"When Love Comes to Town" - U2


Track Listing:

Background Information

Released in April of 1989, “When Love Comes to Town” was the third single from Rattle and Hum. The song, a duet between U2 and B.B. King, was recorded at Sun Studios in Memphis, TN. Bono had written it specifically with B.B. King in mind, and upon reading the lyrics, King was surprised at their maturity. “Angel of Harlem,” “Love Rescue Me,” “Jesus Christ” and an unreleased version of “She’s a Mystery to Me” were also recorded during the sessions at Sun Studios, a famous facility where Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and others had recorded. Like the other singles from Rattle and Hum, the sleeve for “When Love Comes to Town” featured a black-and-white portrait of one of the members of the band—in this case, The Edge. Two different sleeve images were released, one in which The Edge has both arms outstretched, and the other in which he is holding his hat in one hand. Both photos were taken at the same session.

The version of “When Love Comes to Town” released on the 12-inch vinyl, 3-inch CD and 5-inch CD formats of the single is an edit of the 4:16 album version, running 3:33 in length. Strangely, the 7-inch vinyl and cassette versions of the single contained the full album version of the song. The B-side for two-track formats of the single was “Dancing Barefoot,” a cover of the song written by Patti Smith and Ivan Kral that originally appeared on the Patti Smith Group’s 1979 album Wave. As with the a-side, “Dancing Barefoot” was released in two different lengths depending on the single format. The 7-inch vinyl and 3-inch CD format (Japan) contained a version running 4:48, while the 12-inch vinyl, 5-inch CD, and the cassette contained an edit of this version running 4:14.

12-Inch and maxi-CD formats added two additional songs. The first was “When Love Comes to Town (Live from the Kingdom Mix),” a remix treated to sound as if it has been recorded live in concert. It adds a “sermon” by Little Richard (who also provides backing vocals throughout the track), as well as a saxophone solo by Dave Koz, which is mixed with the sermon. The version on the commercial release of “When Love Comes to Town” runs 7:29 in length, but a longer version, at 7:46, appears on promotional versions of the single. The final track on the single is “God Part II (Hard Metal Dance Mix),” a remix of the Rattle and Hum album track by Dave Bianco. It, too, has multiple versions—the recording on the commercial single is 4:46 in length, yet on the promo-only release “3-D Dance Mixes” (issued concurrently with “When Love Comes to Town”), a longer mix, running 6:50, can be found. The longer version of “When Love Comes to Town (Live from the Kingdom Mix)” can also be found on “3-D Dance Mixes.”

The promotional video for “When Love Comes to Town” was directed by Phil Joanou and filmed on November 24, 1987 in Fort Worth, Texas. It is lifted directly from the Rattle and Hum movie. The video features U2 with B.B. King rehearsing the song at a sound check in the afternoon. The audio used in the clip is a mix of material recorded live at the sound check, not the finished version found on the album and single. The video concludes with footage from the actual concert that night in Fort Worth, during which B.B. King joined U2 on stage to debut the new song for the first time. A completely different video for the song aired during an Australian video marathon. This version included a collage of outtakes from the Rattle and Hum movie, including footage that did not make it into the final film. This alternate video has never been released on a commercial format. The version from Rattle and Hum was included on The Best of 1980-1990 video collection.

“When Love Comes to Town” made its live debut on November 24, 1987, and footage from that performance was used in Rattle and Hum as well as in the video described above. This first performance took place during the encore at the Tarrant County Convention Center, with B.B. King joining U2 on stage. It was the last song played before the concert ended with “40.” U2 would next play the song live, without B.B. King, as they promoted Rattle and Hum at appearances in London and Dublin. The song would go on to be performed nightly on The LoveTown Tour, with the exception of one concert. B.B. King and his band were the opening act for that tour, and would join U2 on stage to perform the song during the encore. Although performed on The Zoo TV Tour, it was not introduced until the end of the first leg, and made only infrequent appearances on the second leg. All told, the song was played at exactly half the concerts on that tour. It was mostly retired from U2’s set list at the end of the fourth leg of Zoo TV, but B.B. King has continued to perform the song in his own shows. Bono and The Edge joined B.B. King to perform the song one other time, on October 26, 2008 at the Thelonius Monk Institutes of Jazz Founders Award ceremony. Shortly after his death in 2015, U2 started their Innocence and Experience Tour, and incorporated the song for four shows during the 2015 legs of that tour. A live performance featuring U2 and B.B. King, recorded during The LoveTown Tour in Dublin on December 31, 1989, was released on the Love: Live from the Point Depot album, part of The Complete U2 digital download from iTunes. B.B. King has released live versions of the song, without U2, on B.B. King Live at the Apollo (1991) and B.B. King Live (2008).

The album version of “When Love Comes to Town” was included on the Duals fan club album. A slightly longer version, running 4:17 with an additional guitar lick at the end not heard on the Rattle and Hum version, appeared on The Best of 1980-1990 compilation and related promotional releases. The Rattle and Hum album version has also appeared on the B.B. King compilations Lucille and Friends (1995), How Blue Can You Get? Vol. 2 (1997), His Definitive Greatest Hits (1999), and The Ultimate Collection (2005). The longer version of “Dancing Barefoot” was included on The Best of 1980-1990 & B-Sides, as well on the promo-only “God Part II” release. It also appeared on the multi-artist soundtrack album for the movie Threesome.

Liner Notes

When Love Comes to Town (Single Version):
Words by Bono. Music by U2. Produced by Jimmy Iovine. Vocals and guitar by B.B. King. Percussion by Ms. Bobbye Hall. Backing vocals by Rebecca Evans Russel, Phyllis Duncan, Helen Duncan. Recorded by Dave Ferguson and Cowboy Jack Clements at A&M Studios, Hollywood. Remixed by Shelly Yakus and Rob Jacobs. Assistant Engineer Randy Wine.

Dancing Barefoot:
Written by Patti Smith and Ivan Kral. Produced by U2. Engineered and mixed by Paul Barrett at STS Studios, Dublin. Assisted by Ian Bryan.

When Love Comes to Town (Live from the Kingdom Mix):
Words by Bono. Music by U2. Produced by Louil Silas Jr. Engineered by Dave Bianco. Assisted by Randy Wine. Sermon: Little Richard. Saxophone: Dave Koz.

God Part II (Hard Metal Dance Mix):
Words by Bono. Music by U2. Produced by Louil Silas Jr. Recorded by Dave Tickle. Mixed by Dave Bianco at A&M Studios, Hollywood. Assistant Engineer: Randy Staub. Programming by Jeff Lorber.


Front cover photography by Anton Corbijn. Back cover photography courtesy of Paramount Pictures. Photo by Jeff Sedlik.
Designed by DZN, The Design Group.

Recognition and Awards

  • Nominated and Won, Best Video from a Film (MTV Video Music Awards, USA, 1989)

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