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'Tis better to be drunk on the spirit; however, a bottle of Jack Daniel's is sometimes handier. ---- Bono

Column: off the record ..., vol. 14-640


off the record, from @U2

Be warned, the first section below contains a spoiler for the deluxe version of Songs Of Innocence. You may want to wait until you’ve listened if you want to be completely surprised.

Wow. I know U2 were looking back with this new release. I didn't expect a song from the 1980s to arrive on the deluxe edition. "Return Of The Stingray Guitar" was a title fans first noticed in the recording notebooks from The Unforgettable Fire album that were on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There is a list of these "lost songs" from various albums in our forum. "Return Of The Stingray Guitar" was there among "White City," "Three Minutes To Midnight" and "African Sunrise" in a notebook that belonged to Eno during the recording of The Unforgettable Fire.

In 2009 The Edge set out to work on the remastered version of The Unforgettable Fire, and I expect it was at that time they unearthed the title and perhaps the song itself. We first heard it during the 2010 leg of the tour in Europe. At the time they included a song identified as "Return Of The Stingray Guitar" in set lists and it was an instrumental used to open shows in Europe. Flash-forward to today, almost 30 years to the day that The Unforgettable Fire arrived in stores, and fans who have purchased the deluxe version of Songs Of Innocence will find a song called “Lucifer’s Hands.” The piece of music we knew as "Return Of The Stingray Guitar" is now being used for the backing music on "Lucifer's Hands." It's unmistakable. 

It is fascinating to think "Lucifer's Hands" took 30 years to find its way to an album. Makes you wonder if additional songs on the album may have been inspired by other early unfinished works? A song called "California" was in development during the Achtung Baby album sessions. "Every Breaking Wave" was first mentioned in 2009 as the planned first single from the album that would follow No Line On The Horizon. Knowing these songs never fully go away, I’m still holding out that “Mercy,” first mentioned during the How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb sessions, will someday appear on a studio album.

A few weeks ago, in time to beat the Grammy deadline, a limited number of vinyl pressings of Songs Of Innocence were sold. Only two shops seemed to have any quantities of this vinyl, with Amoeba Records in California saying it had 20-30 copies per store (with three stores). A second store called Looney Tunes in Long Island also received copies, but it is unknown how many in total, other than a picture showing 13 copies fanned out. And u2.com has now entered the fray, with a dozen copies that they are giving away in a contest

It's a simple release. The track list is the same songs as material given away by Apple on iTunes. The packaging is simple, just a plain white sleeve with a sticker for a UPC and a white label that makes it look like the iTunes artwork. But it has caught the collector market by storm. Several of these have gone for auction at eBay for over $1,000. They continue to fetch three figure numbers on eBay. And the price may climb further as supplies run out of this vinyl. It's insane to think that vinyl that was purchased at $19.98 one day would fetch $1,100 the next day on eBay. It’s definitely one of the more interesting commercial collectibles in recent years.

Sadly, it is such simple design, and going for such a high price it probably won't be long before bootleg copies start showing up. My suggestion for those lucky ones who got a copy who might consider selling it in the future is to keep a copy of proof of where you purchased it.

Universal Austria released a 20-second commercial for the album. It features "The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)" at the start of the clip, followed by "Every Breaking Wave." It is a good sign that "Every Breaking Wave" might be the second single farmed out to radio. I'm hopeful now that the secrecy surrounding this album has ended, we might even get a good old-fashioned commercial single and not just radio promotional discs. 

Black Friday is coming up as well, and U2 have previously released a specialty vinyl on two of these post-Thanksgiving shopping days. In 2011 they released "Wide Awake In Europe" a 3-track live EP. In 2013 they released a 2-track, 10-inch vinyl featuring "Ordinary Love" and an alternate version of "Breathe." I'll be keeping my eyes open hoping for another release this year. We are also nearing the time when a new subscribers package for u2.com is usually announced. 

I'm crossing my fingers now and hoping for some exclusive music yet to come in the next few months.

Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Canadians out there! Hope you are enjoying your long weekends, and hope that the shipment of Songs Of Innocence to your favorite stores is not delayed by the holiday!

(c) @U2/Sams, 2014