Essential Albums: Achtung Baby by U2

I still remember the first time I heard it. I was on a vacation with my family in California visiting my cousins. It was sometime in the early to mid 90’s – I was probably 13 or 14. My cousin Mark asked if I’d ever heard of U2. I probably hadn’t. After all, I grew up in small-town western Oklahoma. Garth Brooks was big, but I wasn’t much of a fan.

Anyway, Mark puts the CD (maybe it was a cassette?) into the player, and all the sudden I’m hearing the coolest sound I’d ever heard in my life. This crunchy overdriven auto-wa’d electric guitar riff with some weird percussion behind it. Then the song kicks in. I’d never heard anything so incredible in my life. I was hearing Mysterious Ways by U2 for the very first time.

I got the name of the band and the album, and as soon as I got home, I ordered it – probably through one of those BMG or Columbia House programs where you get 8 CD’s for the price of one, but then you are obligated to buy 15 more CD’s over the next year or so.

A few weeks later, Achtung Baby arrives in a little brown cardboard package, and I think I wore it out. To this day, it remains one of my favorite albums of all time, and I consider it one of the more influential albums as far as shaping my taste in music. U2 is absolutely my favorite band ever. I always cite “Joshua Tree” as their greatest work, but I think if I had to choose between the two albums, Achtung Baby would win.

The album has a few tried and true U2 classics, including One and Mysterious Ways, but some of my favorites are the more lesser known tracks. Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses has always been a favorite, and Ultraviolet is really cool. This is one of those albums that you can just put on and listen to straight through.

If you haven’t heard this entire album before, go check it out. What are some of the essential albums that have shaped your taste in music?