"Under a Blood Red Sky" - U2

Album (Original Release)

Track Listing:

Alternative Tracks:

Background Information

Based on the success of “War” in markets around the world, U2 wanted to capitalize on the success they were having, and while not ready to release a follow up album, they chose to release a live album titled “Under a Blood Red Sky” at the end of 1983. The album at the time was often referred to as a mini album or a mini-LP, and runs for less than 40 minutes in length.

In early 1983, Paul McGuinness contacted the British television series The Tube with the idea of shooting a live concert special which would be shown on the program. Eventually this lead to the filming of the June 5, 1983 concert at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Denver, Colorado, even though The Tube would only be able to use about 15 minutes of the footage on the air. The material filmed would first be aired on radio in the USA as part of the NBC Radio network, in a recording that featured the full 20-song concert from Denver. Video broadcasts included a 12-song broadcast on Showtime and a 9-song broadcast on MTV in the USA, as well as four songs broadcast by The Tube in the UK. These early showings lead to an interest in a release of a live album.

Working with producer Jimmy Iovine U2 went into the studio to review the recordings from the Red Rocks show and found themselves unhappy with some aspects of that performance. Rather than release a full document from the Denver performance, U2 reviewed other recordings taken from other shows on the “War” tour, and the album is a mix from three different locations. On the final audio release of “Under a Blood Red Sky” only two tracks are taken from that concert in Denver, “Gloria” and “Party Girl” both recorded by Steve Lillywhite. Another track was recorded in the USA with “11 O’Clock Tick Tock” having been recorded on May 6, 1983 in Boston MA with recording by DIR Broadcasting. The remainder of the tracks on the album (“I Will Follow”, “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, “The Electric Co.”, “New Year’s Day” and “40”) were all taken from a European tour stop in St. Goarhausen, West Germany at the Rockpalast ’83 Festival, and the recording was done by WDR Television, from a broadcast of that performance that had aired in Germany. The recordings were edited together by Shelly Yakus at The Hit Factory in New York, and produced by Jimmy Iovine.

The cover of the album features an image from the video recording done in Denver CO at the Red Rocks concert. It features Bono in a crouch holding onto a flag on top of the lighting rig during the concert while performing “The Electric Co.” The image was photographed from a monitor by Jacobus van Hespen, during playback of the video footage. The overall design of the cover was done by “The Creative Department” which was the name of the company that Stephen Averill was heading at the time.

The album has many different edits in CD worldwide. In most pressings “I Will Follow” ends with Bono saying “One more” at the end of the song. On most US pressings the track ends immediately after this is said. (Edit II – 3:42) In Canada, the UK and Germany the track continues with five seconds of crowd noise before ending. (Edit I – 3:48) In Australia, the track ends before “One more” is said and that is part of the next track instead (Edit III – 3:41). On the remastered version in 2008 this line was edited out completely creating a new version of the track (Edit IV – 3:46).

Beyond the edit above, there is a fade introduced to the album between “Party Girl” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday” on most US pressings, that isn’t present on initial pressings elsewhere in the world, except for the “Island Masters” repressings done throughout Europe in the early 1990s. On most pressings “Party Girl” has little crowd noise at the start and is ended with approximately 15s of crowd noise and goes direct into the next song. (Edit I – 3:09). In the US, the song has six seconds of crowd noise at the start, and ends with approximately 22s of crowd noise and silence as it fades out. (Edit II – 3:22) On the early Australian pressings the song starts with Bono saying “one more” which is present as part of “I Will Follow” elsewhere as mentioned. The early Australian version does not fade out. (Edit III – 3:15). Finally the Island Masters version does fade out like the US version, however unlike that version, the song starts almost immediately with little crowd noise. (Edit IV – 3:17) Due to the fade, “Sunday Bloody Sunday” either starts immediately (Edit I – 5:18) or has a fade in and some crowd noise. (Edit II – 5:27) The “Island Masters” pressing adds an additional 10 seconds of silence at the end of “40” (Edit II – 3:55) resulting in a song longer than earlier pressings worldwide. (Edit I – 3:45)

During the performance of “The Electric Co.” Bono sang a brief line to the tune of Stephen Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns” from the musical “A Little Night Music” substituting “crowd” for “clown”. He also sings a bit of “America” from Stephen Sondheim’s “West Side Story”. U2 did not seek clearance to use those pieces, and legal action was taken. U2 ended up paying for the use of those songs (somewhere between $5000 and $50000 depending on the source) and future pressings would require that this song be edited out of the recording. Thus on the early vinyl releases, and indeed some early CD releases as well, there is an unedited version of the song (05:23). Future releases edited out this middle portion resulting in an edit that was 04:38 in length. And on the 2008 remaster, the track was edited further and cut back to 04:38 in length.

When comparing these track times to those that are listed on the back of the album, many fans are confused, because those track times on the back don’t seem to match up with any edit in CD of the album.

The album was initially released on 12-inch vinyl and cassette throughout the world. Later in the 1980s as the 5-inch CD became a popular format the release was also issued on CD. Some of these pressings on CD went back to the original master, and contain the snippets of the Sondheim song, and thus once discovered, later pressings in these regions would all contain the edited version. The album was released on November 21, 1983 in the UK and Europe, and the following day, November 22, 1983 in North America.

There were a number of related releases that accompanied “Under a Blood Red Sky” on release. “I Will Follow (Live from St. Goarshausen)” was released as a commercial single in the US, backed with a remix of “Two Hearts Beat as One” that had previously only been available on an import in the US. There were also a couple of different pressings of “I Will Follow” for promotion both as a 7-inch and a 12-inch. Finally there was a promotional 12-inch record issued titled “A Dialog With U2” which featured the live tracks from “Under a Blood Red Sky” interspersed with interview clips with interviewer Trevor Dann. This disc had many unique edits of the songs, as each song faded in and faded out at the start and end. Finally, in 1984 a videocassette of the Denver CO performance was issued with a very similar cover to this album. That video was titled “U2 Live at Red Rocks: Under a Blood Red Sky” and the live material is all taken from the Red Rocks concert.

The album did quite well in the charts upon release, reaching number 2 in the UK albums chart, and reaching number 28 in the USA Billboard album chart. Most of the reviews of the live album were quite positive, and the album is seen as one of the reasons U2 was able to establish their reputation as a great live act.

In 2008 when U2 re-released three albums, “Boy”, “October” and “War” plans had originally called for “Under a Blood Red Sky” to be included in the set as well. The box set of these, released through Amazon included room for the “Under a Blood Red Sky” release, but it was replaced by a poster and a place holder instead. Fans would not have to wait long, as a few months after these re-releases, “Under a Blood Red Sky” was remastered and re-released on September 29, 2008 in Europe, and the following day in North America. Mastering of this release was overseen by The Edge.

“Under a Blood Red Sky” remastered was released in three formats, a 12-inch vinyl release in 180 gram vinyl, a standard format single 5-inch CD, and a deluxe format 5-inch CD which came packaged with the newly remastered version of the video from Denver on DVD as a bonus disc instead of a bonus audio disc as was the case with “Boy”, “October” and “War”. This DVD was the first time the film had been released in that format, and was also released by itself as a stand-alone DVD. More information on this deluxe set can be found in the discography entry for the “Under a Blood Red Sky” remastered release.

Liner Notes

All songs composed by U2. Producer: Jimmy Iovine. Mixed by Shelly Yakus at the Hit Factory, NYC. Assistant engineering by Bobby Cohen. Mastered by Stephen Marcussen at Precision Lacquer, LA.

Denver Recordings: Location recording by Steve Lillywhite. Produced for Source by EDR Entertainment and recorded on the Effanel Music Mobile Facility, Denver, Co. June 5th, 1983.
Boston Recordings: Location recording, produced by DIR Broadcasting and recorded on the Effanel Music Mobile, Boston, Mass. May 6th, 1983.
St. Goarshausen Recordings: Location recording courtesy of “Rockpalast 83”, WDR Television, West Germany, August 20th, 1983.

Artwork

Design by RX for The Creative Department, Dublin. Monitor photography by Jacobus van Hespen from “Under a Blood Red Sky” a “U2 at Red Rocks Associates” production.

Recognition and Awards

Certified Gold (RIAA, USA, February 27, 1984)
Certified Platinum (RIAA, USA, July 18, 1985)
Certified 3x Multi-Platinum (RIAA, USA, May 23, 1994) [Last certification to date, as of 2017]

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