"I've nothing against synths, contrary to popular belief -- it's the machines who play the machines that worry me."
U2 Lists: Top 7 Dream Fan Club Releases
April 18, 2013
[Ed. note: This is the 49th in a "U2 Lists" series, where @U2 staffers pick a topic and share their personal rankings on something U2-related.]
The U2 fan club through U2.com traditionally has released a CD to paid subscribers each year since 2006. The release is usually a single CD, and sometimes it has been two. A few years ago the fan club hit a low point with the release of Duals, which featured a number of tracks widely available on U2 albums or other easy-to-find sources. The last two years have made fans considerably happier with the release of live material from the 360 tour, first with U22, and more recently with From The Ground Up: The Musical Edition.
With a new album on the horizon, it is unlikely that U2 will return to the 360 tour for another compilation of material, so I've listed my Top 7 Dream Fan Club Releases. This is material I would love to have released in CD as part of my collection. It is not a gripe against the releases we have had so far -- I even managed to find some joy in Duals -- but rather just a list of things that would really make me happy to have.
7. A full live show from The Unforgettable Fire / Love Town tours.
Live music has been a favorite of the fan club, giving us audio versions of Zoo TV, Pop Mart, Elevation, Vertigo and the 360 tours over the years. If U2.com wanted an easy way to please fans, the fan club would release a full set of material from earlier tours. We know some of this material exists in soundboard quality, as much has been available over the years through bootlegs.
The fan club should pick a couple of shows that sound great, and have them mastered and pressed to CD. With the shortness of shows on both Love Town and The Unforgettable Fire tours, you could probably release a show from each tour over three discs. Add some artwork from the Love Town graphics and create a nice little collectible for fans who enjoy live recordings. U2.com would need to choose unreleased material; no fair choosing bits and pieces that have already seen the light of day such as the Love Town show available in The Complete U2 on iTunes.
This one would be low on my list, because bootleg recordings are easy to find from all of these early eras if one wishes to look. Live music seems to be the easy way out though. There are other things I'd prefer.
6. Full demo tapes.
We have heard bits and pieces of the early demo tapes that U2 recorded prior to Boy. The Complete U2 on iTunes gave us "Street Missions," "The Fool" and the demo version of "Shadows And Tall Trees." The 2008 remaster of Boy gave us further tracks such as "Speed Of Life," "Saturday Night" and the early single versions of "Out Of Control," "Boy/Girl," "Another Day" and "Twilight." It also contained the version of "Stories For Boys" that had been released on the compilation Just For Kicks. Other demos were recorded that have not been released.
One song is called "Live My Life," or "Tonight." Another is called "Inside Out" by fans. Songs such as "Jack In A Box" and "Silver Lining" have also leaked out over the years; the latter was developed further and released as "11 O'Clock Tick Tock" with much different lyrics. "Life On A Distant Planet" was actually developed to the point where the band performed it on television in one of their earliest performances.
Listening to this material is an acquired taste, but I have grown quite fond of these songs. Fans can find this material through bootlegs and YouTube videos; the material is not rare. I would love to have a release of all of this material in one place, with some professional mastering rather than the versions from poor quality bootlegs. I think there's enough material there to make a full CD from those early days.
U2 tipped us off that there is a recording of that 1980 gig at the National Stadium, by releasing "Cartoon World" on the remastered version of Boy. The fan club could give us that full show on one disc, and the demos on the second. It would be a nice package to celebrate the earliest days of U2. This would be the 35th anniversary of the recording of many of those demo tracks.
5. Hit the 360 tour one last time.
The fan club album is likely to come out after the next studio album, and maybe on that album we will finally have studio recordings of "Every Breaking Wave," "North Star," "Glastonbury" and "Mercy." These are all songs that U2 played on the 360 tour. None of these songs was among the tracks available for voting for inclusion on U22. If studio versions do show up on the next album, a nice accompanying live album could be easily put together by going back to the 360 tour versions of the song. It would be an easy way to put together a live album, even if the band hasn't started a worldwide tour for the next album.
"Return Of The Stingray Guitar," the instrumental that opened a number of 360 shows, would fit. U2 also performed "The Boy Falls From The Sky," which was used in the Spider-Man musical, but has not been recorded by U2.
That's a short list, so a few tracks would have to be added. Perhaps some of the new songs off the album will have appeared in promotional concerts by then. But after two live albums from the fan club back-to-back I'm a little tired of live material, and other choices are higher on my list.
4. Original Soundtracks 2.
Brian Eno revealed that additional recordings done for the Original Soundtracks 1 project but not released. Among these were a number of other songs done with Holi that he suggested would be released someday. Almost 20 years later we have not had any follow-up on those songs, and at this point I don't expect we will. I know it isn't a high point for the band, and Larry has actually spoken of his dislike of the whole Passengers album. Some of the music is quite beautiful and I wouldn't be averse to hearing more.
Unheard tracks include titles such as "Antarctica," "After The Jungle" and several with Tokyo in the title. A number of instrumental pieces are also named in Eno's journals, named for some facet of the music. Collect some of these unheard songs, and perhaps some alternate takes from the album and release an Original Soundtracks 2 for the fan club. Or better yet, use the opportunity to tweak the mastering of the original album as well and send us out a two-disc package that matches up with our other deluxe remastered albums to allow us to complete the full collection. I expect it to be rather unlikely that we'll get a deluxe Original Soundtracks 1 in stores anytime soon.
3. Something entirely new.
A number of demos have never seen the light of day. We've tasted some of them through bootlegs such as "Be There" from the War sessions, and we've heard about U2 recording "She's A Mystery To Me" while working in Sun Studios. There's likely a recording of Bono singing "The Wanderer" in the vaults somewhere from 1993.
I'm sure there's more. I really enjoyed the "Unreleased & Rare" set of tracks that were released as part of The Complete U2 on iTunes, and later on the fan club album Medium, Rare, And Remastered. I'd love for U2 to dig through the archives and give us something no one is expecting. This would include material that has never been released in any format. These would be songs that are new to us and those where we have just heard whispers of a title. Since I have no idea what might end up on such a disc, there are still two fan club albums I would love to have ahead of these, but the dream of something none of us could expect puts a smile on my face.
2. Songs Of Ascent circa 2009.
In 2008, No Line On The Horizon was almost released as a double album. Late in the recording process it was decided to hold the quieter moments for a second album titled Songs Of Ascent. Originally Bono suggested that the follow-up album would be released in late 2009, following quickly on the heels of No Line On The Horizon. The album has been mentioned a few times since, and the song tipped to be the first single, "Every Breaking Wave," was performed live in concert in 2010.
I'm assuming that some of those songs have changed and developed over the years, and will appear on the next album. But most likely those have significantly changed, and been reworked and re-recorded with new producers. And some of the songs may have been shelved completely. If that next album is out by the time another fan club album is due, I'd love to see the band give us a copy of the songs that would have made up Songs Of Ascent in their initial 2009 versions, as recorded with Lanois and Eno. I'd really like to hear the album how it was originally intended, especially with No Line On The Horizon being one of my favorite albums that they have released.
1. A Clockwork Orange: 2004 soundtrack.
In 1990 the Royal Shakespeare Company presented a live stage version of Anthony Burgess' novel, A Clockwork Orange at the Babrican Theatre in London. The play was titled A Clockwork Orange: 2004 and directed by Ron Daniels. For the performances, a score was recorded, written by Bono and The Edge. The Edge discussed the recording sessions in Propaganda: "In September Bono and I spent four or five days in the studio in Dublin doing demos, during a period when, as a band, we were rehearsing for the Love Town tour. It was mostly myself and Bono but Adam dropped by to play bass for one piece. Then we left for Australia for the tour and I left Paul Barrett, our producer, to do some mixes and give the pieces some structure."
The pieces were described by Bono as "spoken-opera," and the Edge discussed the work as being very different from U2's work: "I wouldn't expect a U2 fan to recognize this music as that of Edge and Bono, except on a couple of tracks. It is not really to do with U2, it's a different attitude. In fact, not only is it not U2 music, it's not really Bono and Edge music either -- if we have a style, we definitely laid it aside for this project."
Those differences likely played a big role in the development of U2's next album, Achtung Baby.
Ever since I heard about this project I have wanted to hear the music. Sadly I was still in high school at the time of the stage version, and there was no convincing my parents to let me fly off to London on my own. "Alex Descends Into Hell For A Bottle Of Milk/Korova 1" was a B-side released on "The Fly" single. That piece of music is taken from the production of A Clockwork Orange: 2004. I've long been fascinated with that song, and would love to hear more. The fact that it was included on "The Fly" points towards U2 recognizing the ties from that piece to the music they would record for Achtung Baby.
I don't know how much music was recorded for that musical, but hopefully there would be enough to fill a couple of CDs. I don't even know what to suggest to pair up with it if the CD needed to be fleshed out. All I know is I've wanted to hear this for almost 25 years now. Although The Edge said it was music he expected to never release and liked the thought that it existed only as part of the performance, maybe the years have softened that opinion and it is time to share it with fans.
If anyone out there has seen the performance of A Clockwork Orange: 2004 and was disappointed by the music, please don't burst my bubble. I'll sit here patiently waiting for my own copy to arrive in the mail from the fan club.
(c) @U2/Sams, 2013.