"I Will Follow" - U2

Single

Track Listing

Background Information

The first U2 single to be released worldwide, “I Will Follow” was issued in October of 1980 in Ireland and the UK to promote the Boy album. Except for a few promotional copies (see below), all singles contained the album version of the song. It was also the band’s first single release in Australia and New Zealand, but with different artwork more closely aligned with the LP cover. In all of these regions, “I Will Follow” was released with a live version of “Boy/Girl,” recorded at The Marquee in London on September 2, 1980, as the b-side.

In March of 1981, the song was released in the USA and Canada (again, the band’s first single release in those territories), but with a different b-side, a live version of “Out of Control” taken from a performance on March 6, 1981 in Boston. The single cover was also altered for the North American release to match the alternative album artwork for Boy in that region. A limited version released in the USA came in a sleeve that unfolded to form a six-panel poster, and then folded up again to hold the 7-inch record.

“I Will Follow” was also the first song for which U2 filmed a music video. The clip features U2 performing the song in-studio, with an image of the Boy album cover added to the background in post-production. Interestingly, the album cover image remains the same size throughout the video even as the camera zooms in and out on the band. This clip, directed by Meiert Avis, was later included on The Best of 1980-1990 VHS collection.

“I Will Follow” is one of U2’s most-performed live songs, appearing in set lists throughout their career, and as recently as 2011’s U2360° Tour. It has been re-released as a live single on a number of occasions, first in 1982 in the Netherlands and Germany from a performance on the television show Veronica’s Countdown. Another live take, from the August 20, 1983 show in West Germany, was released as a single in the USA to promote the album Under a Blood Red Sky. Most recently, the June 24, 2011 performance of “I Will Follow“ at the Glastonbury Festival was released as an iTunes-only download.

Numerous other live versions, not intended as singles, have been officially released over the years as well. A version recorded live in the studio on September 18, 1980 was included on the compilation One and Only: 25 Years of Radio One. A performance from Boston on March 6, 1981 was released as a B-side to the “Gloria“ single, and also appeared on the Live from Boston 1981 section of The Complete U2 iTunes release, as well as on the deluxe version of the October reissue. The previously mentioned version from West Germany on August 20, 1983 (issued as a single in the USA only) was included on the Under a Blood Red Sky album. A live version from July 4, 1987, recorded in Paris, was included on the iTunes release Live in Paris (this same show was released on the DVD accompanying the super-deluxe box set reissue of The Joshua Tree). The December 31, 1989 performance from Dublin featured on the Love: Live from the Point Depot section of The Complete U2 release on iTunes. The December 3, 1997 performance from Mexico City was released on the fan club album Hasta La Vista Baby! as well as the Popmart: Live from Mexico City DVD and VHS releases. The December 5, 2000 performance from New York City was used as a b-side on the “Elevation“ single as well as on the free promo CD given away with copies of The Sunday Times newspaper. The June 6, 2001 version from Boston, MA was released on the Best Buy-exclusive “3 Live Tracks from Boston“ promo CD, as well as on the Elevation 2001: U2 Live from Boston DVD. A recording from Brooklyn on November 22, 2004 was featured on the iTunes exclusive EP “Live from Under the Brooklyn Bridge.” A performance from Milan in July 2005 was featured on the DVD accompanying the deluxe version of 18 Singles and as an audio download through iTunes. In 2011, members of the U2 Fan Club were given the opportunity to vote on 46 live tracks recorded during The U2360° Tour, with the top 22 songs to be included on a live album, U22. “I Will Follow” was one of these choices. In the end, however, the song did not receive enough votes to appear on the final live compilation. The following year, the Edge picked his favorite tracks from the remaining 46 live tracks, and “I Will Follow” recorded in Brussels Belgium on September 22, 2010 was included on From the Ground Up: Edge’s Picks.

The “I Will Follow” B-sides eventually made their way into the digital realm, as well. The live version of “Out of Control” from Boston was included as a b-side on some formats of “The Sweetest Thing“ CD single in 1998, while the version of “Boy/Girl” recorded at the Marquee in London appeared on the bonus disc accompanying the deluxe reissue of Boy in 2008.

Alternate versions of the studio recording of “I Will Follow” do exist. On some promotional singles, the album version was released in a mono format. On other promos it was edited to 3:22 in length. A studio version without the countdown at the start was released on The Last American Virgin soundtrack album. Finally, an “Alternate Version”—actually an early mix by Steve Lillywhite, done without the band’s input and featuring prominent acoustic guitars—was released on the remastered deluxe version of Boy.

The album version of “I Will Follow” has been re-released mulitple times on U2 compilations, including The Best of 1980-1990 and, as a bonus track, the UK edition of 18 Singles. It has also appeared on the promo-only releases “Cassette Sampler 1986,” “Cassette Sampler 1987,” “Special Collection 1980-1987,” and “U2 2 Date.”

Liner Notes

I Will Follow: Produced by Steve Lillywhite.
Boy-Girl: Recorded Live at the Marquee
Out of Control: Recorded live at The Paradise Theatre, Boston, March 6, 1981) Recorded by Starfleet / Blair. Mixed by Robert L. DeMuth.

Although not originally credited, the remastered release of the album Boy also listed Paul Thomas as engineer, and Kevin Moloney as assistant on the recording of “I Will Follow” and listed Tim Painter as the person who recorded the version of “Boy-Girl” from the Marquee.

Recognition and Awards

  • #214 on Top 500 Songs Since You Were Born (1980-) (Blender Magazine, February 2005)
  • #5 on Favorite Songs, Worldwide Poll of U2 Fans (U2 Magazine, Issue 12, 1984)

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