You Can’t Bag It: A look at POP’s Promotional Items
Original Story by Harry Kantas (2017-03-03)
20 years ago today, one of U2’s arguably most underrated records, POP, was released. After the rebirth of Achtung Baby, the tech dominated Zooropa and Passengers OST, POP offers a logical extension of sorts to The Joshua Tree, a decade later. Looking at the world in the mid-90s, and the variety of new music genres that have taken over, gives U2 a chance to once again “fuck up the mainstream”.
“A lot people are saying, have you become dance or trip-hop? You hear all these terms used. I’m not comfortable with any one particular genre of music, I just like the idea of taking whatever is out there and fucking with it.”
Along with POP’s playfulness, embracing of kitsch and trash, also came a shift in aesthetics, and artwork. This new found style can be seen in all of the releases tied to POP. You can easily find the album and single, as well as promo releases in our discography section.
This is a look at some of the promotional items of the time, made by Island Records in the UK and US primarily, that were distributed to various radio stations and other media, to promote the release of the record, the singles, and the POPmart Tour.
POP 12” Cube
This special promo package was made and distributed to media in the UK by Island Records. Inside the box was a special pen – silver prismatic “glitter” with the “U2*POP” logo down the side. There was a pad of paper which had the face of each band member printed on one side – the pad was a cube in shape.
Each piece of paper had the “*U2*POP” logo at the bottom of the page. The notepad block was a cube 4-inches in each direction. This set also contained the UK pressing of the album in CD format.
The overall cube that held all of these items was approximately 12-inches in each dimension. It was made out of corrugated cardboard, with polystyrene inner.
At times the contents of the box have been used for individual promotions, so the items may also be found separate from the cube.
Each face of the cube on the sides featured a full image of a band member, and the top contained the album cover with all four images combined.
It has been reported that only a limited quantity of these promotional boxes were sent out in a complete format, and it has been suggested there were only 250 of these sets made.
POP Rubik’s Cube
Made in the UK by Island Records in late 1996, this was the first promotional item for POP. Resembling a Rubik’s Cube, it measures 3” and folds out, Each cube features a face from the album cover, or part of a face. The top side is black and features the “*U2*POP” logo.
The cube was later made available to purchase at the merch stands during the POPmart Tour.
POP / Discotheque 12” Mirrorballs
Two 12” mirrorballs were made to promote the record.
The first came from the US. It featured the “U2*POP” logo in blue, red and black, and a hanging cord. The mirrorball opens around its circumference, and inside one could find varied sets of the glitter pen, the US pressing of POP in CD format, promo videos or posters. Only 50-100 are known to exist.
The second mirrorball came from the UK, inside a U2/Discotheque branded box. This one features just the U2 logo in black. The kick here is, it also comes with a battery operated motorized hanging bracket, that makes it spin! Only 25-100 are rumoured to exist, certainly fewer than the US version.
Discotheque – 2” Mirrorball
The little brother of the 12” mirrorballs, this one comes from the UK, in a 2” diameter, with a “U2*DISCOTHEQUE” tag. It was housed in a custom box, featuring the cover of the Discotheque single on the lid.
Staring at the Sun – Kaleidoscope
Made to promote the Staring At The Sun single by Island Records UK, this kaleidoscope comes in 2 finishes: matte and glossy. The kaleidoscope measures approximately 5”, and comes in a 6” tube box. Both are black, with a gold “*U2*STARING AT THE SUN” across the side.
The kaleidoscopes are refractive, and looking through them shows patterns of light and shapes, with an overlaid “*U2*POP” logo.
If God Will Send His Angels – Advent Calendar 1997
Another promotional item made in the UK, this 16“x12” advent calendar was sent out to radio stations to complement the promotional CD single for If God Will Send His Angels.
The calendar comes without chocolates, housed in a custom picture envelope, featuring the artwork from the single on the front, and artwork on the back that later became the cover to the single release of MOFO.
Other items thrown in this mix were often Xmas gift wrapping paper featuring the winged hearts, bumper stickers, or a metal pin.
POPmart Folder & Headed Paper
This POPmart folder promo pack was made and distributed in the UK, to promote the POPmart Tour.
The pack consists of a customized POPmart Tour 97 folder, along with 10 sheets of watermarked Strathmore Writing 25% Cotton A4 size POPmart headed paper.
POPmart Record Bag
This item was made and distributed in the US, to promote the POPmart Tour.
It is a dark grey nylon 14” record bag, featuring the “U2 POPmart TOUR 97” logo on the front. The bag has hard feet, a carrying handle, an adjustable shoulder strap, velcro fastening and zip inside pocket.
In its very limited numbers, the record bag would also come packed with more promotional items, some of which were later sold as merchandise on the POPmart Tour, namely:
POPmart Tour Merch
Some of the promotional items mentioned here also made it to the POPmart Tour merch stands, and/or were made available for mail orders. Below are some of the items you could find and purchase back then, that weren’t covered above.