"The Preacher" (1990)
As “The Wanderer” was developed for the Zooropa album, it went through a number of name changes. It started as “The Preacher”, and later became “Wandering” and finally “The Wanderer.”
In February 1993 when Cash was in Dublin to play a concert with Kris Kristofferson, Bono invited him to Windmill Studios, where the band was recording with producer Brian Eno. As Cash later remembered it, they told him they were recording a track that was part of an experimental music project. The day before, Bono had written the words to a song he was calling “The Preacher” (it later became “Wanderlust” and finally “The Wanderer”). It was inspired by the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, in which the unnamed narrator systematically explores all avenues of fulfillment before concluding that everything is worthless unless people remember their Creator.
The book relates that Cash returned home assuming the track would not be used.
“The Wanderer” / “The Preacher” / “Wanderlust” is a different song than “Ellis Island” that Cash also worked with U2 on.
The roots of “The Preacher” may go back to the 1990 sessions in Berlin. In Bill Flanagan’s book, U2 At the End of the World it is mentioned that there was a familiar song recorded there:
There was a song recorded in Berlin that didn’t make the final sequence, in which Bono sang of wanting to “see and touch and taste as much as a man can before he repents.”
It is likely that the lyrics to “The Preacher” had been around for a bit when Bono pulled them out when Cash came to town.
During an interview with Joe Jackson at the time of the release of the Zooropa album, Bono talks about the song the band has done with Johnny Cash, called “The Wanderer”. Bono is talking about how he would have liked to call the song “The Preacher”:
What i’d like to call it would be um, i’d like to call it ‘the preacher’ because he has a tradition of songs, the singer, but maybe it should be called “Johnny Cash on the Moon” you tell me.
Although quoted as a demo title for the song, I believe the reference to calling the track “Johnny Cash on the Moon” was just Bono having a bit of fun with the interviewer while explaining that the song was almost called “The Preacher.”