"The Best of 1980 - 1990" - U2

Compilation Album

Track Listing:

Alternate Tracks:

Background Information

In September 1998 it was announced that U2 had signed a new deal with PolyGram, earning them more than $50 million in advances. The deal allowed Island Records to release three compilation albums by U2 with the first going on sale only a few short months later in November 1998. This first release was announced on September 9, 1998. That release was “The Best of 1980 – 1990”, a collection of songs chosen by U2 to best represent their work from that decade. The other two albums covered under the deal were “The Best of 1990 – 2000” and “U218 Singles”.

On September 21, 1998, Island Records announced not just one collection, but a second collection would occur. They announced that for the first week of sale, a two-disc set would be made available with a second disc compiling b-sides from 1980 – 1990. This set together would be titled “The Best of & B-Sides 1980 – 1990”. The press release mentioned that the double disc set would be a one time only limited edition release, and they would only take orders for it for a limited time and once stores ran out of what they had ordered they would be unable to reorder. And from the second week of sale onward, they would only make the one disc version available. In 2002 a number of countries repressed the double CD version, thus no longer making it a limited release for these countries.

In need of a new single to promote “The Best of 1990 – 2000”, U2 went into the studio with producer Steve Lillywhite at Dublin Hannover Quay studio. They returned to the song “Sweetest Thing” which had been used as a b-side to 1987’s “Where the Streets Have No Name”, and recorded a new version of the song. On September 20, 1998, U2 would film a video for the single in Dublin.

“The Best of 1980 – 1990” was released on November 10 in most countries, and the following day, November 11 in North America. This was one week after the two-disc version had been released.

Due to elevated prices on domestic CD releases, an added bonus track was added to the release in Japan to make the domestic release more attractive than the cheaper import versions. For this compilation, “One Tree Hill” was added at the end of the first disc of the set. As well, even though not mentioned on the back cover, “October” was included as a hidden track at the end of the album. After “All I Want is You” finishes playing, there is a period of blank space and then “October” starts to play as part of the same track. The single disc of “Best” tracks was released on 5-inch CD, Cassette and 12-inch vinyl.

There are a number of different edits of songs included on this set, on both the main disc and the b-sides disc. “Bad” is an edit of the version found on the album “The Unforgettable Fire”. This version drops several of the “whooo hooo hooos” found in the original version. “Where the Streets Have No Name” is an edit of the version found on “The Joshua Tree” which was 05:37 on that release but is 04:35 here. “When Love Comes to Town” is slightly longer in length than the version found on “Rattle and Hum”, this is because the song features an extra guitar lick that you can hear at the end of the song.

The cover of the compilation features an unused photo outtake from the photos shot for the cover of “War”. In the photo, family friend Peter Rowen is seen for his third album cover, having also appeared on the cover of “Boy” and “War” as well as a number of singles. Here, Rowen is seen wearing an army helmet. The photo is surrounded by a gold border, with the titles of the album. A similar layout was used for “The Best of 1990 – 2000” but in that case they used silver in place of the gold.

In the US the double disc reached number 2 in the Billboard 200 album charts, and in Canada it charted at number 1. The single disc, released the following week, charted independantly and reached number 4 in the Billboard 200 charts, and number 5 in Canada. In the UK the chart of both albums was combined, and this release reached number one upon release. The release in the US represented the biggest first week sales of any compilation in the US since sales figures had been accurately tracked by Soundscan. In the UK the chart of both albums was combined, and this release reached number one upon release.

On May 11, 1999 U2 would also release a video titled “The Best of 1980 – 1990” on VHS and video CD (Released July 27 in the USA). This video would contain a number of videos from this compilation.

Liner Notes

Bono: Vocals and guitar. The Edge: Guitar, keyboards and vocals. Adam Clayton: Bass guitar. Larry Mullen: Drums and percussion. Paul McGuinness: Manager. Principle Management Dublin and New York. Sheila Roche and Candida Bottaci, Album Production Managers. all tracks have been digitally remastered from original master tapes where possible by Arnie Acosta at The Mastering Lab, Los Angeles. Audio post production manager and Technical Guru: Cheryl Engels at Partial Productions Inc.


Designed at ABA Dublin. Cover photography by Ian Finlay. Back Cover photography by Anton Corbijn. Inside photography by Anton Corbijn, Colm Henry, Hugo McGuinness and Robert Kythe Kortekaas.

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