"Numb" - U2


Track Listing:

Background Information

“Numb” was the first single released from the album Zooropa. The song developed under the name “Down All The Days” during the Achtung Baby recording sessions. It wasn’t finished for that album, and later, when U2 and Brian Eno were considering tracks for Zooropa, the song was revisited. First Bono attempted a spoken-word piece, reciting lyrics to a poem he had written called “In Cold Blood.” The poem was quite dark in nature, and he was advised to reconsider because it was felt that “In Cold Blood” would make the album too dark, and possibly derail it altogether. The Edge eventually took the instrumental backing track and went into a studio by himself to demo some lyrics. He returned with what would become “Numb,” the only U2 single to feature Edge on lead vocals. The line “in cold blood” remained in one officially released version of the song—the promotional-only “Perfecto Mix.”

Even though it was the lead single for their new album, U2 did not embrace a typical commercial release pattern for “Numb.” In fact, the only commercially available format was VHS tape, and only in certain regions. VHS was a particularly odd choice at a time when CD singles were gaining serious momentum in the marketplace. The only other high-profile VHS single release had been Madonna’s “Justify My Love” in 1990, when the controversial video for the song had been banned from MTV. However, caught up in the excitement of ZooTV, U2 felt the need to release the single in a video format. The VHS single contained three videos in total, the first for the album version of “Numb,” the second for a video remix of “Numb” and the third for Achtung Baby album track “Love is Blindness.” In Australia, the VHS was a numbered, limited edition that also included some live clips in the form of a commercial to promote the Zoomerang Tour. The video single itself was never released in a digital format, but all three videos would appear on DVD in the “Über Deluxe” and “Super Deluxe” versions of the Achtung Baby reissue in 2011.

The main video for “Numb” was produced by Iain Brown and directed by Kevin Godley on June 14, 1993, the day before U2’s concert at Olympia Stadium in Berlin. The video features The Edge sitting in front of the camera reciting the lyrics for the song. As he does so, random people walk through the video shoot and do things to him such as blowing smoke in his face, kissing him, and tying him up with string. For a time, he is pushed out of the frame and Larry takes his place, with Adam in view behind. Bono, Paul McGuinness and Edge’s future wife, Morleigh Steinberg, are also among the characters in the video. The second video is “Numb (EBN Video Remix),” a clip put together by the a collective of video artists known as Emergency Broadcast Network. In this version, “Numb” is “remixed” using loops of video footage, including clips of a first aid course, industrial machinery, and an army. These clips are intercut with video of The Edge singing in a darkened studio. The final video on the single is “Love is Blindness,” directed by Matt Mahurin and produced by Trish Govoni. It features footage taken from The Zoo TV tour in 1992, mixed with shots taken from nature and everyday life (musicians playing, fish swimming, armies and protesters marching, etc.). As previously mentioned, all three videos were included in the “Über Deluxe” and “Super Deluxe” reissues of Achtung Baby, released for the 20th anniversary of that album. The Godley and EBN versions of “Numb” were also included on The Best of 1990-2000 video collection.

“Numb” was performed 32 times on the ZooTV Tour. It was also performed at the MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles, California in 1993. That performance was an Edge’s solo performance. A live version from Sydney, Australia in November 1993 is available in audio form on the Zoo TV Live fan club album, and in video format on the Zoo TV Live from Sydney video releases.

An “Edit” version of “Numb” was released as a promotional single in several countries. Remixes of the song would feature on several compilations throughout the years. In 1995 the Melon fan club album would include both “Numb (Gimme Some More Dignity Mix)” and “Numb (Soul Assassins Mix).” A shorter version of “Numb (Gimme Some More Dignity Mix)” was also released in 1997 on the compilation Special Brew, and an even shorter edit would appear on The Best of 1990-2000 & B-Sides compilation. “Numb (The Soul Assassins Mix)” would reappear in 1997 on the “Last Night on Earth” single as well as on the promotional-only “PopMart Sampler”. A new version of “Numb,” running 4:21 in length and remixed by Michael Hedges, made its debut on The Best of 1990-2000 compilation. It featured a clearer mix of the vocals and clearer background noises, and placed greater prominence on guitars over electronics compared to the original (which was not included on the compilation). Another remix, “Numb (The Perfecto Mix),” was available only on a promotional CD. The 2011 “Super Deluxe” and “Über Deluxe” reissues of Achtung Baby included the original version of “Numb” (along with the rest of the Zooropa album), the full-length “Gimme Some More Dignity Mix,” the “Soul Assassins Mix,” and, for the first time, the early demo version of “Numb” with different lyrics and Bono’s vocals, titled “Down all the Days.”

One final version of Numb often crops up in lists of U2 songs, and that is “Numb (Fee Dognoodle Mix).” A 12-inch white-label version of “Numb” was pressed with no artwork and no mention of U2 on the sleeve, and labeled only as being produced by “Fee Dognoodle.” This was done to obtain feedback on the song, without tipping DJs off as to who was behind it. “Fee Dognoodle” is a simple anagram of “Eno, Flood, Edge.” Although some bootlegs over the years have labeled this as a separate remix, it is, in fact, just the album version of the song.

Liner Notes

Directed by Kevin Godley. Produced by Iain Brown. Directory of photography: Steven Chivers – Medialab Limited.
Produced by Flood, Brian Eno, and The Edge. Mixed by Robbie Adams, Assisted by Mary McShane. Engineered by Flood and Robbie Adams, Assisted by Willie Mannion and Rob Kirwan.
Originally recorded with Daniel Lanois.

Numb (Video Remix):
Created by Emergency Broadcast Network (Josh Pearson / Gardner Post)

Love is Blindness:
Directed / Camera / Editor: Matt Mahurin. Produced by Trish Govini. Executive Producer: Louise Feldman – Mortal Films.


Sleeve cover design by Works Associates (Dublin). Art direction by Steve Averill. Design and computer treatments by Brian Williams. Emergency Broadcast Network, PO Box 703, Brookline Village, MA, 02147, USA

Recognition and Awards

#5 Best Single, 1993 Awards (Hot Press, January 1994) #1 Best Video, 1993 Awards (Hot Press, January 1994)

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