Column: off the record…, vol. 11-494

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off the record, from @U2

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa and Happy Holidays to everyone! Santa was very good to me this Christmas. I received a few new U2 books that I hadn't seen before, as well as a promissory note from my kids for From The Sky Down on Blu-ray. My husband is training them well.

For the past few years, I've enjoyed seeing footage of Bono busking with others on Grafton Street in Dublin, raising money for Simon Community and the Peter McVerry Trust, organizations helping the homeless. I'm glad he didn't disappoint. What a great Christmas gift for fans in the Dublin area.

We are a few weeks away from the release of U22, the official subscriber gift to thank fans for spending their hard-earned money on a fan club membership. Voting has been underway for almost two months, and just when you think voting has closed, the deadline has been extended. It's like saying the U2 360 tour was going to end in Minneapolis only to have it extended two more times. The voting was first extended to Dec. 18; however, as of today you can still vote. The voting extension is either to drive Christmastime subscriber gifts or to ensure the top 22 songs are the ones most won't be upset about.

The final results won't be released until early January; yet, if you gauge the results from the 7,000 fans who listed their favorite song in the voting, you might have some insight as to how the final votes are going to go. To be clear, this is not the list of the top 22 songs that will appear on U22. It's a list of the 22 songs that were most often chosen as "My Favorite Track" on the voting page. While it's not an aggregate of all 22 votes from all the fans, you'd think 7,000 is a good data set. Also, if it's someone's favorite song, it might rank highly among other fans as well. Given this available data, here is what the top 22 favorite songs are as of Dec. 23 from the 7,000 fans:

"Bad" - 661 votes, 9.44%
"Ultraviolet (Light My Way)" - 585 votes, 8.36%
"Where The Streets Have No Name" - 478 votes, 6.83%
"One" - 428 votes, 6.11%
"One Tree Hill" - 283 votes, 4.04%
"With Or Without You" - 277 votes, 3.96%
"Magnificent" - 246 votes, 3.51%
"Moment Of Surrender" - 240 votes, 3.43%
"I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight (remix)" - 234 votes, 3.34%
"Unforgettable Fire" - 221 votes, 3.16%
"Zooropa" - 221 votes, 3.16%
"Until The End Of The World" - 196 votes, 2.80%
"Stay (Faraway, So Close)" - 184 votes, 2.63%
"Beautiful Day" - 173 votes, 2.47%
"All I Want Is You/Love Rescue Me" - 160 votes, 2.29%
"City Of Blinding Lights" - 158 votes, 2.26%
"I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" - 158 votes, 2.26%
"Miss Sarajevo" - 145 votes, 2.07%
"Even Better Than The Real Thing" - 143 votes, 2.04%
"Out Of Control" - 140 votes, 2.00%
"40" - 139 votes, 1.99%
"Walk On" - 132 votes, 1.89%

Also, of those 7,000 fans, the top 10 countries represented in the favorite track voting are:

United States – 2,327 fans
Brazil – 583 fans
Canada – 521 fans
Great Britain – 513 fans
Australia – 359 fans
Netherlands – 314 fans
Denmark – 234 fans
Italy – 228 fans
Mexico – 211 fans
Belgium – 190 fans

I appreciate that U2 is making the effort to give fans a stylized gift. As describes it, "Presented in a custom-designed gatefold sleeve, this special release includes a handsome, large format booklet documenting the tour with insider photography, liner notes and commentary." However, it would be nice to allow fans to download all of the 46 available tracks. If the band didn't want to have the fans feel cheated by having to pay for the downloads, then why not have the cost of the download go toward supporting Amnesty International, (RED), Music Rising, or any of the other charities the band supports? This way, fans can truly get the tracks they really wanted (and voted for), the charities get supported, and everyone wins. Not to mention, they could add the missing tracks to the list for download like "Mercy," "Boy Falls From The Sky," "North Star," "Every Breaking Wave" and "Glastonbury."

I know it's a long shot, but if the music industry is seriously considering doing away with the CD format, then why is a technology-savvy band like U2 not offering something like this in a download format? Sure, from a collector's point of view, it's a sweet gift that will stay mint-in-package. But the reality is a few will rip the songs into MP3s and the collectors will keep their copies untouched. In the end, a gift is a gift, so who am I to complain?

A book I'm really looking forward to diving into is Barry Fey's Backstage Past. In it, he shares his insights from 32 years in the concert industry with his behind-the-scenes perspective. It has an entire chapter dedicated to U2 and the US Festival, as well as a poem written by Bono. You can read an excerpt from the U2 chapter on Fey's site. Pete Townsend, Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne each wrote forewords.

What I found to be super interesting is that Fey recalls a conversation with Bono where he tells Fey in 1983 that U2 "don't want to be labeled as a punk act; we want to be known as a rock 'n' roll act." Bono did not want U2 playing on the same day as The Clash, preferring to play on the same day as Van Halen. In the end, U2 played at the end of day three of the festival.

You can order the book directly from or from Amazon.

And finally ... it wouldn't be Christmas if we didn't do Bono's reading of John F. Dean's "Driving To Midnight Mass." And in case you missed it, here's the background on how it all happened.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

©@U2/Lawrence, 2011

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