U2's Joshua Tree voted the best album of the 1980s

By Mark Savage
BBC music reporter

Image source, Island Records
Image caption,
The Joshua Tree earned U2 a Grammy Award for album of the year

U2's The Joshua Tree has been named the best album of the 1980s.

Released in 1987, it made U2 one of the world's biggest bands, thanks to anthems like With Or Without You and Where The Streets Have No Name.

Now, listeners to BBC Radio 2's Sounds of the 80s have chosen it as the decade's best record, in a poll marking National Album Day on Saturday.

Dire Straits' Brothers In Arms came second, followed by The Stone Roses' eponymous debut.

All but one of the top 20 are by male artists, with the exception being Kate Bush's Hounds Of Love - which lands at number 11.

The Human League's Dare, which takes sixth place, also features prominent contributions from singers Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley; while albums by Madonna, Janet Jackson, Tracy Chapman and Grace Jones feature further down the list.

Radio 2's best albums of the 80s. .  .

The Joshua Tree was almost called The Two Americas. Later, Desert Songs was another contender, before the band settled on The Joshua Tree - a title that perfectly captured the sacred/secular tension of U2's landscaped songs and Biblical imagery.

Written against the backdrop of the Cold War, the album reflected two sides of the American dream, with the Irish band seduced by its glamour but repelled by what bassist Adam Clayton called "the bleakness and greed" of the Reagan era.

"And it feels like we're right back there in a way," said guitarist The Edge, after hearing the results of Radio 2 poll. "Politics are still so polarised."

He added: "We've had the privilege of playing The Joshua Tree live all over the world in the last few years and it's almost like the album has come full circle.

"We're just thrilled that people are still connecting with these songs, night after night, year after year."

Produced by Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, The Joshua Tree won U2 a Grammy for album of the year, and songs like I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For and Bullet The Blue Sky - a criticism of US activities in Central America - have remained staples of their live shows ever since.

In the UK, it was the ninth best-selling album of the 1980s, beaten by several records - including Michael Jackson's Bad and Phil Collins' No Jacket Required - which came lower down Radio 2's list.

Best-selling albums of the 80s. .  .

Sounds of the 80s presenter Gary Davies reflected that choosing the ultimate 80s album was a near-impossible task.

"Because there were so many brilliant albums in the 80s, having to choose just one is really difficult," he said.

However, he added: "I'm very pleased to see that the Radio 2 listeners have impeccable taste by choosing an album from my all-time favourite band."

A countdown of the audience's top 40 favourite albums will be broadcast on Friday, 9 October from 20:00 BST on Radio 2 and BBC Sounds.

National Album Day follows on Saturday, with an 80s theme of its own. Record stores will be stocked with limited editions of classics like ZZ Top's Eliminator, Paul Simon's Graceland, Cyndi Lauper's She's So Unusual, Prefab Sprout's Steve McQueen and Duran Duran's self-titled debut album.

On Twitter, Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess will hold an all-day session of his album listening parties, featuring Toyah Willcox (15:00 BST), Marillion (17:30 BST), Matthew Wilder (19:00 BST), Blossoms (20:00 BST) and La Roux (21:00 BST).

BBC Four will also screen a weekend of documentaries dedicated to 80s music, while Radio 2, 6 Music and the Asian Network will be playing tracks from the decade throughout Saturday and Sunday.

Follow us on Facebook, or on Twitter @BBCNewsEnts. If you have a story suggestion email entertainment.news@bbc.co.uk.