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How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
A monochrome image of all U2 members sitting near a wall
Studio album by
Released22 November 2004
RecordedFebruary 2003 – July 2004
U2 chronology
U2 Go Home: Live from Slane Castle, Ireland
How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
The Complete U2
Singles from How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
  1. "Vertigo"
    Released: 8 November 2004
  2. "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own"
    Released: 7 February 2005
  3. "All Because of You"
    Released: 8 February 2005
  4. "City of Blinding Lights"
    Released: 6 June 2005

How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb is the eleventh studio album by Irish rock band U2. It was released on 22 November 2004 in the United Kingdom by Island Records and a day later in the United States by Interscope Records. Much like their previous album All That You Can't Leave Behind (2000), the record exhibits a more mainstream rock sound after the band experimented with alternative rock and dance music in the 1990s. It was produced by Steve Lillywhite, with additional production from Chris Thomas, Jacknife Lee, Nellee Hooper, Flood, Daniel Lanois, Brian Eno, and Carl Glanville.

Looking for a more hard-hitting sound than that of their previous album, U2 began recording How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb in February 2003 with Thomas. After nine months of work, the band had an album's worth of material ready for release, but they were not satisfied with the results. The group subsequently enlisted Lillywhite to take over as producer in Dublin in January 2004. Lillywhite, along with his assistant Lee, spent six months with the band reworking songs and encouraging better performances. U2 lead singer Bono described the album as "our first rock album. It's taken us twenty years or whatever it is, but this is our first rock album."[1] Thematically, the record touches on life, death, love, war, faith, and family.

How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb received favourable reviews and reached number one in 30 countries, including the US, where first-week sales of 840,000 copies nearly doubled the band's previous personal best. The album and its singles won all nine Grammy Awards for which they were nominated (U2 themselves were awarded eight out of the nine). It was also the fourth-highest-selling album of 2004,[2] with over ten million copies sold,[3] and it yielded several successful singles, such as "Vertigo", "City of Blinding Lights", and "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own". The album was included on Rolling Stone's list of the "100 Best Albums of the Decade" at number 68.

Writing and recording

Lead singer Bono explained that he had to ask himself a few hard questions before carrying on recording: "I wanted to check where I was to where I am. So I went back and listened to all the music that made me want to be in a band, right from the Buzzcocks, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Echo & The Bunnymen, all that stuff. And what was interesting is, that was what a lot of people in bands now are listening to anyway. So in a funny way, it made us completely contemporary."[4]

Looking for a harder-hitting rock sound than that of All That You Can't Leave Behind,[5] U2 began recording How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, in February 2003 with producer Chris Thomas.[6] After nine months of work, the band had an album's worth of material ready for release, but they were not satisfied with the results; drummer Larry Mullen Jr. said that the songs "had no magic".[5] The group subsequently enlisted Steve Lillywhite to take over as producer in Dublin in January 2004.[7] Lillywhite, along with his assistant Jacknife Lee, spent six months with the band reworking songs and encouraging better performances.[5] Several other producers received credits on the album, including Daniel Lanois, Brian Eno, Flood, Carl Glanville, and Nellee Hooper;[8] Bono acknowledged that the involvement of multiple producers affected the record's "sonic cohesion".[9]

A demo version of the album (guitarist The Edge's copy) was stolen while the band were having their photo taken for a magazine in France in July 2004. It contained unfinished versions of several songs that made it onto the album.[10] The band publicly announced that if those tracks were leaked online, they would release the album immediately via the iTunes Store.[11] Several months later, the finished album was leaked online,[12] but the band did not release it earlier, despite previous comments.[13]

In late 2004, "Mercy", an unreleased track taken from the How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb sessions, surfaced on the Internet through a fan who had been given a copy of the album containing the extra track. The track is of less than standard audio quality, but managed to become a favorite on fan websites. It was cut from the final release, but was described by Blender as "a six-and-a-half-minute outpouring of U2 at its most uninhibitedly U2-ish".[14] The lyrics to the song can be found in the booklet for the Special Limited Edition. A significantly revised version of the song was performed during the European leg of the U2 360° Tour; it made its live debut on 12 September 2010 during the second Zurich concert,[15] and was officially released as the opening track on the band's Wide Awake in Europe vinyl-only live EP that November.


Adam Clayton said of Atomic Bomb, "It's very much a guitar record. "Vertigo", "Love and Peace", "City of Blinding Lights", "All Because of You", all pretty up, rocky tunes. A lot of them are a kick-back to our very early days, so it's like with each year we have gathered a little bit more and this is what we are now."

In 2003, Bono said one of their new songs called "Full Metal Jacket" was "the mother of all rock songs" and "the reason to make a new album". A similar demo called "Native Son" was also recorded. Both of these demos would later become "Vertigo".

Contemporary Christian artist Michael W. Smith joined the band in the studio during the Atomic Bomb sessions and worked on at least one track with them, entitled "North Star". That track, which was a tribute to Johnny Cash, has not yet surfaced officially or unofficially in any form. A song introduced by Bono as "North Star" was played in Turin during the U2 360° Tour; however, it is unknown whether or not this is the same song that was worked on during the sessions.[16][17] Other tracks, such as "Shark Soup" (another version of "Vertigo"), "Lead Me In The Way I Should Go", and "You Can't Give Away Your Heart", were referenced in the media and by the band themselves, but have not been released.

The very earliest versions of "Love and Peace or Else" originated during the recording sessions for All That You Can't Leave Behind. It serves as Atomic Bomb's "big plea for peace" song, following in the footsteps of "Sunday Bloody Sunday", "Miss Sarajevo", "Please", and "Peace on Earth".[18] During performances on the Vertigo Tour, "Love and Peace Or Else" featured Mullen moving out to the center of the ellipse-shaped ramp, where he played a floor tom and crash cymbal for the majority of the song. Near the end, Bono took over and played the drum until the song segued into the opening drumbeat of "Sunday Bloody Sunday". Most live performances of the song also saw Mullen singing the "release, release, release, release" part during the chorus alongside Bono.

"Crumbs from Your Table" is about the relationship between Western countries and developing countries. The verses and chorus address the relationship from the perspective of citizens from the developing world, focusing on the disparity between the long-term socioeconomic planning stressed by the West ("You speak in signs and wonders") and the developing world's immediate need for sustenance ("But I'm begging for the crumbs from your table"). One line ("You speak in signs and wonders") was meant as a criticism of the Catholic Church.[19] The bridge ("Where you live should not decide / Whether you live or whether you die") is statement from Bono that follows with the theme in his speeches in which he tries to raise awareness about African poverty. Bono stated on a bonus DVD included with special editions of the album that the band has no recollection of writing the song, as they were intoxicated at the time. A studio performance is also included on the aforementioned bonus DVD. It was only played a handful on times during the third leg of the Vertigo Tour.[20]

"One Step Closer" is a slow tempo song, with Bono's lyrics centered around traffic images, leading to the singer being stranded on a refuge island. The origins of the song go back to the All That You Can't Leave Behind sessions.[21] It was revived for Atomic Bomb, with Lanois introducing a pedal steel guitar, in addition to guitars from the Edge and Bono, and musical influences varying from country music to The Velvet Underground making themselves felt.[21] One recording of the song ran for more than 15 minutes, with Bono adding many verses that were subsequently dropped.[21] Jacknife Lee also contributed to the final form of the recording.[22] "One Step Closer" is billed in the album with thanks to Noel Gallagher of Oasis. The title of the song comes from a conversation Bono had with Gallagher about Bono's dying father, Bob Hewson. Bono asked, "Do you think he believes in God?" to which Gallagher replied, "Well, he's one step closer to knowing."[21] Through the end of the Vertigo Tour, the song had never been performed in any U2 concert. The title of the album derives from a lyric in the song "Fast Cars", which was only available on some versions of the album.


For the album release, U2 partnered with Apple Inc. for several cross-promotions. "Vertigo" was featured on a widely aired television advertisement for the company's iPod music player. Additionally, a special edition U2-branded iPod was released bearing the black and red color scheme of the album, as well as laser-engraved autographs of each member on the back. The Complete U2, an iTunes Store-exclusive box set featuring 448 tracks, including previously unreleased content was also released. Proceeds from the iPod and iTunes partnerships were donated to charity.[23] A live version of "Original of the Species" from the concert film Vertigo 2005: Live from Chicago was later featured in commercials for the video iPod. Several CD copies of the album have the message "Miss You Sugar" on the bottom of the CD near the matrix number.

The compilation Medium, Rare & Remastered and the EP Unreleased and Rare, included in The Complete U2 box set, contains previously unreleased tracks, six of which were from the recording sessions for How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb:

  1. "Xanax and Wine" (alternate early version of "Fast Cars")
  2. "Native Son" (alternate early version of "Vertigo")
  3. "Smile" (outtake from the How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb Sessions)
  4. "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own" (early version)
  5. "All Because of You" (alternate version)
  6. "Yahweh" (alternate mix by Chris Thomas)

U2 made various promotional appearances on television. On 20 November 2004, U2 appeared as the musical guests on Saturday Night Live, performing "Vertigo", "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own", and "I Will Follow". Two days later, on the day of the album's release, U2 performed on a flat-bed truck, which drove through much of downtown New York City. The drive ended at the Brooklyn Bridge, under which the band performed a "secret gig" in Empire Fulton Ferry State Park, some of which comprised an MTV special and an EP called Live from Under the Brooklyn Bridge.


How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb was released in four different formats:

  • Standard Edition – with album CD
  • Double CD/DVD Edition – with album CD and bonus DVD, featuring making of the album footage and bonus performances
  • Special Limited Edition – with album CD, bonus DVD, and a hardcover book, featuring extracts from band members, song lyrics, original paintings, illustrations and photography
  • Vinyl LP


The album was preceded by the lead single "Vertigo", which was released on 24 September 2004. The song topped the charts in several countries, including the UK, reached number 31 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and topped the Modern Rock Tracks chart. It also topped the digital downloads chart in both the US and the UK, becoming U2's best-selling digital single ever in the US, with 2x Platinum status (note that for downloads, Platinum status was obtained at 200,000 copies sold). Upon release the song received extensive airplay and was an international hit, being featured in a popular iPod television commercial. The song lent its namesake to the band's Vertigo Tour.

The second single in the UK was "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own", released on 7 February 2005. The song is about Bono's relationship with his dying father. The song debuted at number one on the UK Singles Chart, becoming U2's first-ever follow-up single to top the charts. On US adult contemporary radio, it reached number 15 on the Adult Top 40 and also appeared on the Modern Rock Tracks chart, the Pop 100, and the Hot 100.

"City of Blinding Lights" was the third UK release. It peaked at number 2 and spent nine weeks on the chart. It also placed on the US Adult Top 40.

The second single in the US was "All Because of You". Although it received some airplay on rock radio, reaching number 6 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart and number 20 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, the song had little mainstream exposure. When released in the UK, it peaked at number 4 but only spent four weeks on the chart.

"Original of the Species" was released as a promotional single in the US. It peaked at number 6 on the Triple A Chart according to and the video has reached number 12 on VH1's top 20 video countdown. The track has also made brief appearances on the Hot AC charts according to Radio and Records and MediaGuide.

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Review scores
AllMusic3.5/5 stars[25]
Blender4/5 stars[26]
Entertainment WeeklyB[27]
The Guardian4/5 stars[28]
Los Angeles Times4/4 stars[29]
Q4/5 stars[32]
Rolling Stone4/5 stars[33]
Uncut4/5 stars[34]

How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb received generally favourable reviews. At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 79 out of 100 based on 26 reviews.[24] Critics like Rolling Stone (who described it as "grandiose music from grandiose men"), Q, NME, the Los Angeles Times, and The Boston Globe,[35] among others were quite vocal in their praise. Following its 22 November 2004 release, the album debuted at number 1 in 34 countries,[36] including the US Billboard 200 (with sales of 840,000),[37] the UK Albums Chart, and the Australian ARIA Charts. The album has sold 9 million copies worldwide.[38] According to Nielsen SoundScan, the album has sold 3.3 million copies in the US through March 2014.[39]


Like Santana's Supernatural, this album was awarded nine Grammy Awards overall in 2005 and 2006, winning in all of the categories in which it was nominated. It was awarded the Album of the Year award in 2006. "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own" from the album was awarded Song of the Year and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. "City of Blinding Lights" was awarded the award for Best Rock Song, and the album was also awarded Best Rock Album. Album producer Steve Lillywhite was also awarded Producer of the Year, Non Classical in 2006. In 2005, the single "Vertigo" from the album won in all three categories in which it was nominated: Best Rock Song, Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, and Best Short Form Music Video.

How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb was rated the best album of 2004 by USA Today, Paste, and The New York Times. Los Angeles Times music critic Robert Hilburn called it the second-best album of the year, and it was ranked third and fourth respectively by liveDaily and Q in their lists of the best albums of the year. The Village Voice rated it the eighth-best album of 2004, while PopMatters ranked it 25th. It was included in Rolling Stone's Top 50 Albums of 2004, and they later rated it the 68th-best album of the decade, while "Vertigo" was ranked the 64th-best song.[40][41] Despite all of the critical acclaim for the album, Bono would later state that "[t]here are no weak songs. But as an album, the whole isn't greater than the sum of its parts, and it fucking annoys me."

Vertigo Tour

The indoor legs of the Vertigo Tour featured an ellipse-shaped ramp encircling the main stage, along with LED curtains.
The indoor legs of the Vertigo Tour featured an ellipse-shaped ramp encircling the main stage, along with LED curtains.

In support of the album, U2 launched the Vertigo Tour, which featured five legs and a total of 131 shows. The first and third legs featured indoor concerts in North America, while the second and fourth legs featured outdoor concerts in Europe and Central/South America, respectively. The final leg, which saw the band touring the Pacific, was delayed due to an illness suffered by The Edge's daughter Sian. The stage design of the indoor Vertigo Tour shows was a stripped-down, intimate affair for the fans and featured an ellipse-shaped B-stage extending from the main stage. In total, the Vertigo Tour had sold 4,619,021 tickets for a total gross of $389 million; the gross was the second-highest such figure ever.[42] Three concert films depicting the tour, Vertigo 2005: Live from Chicago, Vertigo: Live from Milan, and U2 3D, were recorded.

Track listing

All lyrics are written by Bono except where noted; all music is composed by U2.

1."Vertigo"Bono and the EdgeSteve Lillywhite3:14
2."Miracle Drug"Bono and the EdgeLillywhite; Carl Glanville,[a] Jacknife Lee[a]3:59
3."Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own" Chris Thomas; Lillywhite,[a] Nellee Hooper[a]5:08
4."Love and Peace or Else"Bono and the EdgeBrian Eno, Daniel Lanois; Thomas,[a] Lee,[a] Flood[a]4:50
5."City of Blinding Lights" Flood; Thomas,[a] Lee[a]5:47
6."All Because of You" Lillywhite3:39
7."A Man and a Woman" Lee; Lillywhite,[a] Glanville[a]4:30
8."Crumbs from Your Table" Lillywhite; Lee[a]5:03
9."One Step Closer" Thomas, Lanois; Lee[a]3:51
10."Original of the Species" Lillywhite; Lee[a]4:41
11."Yahweh"Bono and the EdgeThomas4:21
Total length:49:03
UK, Ireland and Japan bonus track
12."Fast Cars"Bono and the EdgeLillywhite3:43
Total length:53:09


  • ^[a] – additional production
  • "Fast Cars" is a bonus track on the Japan, UK and Ireland CD edition, Special Limited Edition in all regions, and the digital version, included in The Complete U2. A new mix was featured on the "All Because of You" single.
Double CD/DVD and Special Limited editions only
U2 and 3 Songs
1."U2 and 3 Songs" (The Documentary)20:02
2."Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own" (Studio Performance)5:09
3."Crumbs from Your Table" (live in studio)5:00
4."Vertigo" (Temple Bar Mix)3:08
5."Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own" (Acoustic Couch Mix)4:43
Total length:43:00


  • Handwritten lyrics for "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own" is included on the DVD as easter egg.



  • Bono – lead vocals, additional guitar (tracks 2, 9, 11), backing vocal (2), piano (5)
  • The Edge – guitar, backing vocals/additional vocal (1–4, 6–9, 11), piano (2, 4–5, 10–11), keyboards (3), additional percussion (7), synthesiser (10–11)
  • Adam Clayton – bass guitar
  • Larry Mullen Jr. – drums, percussion, backing vocal (2)

Additional performers[43]


Singles charts (weekly)
Year Song Peak
BE (Wal)
US Pop
2004 "Vertigo" 1 5 9 2 1 31 10
2005 "All Because of You" 4 23 36 1 4
"Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own" 3 19 32 1 1 97 87
"City of Blinding Lights" 8 31 23 2 2
"—" denotes a release that did not chart.


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Argentina (CAPIF)[80] Platinum 40,000^
Australia (ARIA)[81] 4× Platinum 280,000^
Austria (IFPI Austria)[82] Platinum 30,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[83] 5× Platinum 500,000^
Brazil (Pro-Música Brasil)[84] 2× Platinum 120,000*
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[85] 4× Platinum 80,000^
Finland (Musiikkituottajat)[86] Gold 21,348[87]
France (SNEP)[88] Platinum 300,000*
Germany (BVMI)[89] 3× Gold 300,000^
Greece (IFPI Greece)[48] Gold 10,000^
Ireland (IRMA)[90] 10× Platinum 150,000^
Japan (RIAJ)[91] Platinum 250,000^
Mexico (AMPROFON)[92] Platinum 100,000^
Netherlands (NVPI)[93] Gold 40,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[94] 3× Platinum 45,000^
Poland (ZPAV)[95] Gold 20,000*
Russia (NFPF)[96] Gold 10,000*
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[97] 2× Platinum 200,000^
Sweden (GLF)[98] Platinum 60,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[99] 4× Platinum 1,200,000^
United States (RIAA)[100] 3× Platinum 3,000,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone


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External links

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