"The Joshua Tree" was a monumental hit. It was a No.1 record around the globe and went on to become a multiplatinum album, selling over 10 million units worldwide. Suffice to say, the record solidified U2's position as both creative and commercial juggernauts.
Success carried the Edge to nearly every point on the globe. In 20 years of traveling he has accumulated an extraordinary wealth of stories, from nearly having the group's only set of guitars stolen within their first few hours in New York in December 1980, to dancing on top of the bar with Bono in pre-Katrina New Orleans.
"I'd always had amazing times there," he said of New Orleans. "And I remember with Bono one night ending up in some tiny little club in an area of the city I'd never been to, dancing on the bar to this little five-piece funk outfit that didn't have any guitars. It was all brass, drums and whatever. And we were just completely blown away -- that music which was so amazing was totally unknown to us. It was like -- it was like discovering, you know, jazz for the first time or something." New Orleans definitely left its mark, and now the Edge's playlist is peppered with many of the bands he first encountered around the town with his band mates.
"The Dirty Dozen and the Little Rascals… Joyful music like 'Do Whatcha Wanna' by the Rebirth Brass Band is just this killer groove and just this amazing, joyful feeling," he said. "All these brass bands that are playing music which has incredible sense of rhythm and joy, all the things I look for in great rock 'n' roll."
Now the Edge and other heavyweights of the music industry have started a charity effort to rebuild the musical community left devastated by Hurricane Katrina. The primary goal of the charity, called "Music Rising," is to get these musicians back to work.
"We're using music as a way to try and get these areas kind of to -- to give them a leg up," he said. "And music is a great way to do that because it's really the spirit of that city and that part of America."
The charity is not the only thing that has tied the Edge with New Orleans. U2's performance with Green Day of "The Saints are Coming" at the reopening of the Superdome in September 2006 is now one of the more remarkable moments in the histories of both the band and the city. Regardless of the performance, though, the Edge claims the song would have earned a spot on the playlist on its own merit.
"'The Saints are Coming' was one of my favorite songs as a 16-year-old -- maybe 17 when that came out," he said. "This was very exciting to hear this band, the Skids, and their first album."
Reflecting back on his time in Louisiana, the Edge said that New Orleans music is a very unique aspect of the culture in that it continues to help victims of Katrina "celebrate being alive after everything that had happened."
"There's a strong case to be made that there on the streets of New Orleans was the beginning of that integration of African and Western music which begat jazz, begat R&B, begat rock 'n' roll," said the Edge. "So, you know, I wouldn't be here… if it wasn't for this very unique part of America and these little flukes of history and circumstance. And it's still all there. That's the amazing thing."