"Native Son" (2003)
“Native Son” is an early version of “Vertigo” which was released on How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.
The first mention of the song was in Entertainment Weekly, dated February 14, 2003, Bono is speaking about the bands Oscar nomination, and how they have recently been working on a new song called “Native Son” when they got the call about the Grammy nominations:
We’ve got a song up on the burner called ‘Native Son.’ The best way I think we can celebrate is to just finish out what we’re doing: Make this song a scorching 45. The molecules in the air are vibrating quite nicely as a result of that phone call.
“Native Son” was released in 2004 as a set of demo recordings included with The Complete U2, a digital ‘box set’ released at the same time as the album How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. In that set “Native Son” is listed as being from the sessions for How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. In a digital liner note The Edge speaks about some of the demo tracks:
Every U2 recording session produces its share of unfinished ideas. Some like ‘Smile’, from the sessions for How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, just arrive too late. Others like ‘Love You Like Mad’, from the sessions for All That You Can’t Leave Behind, get lost in the crush. There are songs like ‘Beautiful Ghost’, from The Joshua Tree demo sessions, and ‘Flower Child’ from the All That You Can’t Leave Behind sessions that are waiting for a rewrite before they can be finished. Songs like “Levitate’ from the All That You Can’t Leave Behind sessions which just don’t fit in. Wherever they come from, these ideas are often the most revealing of their time, because they are the least worked on songs and recordings. For this reason, they are often some of my favorites.
The Edge discussed “Native Son” in U2 by U2:
We really thought ‘Native Son’ was very close to being finished but Steve [Lillywhite] felt it was not a great performance. And he was right. ‘Vertigo’ is truer to the original idea that I had. It’s just a great visceral rock ‘n’ roll song. Instrumentally, it’s very simple, drums, one guitar, one bass and the vocals.
“Native Son” would later develop into “Vertigo”. Bono spoke a bit about the evolution in U2 by U2:
It’s like cell division, our songs keep shedding their skin and a new song emerges. ‘Native Son’ was inspired by Leonard Peltier, the Native American rights activist, and it was an interesting idea for a song. On its way to becoming ‘Vertigo’ it stopped off at the mezzanine floor and turned into ‘Shark Soup.’”
The work on “Vertigo” started with Larry Mullen in early 2002 working on drum tracks for potential songs in Hanover Quay. The Edge spoke about the track development from there, “The rhythm of the drums inspired me to create and play simultaneously, among other things, a two-bar guitar chord progression that became part of a song that I composed and recorded over the course of a few days and called “Hard Metal Jacket.” Terry Lawless, a musician and digital audio technician who periodically works with U2, functioned as my recording engineer in Malibu, and assisted me in recording and engineering my work. Over the course of several days Terry helped me put the constituent parts of three or four songs together into three or four demo recordings, one of which was “Hard Metal Jacket.” Terry burned “Hard Metal Jacket” and the other songs that I had composed and recorded (collectively, the “Malibu Recordings”) onto a CD and gave the CD to me. In November 2002, when Bono was visiting Los Angeles, I played “Hard Metal Jacket,” and the other Malibu Recordings, for Bono and a mutual friend Lian Lunson.
Bono spoke about this meeting in November 2002:
In November 2002, Edge and I were visiting a friend in Los Angeles named Lian Lunson. Edge played for us recordings of several songs he had been working on. One of the songs, which he titled “Full Metal Jacket” or “Hard Metal Jacket” consisted bass and guitar tracks over drum loops. In listening to “Hard Metal Jacket,” I was impressed with the guitar attitude and vitality, and I thought that the song had some potential to become a U2 song.
In December 2002 the band started work in Dublin on the song, and the band recorded over 75 versions of the song. Bono spoke about the changes to the song:
Over the next two years Hard Metal Jacket went through many iterations on the way to becoming Vertigo. Sometimes in order to identify a particular melodic approach we attached different names to different versions of the song. The names included “Shark Soup,” “Viva La Ramone” and “Native Son” (which was actually the proper title for the song for a while).
The Edge also spoke of some of these alternate titles:
As “Hard Metal Jacket” evolved, the music, instrumentation, title and lyrics changed many times. Over the course of time, “Hard Metal Jacket” had several working titles (for purposes of distinguishing between melodic ideas incorporated within its many iterations), such as “Viva La Ramone,” “Shark Soup,” “Sopa de Tiburon,” “Native Son” and finally “Vertigo.”