How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb

How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
Studio album by U2
Released 22 November 2004
Recorded November 2003 August 2004
Genre Rock
Length 49:03
Label Island, Interscope
Producer Steve Lillywhite, with additional production by Chris Thomas, Jacknife Lee, Nellee Hooper, Flood, Daniel Lanois, Brian Eno, Carl Glanville
U2 chronology
All That You Can't Leave Behind
How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
No Line on the Horizon
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: 14 February 2005
  3. "City of Blinding Lights"
    Released: 6 June 2005
  4. "All Because of You"
    Released: 10 October 2005
  5. "Original of the Species"
    Released: January 2006
"Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own"
U2's "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own" from How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb

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

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] Although not a concept album in the traditional sense, most of the music on the record deals with the world at a crossroads of its existence. Love and war, peace and harmony, and approaching death are themes of the album.

How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb and its singles won all nine Grammy Awards for which they were nominated (U2 themselves were awarded eight out of the nine). The album also was the fourth-highest-selling album of 2004,[2] with over 10 million copies sold, and it yielded several successful singles in "Vertigo", "City of Blinding Lights" and "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own". The album was also included in Rolling Stone's list of the "100 Best Albums of the Decade" at number 68.


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".

A demo version of the album (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.[3] The band publicly announced that if those tracks were leaked online, they would release the album immediately. Several months later, tracks from the album were released online, but they were the finished products, and not the rough demos from The Edge's stolen CD.

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."

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]

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 is described by Blender Magazine as "a six-and-a-half-minute outpouring of U2 at its most uninhibitedly U2-ish".[5] The lyrics to the song can be found in the booklet for the Special Limited Edition. After rehearsing the song prior to dates on the European leg of the U2 360° Tour, a significantly revised version of the song received its live debut on 12 September 2010 during the second Zurich concert,[6] and was officially released as the leading track on the band's Wide Awake in Europe vinyl-only live EP that November.

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.[7][8] 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.

"City of Blinding Lights" (2004)
"City of Blinding Lights" is one of the tracks which reflects back to the band's earlier work.

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The very earliest versions of "Love and Peace or Else" originated from the studio sessions for 2000's All That You Can't Leave Behind album. 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".[9] During performances on the Vertigo Tour, "Love and Peace Or Else" featured Larry Mullen Jr. 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.[10] 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.[11]

"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.[12] 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.[12] One recording of the song ran for more than 15 minutes, with Bono adding many verses that were subsequently dropped.[12] Producer Jacknife Lee also contributed to the final form of the recording.[13] "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."[12] 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.


"Vertigo" was featured on a widely aired television commercial for the Apple iPod. Apple, in a partnership with the band, released a special edition iPod 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.[14] 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", 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:


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 #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 #1 on the UK Singles Chart, becoming U2's first-ever follow-up single to top the charts. On US adult contemporary radio, it reached #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 #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 #6 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart and #20 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, the song had little mainstream exposure. When released in the UK, it peaked at #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 #6 on the Triple A Chart according to and the video has reached #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
Entertainment WeeklyB[18]
The Guardian[19]
Los Angeles Times[20]
Pitchfork Media6.9/10[22]
Rolling Stone[24]

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.[15] Critics like Rolling Stone (who described it as "grandiose music from grandiose men"), Q, NME, the Los Angeles Times, and The Boston Globe,[26] among others were quite vocal in its praise. Following its 22 November 2004 release, the album debuted at number 1 in 34 countries,[27] including the US Billboard 200 (with sales of 840,000),[28] the UK Albums Chart, and the Australian ARIA Charts. The album has sold 9 million copies worldwide.[29] According to Nielsen SoundScan, the album has sold 3.3 million copies in the US through March 2014.[30]

Awards and accolades

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 Magazine, and The New York Times. The 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. Village Voice rated it the eighth-best album of 2004, while 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.[31][32] 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.
Main article: Vertigo Tour

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.[33] Three concert films depicting the tour, Vertigo 2005: Live from Chicago, Vertigo: Live from Milan, and U2 3D, were recorded.

Track listing

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

No. TitleLyricsProducer Length
1. "Vertigo"  Bono and The EdgeSteve Lillywhite 3:14
2. "Miracle Drug"  Bono and The EdgeSteve Lillywhite 3:59
3. "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own"   Chris Thomas 5:08
4. "Love and Peace or Else"  Bono and The EdgeBrian Eno, Daniel Lanois 4:50
5. "City of Blinding Lights"   Flood 5:47
6. "All Because of You"   Steve Lillywhite 3:39
7. "A Man and a Woman"   Jacknife Lee 4:30
8. "Crumbs from Your Table"   Steve Lillywhite 5:03
9. "One Step Closer"   Thomas, Lanois 3:51
10. "Original of the Species"   Steve Lillywhite 4:41
11. "Yahweh"  Bono and The EdgeThomas 4:21
Total length:
UK, Ireland and Japan bonus track
No. TitleLyricsProducer Length
12. "Fast Cars"  Bono and The EdgeSteve Lillywhite 3:43
Total length:

"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.

DVD (Double CD/DVD and Special Limited editions only)

U2 and 3 Songs
No. Title Length
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) 5:00
4. "Vertigo" (Temple Bar Mix) 3:08
5. "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own" (Acoustic Couch Mix) 4:43
6. "Vertigo"   3:23
Total length:



Weekly charts

Australian Albums Chart[34] 1
Austrian Albums Chart[34] 1
Canadian Albums Chart[35] 1
Czech Albums Chart[36] 1
Dutch Albums Chart[34] 1
Finnish Albums Chart[37] 1
French Albums Chart[34] 1
Greek Albums Chart[38] 3
Irish Albums Chart[39] 1
Japanese Albums Chart[40] 4
New Zealand Albums Chart[34] 1
Polish Albums Chart[41] 1
Spanish Albums Chart[34] 6
UK Albums Chart[42] 1
US Billboard 200[43] 1


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Australia (ARIA)[44] 4× Platinum 280,000^
Austria (IFPI Austria)[45] Platinum 30,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[46] 5× Platinum 500,000^
Brazil (ABPD)[47] 2× Platinum 120,000*
Finland (Musiikkituottajat)[48] Gold 0[49]
France (SNEP)[50] Platinum 0*
Greece (IFPI Greece)[38] Gold 10,000^
Ireland (IRMA)[51] 10× Platinum 150,000^
Japan (RIAJ)[52] Platinum 250,000^
Netherlands (NVPI)[53] Gold 40,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[54] 3× Platinum 45,000^
Poland (ZPAV)[55] Gold 20,000*
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[56] 2× Platinum 200,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[57] 4× Platinum 1,200,000^
United States (RIAA)[58] 3× Platinum 3,000,000^

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

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.


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External links

Preceded by
Encore by Eminem
Australian ARIA Albums Chart number-one album
29 November 2004 – 5 December 2004
Succeeded by
Love. Angel. Music. Baby. by Gwen Stefani
Preceded by
Watra by Wilki
Polish Albums Chart number-one album
29 November 2004 – 12 December 2004 (2 weeks)
Succeeded by
Bravo Hits Zima 2005 by Różni wykonawcy
Preceded by
Encore by Eminem
UK number one album
4 December 2004 – 24 December 2004
Succeeded by
Greatest Hits by Robbie Williams
Preceded by
Encore by Eminem
Billboard 200 number-one album
5 December 2004 – 11 December 2004
Succeeded by
MTV Ultimate Mash-Ups Presents: Collision Course by Jay-Z & Linkin Park
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