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"It's an extraordinary thing, I will admit, to have [U.S. Sen.] Jesse Helms to throw a lunch for you. You know it's bad for both of our images." — Bono

PLG Flies Into Action With U2 Promo Plan

PolyGram Label Group and Island Records are plotting a strategy for the July 6 worldwide release of U2's Zooropa, focusing less on singles and more on the album as a whole, although various tracks eventually will be released to radio and retail.

The new album, which has 10 tracks and runs approximately 45 minutes, will carry a $16.98 list price for CD and $10.98 for cassette. There will be a limited run on vinyl as well, and the title also will be released on digital compact cassette in the near future.

Rick Dobbis, president/CEO of the PolyGram Label Group, says, "We believe this album needs to be presented to the marketplace as an album, but that doesn't mean we will not present individual tracks to radio and launch a full-blown singles campaign."

A source close to the project says, "There probably won't be as many singles released off this as there were on Achtung Baby. Yet we certainly hope that we get as long a life with this as we did with Achtung Baby."

That album, released in November 1991, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. After 81 weeks on the chart, it has sold more than 4 million copies in the U.S. and stands at No. 115.

Five singles have been released from the album, including the top 10 hits "One" and "Mysterious Ways."

According to sources, there likely will be three singles released from Zooropa. The first track to radio will be "Numb," which will be released to modern-rock and album-rock radio over the July Fourth weekend, but will not be commercially released as a single, sources say.

Many radio stations will be invited to participate in "win-it-before-you-can-buy-it" promotions over the July Fourth weekend, Dobbis says.

However, there is a possibility that either "Numb" or another track on the album will be released as a video single.

The droning, minimalist "Numb" features a rare lead vocal by U2 guitarist the Edge.

Although Dobbis will not confirm which track would go to radio first, he says that the label is "trying to bring it to the market in a fun and clever way."

"Numb" likely will shore up U2's base at alternative radio, much like "The Fly," the first single from Achtung Baby, which was the most musically adventurous and least commercial single released from that album. "The Fly" stalled at No. 61 on the Hot 100, but it topped the Modern Rock Tracks chart for two weeks.

In general, Zooropa, produced by Flood, the Edge, and Brian Eno (Billboard, June 12), finds U2 taking a more dance-oriented and experimental approach, with the Edge taking on an expanding role, widening U2's musical scope with synthesizers, while Bono shows off an expanded vocal range.

The 10 tracks on the album are "Zooropa I & II," "Baby Face," "Numb," "Lemon," "Stay," "Daddy's Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car," "Some Days Are Better Than Others," "First Time," "Dirty Day," and "The Wanderer."

The opening track, "Zooropa I & II," features a Middle Eastern-tinged introduction. "Baby Face" is a mid-tempo number, featuring pop elements as well as spacey guitar effects.

"Lemon" has Bono singing in a falsetto over a bouncy bass line and lushly orchestrated synthesizers. It's possible that cut will be released as the first commercial single in late summer.

"Stay," which closes the first half of the album, is a ballad.

"Daddy's Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car" and "Some Days Are Better Than Others" are danceable, slightly funky tracks. A source says "First Time," a Velvet Underground-influenced ballad, has been tentatively chosen as the second commercial single.

The dark and ominous "Dirty Day" has Bono once again moving into a falsetto.

The closing track, "The Wanderer," features a guest lead vocal by recent Def American signing and country legend Johnny Cash. The track, which sources say is Bono's take on the Jimmy Swaggart scandal, sounds oddly reminiscent of Wall of Voodoo, the late Los Angeles-based modern-rock act that covered Cash's "Ring Of Fire" on its 1980 self-titled debut EP.

Originally, Zooropa was going to be an EP, but reportedly the band kept coming up with new material and decided to complete a full album.

According to sources, PLG learned the band would be delivering a full album less than a month ago.

The sudden delivery caught PLG staffers somewhat off-guard. "For the last one, we prepared for six months," Dobbis says. "It was like a marathon. But this is like a sprint, and that is the spirit it was made in. The band was so excited about it, they sprinted to complete the album before the [current European Zooropa] tour. We want to bring it to the street with that same spirit."

The bulk of the album was written and recorded during the past six months in Dublin, with the exception of "Numb," which dates back to the Achtung Baby sessions in Berlin.

Dobbis says that top PLG and Island staffers, as well as U2 manager Paul McGuinness, met during the first week of June in Florida for a marketing strategy planning session.

"We mapped out what we are going to do through the end of the year," he says. "Then we sent [PLG] senior director of national sales Dave Yeskel and VP of sales Gerry Kopecky out to meet with the key retailers, and they played them the album and laid out the program and approach."

Sources say many key accounts were encouraged to herald the release with midnight sales.

Key PLG executives also planned to meet with MTV executives June 11 to discuss the album, although it is unclear how many videos will be made to support the album.

Says Dobbis, "We don't have a yearlong tour to work with, so we have to take a different approach with this album. Press and radio will be enormously important."

According to Dobbis, a second radio track tentatively is set for midsummer release, with a third track coming around Labor Day, and a fourth tentatively set for the year's end.

But, he emphasizes, nothing is etched in stone. "The marketing plan is organic and liquid at this point," he says.

According to sources, U2's Aug. 28 concert in Dublin tentatively is set to be broadcast on the Westwood One Radio Network and also may appear as a pay-per-view special. There also may be a U2 special on commercial television in December.

© 1993 Billboard magazine. All rights reserved.