"Pop" - U2

Album (Original Release)

Track Listing:

Alternative Tracks:

Background Information

Pop was the 1997 studio album released by U2. The album was started in mid-1995 with producer Nellee Hooper in France, Ireland and the UK. In September 1995, the band moved the recording sessions to Hanover Quay in Dublin, a studio that the band had converted from a warehouse on the Liffey. The band was joined by Flood, Howie B, Steve Osborne and Marius de Vries at these sessions. These sessions lasted until December 1995. During these fall sessions Larry was absent due to a back surgery in November of that year. Mullen was unable to drum during a recovery period, and the sessions would proceed using a lot of programmed drum loops.

The sessions would resume in February 1996 with Mullen returning to the fold. Nellee Hooper would leave the sessions in May 1996 due to other projects. Hooper did not receive a production credit on the album, as the bulk of the finished material for the album happened after his departure. The producers on the album are listed as Flood, with Howie B. and Steve Osborne listed with additional production. It was during 1996 that the band would also do some recording in South Beach Studios in Miami, as well as some recording at Windmill Lane and The Works in Dublin.

A number of the songs had been developed before the recording sessions had started in earnest. “If God Will Send his Angels”, “Wake Up Dead Man”, and “If You Wear that Velvet Dress” (as well as “Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me”) could all be seen as titles in the album artwork for Zooropa and those songs had originated in the sessions for Zooropa. The song “Last Night on Earth” also started during those sessions.

The Pop album was originally planned to be completed and released for a Fall 1996 date (October 14, 1996 was the likely candidate). The band were so confident of this release date, that they began to book the PopMart tour, putting the start of the tour as April 1997. The band instead found itself struggling to reach the completion of the album, and had to postpone the release of the album to March 1997. Even the last day in the studio, they were still making changes to the album, and finishing songs. “Last Night on Earth” was one of the last songs finished, and they were making changes to final mixes of other songs right up until Edge had to get on a plane to deliver the final copy of the album. The band have often spoke about how they felt the project was unfinished, and have lamented not having more time with the songs.

The album release date for Pop was set to be March 3, 1997 in Europe, and the following day in North America. It was the first album in which they had to deal with leaks on the internet of music. “Discothèque” and “Wake Up Dead Man” were the first leak, and 30s clips were leaked to the internet on October 26, 1996. These were taken from an advance EPK that was sent from Island Records to keep interest high in the project. Island records issued the following statement “We are currently investigating how this track – which is undoubtedly ‘Discothèque’ by U2 – came to be on the Internet. The band has always been interested in new technology but the problem in this instance is that it’s a degraded copy of a work in progress track. This is obviously not the way we would like people to hear U2 and the Web page in question has now been blocked and can no longer be accessed.”

The entire version of “Discothèque” leaked on December 27th, and U2 allowed the radio stations to begin playing the song in advance of the planned date to counter this leak. The first official play was by Dave Fanning on 2FM in Dublin, on Jan. 7, 1997 at 8:30pm. In western Canada, a chain of record stores, A&B Sound, began selling Pop five days early, releasing the album on February 28, 1997. PolyGram took action against the chain by withholding new releases for a time, but not before albums were sold, and additional tracks found their way to the internet.

The cover art was designed by ABA Dublin, the name at the time of the design firm where Steve Averill and Shaughn McGrath called home, now known as Amp Visual. The cover photos were taken by Anton Corbijn. There were four images used for the main cover, one for each member of the band, treated with different colour highlights. Inside the booklet, the cover could be folded in alternate ways so that you could use a photo of just your favorite band member for the cover. This was even advertised by sticker on the outside of the package in some regions as a selling feature.

The album was released in a variety of options. Most countries received a 5-inch CD and a cassette version of the release. There was a pressing in 12-inch vinyl for both the UK and USA markets. In Japan, there was a release of the UK vinyl with an added OBI strip. Due to length, the 12-inch vinyl is a double LP release, which lead to some confusion from fans thinking a double album was to be released. In Japan, the 5-inch CD was packaged with an extra track, “Holy Joe (Guilty Mix)” which was done to combat import sales in a market where the domestic release carried a high price. Of particular note is Malaysia, which issued Pop only on cassette. In that country, “Wake Up Dead Man” is bleeped where Bono uses profanity.

A large number of singles were issued to promote Pop, starting with “Discothèque.” This was followed up by “Staring at the Sun.” The third single, “Last Night on Earth” was re-recorded for single release, as U2 were unhappy with the final version that had been recorded for the album. They would also re-record “Please” when it was released as the fourth single. The final singles from “Pop” were “If God Will Send His Angels” and “Mofo” released at the same time in different formats. “If God Will Send His Angels” was the last commercially released CD single for the USA until 2009’s “Magnificent”, although there had been some limited releases in vinyl of singles in the between years. In most regions, the release of “Please” was accompanied by a release called the “PopHeart Live EP” which features tracks taken from the PopMart tour. Videos were released for all singles, sometimes multiple formats to match with various mixes.

In concert, U2 has performed all of the songs from the Pop album with the exception of “Playboy Mansion”, however snippets of that song could be heard throughout the PopMart tour. The PopMart tour started in April 1997, just a few weeks after the release of the album. The tour suffered from the time it took to finish the album, as rehearsal time for the tour was severely shortened, and left U2 figuring out the songs on stage. The tour consisted of 93 shows, over five legs, and ran from Apr. 25, 1997 until Mar. 21, 1998. It was the second-highest grossing tour of 1997. The tour was documented in the “PopMart Live from Mexico City” video release, on Nov. 22, 1998, and later released on DVD on Sep. 18, 2007. The PopMart tour was also documented on a release through Propaganda, the U2 fan club, in the form of a 5-inch CD titled Hasta, La Vista Baby! released in 2000.

Pop debuted strong, with a number 1 position in 29 different countries. The reviews for the album, however, were definitely mixed. This mixed reception, and general unhappiness with the record being rushed out the door, has resulted in many comments from U2 about the songs appearing unfinished, and wishing they would have time to go back and finish the album properly. Some of the songs were re-recorded for the 2002 release of The Best of 1990 – 2000 including “Discothèque,” “Staring at the Sun,” and “Gone”. The songs “Last Night on Earth” and “Please” were both re-recorded for the single releases. Bono would also rework “If You Wear that Velvet Dress” on the 2002 Jools Holland album Small World, Big Band, Volume Two. Pop was nominated for a Grammy award for the “Best Rock / Pop Album” but did not win that year.

Songs on Pop went through a number of incarnations. “Mofo” went through a number of titles including “Mother”, and ”MMFR”. “Gone” was at one point titled “Suit of Lights”. “Playboy Mansion” started as “Hymn to the Universe”, and “Miami” started as “Super City Mania”. A few songs started for Pop were held over for later projects, including “Scott Walker” which eventually became “City of Blinding Lights” and “Big Girls are Best” which was used as a b-side in 2000.

The album itself also went through a number of name changes, and some even reached the design stage with Steve Averill and Shaughn McGrath. In early 1996 Island started producing a series of advertisements and even a t-shirt that used a logo that said “Expect Nothing” and “But the Best”. The t-shirt even contained the tag line “New Album Out October 14, 1996”. Averill and McGrath also later would reveal other titles that were considered right to the design phase including Miami, Novelty Act, Discola, and some riffs on 10 New Songs 1996 and 12 New Songs from U2. All of these received multiple cover art suggestions. Suggestions receiving only one mock up included the titles Super City Mania, Atomic, Staring at the Sun, Discotheque, You 2, Godzilla and The Sun, the Moon and the Stars.

Liner Notes

Bono: Vocals & Guitar. The Edge: Guitar, Keyboards & Vocals. Adam Clayton: Bass Guitar. Larry Mullen: Drums, Percussion & Programming. Paul McGuinness: Manager.

Studio Crew: Sam O’Sullivan: Drum technician and crew co-ordinator. Fraser McAlister: Guitar technician. Des Broadbery: Programming keyboard and guitar technician. Stuart Morgan: Bass guitar technician. Colm “Rab” McAlister: Studio tech. Joe O’Herlihy: Monitoring. David Herbert: Studio Manager. Gavin Friday: Consulting Poptician. Anne Louise Kelly: Album Production Manager. Candida Bottaci: Album Production Assistant. Suzanne Doyle: Studio Band Management Associate.

Recorded in Hanover – Dublin, Windmill Lane Recording Studios – Dublin, South Beach Studios – Miami, The Works – Dublin.

Catering by Restaurant Tosca: Norman Hewson. Aongus Hanley, Jeff “The Chef” O’Toole< Elenor Walsh, Dominic Lombard. The Clarence Hotel: Michael Martin. Principle Management Dublin: Anne-Louise Kelly, Sheila Roche, Barbara Galavan, Trevor Bowen, Suzanne Doyle, Candida Bottaci, Susie Smith, Cecilia Coffey, Cillian Guidera, Susan Hunter, Sandra Long, Sally-Anne McKeown, Aislinn Meehan, Brigid Mooney, Suzanne O’Dea, Anne O’Leary, Eileen Osborne, Holly Peters, Joy Warner, Gerry Walters, George Augusta. Principle Management NY: Keryn Kaplan, Bess Burke, Kathy Araskog.

Produced by Flood. Additional production by Howie B, Steve Osborne. Recorded by Mark “Spike” Stent, Howie B, Alan Moulder. Mixed by Mark “Spike” Stent, Howie B, Steve Osborne. Engineering Assistant: Rob Kirwan.

Post production and supervision: Cheryl Engles / Partial Productions Inc.

Dedicated to Bill Graham 1951-1996.


Designed at ABA Dublin by Shaughn McGrath and Steve Averill. Treatments by Shaughn McGrath. Cover Photography: Anton Corbijn. Interior photography by: Anton Corbijn, Stephane Sednaoui and Anja Grabert. Snapshots: Nellee Hooper. “Popmart Art” by Willie Williams and Mark Fisher.

Recognition and Awards

  • Top 102 Albums of the 1990s, 102.1 The Edge: #85 (February 1998)
  • Best Rock Album of 1997, Entertainment Weekly (February 1998)
  • #194, Q Magazine’s 250 Best Albums of Q’s Lifetime (February 2011)
  • Listed in Q Magazine’s Recordings of the Year (Q Magazine, 1997)
  • Nominated (Did Not Win), Best Rock Album (Grammy Awards, 1998)
  • #35, 100 Greatest Irish Albums of All Time (Hot Press, February 24, 2005)
  • #1, Best Irish Album (Hot Press Awards, February 1998)
  • #1, Best Album Sleeve (Hot Press Awards, February 1998)

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