Column: off the record…, vol. 11-485

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off the record, from @U2

In 1991 I started my first year of university at a small school in rural New Brunswick, Canada. There wasn’t a place to buy CDs in that town, the nearest CD shop being 30 minutes by car in Moncton, N.B. I don’t remember if I went the day it was released, or shortly after, but I hitchhiked to Moncton to buy a copy of Achtung Baby that November. I picked the wrong day for making the trip, as it was cold, and took hours to get there and back. I had frostbite on my fingers and ears when I got back to the dorm and it felt like I was never going to warm up.

I did eventually start to give it a listen. My roommate was home, and asked me to turn it off. I was switching to headphones when I got collected to go for supper. I ended up working on assignments and papers that evening. That term went by quickly, and soon I was in my final exams. I was meeting people who were influencing my musical listening. And Achtung Baby got lost in the shuffle; I might have listened a handful of times. I liked the singles, because I’d hear those on television in the lounge, and on the radio. But the album never came together as a whole for me. I was convinced I was just growing out of favor with U2, and I convinced myself I was not a fan of the album. Eventually I stopped listening to the album, and it wasn’t until the release of Zooropa that I really got excited about U2 again.

Years later, I made it to the opening night of the Elevation tour and had managed to stay “spoiler free.” I had no idea what U2 would play. And when “The Fly” started I had no idea what it was, but I was mesmerized. I was shocked when I finally recognized it. The song became the high point of each show for me. “Mysterious Ways” is a favorite of a close friend I met on that tour, and hearing it always brings back memories of us traveling the world together. But it was the 360 tour that really brought the other songs home for me. “One” provided several special moments with friends on this latest tour. Seeing “Until The End Of The World” happening right over my head in Las Vegas blew me away, even though on earlier tours that song would leave me bored. I really enjoyed the visuals of “Ultraviolet” with Bono’s stage antics and light-up jacket. And hearing Larry’s drums pierce through me in Montreal as “Even Better Than The Real Thing” opened that show provided one of my favorite moments of the tour. Now? I have no choice but to admit I’ve fallen in love with Achtung Baby. It took me 20 years but I finally caught up to the place most U2 fans found a long time ago.

The 20th anniversary edition of Achtung Baby is due out next month, and has posted the final track listing. The track list for the vinyl set has a few unique songs that aren’t on the CD versions. “Night And Day (Twilight Remix)” is only listed as being on the vinyl, and not on any of the CDs, even the 6-CD Uber set. The vinyl is also the only place where you can obtain the “Mysterious Ways (Solar Plexus Club Mix)” at 4:10 in length; the CD versions have the extended mix at 7:01. As well, “Mysterious Ways (Perfecto Mix)” is listed at 7:11 on vinyl and the 2-CD set, and 7:05 on the 6-CD sets, and this may suggest different edits exist across formats for this release. The need for a complete U2 collection is once again fighting with my wallet, and once again the wallet is losing as I find unique reasons to pick up each version of this release. For me, so far, that will be one Uber box, one vinyl set, and one 2-CD set.

I have been doing a lot of research into U2’s early singles and early history of late for an upcoming project. Everyone knows pieces of the stories from the early days of the band, and some bits have become legendary. One of the more famous stories is how Dave Fanning on his radio show had a competition where the three tracks from “Three” were played live on his show and he asked for fans to pick their favorite to become the A-side of the single. “Out Of Control” was the fan favorite, and was the eventual A-side of the single.

But did you know you can listen to that radio segment? It’s a great early piece of U2’s history, and the sound quality is amazing for something from 1979. I never expected to hear that particular broadcast, so it was a treat for me when I found it, and felt I had to share. You can hear him talking about the competition for the A-side and giving out the details of where to vote, and he speaks with Bono for 10 minutes as part of the segment.

Finally, here is a link to Amazon so you can check out Michael Bolton’s recent The Duets Collection album. Why? Track 4 is his cover of “Pride (In The Name Of Love),” recorded with violinist Anne Akiko Meyers. Not my favorite cover of all time, so here’s a copy of U2 performing the song at Slane to cleanse the memories with some U2 if you require.


(c) @U2/Sams, 2011

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