. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
- Browne, David (15 November 1991). "U2's Achtung Baby reaches record stores". Entertainment Weekly. No. 92. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
- Duffy, Thom (16 November 1991). "New U2 Relies on Fans, Not Fanfare". Billboard. Vol. 103 no. 46. pp. 1, 77–78.
- O'Hagan, Sean (7 November 1991). "Achtung! Saint Bono". The Guardian. p. 26.
- "U2 Chart History: Alternative Songs". Billboard.com. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
- "U2 Chart History: Mainstream Rock". Billboard.com. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
- Peak positions for U2's songs on the Canadian singles chart:
- "RPM100 Hit Tracks & where to find them". RPM. Vol. 54 no. 26. 30 November 1991. p. 6. Archived from the original on 15 October 2012. Retrieved 10 September 2019.
- "RPM100 Hit Tracks & where to find them". RPM. Vol. 55 no. 6. 1 February 1992. p. 6. Archived from the original on 15 October 2012. Retrieved 10 September 2019.
- "RPM100 Hit Tracks & where to find them". RPM. Vol. 55 no. 19. 9 May 1992. p. 6. Archived from the original on 14 October 2012. Retrieved 10 September 2019.
- "RPM100 Hit Tracks & where to find them". RPM. Vol. 56 no. 11. 12 September 1992. p. 6. Archived from the original on 15 October 2012. Retrieved 10 September 2019.
- "RPM100 Hit Tracks & where to find them". RPM. Vol. 56 no. 26. 26 December 1992. p. 6. Archived from the original on 15 October 2012. Retrieved 10 September 2019.
- "RPM100 Hit Tracks & where to find them". RPM. Vol. 55 no. 11. 7 March 1992. p. 6. Archived from the original on 15 October 2012. Retrieved 10 September 2019.
- "Billboard 200: The Week of December 7, 1991". Billboard.com. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
- "Billboard 200: The Week of December 14, 1991". Billboard.com. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
- "Billboard 200: The Week of March 7, 1992". Billboard.com. Retrieved 18 March 2018. Note: Top-ten charting duration must be manually verified by navigating between weekly charts.
- "U2 Achtung Baby Chart History". Billboard.com. Billboard-Hollywood Reporter Media Group. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
- "Gold & Platinum". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
- "Official Albums Chart Top 75: 24 November 1991 – 30 November 1991". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
- "RPM100 Albums (CD & Cassettes)". RPM. Vol. 55 no. 2. 14 December 1991. p. 10. Archived from the original on 15 October 2012. Retrieved 10 September 2019.
- "U2's One named 'greatest record'". BBC News Online. 18 November 2003. Archived from the original on 5 January 2009. Retrieved 2 January 2009.
- Kavanagh, Mark (16 August 2001). "Better Than the Real Thing?". Hot Press. Retrieved 26 April 2011.
- Until the End of the World (CD). U2. United States: Island Records. 1991. PRCD 6704-2.CS1 maint: others (link)
- Salomé (CD). U2. United Kingdom: Island Records. 1992. 12IS550DJ.CS1 maint: others (link)
- Zoo Station (CD). U2. United States: Island Records. 1992. PR12 6715-1.CS1 maint: others (link)
- Flanagan (1996), p. 133
- Harrington, Richard (23 September 1992). "On the Beat; Rousing the Bodies Politic". The Washington Post. p. F7.
- "Sixty-Nine Things You May Not Have Known About Life in the Zoo". Propaganda. No. 17. U2 World Service. Winter 1992–1993.
- McGee (2008), p. 168
- "Canadian album certifications – U2 – Achtung Baby". Music Canada.
- Muretich, James (15 November 1991). "U2: New wrinkles, familiar feel". Calgary Herald. p. D1.
- Kot, Greg (17 November 1991). "U2 Loosens Up". Chicago Tribune. sec. Arts, p. 6. Retrieved 10 January 2016.
- Greer, Jim (December 1991). "Platter du Jour: U2, Achtung Baby, Island". Spin. Vol. 7 no. 9. sec. Spins, p. 106. Retrieved 16 November 2011.
- Sweeting, Adam (21 November 1991). "A danceable solution amidst revolution". The Guardian. p. 29.
- Christgau, Robert (21 April 1992). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
- McGee (2008), p. 159
- "Annual Top 10 Lists of Weekend Music Critics". The Washington Post. 27 December 1991. sec. Weekend, p. N08.
- Morse, Steve (19 December 1991). "Top 10 Records of 1991". The Boston Globe. sec. Calendar, p. 13.
- Corcoran, Michael (29 December 1991). "Creating a pop music Nirvana". Chicago Sun-Times.
- "Pazz & Jop: Top 10 Albums By Year, 1971-2016". The Village Voice. 22 January 2018. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
- Jaeger, Barbara (25 February 1993). "Cheers for Clapton: Guitar Great Picks Up Six Awards at Grammys". The Record. p. C09.
- McAdams, Janine; Morris, Chris; Newman, Melinda (6 March 1993). "Jackson Surfaces Backstage at Grammys: Lanois Questions 'Unplugged' Album Victory". Billboard. Vol. 105 no. 10. p. 93. Retrieved 17 June 2014.
- Clark-Meads, Jeff (1 August 1992). "Brits Push Exposure for Mercury Noms". Billboard. Vol. 104 no. 31. p. 36.
- Tyaransen, Olaf (4 December 2002). "Closer to the Edge". Hot Press. Vol. 26 no. 23. Retrieved 26 April 2011.
- Browne, David (9 July 1993). "Future rock". Entertainment Weekly. No. 178. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
- McGee (2008), p. 143
- "The Zoo TV Tour". U2.com. Live Nation. Retrieved 31 December 2009.
- Cogan (2008), p. 154
- Applefield, Catherine, ed. (21 May 1994). "Video Previews". Billboard. Vol. 106 no. 21. p. 61.
- Achtung Baby at Metacritic. Retrieved 2 April 2016.
- Hyden, Steven (1 November 2011). "U2: Achtung Baby". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 31 May 2019.
- "U2: Achtung Baby". Acclaimed Music. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
- Anderson, Kyle (26 October 2011). "Achtung Baby". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 31 May 2019.
- Eccleston, Danny (December 2011). "All that glitters...". Mojo. No. 217. p. 109.
- "U2: Achtung Baby". Q. No. 305. December 2011. p. 138.
- Considine, J. D.; Brackett, Nathan (2004). "U2". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 833–34. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
- "U2: Achtung Baby". Uncut. No. 174. November 2011. p. 100.
- "FACTBOX: New U2 album is No. 1 in 30 countries". Reuters. 12 March 2009. Retrieved 10 January 2016.
- "ARIA Charts – Accreditations – 1998 Albums". Australian Recording Industry Association. Archived from the original on 10 August 2020.
- "British album certifications – U2 – Achtung Baby". British Phonographic Industry. Select albums in the Format field. Select Platinum in the Certification field. Type Achtung Baby in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
- Rayner, Ben (10 September 2014). "U2's Songs of Innocence delivers a few surprises". Toronto Star. Retrieved 11 September 2014.
- Flanagan (1996), p. 213
- Creswell (2006), pp. 377–378
- "Pop/Rock " Dance " Dance-Rock". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
- Aaron, Charles (22 April 2010). "125 Best Albums of the Past 25 Years: 1 – U2, Achtung Baby". Spin. Archived from the original on 25 April 2010. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
- Ramirez, AJ (11 November 2011). "U2: Achtung Baby (20th Anniversary Edition)". PopMatters. Retrieved 25 October 2013.
- "The Top 100 Albums". The Guardian (Features insert). 19 September 1997. p. A2.
- Larkin, Colin, ed. (2000). All Time Top 1000 Albums (3rd ed.). Virgin Books. p. 51. ISBN 0-7535-0493-6.
- "Definitive 200". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 2 August 2008. Retrieved 5 September 2014.
- Hinckley, David (7 March 2007). "The single most vital thing in pop". New York Daily News. p. 36. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 5 September 2014.
- Gundersen, Edna (5 December 2003). "Top 40 albums — the USA TODAY way". USA Today. p. 2E. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
- Blashill, Pat; DeCurtis, Anthony; Edmonds, Ben; et al. (11 December 2003). "Achtung Baby: U2". Rolling Stone. No. 937. p. 113.
- Wenner, Jann S. (ed.) (2012). "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. No. Special Collectors Issue. p. 37. ISBN 978-7-09-893419-6. Archived from the original on 5 December 2009. Retrieved 2 July 2018.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
- "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. No. 1344. October 2020. p. 68. Retrieved 22 September 2020.
- "Achtung Baby (21/100 Greatest Albums Ever)". Hot Press. Vol. 30 no. 7. 17 April 2006. Retrieved 5 September 2014.
- Tyrangiel, Josh (13 November 2006). "All-TIME 100 Albums: Achtung Baby". Time. Retrieved 5 September 2014.
- Dimery, Robert; Lydon, Michael (2006). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. Universe. ISBN 0-7893-1371-5.
- "VH1's '100 Greatest Albums of Rock & Roll' Ranks the Beatles' 'Revolver' at #1 In All-New Special, Premiering January 15–19 at 10:00 P.M. (ET/PT)". PR Newswire. 5 January 2001. Retrieved 5 September 2014.
- Adams, Jason; Anderson, Kyle; Brunner, Rob; et al. (5–12 July 2013). "The Greatest Albums Ever". Entertainment Weekly. No. 1266/1267. sec. Music, pp. 76–83. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
- Christgau, Robert (18 January 1994). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
- Howell, Peter (7 September 2011). "Q&A: From the Sky Down director Davis Guggenheim". Toronto.com. Archived from the original on 23 March 2012.
- Wheeler, Brad (8 September 2011). "How Davis Guggenheim stumbled upon U2's breakthrough moment". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 8 September 2011.
- Stevenson, Jane (7 September 2011). "U2 'over the moon' with new doc". The Toronto Sun. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 7 September 2011.
- Pond, Steve (9 September 2011). "U2 Rocks Toronto, Launches Film Fest". Reuters. Retrieved 30 October 2011.
- Hyden, Steven (29 October 2011). "From The Sky Down". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
- "U2 documentary airs on BBC". Hot Press. 22 September 2011. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
- Benzine, Adam (15 November 2011). "Super Channel picks up Guggenheim's U2 doc". RealScreen.com. Retrieved 28 November 2011.
- Young, Alex (4 August 2011). "U2 details Achtung Baby reissues". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
- Lapatine, Scott (4 August 2011). "Deluxe Achtung Baby Details". Stereogum. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
- Greene, Andy (10 November 2011). "When U2 Chopped Down the Joshua Tree". Rolling Stone. No. 1143. p. 82. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
- Goodman, William (4 August 2011). "U2 Unveil Massive 'Achtung Baby' Boxset". Spin. Retrieved 10 January 2016.
- McGee, Matt (21 October 2011). "Achtung Baby: Not Remastered, After All". atU2.com. Archived from the original on 18 July 2012. Retrieved 22 October 2011.
- The Edge (24 October 2011). "U2's The Edge backstage at the 2011 Q Awards after been[sic] named the Greatest Act of the Last 25 Years". Q (Interview). Retrieved 1 August 2018.
- McGee, Matt (4 November 2011). "U2's New Single: 'Blow Your House Down'". atU2.com. Archived from the original on 29 July 2012. Retrieved 28 November 2011.
- Bliss, Karen (9 September 2011). "Bono Announces 'Achtung Baby' Covers Album". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2 July 2018.
- "Achtung Baby Covers Album to Benefit Concern Worldwide's Emergency Famine Work in East Africa" (Press release). Concern Worldwide US. PR Newswire. 15 November 2011. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
- Richards, Sam (15 June 2018). "U2 announce 2LP vinyl reissues of Achtung Baby and Zooropa". Uncut. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
- "U2 2LP Vinyl Reissues Achtung Baby - Zooropa - The Best Of 1980-1990" (Press release). Universal Music Enterprises. PR Newswire. 15 June 2018. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
- Achtung Baby (Vinyl reissue liner notes). U2. Island Records. 2018. 5797009.CS1 maint: others (link)
- van Slooten (2002), p. 438
- "Tous les "Chart Runs" des Albums classés despuis 1985" (in French). InfoDisc. Archived from the original on 20 August 2008. Retrieved 20 May 2010. Note: U2 must be searched manually.
- "TOP 100 ALBUM-CHARTS: 16 Dezember, 1991". Offizielle Deutsche Charts (in German). Archived from the original on 28 July 2010. Retrieved 10 September 2019.
- Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2.
- "ARIA Charts – End Of Year Charts – Top 50 Albums 1991". ARIA Charts. Australian Recording Industry Association. Retrieved 11 September 2011.
- "Jahreshitparade 1992". austriancharts.at (in German). Hung Medien. Archived from the original on 4 August 2015. Retrieved 10 September 2019.
- "Schweizer Jahreshitparade 1992". hitparade.ch (in German). Hung Medien. Archived from the original on 22 August 2014. Retrieved 10 September 2019.
- "The Year in Music: Top Billboard 200 Albums". Billboard. Vol. 104 no. 52. 26 December 1992. p. YE-14.
- "Totally '90s: Diary of a Decade - Top Pop Albums of the '90s". Billboard. Vol. 111 no. 52. 25 December 1999. p. YE-20.
- "British certifications – U2". British Phonographic Industry. Type U2 in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
- "Discos de oro y platino" (in Spanish). Cámara Argentina de Productores de Fonogramas y Videogramas. Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
- "Austrian album certifications – U2 – Achtung Baby" (in German). IFPI Austria.
- "Brazilian album certifications – U2 – Achtung Baby" (in Portuguese). Associação Brasileira dos Produtores de Discos.
- "Danish album certifications – U2 – Achtung Baby". IFPI Denmark. Scroll through the page-list below until year 2018 to obtain certification.
- "French album certifications – U 2 – Achtung Baby" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique.
- "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank –Titel:Achtung Baby" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie. Retrieved 6 December 2012.
- "Italian album certifications – U2 – Achtung Baby" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved 5 December 2016. Select "2016" in the "Anno" drop-down menu. Select "Achtung Baby" in the "Filtra" field. Select "Album e Compilation" under "Sezione".
- "Japanese album certifications – U2 – Achtung Baby" (in Japanese). Recording Industry Association of Japan. Retrieved 11 June 2019. Select 1992年1月 on the drop-down menu
- "Dutch album certifications – U2 – Achtung Baby" (in Dutch). Nederlandse Vereniging van Producenten en Importeurs van beeld- en geluidsdragers. Retrieved 8 August 2018. Enter Achtung Baby in the "Artiest of titel" box.
- "New Zealand album certifications – U2 – Achtung Baby". Recorded Music NZ.
- "Zooropa Pulls in First Award in Oslo" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 10 no. 35. 28 August 1993. p. 4. Retrieved 13 January 2020 – via American Radio History.
- "El post de las certificaciones en España: Todos los Oros y Platinos". Retrieved 26 September 2011.
- "Veckolista Album - Vecka 28, 1997" (in Swedish). Sverigetopplistan. Retrieved 8 January 2013.
- "The Official Swiss Charts and Music Community: Awards (U2; 'Achtung Baby')". IFPI Switzerland. Hung Medien.
- "British album certifications – U2 – Achtung Baby". British Phonographic Industry.
- Assayas, Michka; Bono (2005). Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas. New York: Penguin Group. ISBN 1-57322-309-3.
- Brothers, Robyn (1999). "Time to Heal, 'Desire' Time: The Cyberprophesy of U2's 'Zoo World Order'". In Dettmar, Kevin J. H.; Richey, William (eds.). Reading Rock and Roll: Authenticity, Appropriation, Aesthetics. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-11399-4.
- Catanzarite, Stephen (2007). U2's Achtung Baby: Meditations on Love in the Shadow of the Fall. 33 1⁄3. New York: Continuum. ISBN 978-0-8264-2784-7.
- Cogan, Višnja (2008). U2: An Irish Phenomenon. New York: Pegasus Books. ISBN 978-1-933648-71-2.
- Creswell, Toby (2006). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time and the Artists, Stories, and Secrets. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press. ISBN 1-56025-915-9.
- de la Parra, Pimm Jal (1994). U2 Live: A Concert Documentary. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-3666-8.
- DeRogatis, Jim (2003). Milk It! Collected Musings on the Alternative Music Explosion of the '90s. Cambridge: Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-81271-1.
- Fast, Susan (2000). "Music, Contexts, and Meaning in U2". In Everett, Walter (ed.). Expression in Pop-Rock Music: A Collection of Critical and Analytical Essays (Studies in Contemporary Music and Culture). New York: Garland Publishing. ISBN 0-8153-3160-6.
- Flanagan, Bill (1996). U2 at the End of the World (Paperback ed.). New York: Delta. ISBN 978-0-385-31157-1.
- Gardner, Elysa (1994). "Foreword". In Rolling Stone (ed.). U2: The Ultimate Compendium of Interviews, Articles, Facts and Opinions from the Files of Rolling Stone. London: Sidgwick & Jackson. ISBN 0-283-06239-8.
- Gilmour, Michael J. (2005). Call Me the Seeker: Listening to Religion in Popular Music. New York: Continuum. ISBN 0-8264-1713-2.
- Godson, Lisa (2003). Stealing Hearts at a Travelling Show: The Graphic Design of U2 by Four5One Creative. Dublin: Four5One Creative°. ISBN 0-9545193-0-2.
- Graham, Bill; van Oosten de Boer, Caroline (2004). U2: The Complete Guide to Their Music. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-9886-8.
- McGee, Matt (2008). U2: A Diary. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-1-84772-108-2.
- Stein, Atara (1999). "Even Better than the Real Thing: U2 (Love) Songs of the Self". In Dettmar, Kevin J.H.; Richey, William (eds.). Reading Rock and Roll: Authenticity, Appropriation, Aesthetics. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-11399-4.
- Stokes, Niall (2005). U2: Into the Heart – The Stories Behind Every Song. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press. ISBN 1-56025-765-2.
- U2 (2006). McCormick, Neil (ed.). U2 by U2. London: HarperCollins. ISBN 0-00-719668-7.
- van Slooten, Johan (2002). Albumdossier: 1969–2002. Haarlem: Becht. ISBN 978-90-230-1106-4.
- Zak, Albin (2001). The Poetics of Rock: Cutting Tracks, Making Records. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-23224-0.