It's A Wrap

And so the blog reaches a natural conclusion today. The plan was to write about U2 every day for 365 days, and that is where we are. This was intended as a writing project and to help me organize my thoughts about the band and their music. Plus a kind of log of the year, not quite a diary, although if I go through there are many moments where things pop in like that. And of course there was the whole tour to follow, and a record of the four shows I attended in Chicago.

So I completed the initial goal which was to write a post every day for 365 days, and to write at least 500 words each day. I had a couple of minor stumbles - the day the blog went a little crazy, and I ended up manually posting a few minutes after midnight, and then there was a day I really didn’t want to write (the night of the Paris terror attacks). So if you want to be strict about it, I missed the goal, but I am not counting either of those as a miss.

The thing I am happiest about is getting that goal of writing so much. As I said the other day, I passed 200,000 words in the blog this year, and that’s the equivalent of a couple of novels. Now that I have forced myself into the habit of continuing the writing, I am going to continue it next year. I don’t know where or how just yet, but I will. I have a couple of sites in mind, although they won’t be daily sites, and nothing to do with the band so I’m not even going to link to them here. I also have a novel that I have worked on this year, which I think I will turn into my daily writing project. Taking those 15 or 30 minutes to write each day and putting it into that will be very useful. But definitely something.

Organizing my thoughts on the band was greatly interesting. As I thought about it, as I went through the year and opinions changed on a few things, I had some songs bubble up here and there, and sneak themselves into my more regular rotation. One of the more interesting items was just a couple of days ago, writing my top ten and finally setting them in an order. It was quite challenging to get that order the way I thought it should be, debating over songs being a spot above or below where they were. I suspect if I did it again a year from now, it might be different still.

How has my writing changed over the year? I think things are a little more organized now than they were at the start. My own opinion is that I loosened up later in the year, there were times when I was trying to force songs into a particular religious or sexual theme, and that didn’t always work. Once I moved away from those themes (although they were always there in the background) I think the blog improved. I also think that the best months for the blog were January and December, the first because of the newness of the blog, and the last because it was coming to and end and I was relaxing more. There were times - especially around October and November - when it became a bit of a slog to get things done. If you were to check the timestamps, you’d see that to be the case because there were nights when I was writing and immediately posting, just to get that day done in time. It worked much better at the times when I was a day or two ahead of things (which may be the biggest lesson from the year).

One other thing I must mention is errors. I know there have been a few places during the year where I have said one song and meant another. My memory is as good as yours, and by that I mean that every one of us mixes things up in our memory now and then. So I’ve written something about one song meaning another, and maybe repeated that same thing later in the year about a different song. That’s just the way it works. Unintentional errors, obviously, but I will say that I regret them.

I don’t think I’m the greatest U2 fan in the world, but surely I’m up there somewhere. Top 1%? Top 10,000? I don’t know. I know a heck of a lot more about U2 than the vast majority of people, but over this year I have surely learned that there are many people who know a lot more about U2 than me. I have learned a lot about the band, and about individual songs. I hope that I have reflected some of that in the blog; I hope that you maybe learned something somewhere along the way from me.

I do not plan to write any more on this blog, but I expect that one day I will. Once the band gets back on the road, or releases the new album, you will probably see some posts from me here. So, if you’re following me in RSS (and I have been pleased to see some growth in the stats of people reading my writing), keep me there, and you may one day see a post or two.

As for the band themselves, I have had a great year with them. I saw four shows in Chicago (and took my son to his first), and dozens more online thanks to many U2 fans around the world. I got up close with the band at the shows, within 20 feet of each of them when they were on the catwalk, and I shook the hand of Paul McGuinness, perhaps the highlight of the year. A great U2 year, all in all. Thanks for reading.

December Review

And we approach the very end of the year, and the end of the blog (for now). Tomorrow I will have a final wrap-up of the year, but today I will wrap the reviews I ran in December. This month was interesting, it was perhaps the best month I had all year. In part due to content - I enjoy writing some of the essay-type stuff as much or more than writing a review of a particular song - and in part due to planning. I have planned on and off this year, but too often ended up just randomly picking a topic or song from a list to write about that day. This month (actually late November, if I remember correctly) I planned out the entire month, by sitting down and listing everything I wanted to write for the rest of the year, putting them in order when I wanted to do them, and following that list. There were only a couple of days all month that I switched the list up, due to other commitments costing me time. But having that list really helped me stay focused and interested. I hope the content showed that.

This month I did a lot of essay writing rather than reviews. I count only about ten songs in the list, which is probably by far the fewest in the month. That is an intereting lesson for me, that I feel better about my writing when I am not being so specific, and when I am not locked into something like a song, where I feel I have to talk about the same types of things each time. Being more freeform, within a general topic, was much easier to write and much more interesting to stick to. And I filled out a number of end-of-year topics that I had been planning for a while, which was fun.

So tomorrow I will be back with a wrap of the entire year, but today I take a quick look back at what I wrote this month. If you are new to the blog, I wrote a monthly review every month on the last or next to last day of the month. If you click on the month in the links on the right, you can scan back through and see each month fairly quickly.

Here’s everything I reviewed this month, with the ratings I gave them:

Angel of Harlem 6  

On The Road With U2 (book) 7 

Glastonbury 3  

Films Of Innocence

Conspiracy of Hope 

Dancin’ Shoes

Neon Lights

Treasure (Whatever Happened to Pete The Chop) 3  

End Of The Road 

Bad 10  



Red Light

Vertigo (DVD) 10 


The Bono Guitar 

The Fool

Achtung Baby Video Collection

Never Let Me Go

Outside It’s America 

Early Songs

Covers Part II 

Ch Ch Changes 

Do They Know It’s Christmas? 

Christmas Bonus

360 At The Rose Bowl 10  


Top Of The Pops

Live Live Live 

Live Live Live

Counting down to the end of the year, I want to take a look at the live show I would want to see. I’m not talking about a particular show from a particular tour, but what I would want if I were choosing the playlist for the show. Some of the songs will be specific versions, but many will not. And one of the problems I have with doing this is that I would really like them to play every single song ever, but I know that’s not possible. So I’m going to limit myself in some way. I’m going to make it eight songs for the first and second half, and two five song encores. This will make it 26 songs, which is a good length for a show (although I might want it to go forever).

Pre-show song: I cheat by putting Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me in here, playing it on the video board, but it’s the version from From The Ground Up, because I really like the “what time is it in the world? Showtime” to open the show and get the crowd jumping (even though I don’t think it has ever been used as an opening song in a show).

First Half:

We start the show proper with Where The Streets Have No Name, the Rattle And Hum version. This is the song I conflict on the most, because it has been played in so many varieties and in so many places in the order, but I think the definitive version is from R&H.

Next is Out Of Control, a great second song.

We continue the early stuff with I Will Follow.

A buzz comes to the crowd when they play The Electric Co.

We slow things down and Bono gets a slight rest as we get The Unforgettable Fire.

Then things start up again with Bullet The Blue Sky.

Bullet naturally pairs with Running To Stand Still, a great combo from Rattle And Hum.

And we keep it slow as the half finishes with Exit.

Intermission: The Fly (I liked the idea of an intermission, and the way they did it with a video). 

Second Half:

Invisible coming back from the intermission worked really well this year, I think, so it stays in.

That jumps us naturally into Until The End Of The World.

Keep jumping, we’re going to see Cedarwood Road next.

Again we slow down as they play All I Want Is You.

AIWIY pairs well with Love Rescue Me, as in the U22 versions.

And of course they both make the mood better when followed by Mysterious Ways.

Speed up again with I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight.

Next they play I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For to end the second half, which is a reference to the start of the encore…

First Encore:

Cheating a little here, they surprise us all by coming back and playing Acrobat for the first time.

Then we get political by playing Raised By Wolves.

It naturally rolls into Sunday Bloody Sunday, although there are several versions that could be played here, and I don’t think I want the I+E version to be it.

We have to play Pride (In The Name Of Love) in there next, it keeps the political point going.

And out again with another nice finishing song, Moment Of Surrender.

Second Encore:

Starts with Breathe, another great opener.

We calm things down from here, by going to With Or Without You (with the Shine Like Stars coda).

Then into Bad (any version is great, I don’t know if I can decide between them all).

We keep it slow with some emotion in Walk On.

And One is the finisher (yes I leave out 40, sorry), the crowd singing us out.

Now what did I leave out? Boy oh boy, so much. Many songs could be fit into the plan, some substitutions, some moves. Much of it depends on when the show takes place, of course. The general format is that of the Innocence + Experience tour, at least in the staging. I have ideas for a new stage setup for the band, too (basically an X so they have a main center stage and small stages at each corner they can all go to, together or separately), but that’s not important. What is important is that somehow I get this show to be actually staged at all…

Top Of The Pops

A much happier story than yesterday, today we will look at the best of the best. A list of the top ten songs that U2 have produced, again in my opinion, and again we will do it as a countdown. You might see some songs in this list that surprise you, you might not see some songs and that might surprise you too. As I said, this is my list, your mileage may vary. Although if you don’t have the same number one as me, you’re wrong. Just kidding, you can list whatever songs you want when you write your blog.

10. Acrobat is a very underrated song, it has fantastic lyrics, it comes from a great album, the music is rolling along just right. I always get the feeling that it would be near the top if they ever played it live, and got the whole world rolling along with the song, but they don’t so they can’t.

9. With Or Without You is a love song, or is it? It’s great musically, a song that I actually spent money to buy the equipment so I could play it myself. It is a calming song, is what it is, and I always feel a little happier when I listen to it.

8. Out Of Control wouldn’t have been on this list a few years ago, but once they started playing it regularly again during 360 it was jumping, and again during I+E. Now I find myself bouncing along to it, listening for that moment when Edge gets out of control, and it keeps jumping the list by itself.

7. All I Want Is You is a song I loved it from the moment I heard it. There are a couple of variations, each works well although I can slowly play only one of them. Another where I don’t know whether it is a love song or not, although it is special since my wife and I chose it for our wedding. We heard it live together in Chicago for the first time this year, and it was a great moment.

6. One can’t be left out of anything, it gives me chills when I listen to it. A wonderful song, full of feeling and again I find myself asking whether it is a love song or not. I guess that’s kind of a theme here, those ambiguous songs hitting the top ten list. Might be something for Bono to think about next time he’s looking for inspiration.

5. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For is a song that has more variations than probably any other U2 show, as shown in Rattle And Hum, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard a version that I haven’t liked. It has been sung by so many different groups in so many different formats, telling you that it is a universal song of love, again maybe love, or perhaps hope.

4. Walk On is powerful and emotional, and I conflate it with One all the time when I think of 9/11 and the names scrolling behind the band. Because of that I end up crying during both of them, that deep feeling of love and loss and everything. I have said a few times that I have felt more religious during a U2 show than any time I’ve been in church, and this is the song that I think of. This is the closest I think to a prayer that U2 have done, and I feel it every time.

3. Bad is about drugs, but more than that, it is about a life, as we have discovered during the current tour. But it is once again the emotion that they put into the song, the depth of feeling that is imparted throughout, that grabs and doesn’t let go. In addition, the way they twist and turn the song, adding in pieces here and there, at the points at which Edge can vamp while Bono just talks about whatever is on his mind. A great storytelling song, you might say.

2. Sunday Bloody Sunday is the most political song from a very political band. This song is personal though, and it shows through in every performance. The power from the Rattle And Hum movie version, when they are at their rawest and most openly emotional moment, is just chilling again. A fantastic song, I guess I say that a lot but this one deserves it.

1. Where The Streets Have No Name is far and away my favorite U2 song. When I began creating my original list of songs to review, the very first song I wrote in was Streets at the top spot, and never had to move it. I doubt I ever will in future either. I love Streets in all versions that I have heard, this is a song that I almost never skip listening to. Love it.


Not the title of a song from The Unforgettable Fire, I had the idea of doing a list of worst U2 songs, so I just ran through my reviews of all the songs I rated either a 1 or a 2. Problem is I came up with a list of 42 songs, which is ridiculously many. Even just the 1s I have 13 songs. The real problem is that many of them are intentionally 1s or 2s, meaning they are the extra songs, the stuff that ends up on a b side, some on one of the anniversary extras. Songs that weren’t really intended for release in some ways. So let me try and limit this to just the album songs, and I’ll also limit it to a worst ten, since twenty seems too many. And I guess we should count them down, since that’s what you do, right? Although this is not necessarily the order I would choose every single time, but I wouldn’t shift them too far from this I don’t think.

10. Red Light commits the sin of being so repetitive, and even boring at times when you’re listening. The music is no great shakes, it tries to be busier than it needs to be and it doesn’t really work. Definitely one I skip whenever I’m not in the right mood.

9. Fez (Being Born) seemed to have an idea of some sorts but I could never get into it. Way too much Eno influence in this case, and personally while I thought he did good stuff in some of the early days, especially The Unforgettable Fire, some of his other influences weren’t as good (Passengers). I actually wonder whether Lanois was the good influence and Eno the bad throughout the history of U2.

8. Discotheque is somehow amusing, but it is dance music which I am not usually a big fan of, and in the video they dress up as The Village People, and I spend the entire time cringing. This is perhaps the most symbolic song from Pop, which is one of the two worst U2 albums, so it by default gets a bad reputation.

7. Do You Feel Loved is really just a nothing song, it gives me little or no feeling about it at all. As I noted in the review they only played it live a few times, so apparently they didn’t get a reaction either from the audience or from themselves when they played it. Boring.

6. The Playboy Mansion brings up an image in my head just from the title, I bet it brings one up for you too. My image is one of creepiness, of not wanting to touch any surface in that building. I note that just recently the magazine said they were going to remove nudes, which kind of ends the entire purpose of where it came from in the first place. Dying empire, dead song.

5. Is That All? is a question mark of a song. Repetitive, but not much else. I even said during the review that it was lowest rated song on the lowest rated album, so likely to end up very near the bottom of everything. And here it is.

4. Babyface is way too electronic, coming out of the Zooropa stuff that was at least somewhat a b side to Achtung Baby. The whole album, I mean, not just this song. Zooropa was a lot of the leftovers from Achtung, not good enough to get on a really good album. Babyface I just don’t like that much, can’t really say anything other than that about it.

3. Mofo is terrible dance music with terrible lyrics, and I should leave it at that. I could go back to say another of those worst songs on worst albums things, but the fact that it is here tells you that.

2. The Ocean is short and boring. I think it was just filler, really, something to tack on to their first album, or maybe something that just snuck in by accident. Yet another that I skip over when I play it.

1. By far the worst song I have reviewed this year is Miracle Drug. I really dislike this song. The music is okay although boring, but really it’s the lyrics that kill me. As I have said many times, when Bono is being lyrical he can write great stuff, but when he gets down to the specifics in a song it is never going to be good. This song is all specific, and all bad. “Of science and the human heart there is no limit” is probably the worst U2 lyric of all time.

And if you don’t like reading this, come back tomorrow and we’ll try the other end of the scale.

360 At The Rose Bowl

Day number 360 of the year, what else could I talk about today? One of the wildest extravaganzas in U2 history, but in an over the top way rather than a crazy ridiculous over the top way like say Popmart or Zoo TV were. I was driving into the Los Angeles airport a week ago and saw their oddly-shaped building in front, and immediately thought back to 360, to the Claw, and remembered that the building was a design inspiration for the stage. Yet another of those things where the band pops up when you least expect them.

U2 360 At The Rose Bowl was a great show. I remember watching it online the night it was on, it was a huge success as an online show. Wikipedia says that 10 million people watched the show online, which is an astounding number. I loved the show from start to finish, as I did when I saw it live in person. I must admit that it was a different experience in those days, seeing a couple of shows live and one online, vs seeing most of the tour online. Yes, kids, it wasn’t that long ago when you couldn’t watch every single show. And get off my lawn.

I never figured out why Breathe was cut from the DVD, when it was the original opener for the show. Given that Breathe was my favorite song from the album, that was very disappointing. As for the rest of it, there is a surprising correlation between the show and the current tour, roughly half of the songs have been repeated on a regular basis this year. I guess I shouldn’t say surprising, they are the standards, the songs that the band pretty much has to play each time since they are expected by the fans these days. Maybe I should therefore be surprised that they managed to get so many of the songs off the new album into the show.

And again, this is the first experience of seeing many of these songs live, watching them on this tour. I remember seeing some bootlegs of I’ll Go Crazy, and realizing that they were playing it in an entirely different manner than what was on the album. Then going to the show and seeing that version, and loving it, and being surprised that it was so different and so good, and wondering how that version came about. When I watched 360 in person, the two songs I recorded on my camera were Streets (as always) and Crazy, because I liked it so much.

I have talked before about the shows, how any live show automatically gets a perfect 10, and this is no exception. This is now the definitive version of the show, the one that will be remembered for all of history. 360 was a stadium show, and this video shows them in a great stadium setting, and shows off the Claw in a great way, and so we will remember this tour this way, and I think that’s a really good thing.

My rating for U2 360 At The Rose Bowl: 10 / 10

Christmas bonus

Merry Christmas! We have a couple of songs specifically for the day, and not those lame saccharine songs you’ve been forced to listen to for the last month.

Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) was a song that U2 covered a few years back, during the Joshua Tree tour I think, when they recorded the song during a rehearsal for a show. The video for the song is the only thing I’ve ever known of it, although it was released on a Special Olympics cd too. It’s enjoyable, fun, light and fast and playful you might say. From the opening moment, when Bono starts the song in a deep and odd voice, there are a lot of laughs throughout the video. From Bono’s weird hat, to the hilarious moment when Bono and Edge are back to back, then Edge turns and looks at Bono and rolls his eyes and looks away, then he steps away just as Bono leans back and almost falls, there are funny moments again and again. I often think of it, even throughout the year, and there are times when it just makes me laugh. It’s got a light and sweet sound, and message. I haven’t heard the original, sung by Darlene Love in the 1960s, so I can’t compare, but I think the U2 version is much better known.

The second U2 Christmas song was by a guy called Greg Lake, this time in the 1970s. I Believe In Father Christmas is much more in the style of U2, some political thoughts in a song. Of course it wasn’t written by them, but they chose to cover it, so presumably they felt a connection to it. Now I said political thoughts, but it’s not really, it is talking about how Christmas has gone from being a religious holiday to a commercial one, which I guess you might call politically correct. It does make sense for U2, the religious theme is very similar to the themes that U2 have played over the years, the ideas of people calling themselves religious but not acting that way, or of the world needing God but not getting the idea of love that God and Jesus brought. So I would call this one of the more religious U2 songs, although not a U2 song. I Believe In Father Christmas is also enjoyable, but in a bit of a different way to the previous song.

I hope you have/had a merry Christmas. I hope you take that in all the meaning I give it, whether you believe in the religion or not (I saw a thing the other day that said you should take everything in the meaning that it is given, not in the meaning that you take it). I hope you had a U2 Christmas if that’s what you wanted, I doubt I will get anything U2 (I write this on December 22), simply because I already have it all. I would be quite surprised if I got anything that I wasn’t already aware of, but I hope you did if U2 was on your wish list.

Do They Know It's Christmas?

I’m not usually a big fan of charity songs. They’re generally lame, have a feeling of being written by a songwriter who writes for musical groups, and also feel like a vehicle for artists to showcase their charity efforts. It is rare that they are any good, and rare that I have any memory of them. Do They Know It’s Christmas is rare because I do remember it, but it isn’t any good. I will confess that I probably knew most of the musicians who performed on the song, but I don’t remember most of them now. Watching them, they all look like a bunch of plastic faces.

There is of course only one line that anyone remembers from the song, and it is Bono’s. “Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you.” I take this line two ways, and it takes a little messing with the tense to think of it like that. The first way is to say “thank God it’s them,” which implies that you’re wishing punishment on someone. This version requires the thought that God is going to punish someone, so you’re glad you weren’t the one chosen. The second version is the whole line, “thank God it’s them instead of you,” which is to say that you could very easily be in that position, and to give thanks that you’re not, even though you recognize that someone else is. These are somewhat splitting hairs, it may be difficult to follow the reasoning here, but that’s just the way I am.

I made a comment above that these songs are written by a songwriter who writes for musical groups. What did I mean by that? Well, I actually heard this line a couple of weeks ago, and it resonated pretty well with me. You see, there’s a big difference between a band and a group. A band, like U2, is one that writes their own music, writes their own lyrics, does everything themselves. I like bands. A group is one that walks into a studio, has a backing track laid down, and sings the words that someone has written for them. You know the kinds I mean, they are the Backstreet Boys or One Direction or any number of horrible boy bands that every so often my eleven year old sings a line from. Their music is worthless, built to make a quick buck, the group is worthless, put together to fill a specific list of characteristics, and you rarely if ever hear from them again. Can’t stand them. And of course this song wasn’t written by such a songwriter, it was written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, but their claim that they had very little time to write it is possibly a reasonable excuse for it being such a clunker.

News came through today that the video game Rock Band is adding eight U2 songs to their downloadable content (probably already out by the time you read this). I’ve never played the game, but I’ve heard about it plenty. I play a different game, Rocksmith, which is more of a guitar playing kind of game (I use a real guitar). But, I might have to break down and get a new system just to play this game and these songs. Crazy, right?

Ch Ch Changes

I started this year by making a list of all album songs, and rating them all. I did not rate any non-album songs until I reviewed them, and the album ratings were based on the average of the individual songs. If you’ve followed the blog for any length of time (the last 356 days, hopefully) you’ll have seen me talk a number of times about my changing opinions. I tend to dislike songs the first time I hear them, simply due to the lack of familiarity, and over time as I get to know them I like them more and more. So my opinions this year have changed somewhat, as I have gone through the year, and as I have listened to some of these songs more, some of them recent songs, a few of them old songs that I had never listened to much.

If I were to talk about one old song that has really jumped in my opinion this year, it would probably be Desert Of Our Love, which for the longest time I thought of as a slightly gimmicky song, but this year, on listening to it a dozen or more times, have been thinking of it as certainly worth at least a b side. It might be in competition with Rise Up though, which I think could have been on the album. Both of those are not coincidentally from The Joshua Tree sessions, by far the most fertile period in the band’s history (well, pretty much from Joshua Tree through Achtung Baby).

The other thing that gets me is seeing a song live for the first time. As everyone knows U2 is very much a live band, almost always better live than recorded. This means that when I was rating Songs Of Innocence, I only had a couple of months of listening to the album, and nothing of a live song (apart from that one live performance in the Apple release party). I definitely rated SOI harshly at that time, and it took me a while to change. I was slowly changing by the time I started the project, liking a few songs much more than initially, but it really did take until the tour began for me to love some of the songs.

Without going greatly into specifics, over the year I have adjusted the ratings for much of Songs Of Innocence. In some cases I published the review before adjusting, in other cases after (I will leave it as an exercise for the reader on discovering which is which). I have tracked the overall totals, and to be brutally honest I originally had SOI as the second worst U2 album ever, but it has rapidly risen the charts to the top half, and will very possibly rise a little higher than that. Along with songs like Invisible, which I rated as a 4 when I wrote the review, but I would give it a 6 or perhaps even 7 now (it was perhaps my happiest surprise when I saw Invisible live), it all proves my thesis that I have to really know a song before loving it. So if you’re ever talking to me just after a U2 album has been released, know that my feelings about it are very likely to change.

Covers Part II

Going through the Covers review the other day, it struck me the people that U2 have covered are a diverse mix, but when you really get down to it there are a few that they have covered the most. And there’s a difference between played the most, and covered the most songs. Which is more interesting, played one song from a band 10 times, or played 10 songs from a band one time each? That they would play a song 10 times tells you one thing, about the way they like that song a lot, but the opposite is that they like that band a lot. Like I said, interesting either way.

Roll through the list of bands where they’ve covered more than one song, and you essentially get a list of really famous artists. Here’s the list of artists that U2 have sung more than five of their songs live: Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Lou Reed, Neil Young, Simple Minds, The Beatles, The Ramones, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Thin Lizzy, Van Morrison. No surprises there, right? Every U2 fan has heard them play some or all of these groups, I wouldn’t dare say they play at least one of these in every show, but I would probably be right to say they have played them at least once every tour. The common bands, famous because they are good, played by U2 because they’re well-known.

But it’s when you dig deeper into the list that you find the more interesting connections. As I said at the start, there’s more interest in those songs they play a lot. Take for example Gloria by Van Morrison, one of the most sung non-U2 songs. How did it get into the show? You’d think it was because it has the connection to the U2 song Gloria, which it has been played with a few times, but it really took off when they added it to Exit during the Joshua Tree tour (as seen on Rattle And Hum), which is where it got by far the most plays. But it turns out that Satellite Of Love is the most-played non-U2 song, at least in full and not counting snippets (Send In The Clowns and When Johnny Comes Marching Home win with snippets). Satellite was played almost exclusively on the Zoo TV tour, because it fell in with the theme of the tour, the idea of satellites and TVs and so on. So, theme is the second theme for why they play a song a lot.

And you can keep on rolling down the list like that. So many of the songs are brought in for a guest appearance because of a certain event - like when they sang Michael Jackson the day he died, or several other artists on the day they died. Or they’re in a specific location - they’ve played three different Crowded House songs, all one time each, all as a snippet, and all of them during concerts in New Zealand, where the band is from. They just played a French song, Ne Me Quitte Pas, in the last few shows in Dublin and Paris, an ode to the French. And so on. So that theme would be location.

I bet if I went through the entire list, those would be the primary reasons, but I bet you could find specific reasons for any particular song being sung on any particular day. Maybe someone handed Bono a CD and he was listening to it, and the words just stuck in his head and he heard something during the show, a particular note or series of notes, and it jogged his memory and he switched to those words for a few seconds. Could be any reason. I just know that I like this idea. I have used the songs that U2 have recorded as introductions to other artists (like Woodie Guthrie), and I bet I could use their snippet list as an intro to a much wider variety of music.

Early Songs

One of the things about this blog is that I planned on covering every U2 song that was released, whether on an album, standalone, b side, whatever. The problem with this is that they have a number of songs that were never released, that snuck out into the world here and there in different variations. Some live songs that never got recorded, some demos that were recorded but never released, and so on. This means that there have been a few songs that never made it to my list, or were on the list but fell to the bottom again and again, and so I’m writing about those today.

It is actually quite surprising the number of songs that they have recorded but never released, or have existed in some variation or another. Bono is well-known for playing his latest thing to a journalist somewhere, and they report a title and a feeling for a song, but then it never sees the light of day. Plenty of those over the years. But if you go back to the earliest days, there are so many different titles that we know now, but don’t know what happened to those songs, whether they changed title, changed into another song, or just got thrown to the wayside. The following is a short list of songs (and even shorter reviews) that are now available on YouTube in different formats, all of them from the really early days of Boy or even before then.

City At Night: One of those definitive early U2 sounds, this song is fast, loud, lots of drums. Every box checked. And the Bono voice from the very early days, I don’t know how he managed to sing like that, getting that weird echo sound in his voice, somehow sounding both grownup and a teenager at the same time. Older than his years.

Life On A Distant Planet: Really good bass, from the first note onward. Bono sounding terrible. Ideas there, but not necessarily expressed very well. Makes me wonder if they came up with a phrase and then wrote a song around it. Like maybe they were watching Star Trek or something like that, and asked themselves “I wonder what life on a distant planet would be like,” then started writing something.

Carry Me Home: This one actually has a little bit of difference to the others, and I think it’s mostly the drums, they really do sound different. It’s also the guitar, Edge is doing a sort of start-stop thing throughout the song, and it is interesting, if not effective.

The Dream Is Over: I think this one became Boy-Girl, or maybe vice versa? Sound seems very similar, as does the overall feeling. Not much more than that.

Alone In The Night: Oh boy, check every box again. There are times when I listen to the early stuff that I think they are playing the same musical track over and over, just sped up or slowed down a little, and then Bono is singing words over the top (with words being a very loose term in this case).

So, none of these made it to a release, some of them influenced other things, but yes, these are very late-70s and early-80s sounds. There are a hundred bands that could have sung these songs (Madness comes to mind, they sounded just like this). Nothing that made it, nothing that deserved to. I would have loved this stuff if I was a teenager at this time, I would have been leaping and dancing at the shows.

And by the way there’s one song, Concentration Cramp, that I’ve never heard or found a link to. Any ideas?

Outside It's America

Outside It’s America was a documentary following U2 on The Joshua Tree tour, a behind the scenes look at what’s going on when a band is touring. This is the kind of thing I like, the thing I’ve talked about a number of times this year as being interesting to me, seeing what’s really going on when the cameras are off (although of course the cameras are on here, so they do a little mugging here and there). But again, that inside look, so you can watch and dream about being in the band, hanging around backstage, or with the band, doing this and that.

The documentary contains videos for Streets and Spanish Eyes among others, and of course a lot of shots of the band playing different things, whether live, in rehearsal, or even in a bar somewhere (we get to see them playing I Walk The Line in a bar, I kept thinking of the Blues Brothers, where they are playing the local songs so that the locals don’t get mad and start throwing bottles at them). 

There are other bits, like the photo shoot for the Time magazine cover, which has part of it on stage in front of a crowd, part of it backstage in a set of some kind (and the amount of people and production that goes on just for that is crazy), and then part of it outside on top of buildings here and there, which is fairly repetitive and odd, as Bono says boring. Those I guess are the parts of the job that really feel like work, rather than like the fun that being in a band should be. Other parts, which are the fun parts, are the parts we imagine when we think about being in a band, you never think of the grind to get to the shows. Flying in planes, which they make look like a lot of fun, although I guess it could end up being monotonous when you end up doing it every day for a year or more on a large tour. 

Seeing them in rehearsal isn’t completely uncommon, there are regular shots of that happening, and even occasional bits from fans outside listening to the rehearsals. What’s interesting is again the amount of work to get there, when they are trying to solve a problem like the feedback that happens when a certain piece of equipment is turned on, or Bono complaining about the gigantic drum sound he is getting just in front of his head (I don’t know why that would be a problem when you’re in a band).

One of the more interesting parts is when they’re in one of the bars, and we see Bono at the jukebox in the background, he is listening to whatever song it is that is playing, and you can almost see the wheels turning in his head as he is trying to get that sound, that lyric, that feeling, whatever, and keep it there, stored perhaps for another day when he is going to write a song like Heartland or something similar, talking about the time he spent in a bar in the middle of nowhere, or perhaps about the people who live in the middle of nowhere and yet they don’t leave. Who knows what inspiration that moment will bring him some day in the future.

Interesting note: today I passed 200,000 words for this blog this year. That’s like two novels of writing right here. All yours for free. And as they say, if you don’t like it, double your money back.

Never Let Me Go

Another song from The Million Dollar Hotel, and perhaps I’m using it just as an excuse to bash the movie a little more. The movie was terrible, and I’ll admit that I put this song on the list because of Bono, but I hadn’t heard it before listing it, and that was probably a mistake. One problem was that I never watched the movie until recently, so didn’t really know how bad it was to think about. If only I had known, but too late now.

The song is possibly the one I most associate with The Million Dollar Hotel, the one that I think of the movie as soon as I hear it. It has the talking at the beginning, of course, that’s very much a giveaway. Then it goes into these slow dark horns, which when I hear the note it is playing I think of the song Your Latest Trick from Dire Straits. I should mention that the band is the MDH band, not U2, so again not sure I should even be talking about the song.

The lyrics are really the part that should interest me, because they’re by Bono, the only bona fide U2 connection. Problem is they are so short, just two stanzas, and they are sung slow and dull. Not necessarily his fault, that’s just the way it goes. So I really can’t say that they’re good, but I do kind of like them. They feel like they could be the start of something interesting, if only he could have kept them for U2 he could have developed them somewhere.

I must say that these last few weeks have been a change of context on the blog, and it has been both difficult and refreshing. This month I don’t think even half of the reviews have been specific songs (okay, quick count, 9 out of 19 are songs), and most of them have been rare or obscure (only three have been album releases). So I’ve been digging into music that I don’t listen to often, and trying to come up with something to say about it. That’s a little difficult at times (hence this section of the Never Let Me Go review, right?), but it’s also giving me an opportunity to stretch my thoughts here and there. The other part of this month is the different non-song reviews, those have been much more fun, being able to run a stream of consciousness about a particular topic. Some are fairly specific topics, like yesterday’s look at the Achtung Baby videos, but the ones I like the best are the ones I can range widely across a subject and cover a number of different aspects of it. And that’s actually good news for me, because I am at the point now where the rest of the year is going to mostly be like that. The schedule for the last twelve days has literally just two songs in it (hint: the reason for the season), the rest of it is reviews of different things, including the last twelve months of writing here. Hang on, it may be a bumpy ride.

My rating for Never Let Me Go: 2 / 10

Achtung Baby Video Collection

I have talked a lot about Achtung Baby this year, as befits one of the greatest albums of all day, an album that resonates to this day through the U2 universe. The album produced so many hits, so many bits, and so many different looks at the band from that time. One of those looks was the video collection that they released for the album, which showcased a lot of the period, a lot of what was happening around the band, and a few other bits and pieces, along with a whole lot of interference.

The thing of it is that not only have I spilled a lot of words about Achtung, but so have so many others. Even though The Joshua Tree is the better album, I would guess that Achtung has had more written about it. I think this is a function of the times, the wider availability of the music, of the ability to write and be published, of the whole ecosystem around the album. I think there were many more releases for Achtung Baby, official releases that is, than there were for Joshua, which means more opportunity to talk about it. This might have been the period when the U2 marketing was at its peak, and perhaps before there was the public backlash which caused them to back down a little (even if it didn’t seem like it). So yeah, more things to write about means more writing, and it seems that I have followed suit this year. I don’t think it has been a detraction within this project, like I said there have been plenty of things to write about, each of them worth it.

This video is enjoyable, one of those ones that I can put on when I want to just relax and see some old U2. The problem I have is that I have it in VHS, believe it or not, in fact I’m not sure it’s even available on DVD. If it is I should probably get it sometimes (hmmm, wonder if there’s something coming up that I might have a reason to ask for it?), since my VHS recorder is getting pretty long in the tooth, and becoming kind of difficult to use any more (bottom of the rack, requiring some switching of wires, so it’s not just a pop it in and run thing).

I have said several times this year that I like when we get to see behind the scenes, I have talked about that especially with the books about the band. The videos here show a similar thing, they are not just a collection of videos, but all the interference parts in between actually show little clips from here and there within the recording and the tour, just a slice of life of the band if you will. There are of course parts when it gets a little too much, it wouldn’t be Achtung Baby if it wasn’t at least somewhat over the top, but they are few and far between and usually can be laughed off pretty easily. I remember saying once earlier in the year that I cringe at the thought of Bono dressed as MacPhisto, and I do, but that flush of embarrassment can be covered up just by singing along when the next video starts (which leads to an entirely different flush of embarrassment).

My rating for Achtung Baby Video Collection: 8 / 10

The Fool

I could say a lot about the early U2 music, and I have in many cases, and I will a few more times before the year is out. Today I’m going back to the very beginning, about as early as you can get. The Fool was recorded in April 1978, and is believed to be from the band’s first sessions in a studio. There is nothing to my knowledge that was recorded earlier than this, certainly no studio songs.

The Fool actually breaks one of those early molds that I have talked about for U2. Most of the early stuff had simple music and simple lyrics, but The Fool has a lot of lyrics. Unlike other early songs, there is no repetition of the lyrics, it’s all fairly distinct. There is what seems to be a chorus in there that is repeated a couple of times, with somewhat distinct lyrics within each version, something I have said before that I like and appreciate in their later stuff, so kudos for Bono in getting that in there so early. I don’t know why, if he was able to do it here, he couldn’t do it on many of their other early songs, through pretty much the War era. So much repetition in those songs, if he could write this at 18 why not do the same when he was 23?

The music sounds like a lot of early U2, in fact I think it sounds most like Boy-Girl, which was recorded not long after, and released maybe a year later. You might suggest it was one of those songs that morphed into another, but I would say it is more likely that they didn’t have a big range at the time and a lot of their stuff sounded similar. Not to worry, it all worked out well in the end, right? And there’s a bit of an Edge solo towards the end of the song, they don’t break it up with a bridge but they do switch out to the solo, which helps a little. You hear the drums nice and loud, as they were at the time, but you don’t hear the bass that much, it tends to hide in the back.

The lyrics are good, surprisingly so, Bono keeps them short and punchy in this song. Each line is just four or five words, there’s no rhyming pattern but there are fairly similar sounds from step to step which keeps it going. I read something just yesterday about writing, about how you should vary your line lengths because keeping it all the same makes it boring. In this case they’re not all the same, but they are similar length, but it works because of the speed at which the song is delivered. It makes it rapidly going from one section to another, in some cases the lines meld into one another making it feel like it is longer.

Overall it is not a great song, it’s barely a good song, but it does showcase their early promise. Bono’s voice has that early howling in it, something that developed over the years into a really good sound, but right now you hear all the earnestness in the voice, and all the instruments, and that’s really good.

My rating for The Fool: 3 / 10

The Bono guitar

A couple of years ago I bought a guitar. I have never been musically inclined, from the performing perspective. That’s not to say I haven’t had the desire, I have played air guitar for many years while listening to U2. When I was in college I entered a lip sync competition with some friends, we played Talking Heads one year (finished third), then I made them do U2 the following year (didn’t even place). I was of course Bono, we did Streets, and I jumped around the stage with a black wig on. It was crazy and terrible, but that was also the closest I ever came to being a rock star.

So after all these years since, I finally bought a guitar, and slowly began playing it. After two years of trying, I am still terrible. I got Rocksmith, which helped in some ways, because I got somewhat decent at some of those songs. The problem is I didn’t play it enough to actually learn to play a guitar, I can barely play at all away from the video game. That’s not true, I have messed around on and have learned some parts of some U2 songs. One of these days I’ll sit down and get serious about it, pick one song and learn it in detail, then another and another. Maybe I’ll have time once this blog finishes at the end of the year (although I doubt it).

But this is not about my guitar playing history, it’s about an actual guitar. You see, about a year ago I was surfing around and saw a link to an auction of rock and roll memorabilia. I looked through it, and there were half a dozen items featuring U2. There were a couple of gold albums, an amp, but the one that really grabbed me was a guitar signed by Bono. It wasn’t used by Bono, which made it a much more reasonable price that one that had been used on stage. I watched the auction, thinking that I might try and snap up one of the items for several hundred dollars. As it so happened, I got my annual bonus from work that very week, and being a little flush with cash boosted my desires. Yes, I won the auction for the Bono guitar, spent a couple of thousand dollars on it, but when it arrived I was very happy.

The guitar sits in my room right now, the centerpiece of my U2 collection of items, which numbers very few things but each have some good meaning to me (example is my wristband from the North Side in Chicago 1 this year). I have plans to get a display case for the guitar, and build out my little U2 shrine (another item is the Time magazine cover, Rock’s Hottest Ticket), and maybe one day I’ll put a picture of the completed shrine on the site. Who knows when that day will be though? Maybe I should try and get it done before I see my next U2 show (or maybe I should wait for some other collectible from that tour).


It always interests me when U2 play a cover song or a snippet. After all, they have a few hundred songs of their own, and they have to practice all those to get going again on a tour. Even a song as simple as October, which they have been playing this tour, but they’re playing it for the first time in a couple of decades. How do they remember how to play the song, does it just come back to them when they start? Or is Bono sitting there listening to a tape, reading the lyrics and slowly getting back into it? Let alone all the little differences in the instrumentation, how to remember which part of the song has what, which instrument, the timing, and so on. And yet they do all that, and then they add in some snippets, and then they do some cover songs. A lot of work.

Snippets may be easy or difficult, depending on how it is done. I go back to Bad in Boston 3 this year, one of my favorites, which had extended sections to honor Lou Reed. Bad is a fairly easy song to snippet in, to speechify in, because it’s possibly for the band to vamp for a long time while Bono talks, and then switch back into song mode. Some of the other songs they add in a little bit at the end, sometimes one of their own songs like Moment Of Surrender, sometimes something completely different. And that’s interesting to me, because I don’t know if Bono practices those, finds them or thinks of them and they rehearse them, or if he is making them up on the spot. The fact that he uses them so regularly in the same spot suggests a lot of pre-thought, or that he is being triggered by the moment.

Then I think about songs that they play seemingly on the spur of the moment, like for example People Have The Power. It was the intro song for the entire tour, but they only played it when Patti Smith was in town. How much practice did they have before that, how much did they already know the song? Remember during Rattle And Hum they were trying to play All Along The Watchtower, and learning it in the van just before the show. I presume they did better than that for Patti Smith, that was much more planned.

But it’s interesting to go down the list and see how many different songs they have played. I think Send In The Clowns has been played the most, but all snippets. Satellite Of Love would win the race for most played song, followed closely by Stand By Me (it gets a little complicated when you’re counting full songs and snippets). But maybe the most interesting thing is that they have played 846 different songs, meaning that three quarters of what they play is not their own. Yes, like I said, a lot of snippets of songs, but still. I don’t know if I could sing a single line from 846 different songs, let alone a whole song. And to be fair, from the listings there are maybe 300 songs that they’ve only played once as a snippet, which maybe I could do that. My mind comes up with a lot of weird stuff.

Vertigo (DVD)

Each time I watch a U2 concert video I think of it as the definitive version of the tour. Having watched or listened to many of the Innocence + Experience tour shows either online or in person, I question myself as to which show would be the definitive version of any tour. You can mke the argument that there are maybe twenty songs that are in every single show, but what about the rest? There are another couple of dozen songs that were played throughout the tour, how do you decide which of those songs would make the cut on a tour video? I mean, think of People Have The Power, which turned out to be a really good ending to things, but reality is that it was only played three times at the end of a show. Even One was only played half the time.

So when you look at a show like the Vertigo tour, it makes you wonder which version of the tour are you getting? Well, doing a little sleuthing through the database, I compared the listing on the Vertigo DVD with the listing of songs played on the tour, and it wasn’t too bad a match. The biggest miss was With Or Without You, played 104 times on tour out of 131 shows, then Still Haven’t Found at 91, Miss Sarajevo at 85 and on down. An Cat Dubh/Into the Heart was on the DVD but only played 16 times, with a number of songs higher than that. In general I think that the DVD did a good job of making it a representative show, and I think that any differences are just random luck. I think that when we get to the Innocence + Experience DVD it will be something similar, a large portion of songs from the regular tour with a few differences (although hopefully not the HBO version).

The video does showcase the Vertigo tour, but I don’t get the feeling of being there like I have on the latest tour. There is definitely an in-the-moment feeling of being at a live show, and it is amazingly well replicated by watching the show on Periscope or Mixlr or wherever. Watching Vertigo though, I had the feeling of it being a bit of an archive, rather than being there or being involved. The latest show has, in Bono’s words, been an attempt at bringing the band closer to the audience, and I think I’ve been a little spoiled by that idea. Looking back on Vertigo, and probably all the other shows I’ve got on DVD, it’s more of being out in the audience somewhere, and not the close seats but up in the crowd. Like I said, the current tour may have spoiled me for all future times, how are they going to top that and how am I going to look back at the old stuff?

But it’s U2 and it’s live, and it’s got that moment when Bono ends up drumming out on the edge of the heart, at the end of Love and Peace/beginning of Sunday. It’s great and it always will be.

My rating for Vertigo Live From Chicago: 10 / 10

Red Light

War is an album that a lot of people love, but I’m not really in that category. I didn’t rate it very highly when I reviewed it, because I felt there were a couple of great songs that have stood the test of time, some songs that were fairly mediocre, and a fairly long tail of poor songs that have quickly disappeared into nothing. Red Light is one of those songs, a song I don’t listen to much, one I don’t want to listen to much, and a song that is fairly competitive as the worst song off the album.

The red light phrase is fairly well-known across the world, especially the red light district of a city, and I think I tend to associate it with Amsterdam more than anything. The song I think is going for the idea of a person being trapped into the life of a prostitute, and the singer is perhaps in love with them, and wants to try and rescue them from that situation, but can’t because they’re not welcome.

The song to me is a little bit of a reversion to the earlier sound in the U2 catalog. It features fairly simple instrumentation and fairly simple lyrics. As I go through the song I’m mostly hearing the bass, and a whole lot of drums, which were a feature of the early days but they also boomed on War, so maybe there is a little bit of progress in the song. There’s also a trumpet playing here and there, turns out that Kid Creole and the Coconuts were in town and some of their musicians helped out on the song in various ways. It is fairly uncommon for an instrument like that to appear on a U2 album in such a prominent way. Mostly when they have guests they’re backing music or short inserts, not leading the song and not showing up throughout. In this case the trumpet doesn’t seem to add much either, it’s not like it is really integral to the song like say when they have the backing musicians on All I Want Is You.

For the lyrics it is quite simple, there are some verses, and then the chorus is overloaded throughout the song. The “I give you my love” is repeated so many times it is irritating, especially at the end of the song when they just ran out of ideas and sang that repeatedly until the song finally faded away, perhaps out of boredom. That is one of those irritations for me, that in the early days they were unable to take an extra step and finish a song, whereas today they would work on it for months to get it just right. I guess that’s a sign of success, that you could push through that problem enough to get to the point where it no longer is a problem. How many bands are never given that chance?

I’m in California right now, just a couple of days for a wedding. I have thought of the song a number of times, I had the idea of visiting the locations in the song, but haven’t had time to do any of that. About the only part I was successful on was the blood-orange sunset, which I actually saw as I flew in on Friday. It was really pretty, I can see why it would stick 30 years later to get into a song.

My rating for Red Light: 2 / 10


I’m sure you have heard all the rumors about the new album by now. Seems like one comes out regularly, and AtU2 has collected a lot of them over the years. One of the things that is interesting about their collection is how they are holding on to all the old songs that have been rumored over the years, because as we have regularly seen, some of those are going to come around eventually, whether as themselves in a partially completed state on a twentieth anniversary edition of something, or mixed into a different song, adding just a little bit of themselves to make something completely new.

The rumors that are most current should have the most cachet, but of course we’ve seen that story many times before. Obviously those old rumors were current at one point. But it’s when you get a series of rumors going that they become interesting. No smoke without fire, as they say. If you hear a story of Bono playing a song for a reporter in a car somewhere (and that seems to happen a lot), you may never hear of that song again. But if you hear multiple stories about that song, it might mean a little bit more. And if you see multiple members of the band talking about something, then it might mean a lot.

The biggest trick is deciphering whether they really mean it. Maybe really mean it isn’t the right phrase, because I’m sure they’re not lying, so maybe it should be more whether the story really has meaning. After all, as Bono has said a number of times, he is not very good with dates. When he says the album will be out on such and such a date, you might get excited, but you probably should take it with a pinch of salt. After all, who ever heard of Songs Of Innocence coming out? It was just a few days beforehand that the rumors were starting to fly that they would be playing at the Apple event, and even less time that they would be releasing something. So if Bono says yeah, we’re going to have a new album out by X date, unless that date is next Tuesday, I might not believe it.

Right now I have been anticipating the announcement of the new album, Songs Of Experience, for a while. It seems like the rumors have gone back and forth, there have been several possibilities this year. The latest was that they were going to use the HBO show to announce either the new album or next year’s tour dates, and obviously neither of those things happen. There was a rumor it was going to be released when they were in Dublin. Another that it would be at Christmas. Then there was an early 2016, to coincide with the next leg of the tour in Europe, but the latest on that is no tour and no album. Last thing I think I heard was sometime in the middle of 2016. I’ll believe it when I see it. Or hear it.