"How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" - U2
Album (Original Release)
- "Vertigo" (Studio Version) - U2 (03:14)
- "Miracle Drug" (Studio Version) - U2 (03:58)
- "Sometimes You Can't Make it On Your Own" (Studio Version) - U2 (05:09)
- "Love and Peace or Else" (Studio Version) - U2 ()
- "City Of Blinding Lights" (Studio Version) - U2 (05:48)
- "All Because of You" (Studio Version) - U2 (03:36)
- "A Man And A Woman" (Studio Version) - U2 (04:30)
- "Crumbs From Your Table" (Studio Version) - U2 (05:03)
- "One Step Closer" (Studio Version) - U2 (03:51)
- "Original of the Species" (Studio Version) - U2 (04:41)
- "Yahweh" (Studio Version) - U2 (04:42)
- "Fast Cars" (Studio Version) (03:43) - U2
- "Sometimes You Can't Make it On Your Own" (Studio Version) (05:09) - U2
- "Crumbs from Your Table" (Live in Studio) (04:49) - U2
- "Vertigo" (Temple Bar Mix) (03:08) - U2
- "Sometimes You Can't Make it On Your Own" (Acoustic) (04:45) - U2
- "Vertigo" (Studio Version) (03:14) - U2
Note on Alternative Tracks
“Fast Cars” was released on the audio CD as a bonus track in some regions, and in the deluxe packages. The other five songs were included as videos on a DVD called “U2 & 3 Songs”. This included two songs from the album, “Vertigo” and “Sometimes” with an in studio video (not the final promotional videos). It also included three songs, “Crumbs”, “Sometimes” and “Vertigo” performed here in studio with very different audio than the audio CD. The DVD also contained some video from the EPK, and some interview footage with Neil McCormick, and the total dvd was 41:48 in length.
How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb was the 2004 studio album released by U2. The name of the album is a lyric taken from “Fast Cars,” a song which, ironically, didn’t make the standard album track listing. U2 began work on the album in earnest in February 2003 with producer Chris Thomas, although some songs had been fleshed out earlier, during the final leg of The Elevation Tour and the sessions that followed. In October 2003, as they were reaching what they thought was the end of the recording process and while working with a 20-piece orchestra, the band made an abrupt change. Adam explained, “We could read the room. And they were not going, ‘Wow, guys, this is really happening!‘” As a result, work continued on the album and a number of other producers became involved, including longtime band associates Steve Lillywhite, Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois, and Flood, along with relative newcomer Jacknife Lee. In the end, Lillywhite would be listed as the overall producer of the album. Nellee Hooper and Carl Glanville are also credited with production on some tracks. The album was recorded at Hanover Quay Studios (HQ) and in the South of France.
Initial plans had called for the album to be completed in late 2003 and released in early 2004. The decision to bring in Steve Lillywhite to finish the songs originally recorded with Chris Thomas resulted in the album being delayed until November 2004. In July 2004 a CD containing six unfinished tracks from the album was stolen from The Edge during a photo shoot in France. In response, U2 announced that if the songs leaked online they would release the album immediately through iTunes. Those unfinished tracks were never leaked, but much later, on November 6, some finished tracks were leaked from a promotional copy of the album, two weeks in advance of the release date of November 22 in Europe and November 23 in North America.
A version of the album with an alternate track listing was also leaked, including an additional song, “Mercy,” that was not included on the final release. The lyrics of the song can be found within the book accompanying the collector’s edition of How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. Although cut at the last minute, it was further developed during sessions for 2009’s No Line on the Horizon. “Mercy” did not end up on that album either, although the band began performing it live in 2010, and a live recording was included on the “Wide Awake in Europe” EP that same year. As of this writing, a studio version of “Mercy” has not been officially unreleased.
The cover of the album features a black-and-white photograph, by Anton Corbijn, of the band sitting on a bench looking “tough.” The booklet and back cover feature additional black-and-white photos by Corbijn, as well as still images taken from 8mm video footage shot by Joe Edwards. The album is designed with a black and red colour scheme, including red repeating slashes (similar to those found on road signs) on the front cover and throughout the booklet, and a black and red bulls-eye design on the CD. The artwork was designed by Shaughn McGrath of FourFiveOne (currently Amp Visual), with direction by Steve Averill, who has handled much of U2’s design work from the earliest days.
The album was released in a variety of packages, including a standard single CD version worldwide. In Australia, Japan and the UK, a bonus track, “Fast Cars,” was included on the standard CD. The album was also released in a limited 12” vinyl format in the UK. A double-disc version of the album, featuring a bonus DVD with the documentary “U2 and 3 Songs,” was released in most markets as well. This was packaged in a regular-sized jewel case with room for both the CD and DVD within. A final version on CD was a “collector’s edition” released in a hardbound book inside a slipcase. The DVD “U2 and 3 Songs” is stored within the book itself, while the CD is held in a separate sleeve outside of the book. The book itself is 48 pages in length and features artwork, writings, lyrics, and photographs of the band. All copies of the CD included with the collector’s edition, regardless of country, include the bonus track “Fast Cars.” How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb was the first album by U2 not to be released on cassette in large markets such as the UK, Canada and the USA. There, was, however, a release on cassette in Lebanon, Malaysia, the Philippines and Poland.
The “U2 and 3 Songs” documentary included on DVD in the 2-disc and “collector’s edition” formats was produced by Ned O’Hanlon (Solo Too) and directed by Richie Smyth, and filmed on June 9 and 10, 2004 at Hanover Quay studios in Dublin. The DVD also featured studio performances of “Sometimes You Can’t Make it on Your Own,” “Crumbs from Your Table” and “Vertigo.” It also featured an acoustic performance of “Sometimes You Can’t Make it on Your Own” by Bono and The Edge, titled the “Acoustic Couch Mix.” Also featured is an acoustic version of “Vertigo” with Bono on vocals and The Edge playing the song’s familiar riff on a banjo, called the “Temple Bar Mix.” The documentary itself features additional footage from photo shoots done for the album in Portugal; footage of the band in Hanover Quay; and interviews with producers Flood and Steve Lillywhite. The interviewer for the documentary is Neil McCormick.
How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb was also the first U2 album to see a wide release through digital outlets concurrently with the physical album release. The band made the most of this new foray into the digital realm. They worked with iTunes on an advertisement set to “Vertigo,” which received heavy play on television. The band was not paid for the iTunes commercial. In addition, Apple, in partnership with the band, released a special edition iPod featuring the black and red colour scheme of How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb with the band members’ signatures engraved into the back metal plate. Finally, U2 released much of their back catalogue through iTunes to tie in with the advertisement and iPod launch. The Complete U2 was a 446-track “digital box set” featuring all of U2’s albums and singles as well as a substantial amount of never-before-released material.
Among this previously unreleased music was a digital album, Unreleased & Rare”, which featured early versions of many of the songs on How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. Among them were “Xanax and Wine,” an early version of “Fast Cars,” and “Native Son,” an early version of “Vertigo.” Also included were early, embryonic versions of “Sometimes You Can’t Make it On Your Own,” “All Because of You” and “Yahweh,” which were representative of the band’s progress after parting ways with Chris Thomas. Also included is a song called “Smile,” an outtake from the album sessions. The Complete U2 was released on November 23, 2004, the same day that How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb was released in North America.
Four singles were released to promote How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. “Vertigo” was the first single worldwide, released in advance of the album. The second single was “All Because of You” in North America, and “Sometimes You Can’t Make it on Your Own” in Europe. A commercial release of “Sometimes You Can’t Make it on Your Own” quickly followed in Canada. “City of Blinding Lights” was the third single from the album, issued in July 2005. The final single from the album was a release of “All Because of You” outside of North America. A fifth single, “Original of the Species,” was planned. A new “Single Version” was mixed, promotional CDs were issued, and promotional videos for the song were completed. However, no commercial single was released for this track. Special promotional items for the album included an LED alarm clock, poetry magnets containing lyrics from the album, and the usual variety of desk goods such as calendars, Post-It notes, and key chains. A coffee mug featuring the album title appeared in stores in 2012.
U2 has performed all of the songs from the album in concert with the exception of “One Step Closer.” Most of the songs were debuted on The Vertigo Tour, which started in 2005 and concluded in 2006. “A Man and a Woman” was not performed on that tour, but was performed in 2011 at the “Decade of Difference” concert honouring Bill Clinton’s 65th birthday. The Vertigo Tour has been documented on multiple releases including on video on Vertigo 2005: U2 Live from Chicago as well as on a DVD from a Milan show included with the deluxe version of U218 Singles. The fan club album U2.Communication includes audio tracks from both performances, as does the promotional release “U2 Live: Vertigo 2005.” Finally, a 3D theatrical film, U23D, was released, showcasing performances shot during The Vertigo Tour. As of this writing, the film has not been released for the home video market.
The album was released to generally favourable reviews. It debuted at #1 in 34 different countries, including the US and the UK. It was awarded Album of the Year at the 2006 Grammy Awards.
How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb includes at least one song left over from the All That You Can’t Leave Behind sessions–“Love and Peace or Else.” Although Brian Eno was not actively involved in the production of Bomb, his notebook from the All That You Can’t Leave Behind sessions includes a listing for the song under the working title “Night Shift/Harder/Love+Peace.” While the song was not completed for the earlier album, it was developed further, first under Chris Thomas, and later under Jacknife Lee and Flood. “A Man and a Woman (Boomerang 3),” “Sometimes You Can’t Make it On Your Own (Doo Wop Version),” and “Miracle Drug” are also listed in Eno’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind notebook.
Songs developed during the album sessions that did not make it to the final release include “Mercy” and “North Star” (both performed live during 2010’s U2360 Tour) as well as “Lead Me in the Way I Should Go” and “You Can’t Give Away Your Heart.” As mentioned previously, a live performance of “Mercy” was released on the EP “Wide Awake in Europe.” A studio version of “North Star” can be heard in the film Transformers: Dark of the Moon, but was not included on the soundtrack album for that film, and remains unreleased. Another song from the album sessions, “Treason,” was developed with Dr. Dre, but was held back because it didn’t fit the feeling of the album. Finally, a song called “A Man’s a Man” was mentioned in interviews, but it is expected that it was developed to become “The Hands that Built America.”
Several songs were renamed along the way. Working titles for “Vertigo” included not only “Native Son” (as heard on Rare & Unreleased) but also “Full Metal Jacket” before that. “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own” started as a song called “Tough.” “City of Blinding Lights” had it’s start in a song called “Scott Walker” during the All That You Can’t Leave Behind sessions, which itself dated even farther back, to the Pop sessions.
For years the vinyl edition of How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb was difficult to find and would often reach three figure prices on auction sites. In 2017, as the kick off to a series of vinyl re-issues, the album was once again issued on black vinyl. This new pressing used the same audio mix as the original release, and was issued on March 31, 2017. On May 24, 2019, another new pressing on vinyl was announced, this time on red vinyl, issued for the album’s 15th anniversary. That new release was released on June 7, 2019.
Lyrics by Bono. Produced by Steve Lillywhite. Additional production by Carl Glanville and Jacknife Lee. Recorded by Carl Glanville. Assisted by Chris Heaney. Mixed by Carl Glanville and Steve Lillywhite. Piano and additional vocal by The Edge. Additional guitar by Bono. Backing vocal by Bono and Larry Mullen. Synthesizers and Programming by Jacknife Lee. Additional percussion and synthesizers by Carl Glanville.
Sometimes You Can’t Make it On Your Own:
Music by U2. Lyrics by Bono. Produced by Chris Thomas. Additional production by Steve Lillywhite and Nellee Hooper. Recorded by Carl Glanville. Assisted by Chris Heaney. Mixed by Nellee Hooper. Mix engineered by Simon Gogerly and Greg Collins. Programming by Fabien Waltmann. Additional mix engineering by Ian Rossiter. Keyboards and additional vocal by The Edge.
Love and Peace or Else:
Music by U2. Lyrics by Bono with the Edge. Original production by Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois. Additional production by Chris Thomas, Jacknife Lee and Flood. Recorded by Carl Glanville. Assisted by Chris Heaney. Mixed by Flood. Assited by Kieran Lynch. Synthesizers by Brian Eno. Piano and backing vocals: The Edge. Shaker by Daniel Lanois. Programming and additional synthesizers by Jacknife Lee.
City of Blinding Lights:
Music by U2. Lyrics by Bono. Produced by Flood. Additional production by Chris Thomas and Jacknife Lee. Recorded by Carl Glanville. Assisted by Chris Heaney and Kieran Lynch. Mixed by Nellee Hooper. Mix engineering by Simon Gogerly and Greg Collins. Programming by Fabien Waltmann. Assistant mix Engineerning by Ian Rossiter. Piano by The Edge and Bono. Synthesizers by Jacknife Lee.
All Because of You:
Music by U2. Lyrics by Bono. Produced by Steve Lillywhite. Recorded by Carl Glanville. Assisted by Chris Heaney. Mixed by Flood. Assisted by Kieran Lynch. Backing Vocals by The Edge. Keyboards by Jacknife Lee.
A Man and a Woman:
Music by U2. Lyrics by Bono. Produced by Jacknife Lee. Additional production by Steve Lillywhite and Carl Glanville. Recorded by Carl Glanville. Assisted by Chris Heaney. Mixed by Jacknife Lee. Backing vocals and additional percussion by The Edge. Synthesizers by Jacknife Lee.
Crumbs from Your Table:
Music by U2. Lyrics by Bono. Produced by Steve Lillywhite. Additional production by Jacknife Lee. Recorded by Carl Glanville. Assisted by Chris Heaney. Mixed by Steve Lillywhite, Flood and Jacknife Lee. Assisted by Kieran Lynch. Additional guitar-atmospherics and synthesizers by Jacknife Lee.
One Step Closer:
Music by U2. Lyrics by Bono. Original production by Chris Thomas and Daniel Lanois. Additional production by Jacknife Lee. Recorded by Carl Glanville. Mixed by Jacknife Lee. Additional guitar by Bono. Backing vocals by The Edge. Additional guitar and pedal steel by Daniel Lanois. Synthesizers by Jacknife Lee.
Original of the Species:
Music by U2. Lyrics by Bono. Produced by Steve Lillywhite. Additional production by Jacknife Lee. Recorded by Carl Glanville. Assisted by Chris Heaney. Mixed by Flood. Assisted by Kieran Lynch. Piano and synthesizer by The Edge. Additional synthesizer by Jacknife Lee.
Music by U2. Lyrics by Bono with the Edge. Produced by Chris Thomas. Recorded by Carl Glanville. Assisted by Chris Heaney. Mixed by Carl Glanville. Piano, synthesizers, and backing vocals by The Edge. Mandolin by Daniel Lanois. Additional guitar by Bono.
Music by U2. Lyrics by Bono with The Edge. Produced by Steve Lillywhite. Recorded by Carl Glanville. Assisted by Chris Heaney. Mixed by Steve Lillywhite. Keyboards by Jacknife Lee.
Recognition and Awards
#4, The Best Selling Albums of 2004 Worldwide (IFPI, 2004)
#95, 250 Best Albums of Q’s Lifetime (Q Magazine, February 2011)
Listed in Q Magazines 10 Best Recordings of the Year, 2009 #33, Artists and Albums of the 21st Century (Q Magazine, January 2010) #7, Best Albums of 2004 (Rolling Stone, Critics Picks, 2004) #1, Best Albums of 2004 (Rolling Stone, Readers Picks, 2004) #68, Albums of the Decade 2000 – 2009 (Rolling Stone, 2010) #29, Best Albums of 2004 (Spin Magazine, 2004) #63, Top 100 Albums [Voted by listeners] (BBC Radio 2, UK, August 2006)
Nomination, Best Album (MTV Europe Music Awards, 2005)
Nomination and Win, Album of the Year (Grammy Awards, 2006)
Nomination and Win, Rock Album of the Year (Grammy Awards, 2006)
Nomination and Win, Album of the Year (Meteor Awards, 2006)
Best Irish Album, Hot Press Readers Poll (2006)
Related Promotional Videos
- Original of the Species (Alternate Version by Mark Pellington) (04:35)
- Original of the Species (Catherine Owens) (04:39)
- City of Blinding Lights (Alex Courtes and Martin Fougerol) (04:37)
- All Because of You (Phil Joanou) (03:34)
- Sometimes You Can't Make it On Your Own (Phil Joanou) (04:41)
- Sometimes You Can't Make it On Your Own (Single Take by Phil Joanou) (04:43)
- Vertigo (Jacknife Lee 10" Version by Joe Edwards) (04:15)
- Vertigo (Alex Courtes and Martin Fougerol) (03:11)
- Vertigo (HQ Video by Richie Smyth) (03:23)
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- 2017-03-12 Atomic Bomb Reissue Details (Original Story)
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- 2016-05-17 Sliding Down the Surface of Streams Vol. 1 (Original Story)
- 2004-11-14 MUSIC; The Catharsis in the Cathedral (New York Times)
- 2004-09-15 Hall of Fame nominees still Rocking (The Associated Press)
- 2004-07-17 Unfinished U2 CD goes missing in France (People in the News (AP))
- 2004-07-15 “It Doesn’t Seem Credible…” (U2.Com)
- 2003-05-30 “Very Raw, Rock ‘N’ Roll” (u2.com)
- 2003-01-24 Tuning Up the Dustbin Lids (u2.com)