Demos from 1980

Original Story by Aaron J. Sams (2017-04-13)

Back in the fall we took a look at U2’s earliest demo recordings.

Part One dealt with three recording sessions: April 1978 in Keystone Studios, November 1978 in Keystone Studios, and February 1979 in Eamon Andrews Studios.

Part Two dealt with additional sessions in August 1979 at Keystone Studios, December 1979 in Whitfield Street in London England, February 1980 in Windmill Lane Studios, and finished with the recording session April, 1980 in Windmill Lane where the band recorded the songs for the “11 O’Clock Tick Tock” single with Martin Hannett. After these sessions the band began work on the debut album with Steve Lillywhite.

Our friend Valerie has uncovered an interesting tweet that perhaps fills in a few additional blanks:

Dan Hegarty is an Irish Radio presenter with RTÉ. In the photographs he’s with Ian Wilson, who also tweeted about the find:

So what is he holding and what does it mean?

Ian Wilson was the producer on the Fanning Sessions, a radio program on RTÉ Radio 2 that was launched in the summer of 1979. The program was hosted by Dave Fanning, a long time friend to U2. On the program, a new band was given a chance to record four different songs to be aired on the program, and those would be aired twice on the station, giving the band national exposure. U2 were the first band to record a session, however instead of performing live, they played tracks from their new EP, “Three” and allowed listeners to vote on which song would become the A-Side for the single.

The RTÉ Website provides additional information about the sessions:

But perhaps one of the most significant contributions made by RTÉ Radio 2fm to the development of popular music in Ireland was the unstinting support which the station has always given to new and emerging artists and musicians. Most of this “support” has been provided – over the years – through the so-called ‘Dave Fanning Sessions’ whereby new bands have been given the opportunity to perform their work in specially-arranged recording sessions which are then broadcast across national radio. Many of the tracks which were first set-down during such sessions were incorporated, subsequently, into top-selling albums.

There are those who would say that without Dave Fanning’s live sessions, U2 would never have even started. Nearly every Irish band has sampled the coffee in studio 8 and some of them have even survived it. That’s where many of them got their start. In recent times, for instance, Dave and his production crew have given support to JJ72, a group which first came to light when Mark Greaney (lead vocalist) submitted a tape to Dave Fanning. An immediate invitation to perform a “Fanning Session” followed. After that, Irish label Lakota picked up the band and the rest is but another modern fairytale.

This new information on Twitter, posted by Dan Hegarty? Proof that U2 went back into the studio with Dave at a later date and worked on a more traditional “Fanning Session”, recording four different songs, as was the format of the program. The notes inside the box list five different attempts to play “A Day Without Me” (3:45, 4:00, 3:28, 3:28, 3:28), two attempts to play “Trevor” (3:28, 3:28), three attempts to play “Jack in a Box” (2:40, 2:52, 2:52), and one play of “Shadows In Tall Trees”. (3:42)

Based on what we know from our research into the demos, “A Day Without Me” and “Trevor” were songs first developed in a session in early 1980 and possibly recorded in Windmill Lane along with demos of “Silver Lining” and “The Dream is Over” in February 1980. “Trevor” would later become “Touch” in April of that year as the band recorded the single “11 O’Clock Tick Tock” with Martin Hannett. It looks like they made use of the session with Fanning to work on some other tracks as well. “Shadows and Tall Trees” had been recorded in November 1978 as a song with Barry Devlin. It would later be re-recorded for the album Boy with Steve Lillywhite. It appears that this would be a third studio recording of that song. And “Jack in a Box” was originally developed earlier as well.

It is likely that this session was recorded in early 1980, and fascinating that they were still working on some of the earlier material for this broadcast. It is not known if that session with U2 ever aired, but certainly not all of these versions of the songs would have been hard if the session did air. As Wilson points out the tape had been reused a number of times and the sticker showing “U.2.” on the box is the fifth sticker showing contents. The recording was a stereo recording, but other details are unfortunately not legible on the box. This session likely pre-dated the actual recording session for demos to send off to CBS for “11 O’Clock Tick Tock” and is likely where the songs “A Day Without Me” and “Trevor” started to take shape with further work being done in Windmill Lane. We will continue to dig for additional information on when this recording actually took place and whether or not it actually aired. The full image of the demos track listing can be seen below. Please check out our earlier articles on the demos for more information about the odd songs recorded at that time:

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