Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Best U2 Songs You've Never Heard

According to my sources (and I have many of them), there ought to have been a new U2 album out about now. The U2s have been fairly punctual about getting a solid album out every four years or so, with a tour following about six months later. I know this, because at this point my little biological rhythms have adjusted to expect these things at regular intervals.

But for reasons known only to God and Bono, they've decided to delay their album until next spring, so I'm trying to make do until then. In the meantime, let's have us a playlist! In lieu of any new material, I present a list of little-known gems you've (likely) never heard before, unless you've taken an extensive amount of road trips with me in the past eight years or so.

Since the vernerable playlist-sharing site muxtape.com seems to be well and truly gone, I'm happy to do this the old-fashioned way and send a copy to anyone who wants one. Yay mail! Let the geek-out begin:

1. Big Girls are Best: A product of the Pop sessions, this is a dancey little number with saucy lyrics about why real women have curves.

2. Lady with the Spinning Head: I'm pretty sure that this was a prototype of "The Fly" from Achtung Baby (the guitar solo is a giveaway), but it stands on its own.

3. Walk On ("America: A Tribute to Heroes"): You've probably heard the original single from All That You Can't Leave Behind, but this version was part of a telethon to raise money for survivors of 9/11. Recorded live 10 days after the attacks, Bono and company turn a self-empowerment song into an ode to their adopted city of New York, and wrench a million guts in the process. Fun fact: Aussie pop star Natalie Imbruglia on backing vocals!

4. Dancing Barefoot: Sexy little cover of a Patti Smith song, originally featured as a B-side to Rattle and Hum's "When Love Comes to Town."

5. If God Will Send His Angels (Single Version): An overlooked track on the undeservedly maligned Pop album. The trouble with Pop is that is was finished a bit too quickly, but there was some good stuff there. This single version is a bit more polished than the album version, and is really lovely. It builds slow, but give it time. You'll be glad you did.

6. Always: Clearly a precursor to "Beautiful Day," but with some nice Bono aphorisms. He's good at those.

7. Sunday Bloody Sunday (Live from Sarajevo): So here's the story: It's 1997, and the city of Sarajevo has spent the better part of the previous four years getting the shit kicked out of it during the Bosnian war. The war is over, but the people are still reeling. U2 bring their PopMart extravaganza to town in September, providing the people of Sarajevo with their first excuse to party in years (U2 would repeat this form of rock therapy during their epic post-9/11 shows in NYC, but that's a blog in itself...). In the middle of the show, Edge steps out on stage and does a lovely, fragile, stripped-down version of their classic anti-war anthem all by his lonesome. Not a dry eye in the house.

8. Slow Dancing: U2 and Willie Nelson! And it really, really works!

9. Stand By Me (with Bruce Springsteen): Oookaaaay...so it goes off the rails a bit during the ad-libbing towards the end, and the sound quality is more than a little dodgy, but it's freakin' Springsteen and freakin' Bono, doin' what Springsteen and Bono do. I think this is from a 1987 show in Philly, but don't quote me on that.

10.The Ground Beneath Her Feet: This appeared as the last track on All That You Can't Leave Behind everywhere...except the U.S. It's based on a Salman Rushdie novel and was featured in the little-seen Wim Wenders movie Million Dollar Hotel, co-written by Bono, and starring Mel Gibson (yes, you read that right, check it). But despite that confusing pedigree, it's quite a pretty little love song. Phew! I haven't had a good U2 geek-out like that in some time. That should hold me until tickets go on sale.