"Wake Up, Dead Man" (1986)
“Wake Up, Dead Man” is a song that Bono started development work on in 1987 for The Joshua Tree, and returned to in 1991 for Achtung Baby and later Zooropa, and finally finished in 1997 for the album Pop.
The song is first mentioned by Bono, who is part of the group of musicians that Bill Flanagan interviews for his book, Written in My Soul: Conversations with Rock’s Great Songwriters. During that conversation Bono reveals a couple of titles to songs that he has worked on which have never appeared as finished songs.
Speaking about the Sun City recordings he mentions, “When I got back to my hotel I got a guitar, and put up two titles, “This I’ve Got to Stop” and “Silver and Gold.” “Silver and Gold” seemed to fit this country blues thing.” and later he talks about the band working on songs for a new album, “Now I’ve got a real problem. We’re writing songs for the next U2 record, but meanwhile I’ve bought these Robert Johnson albums and I’m writing all these songs which I don’t know where they’re coming from! They’re not song U2 could do — they have titles like “Wake Up, Dead Man” and “Devil’s in the House Tonight.” It’s very odd!” The book was published in 1986, suggesting “Wake Up, Dead Man” was a title Bono was working on at least 10 years before it was released on Pop.
In Bill Flanagan’s book, U2 At The End of the World Flanagan spends some time with the band in the studio while they are working on Zooropa. Two of the songs he discusses are “If God Will Send His Angels” and “Wake Up Dead Man” which would both be developed further for the Pop album.
In the book there is a passage discussing the two songs:
U2 start another song. Sam O’Sullivan, Larry’s drum tech, runs into the control room to ask Flood what this one’s called. “If God Will Send His Angels,” Flood says. Sam rapidly flips through a stack of papers and says, “We don’t have a tempo for this!” “It used to be called ‘Wake Up, Dead Man,’” Flood says calmly.
At another point in the book Flanagan gives a list of songs that are being worked on for the album. Many are familiar as songs that make it onto the album, but some are not, or would only show up later in life. “Wake Up, Dead Man” is one of these songs. Each song listed is under one of three categories, and “Wake Up, Dead Man” falls under “Songs” as opposed to “Vibes” or “Soundtracks”.
“Wake Up Dead Man” was so far along in development for Zooropa, that the words “Wake Up Dead Man” even appear in the cover for the album.