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U2 Delays Its Next Album Until Early '97

Pop music: Record retailers were hoping to include Irish band's new work with that of Pearl Jam, R.E.M. and Nirvana in a fall sales sweepstakes.

August 27, 1996|ROBERT HILBURN and JERRY CROWE | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

U2's next album, which record retailers were counting on this fall to help boost holiday sales, won't be released until early next year, it was learned Monday.

Though neither U2 nor Island Records had announced a formal release date, published reports have indicated that the album was anticipated as early as October or November.

This gave retailers hopes of a major rock 'n' roll sales sweepstakes this fall--with albums coming from four of the best-selling and most respected bands in rock: U2, R.E.M., Pearl Jam and Nirvana.

Pearl Jam's "No Code" album is being released today by Epic Records, while R.E.M.'s "New Adventures in Hi-Fi" is due Sept. 10 from Warner Bros. A live Nirvana album, "From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah," will be released Oct. 8 by Geffen Records.

The still-untitled U2 album had been penciled in on many retailers' calendars for the week of Oct. 28.

"Even though the release schedule for the remainder of the year looks very significant, the addition of U2 would have been highly anticipated," says Gary Arnold, vice president of marketing for the 261-store Best Buy chain. "Any time we get the opportunity to get a new record from a super group like U2, we'd love to have it. So sure, we're disappointed.

"When you release a record by a group like U2, you get the opportunity to sell their records and also get the opportunity to bring a lot of consumers into stores to buy other music."

The U2, Pearl Jam, Nirvana and R.E.M. albums are eagerly awaited by retailers because the groups are widely believed by industry observers to be "safe" bets at a time when many pop and rock acts--from Hootie & the Blowfish to Green Day--have had trouble following up on blockbuster successes.

Reflective of its status, R.E.M. on Saturday signed the largest recording contract ever awarded--a five-album pact believed to be worth an estimated $80 million.

Together, R.E.M, Pearl Jam, Nirvana and U2 have generated nearly $700 million in album sales in the United States alone since the the SoundScan sales monitoring system began in 1991. U2's biggest album, 1987's "The Joshua Tree," has topped the $120-million mark in domestic sales, according to the Recording Industry Assn. of America.

Industry speculation over a fall release date began after sources close to the band suggested in recent months that U2, which has been working on the new album in spurts for much of the year in Dublin, might be finished by Sept. 1.

But a source said Monday that the group hasn't finished work on the record and is now thinking that early 1997 is a much more realistic release target. The band is expected to tour after the release. Neither the band nor its label had an official comment.

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