"Where the Streets Have No Name" - U2


Track Listing:

Background Information

“Where the Streets Have No Name” was chosen as the third single to be released from The Joshua Tree. The song had a difficult gestation during the recording sessions for the album, with the band struggling to make it gel. At one point, after weeks of frustrating work, producer Brian Eno attempted to erase the master tapes so that the band would be forced to start fresh on the song. Engineer Pat McCarthy stepped in at the last minute and prevented Eno from carrying out his plan. The band continued to work on “Where the Streets Have No Name” until it finally came together, soliciting input not only from Eno and Daniel Lanois, but also Steve Lillywhite.

The sleeve design for the single was similar to that of both “With or Without You” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” It featured a black-and-white photo of Adam Clayton, taken by Anton Corbijn and framed by black borders and gold accents. Only one photograph of Adam was used for this release across all formats, unlike the previous two singles, which incorporated different sleeve photos depending on the format. The single was initially planned for release on August 24, 1987, but an unknown production issue resulted in a one-week delay. It was released on August 31, 1987 in the UK and Europe, and the following day in North America. Some promotional posters with the earlier release date can still be found.

Unlike the previous two singles from The Joshua Tree, which were released in their album versions, “Where the Streets Have No Name” was edited and subtly remixed into a “single version” (although it was not identified as such on releases at the time). This single version has a shorter fade-in and fade-out at the beginning and end of the song and gives the keyboards slightly higher prominence in the mix. Most notably, the track includes backing vocals from The Edge on the chorus that are not present on the album version. Three previously unreleased tracks were released as B-sides to the single. The 7-inch vinyl in most regions featured both “Silver and Gold” and “Sweetest Thing,” except in Australia, where “Silver and Gold” was the sole b-side. On 12-inch, cassette and CD formats, a third outtake, “Race Against Time,” was included. “Silver and Gold” was a song that Bono had written and recorded with Keith Richards and Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones for the 1985 Sun City album by Artists Against Aparatheid. He had been inspired by initial recording sessions for the “Sun City” single and went back to his hotel room, where he wrote “Silver and Gold.” The version with Bono, Richards and Woods was released as a promotional single in 1985. U2 recorded the song as a full band with Paul Barrett at STS Studios in Dublin between legs of The Joshua Tree Tour in May, 1987. “Sweetest Thing” was a song Bono wrote as an apology to his wife, Ali, for missing her birthday. It was recorded during sessions for The Joshua Tree, but the band felt it sounded unfinished and saved it for a B-side. In 1998, when considering material for The Best of 1980-1990 compilation, U2 re-recorded the song as “Sweetest Thing (The Single Mix)” and released it to promote the album. “Race Against Time” is primarily an instrumental piece, with a few vocal embellishments by Bono, including repeated chants of the phrase “race against time.” The bass on the track is performed by The Edge, although it is based on bass parts previously developed by Adam Clayton. Larry’s drum track was recorded in one take.

The music video for “Where the Streets Have No Name” is one of the most enduring in U2’s videography. Directed by Meiert Avis and produced by Michael Hamlyn and Ben Dossett, it was filmed on March 27, 1987 during an impromptu concert that U2 performed on the roof of a liquor store at the intersection of 7th Avenue and Main Street in Los Angeles, CA. (In addition to performing “Where the Streets Have No Name” to get footage for the video, U2 also performed “People Get Ready,” “In God’s Country,” “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” and “Pride” before police finally pulled the plug on the concert due to the gridlocked traffic that ensued after crowds gathered on the streets below.) The video opens with an aerial shot of the scene, while a radio announcer talks about the surprise concert taking place in downtown L.A. The band’s performance on the rooftop comprises the majority of footage, interspersed with shots of the crowded streets and both audio and video of Los Angeles police officers interacting with U2’s crew and insisting that the production be shut down due to security concerns. (Although there is a great deal of natural sound and crowd noise in the video, the musical track itself seems to be a hybrid of the album and single versions of “Where the Streets Have No Name” rather than actual live audio of U2’s performance.) The video was included on both The Best of 1980-1990 and U218 Videos compilations, and was also incorporated into the MTV documentary “Outside It’s America.” This documentary was later included on the DVD accompanying the super deluxe reissue of The Joshua Tree.

In a concert setting, “Where the Streets Have No Name” is a genuine U2 warhorse. It debuted during The Joshua Tree Tour, often as the show opener, although it was not played at every stop. It was performed at almost every show on The LoveTown Tour, and has been played at every full tour concert by U2 since that time, including every night of the U2360° Tour, the Innocence and Experience Tour, and The Joshua Tree 2017 tour. As one of the band’s most performed songs, live recordings are numerous. Audio versions can be found on Love: Live from the Point Depot (December 31, 1989, Dublin); Zoo TV Live (November 27, 1993, Sydney, Australia); the “PopHeart” EP and “Please” single (July 18, 1997, Rotterdam, The Netherlands); the Hasta La Vista Baby! fan club album (December 3, 1997, Mexico City, Mexico); the “Walk On” and “Electrical Storm” singles (June 6, 2001, Boston MA); and the Go Home: Live from Slane Castle fan club CD and U2 Live: Slane Castle Mexican promo (September 1, 2001, Slane Castle, Ireland). Live audio from the performance at the Rose Bowl on October 25, 2009 was mixed with studio audio of the Soweto Gospel Choir singing the song, and released on the Duals fan club album. In 2011, members of the U2 Fan Club were given the opportunity to vote on 46 live tracks recorded during The U2360° Tour, with the top 22 songs to be included on a live album, U22. “Where the Streets Have No Name” was one of these choices. The song received enough votes, and a recording from Chorzow, Poland on August 6, 2009 was included on U22. Video releases featuring live performances of “Streets” include: Zoo TV Live from Sydney; PopMart: Live from Mexico City; Elevation 2001: Live from Boston; U2 Go Home: Live from Slane Castle; Super Bowl XXXVI – New England Patriots Championship (U2 performed at the 2002 Super Bowl halftime show); Vertigo 2005: Live from Chicago; and U2360° Live from the Rosebowl. It was also featured in theatrical releases Rattle and Hum (also on DVD) and U23D.

“Silver and Gold” has also been performed live, primarily during The Joshua Tree Tour. It made its live debut in Birmingham, England on August 3, 1987, with the remaining performances occurring during the North American leg of the tour. It was performed at 11 shows in total, and was included as a snippet at a further 9 shows on The Joshua Tree Tour and one show on The Elevation Tour. The November 8, 1987 performance of “Silver and Gold” at McNichols Arena in Denver was filmed and included in the movie Rattle and Hum, as well as on the accompanying album release. “Sweetest Thing” has also been performed live in concert, but only following the 1998 single version and release on The Best of 1980-1990 (although very short snippets were performed on two occasions during “Bad” on The LoveTown Tour). It was first performed live during the ceremony at which U2 was given the Freedom of Dublin Award in 2000. It was also performed live 29 times during the first two legs of The Elevation Tour in 2001. “Race Against Time” has not been performed live.

An edit of the album version of “Where the Streets Have No Name,” running 4:35 in length, can be found on The Best of 1980-1990 compilation. A different album edit, named in iTunes (North America) as “New Edit U218” and running 4:47 in length, was used on the U218 Singles collection. The original single version with Edge on backing vocals has also appeared on the “Special Collection 1980-1987” and “October 1991” promotional releases, and on a later commercial release of the single under Island’s “Revival of the Fittest” series. It was also included on deluxe versions of The Joshua Tree reissue in 2007, labeled in the liner notes as “Where the Streets Have No Name (Single Edit).” “Where the Streets Have No Name” can be heard in the movie Fearless, although there was not a soundtrack album released for that film. The original version of “Silver and Gold” with Bono, Keith Richards and Ron Wood is found on the Sun City album and the “Silver and Gold” promotional single. Both this version and the later band version were included on deluxe formats of The Joshua Tree reissue in 2007. The U2 version of “Silver and Gold” was also included on a “Trip Through Your Wires” promotional single, and on The Best of 1980-1990 & B-Sides compilation. The original version of “Sweetest Thing” was released on The Best of 1980-1990 & B-Sides, while “Sweetest Thing (The Single Mix)” was released as a single (in both commercial and promotional formats) and included on The Best of 1980-1990 and U218 Singles collections, as well as on the “Previous Day” promotional release. It was also used in the movie Mr. Deeds and can be found on the soundtrack album. “Race Against Time” was not included on The Best of 1980-1990 & B-Sides but did appear on deluxe versions of the 2007 The Joshua Tree reissue.

Liner Notes

Where the Streets Have No Name:
Written by U2. Produced by Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno. Recorded by Flood with Pat McCarthy. Mixed by Steve Lillywhite. Mix Engineered by Mark Wallace.

Silver and Gold:
Written by Bono. Produced by U2. Engineered and Mixed by Paul Barrett.

Sweetest Thing:
Written by U2. Produced by U2 with Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno. Engineered by Joe O’Herlihy and Pat McCarthy. Mixed by Mark Wallace. Assisted by Pat McCarthy.

Race Against Time:
Written by U2. Produced by U2 with Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno. Recorded and Mixed by Flood with Pat McCarthy.

With thanks to STS Dublin.


Sleeve Design by Steve Averill, The Creative Dept., Dublin.
Photographed by Anton Corbijn.

Recognition and Awards

  • #459 on 1001 Best Songs Ever (Q Magazine, 2003)
  • #43 on 100 Greatest Songs of All Time (Q Magazine, October 2006)
  • #28 on 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time (Rolling Stone, June 2008)
  • Runner Up, Best Single of 1987 (Rolling Stone Readers Picks, 1987)
  • #63 on Best Tracks Ever Voted by Listeners (Radio 1, Christmas 1998)
  • Video of the Year Nomination (MTV Video Music Awards, 1988)
  • Best Stage Performance in a Video Nomination (MTV Video Music Awards, 1988)
  • Viewers Choice Video Nomination (MTV Video Music Awards, 1988)
  • Best Group Video Nomination (MTV Video Music Awards, 1988)

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