The Band on The Songs

28 Mar 2007
You won't find a more fascinating insight into the writing and recording of The Joshua Tree, released twenty years ago this month, than in the pages of 'U2byU2'.

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Meantime, here's some sample comments on different songs.

ADAM: 'Running To Stand Still' was Bad Part II really, the campfire version, Bono singing about the chronic heroin problem that was present in Dublin at the time, and personalizing it with his experiences of the seven towers in Ballymun. Phil Lynott had died in January 1986, which was hugely tragic. I heard rumours about what had been happening to him but I don't think I quite believed them. When you see someone up on stage, being vibrant, and then they're reduced to kidney failure in a hospital, it's hard to equate the two. I thought that was a huge loss for music. I had made contact with Phil back before we ever had a deal, I used to see him around and I had been in his house a few times for parties but it was hard to actually feel at ease with him. There was a bit of darkness around, that is really all I can describe it as. That was heroin.

LARRY: 'Red Hill Mining Town' is one of the lost songs. It was overproduced and under-written, one of those great ideas that never quite got there. Bono had a very clear idea about how he wanted it to sound but I don't think anyone was quite sure where he was going with it. What we ended up with was neither one thing nor the other. During improvisation things happened that were amazing but because of a lack of confidence in our ability to repeat the idea, we tended to hang on very tightly and perhaps not push forward as much as we should have. So sometimes we ended up with a bunch of great ideas as opposed to a fully developed song. In my view, that's part of the genius of U2 but it can also be part of the problem with our songwriting.

BONO: I've never practised harmonica in my life, ever. The only time I have ever played harmonica has been as we were recording or live on stage. I quite like it - I'm not very good at it but I'm in a line of not very good harmonica players, as I see it. 'Trip Through Your Wires' was another demonstration of how easy it is to write a song, or not, as the case may be. I wrote it in a few minutes. It had a nice jaunty feeling that I thought might balance some of the other things. It was inspired by a series of phone conversations I had with somebody, who might have meant well and who was fascinating in their own right, it's just they were pretending to be somebody else.

EDGE: It was very difficult to get a performance of 'Streets' that we liked; it was taking so much time that Brian attempted to erase the multi-track. He was sick of trying to take this performance and somehow bring it up to scratch. His idea was that if we had to start again we might actually end up saving time. Pat McCarthy (who has since produced REM and Madonna) was tape operator on the session, and managed to persuade Brian not to erase it - I think there may have been some physical restraint involved. We persevered with that backing track and actually, with Steve Lillywhite's help, we got a great mix of it. Even in those days we were pretty dogged. We would really keep going with something and our producers could get worn down by that process. From the very beginning there was a sense of elation in the music that we were holding on to, and finally it came through.'

'U2 By U2', featuring more than 1500 images including previously unpublished photographs from the personal archives of the band, tells the U2 story from the perspective of those who know it best - and it brings it right up to date. It's published worldwide by Harper Collins.


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