How U2 developed a look and style that reflects the band's beliefs and music.
According to graphic designer Steve Averill, since their inception at the tail end of the punk scene, U2 have always been image conscious. The group is keenly aware of the image they want to portray and are very intelligent about how they see themselves.
Photographer Colm Henry has also worked with U2 from the beginning and regularly takes photographs of the band to monitor its constantly evolving look. What he documents is,
Essentially a change of the outwardness of them how they dress, how they carry themselves.
Up until their fourth album ‘The Unforgettable Fire’, U2 looked like any other rock band, but following a world tour, they evolved with a new sound and look. Around this time stylist Marion Smyth was engaged to supervise the look of each member of U2. She recalls at this point they were,
Very scruffy, very all over the place, the only one that seemed to have any direction was Larry, he seemed to know exactly what he was at.
It was Marion Smyth’s idea for Bono to grow his hair into one length and the culmination of her vision is the strong look seen on the cover of ‘The Joshua Tree’ the bands fifth studio album released in 1987.
U2 broke in America and the image created for ’The Joshua Tree’ carried through to the following ‘Rattle And Hum’ album. Musician and filmmaker Barry Devlin says during this period Bono’s writing became more symbolic.
Journalist Fintan O’Toole notes the uncritical use of imagery by the band during the Joshua Tree Tour. In stark contrast, the following Lovetown Tour used emotive backdrops created by Chilean artist Rene Castro, who only works with bands that have social or political concerns.
Journalist Eamonn McCann says while the band must be able to relate to their fans, their enormous appeal cannot really be harnessed for political ends.
This episode of ‘Arts Express’ was broadcast on 22 December 1989. The reporter is John Waters.