"Rattle and Hum" - U2

Album (Original Release)

Track Listing:

Background Information

U2’s Rattle and Hum was a bit of a mish-mash. Out of seventeen tracks, two weren’t even from U2, six songs were recorded live in concert, and there were only nine new studio recorded tracks, but the album is generally accepted as U2’s sixth studio album. The album was released as the companion to the movie of the same name, directed by Phil Joanou. The title Rattle and Hum is taken from a lyric from the song “Bullet the Blue Sky” included as one of the live tracks on the album.

Rattle and Hum was U2’s explorations of America throughout The Joshua Tree tour. At one point the working name for the movie was “U2 in the Americas”. The live material captures here was filmed and recorded during The Joshua Tree tour. Black and white footage was captured from Denver’s McNichols Sports Arena over two nights, November 7 and 8, 1987. The second nights performance was the more successful and seven songs from the show appeared in the film, with three appearing on the album. Colour footage from the tour was filmed during the band’s concerts in Tempe Arizona on December 19 and 20, 1987. Two other live tracks were recorded at other dates on the tour, with “All Along the Watchtower” being captured from the bands “Save the Yuppies” concert in Justin Herman Plaza in San Francisco on Nov. 11, 1987, and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” being performed at the concert at Madison Square Garden in New York on Sep. 28, 1987.

Studio recording for the album took place in a number of locations, including Sun Studios in Memphis Tennessee in November 1987, famous for being one of the big studios where Elvis, Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash had recorded over the years. “Angel of Harlem”, “Love Rescue Me”, and “When Love Comes to Town” were all recorded there, as well as a cover of “Jesus Christ” for the “Folkways” album, and an unreleased version of “She’s a Mystery to Me”. They also filmed themselves performing “Trip Through Your Wires”.

The song “Heartland” had begun life during recording sessions at Slane Castle for “The Unforgettable Fire” and while worked on during “The Joshua Tree” the song was not completed until it was mixed for “Rattle and Hum”. Sessions in Dublin with Paul Barrett at STS Studios resulted in the song “Desire” as well as a number of covers used as b-sides including “Unchained Melody”, “Everlasting Love”, “Dancing Barefoot”, “Fortunate Son” and “Paint it Black”. It was also during these sessions at STS that an early version of “Even Better Than the Real Thing” would take shape. Much of the remaining recording sessions for Rattle and Hum took place at A&M Studios in Hollywood, California, working with music producer David Tickle to capture the songs. These sessions resulted in “God Part II”, “All I Want is You”, “Hawkmoon 269”, the b-sides “A Room at the Heartbreak Hotel” and “Hallelujah (Here She Comes)”.

Overall production on the album was credited to Jimmy Iovine, who had previously been involved with the band on the Under a Blood Red Sky project.

The cover art for the album is taken from an image in the film, where Bono uses a handheld spotlight to highlight the Edge on stage. The cover for the album is not taken from the film itself however, but was recreated in studio by photographer Anton Corbijn. The album cover design was handled by DZN, The Design Group, by designers Norm Ung, Tracy Weston and Riea Pendleton-Owens. The group was picked by Paramount Pictures to handle the design of the movie and the album, and it was one of the first recordings (the first album) which Steve Averill did not contribute to the design.

The album was released on October 10, 1988 in Europe and most of the world. In North America the album would be released the next day on October 11. The movie itself was released on October 27, 1988 in Ireland, and on November 4, 1988 in the UK and North America. The album was released simultaneously on 12-inch vinyl, cassette and on 5-inch CD. Due to the length of the album, all pressings on vinyl were a two 12-vinyl set, and in some regions the cassette was also released in two parts matching the vinyl. In 1993 as part of the launch of the release of the DCC format (Digital Compact Cassette), Rattle and Hum was one of four U2 albums released in this format when launched. The album was also the last U2 album issued on 8-Track Cassette through a Record Club.

Four singles were released to promote Rattle and Hum starting with “Desire“ which went to number one on the UK Singles chart. The second single to promote the album was “Angel of Harlem“, followed by “When Love Comes to Town“. The fourth and final single from Rattle and Hum was “All I Want is You“. All four singles were accompanied by promotional videos. Also available for promotion was a unique CD titled “Excerpts from Rattle and Hum“ pressed in the UK. This promotional release contained three songs found as live versions in the movie but not on the album, as well as two album tracks, “Hawkmoon 269” and “God Part II”. Another unique promotional item for Rattle and Hum was the EP “3-D Dance Mixes“ featuring three remixes from the Rattle and Hum era. If the name sounds familiar, its likely because it has just been reissued this year as the fan club gift with your U2.Com membership for 2018.

Live in concert all of the studio tracks from Rattle and Hum have been played with the exception of “Heartland”. These days at U2 shows the songs from Rattle and Hum do still appear from time to time with “Desire”, “Angel of Harlem” and “All I Want is You” all appearing on the recent tours. In July 2011, at a special show held at the Apollo Theatre in New York, U2 performed “Angel of Harlem,” “Desire,” and “When Love Comes to Town” with the Sun Ra Arkestra at the same theater where the video for “Angel of Harlem” had been partially filmed. There was not a specific tour to promote Rattle and Hum at the time of the album release, however a year later, to make up for previously canceled dates on The Joshua Tree tour, U2 did take the “LoveTown” tour through Australia, Japan and Europe performing many of the songs from this album.

Reviews for the movie were generally less than favorable, but the album itself was received with some praise. The album reached number 1 in the UK and the USA, and it was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Group Performance. It was the mixed reception to the album and the film that lead U2 to go away and dream it all up again for the next project, Achtung Baby. Raw footage that didn’t make it into the movie show that “She’s Gonna Blow Your House Down” was a song that originally started during the Rattle and Hum sessions, that song would grow to become a number of songs on Achtung Baby, including “The Fly” and “Ultraviolet” as well as the b-side “Lady with the Spinning Head”. “She’s Gonna Blow Your House Down” was also released as part of the 2011 re-release of Achtung Baby.

Rattle and Hum has yet to be included in the remastered release program on CD or vinyl – it was skipped over in favor of going on to Achtung Baby and Zooropa with the release of that set in 2011. It is thought that rights issues between the film company and the record label may be preventing this from being as easy a release as the other albums. It is the sole album from the 1980s that has not been released in a physical remastered format. Although in 2017 a remastered version of Rattle and Hum was released in a digital format for Apple’s Mastered for iTunes program. That version was remastered by The Edge in 2017. We are told it is expected to be released on vinyl in the near future as well but no date has been announced for this release.

Liner Notes

Produced by: Jimmy Iovine. Manager: Paul McGuinness. Words: Bono. Music: U2. Except: The Star Spangled Banner : Performed by Jimi Hendrix, Freedom For My People: Performed by : Sterling Magee on Guitar/Percussion and Adam Gussow on Harmonica. Sound post production for the album and movie done at A&M Studios, Hollywood. Post production engineering by: David Tickle.

All live recording by Remote Recording Services (The Black Truck) operated by David Hewitt with Phil Gitomer, Fritz Lang, J.B. Matteotti. Additional Engineers Don Smith, Rob Jacobs, Randy Staub, Bob Vogt and Marc De Sisto,assistant engineers Brian Scheuble, Ethan Johns. Additional overdubbing at Conway Recording with assistants Richard McKernan and GaryWagner.

Mastered by Arnie Acosta, A&M Mastering Studios/LA. Studio Crew: Sam O’Sullivan, Cheryl Engels, Fraser McAlister, Des Broadbery. Music Production Co-Ordinator: Fregg McCarty. Product and Art Co-Ordinator: Anne-Louise Kelly.

Recognition and Awards

  • Certified Gold, Platinum, 2x Multi-Platinum (RIAA, USA, December 6, 1988)
  • Certified 3x Multi-Platinum (RIAA, USA, January 17, 1989)
  • Certified 4x Multi-Platinum (RIAA, USA, August 1, 1995)
  • Certified 5x Multi-Platinum (RIAA, USA, September 11, 1995) [This is the most recent certification as of 2017]
  • #61, Top 100 Albums (BBC Radio 2, August 2006, Listener Chosen)
  • #29, Top 100 Albums of 1988 (Rolling Stone Magazine, December 1988)
  • #32, Top 100 Albums of 1989 (Rolling Stone Magazine, December 1989)
  • #55, Top 100 Albums of All Time (2FM Radio, Listeners Poll, October 1995)
  • #1, Best Albums of 1988 (Rolling Stone Readers Poll, December 1988)

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