Tuesday, November 1, 2011

From the Sky Down- The Making of Achtung Baby

This week marks the 20th anniversary of U2's defining album, Achtung Baby.  Also this weekend, Davis Guggenheim, director of An Inconvenient Truth and It Might Get Loud premiered a new documentary, From The Sky Down. In the film It Might Get Loud - Guggenheim took a look at the guitar and some of guitar's most talented- specifically Jack White, Jimmy Page- and The Edge.  Clearly a music fan- and more specifically, a U2 fan, he now takes on a tumultuous time in U2's history - the making of Achtung Baby.  He does so with a fan's care and painstaking mindfulness, weaving some of the most difficult U2 moments into a fascinating narrative on human obstacles and limitations - but more importantly, our ability to overcome.

As any U2 fan knows, Joshua Tree was the breakthrough album in America for U2. It ushered in that sudden, uncertain period of fame, fortune, and notoriety - more than any 4 young men from Dublin ever bargained for. What happened is irrelevant. How they dealt with it is not.

During the period after Joshua Tree’s success, the band began to splinter.  The Edge and Bono were in a world that Larry Mullen and Adam Clayton didn’t seem to have a place in. It was at this time they began the sessions for what would become Achtung Baby. Each man seemed to be an island, each with walls surrounding him. They were making music, but as they say in the film, would "bash it out, listen back and not like anything that we were doing." Day in and day out they continued trudging through, "on completely different pages."  They had reached the pivotal point in a band's shelf life- to hang it up, or figure it out and move forward, with each other, or without.

Using footage from the actual Achtung Baby era sessions,Guggenheim gives the viewer a sense of being a fly on the wall, and of really getting an inside look at the dynamics of the band during this time. It also illustrates how they broke through the strife and inertia to create one of the single most poignant songs ever written- a song so powerful it would lift the band up out of its inability to create in a spiritual or meaningful way- and transcend it all.  It is almost as if the song already existed, and it simply needed to be plucked out of the universe and put together, by these four men, at this specific time and place. While working through the makings of what would become "Mysterious Ways" (originally called "Sick Puppy"), The Edge began to play something- an extra bridge that never made it into the song.  What comes out of all of it is nothing short of astonishing and remarkable.

You can watch the full documentary of From the Sky Down on Showtime (airing schedule HERE)

The deluxe special anniversary edition of Achtung Baby is out today, and you can buy it HERE.

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