"Angel of Harlem" - U2


Track Listing:

Background Information

“Angel of Harlem” was the second single released to promote the album and movie, Rattle and Hum. The song was written as an homage to Billie Holiday, who is mentioned here as “Lady Day”. The song was written during the Joshua Tree tour and was recorded during a session at Sun Studios in Memphis during the later part of the third leg of that tour. “When Love Comes to Town,” “Love Rescue Me,” “She’s a Mystery to Me” (unreleased), “Can’t Help Falling in Love” (unreleased) and “Jesus Christ” were all recorded during those sessions at Sun Studio, a famous studio where Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash and others had recorded throughout their careers. The single was released on December 5, 1988 in Europe and the following day in North America. The front artwork of the single was a black and white photo of Adam Clayton taken by Colm Henry. The back of the single features a photograph of Billie Holiday.

The version of “Angel of Harlem” that appears on the single releases is very slightly remixed from the album mix. There are several subtle differences, it fades out quicker cutting a bit of Bono’s adlib at the end, the horns are slightly sharper in the remix, Bono’s ‘ah-ah’ just before ‘that’s alright’ has been removed from this remix, and you can hear a backing vocal doubling Bono’s vocals on the “so long, Angel of Harlem” lines. The version of “Angel of Harlem” used here is labelled as a remix on some releases (Canadian cassette for instance) but is not labelled on the majority. The B-side used on the 7-inch vinyl and cassette as well as the Japan 3-inch CD was “A Room at the Heartbreak Hotel” which was a new song, referring to an Elvis song in the title. For this reason, Elvis appears on the label of the B-Side on some releases. The 12-inch vinyl, US 3-inch CD, and the 5-inch CD releases would also feature an additional track, “Love Rescue Me” recorded live at the “Smile Jamaica” concert in London on October 16, 1988. The live recording of the song features Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers on vocals and Keith Richards on guitar. This was the first concert performance of “Love Rescue Me” in concert.

A video for “Angel of Harlem” was filmed by director Richard Lowenstein, and producers Michael Hamlyn and Iain Brown. The video was filmed in the Apollo Theatre in New York City in November 1988. The footage of the band performing in black and white is inter cut with scenes of New York City, footage of U2 attending the premiere of Rattle and Hum in New York and Los Angeles and old footage of Billie Holiday. The video for “Angel of Harlem” was featured on The Best of 1980 – 1990 video collection. A further video, of the recording sessions from Sun Studio can be found in the movie Rattle and Hum. During that performance you can see the recording stop and restart due to an error, and Bono sings alternative lyrics to the final version released on the album Rattle and Hum.

In concert, “Angel of Harlem” was played regularly during LoveTown and ZooTV. It was not played on the PopMart tour at all. It made a debut opening night of the Elevation tour, but was quickly dropped for a month while working out the bugs with the performance. It would return on that tour but only for 25% of the shows overall. During the Vertigo tour, it only made one appearance in the 2005 tour schedule, but appeared on all but one night of the final leg of the tour. During The U2360° Tour, the song was played only six times on the first leg of the tour, and only twice on the remainder of the tour. For 2015’s Innocence and Experience Tour, “Angel of Harlem” appeared at 33% of the concerts.

Three versions of “Angel of Harlem” live have been released in audio formats, on “Love: Live from the Point Depot” (Dublin, December 31, 1989), “Zoo TV Live” (Sydney, November 1993), and on “Go Home: Live from Slane Castle Ireland” (Dublin, September 1, 2001). The versions from Sydney in November 1993 and Dublin in September 2001 were released in video formats as well. In 2011, members of the U2 Fan Club were given the opportunity to vote on 46 live tracks recorded during The U2360° Tour, with the top 22 songs to be included on a live album, U22. “Angel of Harlem” was one of these choices. In the end, however, the song did not receive enough votes to appear on the final live compilation. The following year, the Edge picked his favorite tracks from the remaining 46 live tracks, and once again the track was not chosen for inclusion on From the Ground Up: Edge’s Picks. The July 12, 2009 version recorded in Paris, France, however, was released as a bonus digital download.

“Angel of Harlem” was collected on the Best of 1980 – 1990 album and associated promotional releases. It was not released on U218 Singles. “A Room at the Heartbreak Hotel” was released on The Best of 1980 – 1990 & B Sides collection, however the version released on that compilation is an edit of the track found on this single and is shorter by 12 seconds. The original studio version of “Love Rescue Me” can be found on the Rattle and Hum album.

Liner Notes

Angel of Harlem (Remix):
Words by Bono. Music by U2. Produced by Jimmy Iovine. Recorded by Cowboy Jack Clement and Dave Ferguson. Additional recording by Dave Tickle. Remixed by Shelly Yakus. Assisted by Rob Jacobs and Randy Wine. Organ by Joey Miskulin. Horns by the Memphis Horns.

A Room at the Heartbreak Hotel:
Words by Bono. Music by U2. Produced by Jimmy Iovine and U2. Recorded by Dave Tickle. Additional recording and brass by Paul Barrett. Assisted by Ian Bryan and Willie Mannion. Mixed by Paul Barrett. Backing Vocals: Maxine Waters and Julia Waters.

Love Rescue Me (Live):
Words by Bono and Bob Dylan. Music by U2. Produced by Jimmy Iovine. Recorded by Andy Rose on the Fleetwood Mobile, at the Smile Jamaica concert, Dominion Theatre, London, Sunday October 16th, 1988. Mixed by Dave Tickle. Guitar by Keith Richards. Vocals by Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers. Horns by the Rumour Horns section. All proceeds from this song are donated to the Smile Jamaica Fund.


Front cover photography by Colm Henry. Back cover and label photos courtesy of Frank Driggs collection.
Designed by DZN, The Design Group.

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