"Wild Irish Rose" (1990)

Demo Song

Background Information

“Wild Irish Rose” remains a favorite song of U2 fans although it has never been commercially released. The song contains a performance by Bono and The Edge, recorded at a time when the two were possibly working on their soundtrack to the Royal Shakespeare Company’s presentation of “A Clockwork Orange” when the band were in the early stages of recording Achtung Baby. The song did air in a documentary series Bringing it All Back Home which aired in April 1991 on Irish Television. At the end of the first episode of that series, there was a video of Bono and The Edge performing this song in a dark room. It also included footage of them moving through a graveyard.

The documentary focused on the journeys that Irish music had taken through the world, focusing on the traditional music, as well as more modern artists. In the documentary Bono speaks about the Dubliners, and how he’s performed “Springhill Mining Disaster” over the years and how this new song fits into that tradition.

I love the ballad tradition. I talked to you about a song “Wild Irish Rose” which I started in Los Angeles, which I’ve tried to finish the last day, which I’ll play for you later on. That’s an attempt to tell a story in a song. Normally we paint pictures, I think, more than tell stories, from image to image. This is based on a time we spent in a hotel called The Million Dollar Hotel in Los Angeles, which is downtown Los Angeles. It’s like a halfway house hotel for bums and people tossed out of hospitals in the Reagan era. I was being taken through this hotel, I was doing some filming down there, and I noticed that the cheap liquor that all the bums drank was called “Wild Irish Rose” so I started with the line, “The City of Angels, has brought a devil out in me,” and developed it on from there. The rose in Ireland is a romantic image of love obviously, but it’s also an image of Ireland itself, that would be nice to subvert.

The song was interrupted during the document by part of the response by Bono above, as well as a voice over by the narrator of the documentary, Philip King.

The Edge participated later in the video as part of a collective of musicians playing an instrumental piece called “April the Third,” and Adam Clayton also participated with Alec Finn of De Danann, Martin O’Connor, and Steve Wickham from the Waterboys on a song titled “The Bucks of Oranmore”. Both of these pieces of music were released on the album Bringing it All Back Home, but an audio version of “Wild Irish Rose” has not been released.

The lyrics to the song are as follows:

In a field by a river
My love and I did lie
And on my naked shoulder
She too proud to cry
She said that I must leave her
An icy tear she froze
How could I melt the heart
Of a wild Irish rose

Well, a gypsy she has made of me
A servant of the street
Back to bed I have traveled
To taste a love as sweet
Well the heart it knows no reasons
And reason never knows
As I lie with them I am thinking
Of my wild Irish rose

[missing verse]

Well I saw the city of angels
It brought a devil out of me
In Hell’s hotel on Sunset
Showed a whore no mercy
As the orange sky was screaming
From the roof I let her go
These are the dizzy heights that brought me
My wild Irish rose

Now wild is the rose
That she laid on my grave
A life is what she wanted
And a life I surely gave
Like a hundred men before me
They lay lying here in rows
Young men, bloody
As a wild Irish rose

Oooo ooo
Oooo ooo
Oooo ooo
Ooo Ooo Ooo

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