The History Mix: Gavin Friday
Original Story by Aaron J. Sams (2016-03-29)
Gavin Friday. A name that will be immediately familiar to many of you, but may be brand new to some. Friday was born in Dublin and grew up as a close friend to Bono. Friday is a songwriter, a musician, and an artist. He was a founding member of the Virgin Prunes, and has released a number of solo albums. Yesterday marked the anniversary of the release of “In the Name of the Father“ as a single, a song that he and Bono co-wrote and sang for the movie of the same name, and while looking back on that release we decided to go in for a closer look at the work that Gavin has done with U2.
“I was scared stiff of Gavin Friday, and still am.” — Steve Lillywhite
Many fans were confused on the fourth night in Boston in 2015, when an odd version of “The Fly” began to play during the intermission piece prior to “Invisible”. On most evenings up until that night, the piece had been Johnny Cash’s voice singing “The Wanderer”. The internet lit up trying to figure out where this new version of “The Fly” came from. The short answer? It was Gavin.
In 2011, U2 were putting the finishing touches on a 20th anniversary release of Achtung Baby. As part of that release, an album of cover songs was recorded, with other artists each tackling a different song from the album, and U2 themselves adding a remix of “Even Better than the Real Thing” to the compilation. Gavin Friday recorded “The Fly” for the album, titled (Ǎhk-to͝ong Bāy-Bi) Covered. The album was released as a cover mounted CD on an issue of Q Magazine. It was also made available digitally through iTunes. Gavin interviewed about the project related how he got picked for “The Fly”: “The Edge rang me up and said, nobody wants to do “The Fly” – they’re all afraid of it. I think it’s because it has its own essence sonically. It was the lead single and the point of reinvention. U2 said it best: it was the sound of four men chopping down the Joshua Tree. I remember seeing them working on Achtung Baby in it’s early stages. I just put a rocket up their asses and said, Go for it.”
The cover recorded by Gavin for that album was played during that intermission in Boston, and used for the remainder of the tour. As the tour moved into Europe, the vocals of the cover version were re-recorded with Bono providing some additional vocals but Gavin was still very much in the mix. In a playful mood in Glasgow, Bono even sang part of the song live.
Some of these other performances of the song can be found online, but we’ve chosen to link to the night it made its debut, the night they used the initial Gavin Friday mix of the song.
In the Name of the Father Soundtrack
Released March 28, 1994 as a single by Gavin Friday and Bono, the song “In the Name of the Father“ is one of the better known collaborations between Gavin and Bono. The song was written by Gavin and Bono for the soundtrack to In the Name of the Father. The movie deals with the true life story of four Irish people convicted of the 1974 pub bombing in Guildford. The film opens with the song by Gavin and Bono, and the bomb blast goes off as the song kicks in. It is a very strong moment, and the song melds wonderfully with the film. The single includes a number of remixes of the song.
As part of the soundtrack, Gavin and Bono contributed a second song called “Billy Boola”, a fun little romp which plays as the main characters break into a prostitutes apartment. The song also was used as a B-Side on the single “You, Me, and World War III“ from Gavin Friday. A third song is featured on the soundtrack to the film co-written by Gavin and Bono, but performed by Sinéad O’Connor, “You Made Me The Thief of Your Heart“. The song is played as an instrumental in the film as part of a major scene. The song was recorded in studio with Gavin and Bono present. It too was released as a single to promote the soundtrack for the film.
A fourth song came out of the work done for the film. The song, mostly instrumental is “The Father and His Wife the Spirit”. The song appeared as a b-side to the single “You Made Me the Thief of Your Heart“. For those who want to link that song to the current era, one only needs to listen to “The Father and His Wife the Spirit” as a lead in to “Iris (Hold me Close)”. I think you’ll agree, the voices in the static are very much alike, yet the two songs were recorded 20 years apart. You may also recognize the sound of the bells in the song in the opening to “California (There is No End to Love)”.
“Lucifer’s Hands” is a song that almost made it to Songs of Innocence but was later held for the deluxe edition as a bonus track for the album. In the production notes for the song the credits list “Claps by Bono, The Edge, and Lucifer himself, Gavin Friday.” It is fitting that an album such as Songs of Innocence, which looked back to those formative days on Cedarwood Road would include a few nods to Gavin, and even a few hand claps by the man himself.
“Satellite of Love”
The B-Side to 1992’s “One“ single also included Gavin Friday in the studio. On the cover of Lou Reed’s “Satellite of Love” Gavin is credited with backing vocals. Many will be familiar with U2’s covers of the song from the Zoo TV tour, but it is the studio cover which caused me to fall in love. If you listen carefully you can clearly hear Gavin in the mix.
Shag Tobacco Album
Gavin has appeared in the studio to help out U2 a number of times over the years. But they have also returned the favor. In 1995, Gavin Friday released Shag Tobacco on Island Records. It is Bono and The Edge on backing vocals on the song “Little Black Dress”.
Moulin Rouge Soundtrack
Bono and Gavin (and collaborator Maurice Seezer) would also work together for the movie soundtrack of Moulin Rouge. For the soundtrack the trio perform a cover of the song “Children of the Revolution”. The song is a rocking throwback to the original. Bono handles the bulk of the lyrics for the song. The mix used in the film itself was a remixed version of the song which has never been released.
The song was recorded in Gavin Friday’s HORSE studios, just before Bono would embark to Miami to join U2 for the start of the Elevation tour. “We are one but not the same… Bono took the role of Bolan and I took on the role of Flo & Eddie (backing singers on the original) at the request of the director. The recordings were very free form, just the three of us dossin’. It was chaos ‘n’ fun, mad jams, very uncontrived with our tongues firmly in our cheeks.”
Gavin would also discuss the second mix of the track, a “demented camp / handbag / heavy metal / pop kind of thing”: “There are two mixes – a “Bohemian” one and a “Hermaphrodite” one which is gay handbag done by a heavy metal band. There are some hysterically high vocals that are going to upset the neighbourhood dogs and a few other surprises that I’ll let you discover for yourself.” Now if that description doesn’t make you want to hear the full thing I’m not sure what will. There is a brief forty second clip that can be heard in the film itself of this second mix.
In America Soundtrack
The soundtrack for In America featured music composed by Gavin Friday and Maurice Seezer and performed by the Friday-Seezer Ensemble. The bulk of the soundtrack is instrumental, but the lead track is sung by Andrea Corr. The song, “Time Enough for Tears” was co-written by Gavin Friday and Bono. The soundtrack was released in 2003. Gavin Friday discussed the song with u2log.com in October 2002, “Bono saw the film and was blown away by it. He wanted to work with us and something happened, organically. It’s very poetic, very romantic. Very vulnerable and naked. It’s a beautiful song.” The male vocals that can be heard at the end of the song are those of Gavin Friday.
The song “Time Enough for Tears“ was submitted for awards consideration, both at the Golden Globes and the Oscars. The song was nominated for a Golden Globe at the 2004 ceremony, however the song lost out to the song “Into the West” by Annie Lennox from the movie The Return of the King.
Andrea Corr – Ten Feet High
The association between Andrea Corr, Bono and Gavin Friday doesn’t just stop at the film soundtrack for In America. In 2007 Andrea released her first solo album, Ten Feet High. Bono and Gavin are listed as the executive producers of the album. It is unknown how much input they had in the album itself, but a note from Corr in the liner notes, they are again mentioned, “To my three bodyguards for breathing life into my songs Nellee Hooper, Bono and Gavin Friday.”
“Ballad of Reading Gaol”
A 2004 video release saw Bono and Gavin Friday together again, reading lines from “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” a poem by Oscar Wilde. The video was featured on “Happy Birthday Oscar Wilde“. In the video, Bono and Gavin Friday trade lines back and forth and have a lot of fun doing so. They are reciting from memory and change up the words somewhat in places. Gavin had previously recorded some of the words from “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” as lyrics in his song “Each Man Kills the Thing He Loves” which he released in 1989 on the album of the same name. It is also the poem he recorded for the Voices and Poetry of Ireland project.
NOTE: Bono and Gavin start at 55:12 in this film above.
I’ve just touched the surface of Gavin’s influence and work with the band. This is the man who was thanked for being the “consulting Poptician” in the liner notes for Pop. Gavin has also participated on a number of projects that featured U2, with Friday doing his own solo stuff. He and Bono were both participants in the sea shanty project Rogue’s Gallery. Gavin worked on the Short Cuts soundtrack, a film which Bono and The Edge contributed lyrics for a song. Both Gavin and Bono were involved in the project Voices and Poetry of Ireland each reading their own choices. And Gavin sang back up on Michael Hutchence’s cover of “The Passenger” on 1995’s Batman Forever soundtrack, a film to which U2 contributed “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me.”
Gavin is also one of the voices on the single that U2 put together for Ronnie Drew, “The Ballad of Ronnie Drew,” released in 2008.
In 2003 both Bono and Gavin were involved in the production of “Peter and the Wolf” for the Irish Hospice foundation. The book and CD box included paintings by Bono, inspired in part by the death of his father. Bono’s daughters helped their dad with the paintings. Friday and Maurice Seezer were involved in the recording of the CD, recording a score, and Gavin acting as narrator.
Gavin has also played a role in various tours throughout the years. In an interview with U2Valencia in 2009 Gavin described what he does on tour:
What I always do. I… Let’s say ever since they’ve done Joshua Tree and most tours. Because we grew up together. I’m an aesthetic midwife, you know, when the baby is in the mother, I help the baby be born. I look at all the things… they’re on stage, they can’t see everything, so I’m their eyes and their ears, and I understand the four of them very well, cause I know them 30 years, or more. And so we speak the same language. I don’t blow smoke up their ass. Do you know what I mean?
Friday was responsible for those wonderful pre-show mixes you hear on past tours, he’s been involved in some of Bono’s stage patter, and other visual decisions. Some of the deep layers present in a U2 tour are thanks to Mr. Friday.
And finally, some of those who attended the U2360 concert in Raleigh, South Carolina got a surprise. During the soundcheck I had the privilege to watch the band perform a number of songs they weren’t performing on the tour. Along with some of their own songs, U2 performed Gavin’s “King of Trash” and “I Want to Live”, David Bowie’s “Jean Genie” as well as their own songs “Breathe” and “In a Little While”. The two songs by Gavin and the cover of “Jean Genie” were practice for Gavin’s 50th birthday bash at Carnegie Hall which was held a few nights later. The show, presented by ( RED ) was a three hour performance with many guest stars including Courtney Love, Lady Gaga, and Rufus Wainwright. And yes, U2 did play those two Gavin Friday tracks they rehearsed in Raleigh, as well as jumping in and out of a number of other performances throughout the night.
By this point of the article I’m afraid I’ve outed myself as a bit of a Gavin Friday fan. The only thing left is to suggest you visit gavinfriday.com to have a look around if this has inspired you to take a further look at the artist, and his discography.