2020 In Review

Original Story by Aaron J. Sams (2021-01-01)

Each year we like to take a look back at the year before, and this year is no different. We’ll take a look at U2’s physical and digital releases, then we will go through the new material we have heard on the U2 X-Radio station this year, and then look at U2’s YouTube channel refresh. Finally we’ll look at a few new additions to our own site.

2020 was a special one for the team here at U2Songs, as we celebrated our 25th anniversary of the first upload of the site in April 1995. It wasn’t the year that we expected, but we’ve made the best of the year we got.

U2 Releases in 2020

Experience + Innocence Live from Berlin

A delayed announcement of the fan club gift in 2020 meant this gift was not announced until January 24. Although a shortened version of this show was aired on television, the first and only physical release of this show was through U2.Com. And the very first time a video has been released as a fan club gift. The gift was sent out in DVD format to maximize the number of fans who could play the gift, but the fan club would also stream the video in a lovely 4K video version, which was available on demand for the length of the subscription. Announced January 24, the gift started shipping in May. The streaming version was first made available on March 24, 2020.

11 O’Clock Tick Tock 40th Anniversary Edition

Originally announced for Record Store Day on April 18, 2020, the record was twice delayed due to COVID-19, and was finally released on August 29, 2020, the first of three “drops”. The record celebrates the 40th anniversary of the “11 O’Clock Tick Tock” single. It included two previously unreleased tracks, “Touch” and “Twilight” live from a 1980 show at the Marquee. The release was on translucent blue vinyl and is a beautiful recording.

All That You Can’t Leave Behind 20th Anniversary Edition

In a year of anniversary releases, it was All That You Can’t Leave Behind that the band decided to spotlight this year. A heavy 11-disc vinyl box set, a smaller 5CD box, double and single versions on CD. The new master by The Edge adds “The Ground Beneath Her Feet” back to the album for good. The extras include five 12-inch singles featuring remixes, a live release of the Boston concert in audio format for the first time ever, and a disc of B-Sides. The box is the second in a new collection of boxed sets, aimed towards the vinyl market, and following up on The Joshua Tree set in 2017. This new release of All That You Can’t Leave Behind charted well worldwide, and we are told had exceeded sales expectations. The band would spend most of the Fall promoting the new release.

Trilogy Remix EP

When All That You Can’t Leave Behind was initially released, three tracks were held back from streaming services. If you bought the album on a digital store you got the full set, but if you wanted to stream it instead, three songs were missing. These three tracks were released two weeks later under a separate title, Trilogy. The remixes are also packaged together on a 12-inch single in the vinyl box, and are also titled “Trilogy” there.

Trilogy Remix EP

A quieter affair than the 20th anniversary treatment All That You Can’t Leave Behind received, but Boy was celebrated in 2008 with a deluxe edition, and it’s only ten years out now from a possible big 50th anniversary celebration. For the Record Store Day event in November falling on Black Friday, U2 released Boy in white vinyl. The release uses the 2008 pressing of the vinyl. Unfortunately a number of people have identified flaws in the white vinyl, so don’t be surprised if yours had a bit of black or red vinyl mixed in.

Live at the Apollo For One Night Only

And a final surprise for the year, the fan club has already announced next years present. We’ll be getting an audio CD release of the 2018 show held at the Apollo Theatre. Not all the details are known yet but we are tracking information in our discography already!

Releases with U2 Content in 2020

Bono, Zucchero, Pavarotti – “Miserere” (Live) Single

Ahead of his “60 Songs that Saved My Life” playlist, Bono arranged to have this song he performed with Pavarotti and Zucchero released as a digital single. The song was released to digital services, including streaming services on May 8, 2020. And sure enough the song appeared on his list of songs.

Various Artists – AngelHeaded Hipster: The Songs of Marc Bolan & T.Rex Album

The long delayed release of this album finally happened in 2020, sadly, only after the producer of the album, Hal Willner passed from COVID-19 earlier in the year. U2 cover the well known “Bang A Gong (Get it On)” and are joined by Elton John on the track on piano (and some backing vocals). John was long associated with the original, having played piano on the song when it was featured on Top of the Pops.

5SOS – C A L M Album

5SOS aka 5 Seconds of Summer released a new album just as the lockdowns started worldwide. One of the tracks on the album, “Best Years” features U2’s The Edge on guitar. The song was one of the songs on the album composed with Ryan Tedder. The Edge is there playing guitar on the bridge, and the album was issued on March 27. Later in the promotion of the album a remix of the song was made available, first through the Calm App on iOs devices, and later on digital versions of the album. The remix of “Best Years” was released in a physical format late in the year with the release of a picture disc version of the album which included the song.

Brian Eno – Film Music 1976-2020 Album

Brian Eno, long time collaborator with U2 released a compilation of past work he has done for soundtracks, including a Passengers song, “Beach Sequence.” The song here is a slightly different edit. The album was released in November of this past year.

Brian Eno – “Film Music Crime Pays” EP

Not all of Eno’s soundtrack work fit on the album released in November, so to further represent his work, he also issued the EP “Film Music: Crime Pays” – the EP is a digital only release and features artwork from the film Heat which was celebrating it’s 25th anniversary this year. The song with U2 ties is “Always Forever Now,” which featured on the soundtrack from Heat in 1995. Unlike the album where “Beach Sequence” is a different edit, “Always Forever Now” here is the same edit as is available on the album release.

Various Artists – The MOJO Festival 2020 Compilation Album

This was a cover mounted CD released with MOJO Magazine issue 321 and was a special mix of live songs celebrating the summer festival in a year when we couldn’t have festivals. Included on the album was U2’s performance of “The Little Things That Give You Away” in Rome on July 15, 2017, as part of The Joshua Tree Tour 2017. The track had been previously released on the 2019 fan club gift, Live Songs of Innocence + Experience but the version here is edited. In a year that saw music magazines struggling, and the end of Q Magazine, MOJO continues to be published, and is still including U2 in their pages!

A number of older releases also got dusted off and re-issued throughout the year. Little Steven has been reissuing material since last Fall, initially releasing his albums in a boxed vinyl set, then following in a digital format. This year he issued the albums as standalone vinyl releases, and also in CD format. That includes Born Again Savage the album he did with Adam Clayton, and Sun City which features Bono on a number of tracks. Red Hot + Blue contains U2’s cover of “Night and Day” and was finally issued to digital services this year including streaming services. A new version on vinyl was also planned, but has been postponed until January at this point. The Best of Bond is another compilation which was due to be updated this year, including the track Bono and The Edge worked on, “Goldeneye” but that album too faces delays, and the triple gold vinyl or double CD set is now due in 2021. One release which did make it out this year was In A Lifetime a boxed set from Clannad celebrating their 50th anniversary. Released in April, the set includes the song with Bono, “In A Lifetime.” A collection of Johnny Cash songs also contained a newly remastered version of the soundtrack version of “The Wanderer” released under the titles Johnny Cash: The Complete Mercury Studio Recordings and Easy Rider: The Best of the Mercury Recordings. Finally, in January a yellow vinyl pressing of the soundtrack to Until the End of the World was released through Barnes and Noble stores in the USA exclusively, containing a alternative mix of the song of the same name, it had been released on black vinyl at the end of 2019.

U2 X-Radio Content

Of course the big new project from U2 in 2020 was U2 X-Radio. The SiriusXM station was announced at the end of 2019, but it would be July 1 before the station officially launched. Both Bono and The Edge have their own programs on the station where they talk to friends. The Edge is a little more regular with his, Bono’s only completed two episodes so far. Friends of the band such as Gavin Friday, Rocky O’Riordan, Jon Kelly, Dan Hegarty and Paul Oakenfold all have regular shows. Another program gets famous friends to drop in and play some of their favourite U2 songs.

One of the things we are always asked is if there is new music on the channel. Not very often, and in the first six months we have heard the following for new music:

  • The world debut of U2’s version of “Bang A Gong (Get It On)” before it was released on album.
  • A live version of “Desire” taken from the 2016 performance at the iHeart Music Awards in Las Vegas in 2016
  • A never before heard remix of “Daddy’s Gonna Pay for Your Crashed Car” shared by producer Butch Vig on his episode of “Guests Play U2”
  • A stream of the Apollo concert in 2018, which will soon be released as a fan club gift for 2021.

A number of remixes as part of the “Discotheque” program part of a mix by Paul Oakenfold. Some of these remixes are bootleg guerilla style mixes, not commissioned by the band, while others have been officially commissioned and just not released yet. Others still are being created for the show. We’ve tried to capture these newer and unreleased mixes below:

  • “Beautiful Day” (2010 Radio Edit Remix)
  • “Daddy’s Gonna Pay for Your Crashed Car” (The Perfecto Mix)
  • “Get On Your Boots” (TILT’s So Sexy Remix)
  • “Iris” (Adam White Remix)
  • “Lemon” (The Perfecto Mix – TILT & Danny Stubbs Rework)
  • “Love is All We Have Left” (Oakenfold and Varun Remix)
  • “Ordinary Love” (Beatsessions & Oskar & Karl Edit)
  • “Ordinary Love” (Paul Oakenfold Bootleg Remix)
  • “Raised by Wolves” (Adam White Remix)
  • “The Wanderer” (Remix)
  • “Where the Streets Have No Name” (Oakenfold Remix)
  • “Where the Streets Have No Name” (Redanka and TILT Lightbox Remix)
  • “Without You Around” – U2 vs Daft Punk
  • “With or Without You” (Adam White Remix)
  • “With or Without You Dance” (Teemid Remix)

There have been other things of interest, including Bono and The Edge reading psalms or poetry as part of the Elevation program, and part of the Christmas Vigil program, and Bono reciting Van Morrison lyrics as part of the special for his 75th birthday, but these extras have been spoken word, and not song.

Some of these highlights have included the following:

  • Psalm 23 (Read by The Edge, Episode 10 Elevation, Christmas Vigil)
  • Psalm 29 (Read by The Edge, Christmas Vigil)
  • Psalm 46 (Read by The Edge, Episode 26 Elevation, Christmas Vigil)
  • Psalm 100 (Read by Bono, Episode 1 Elevation, Christmas Vigil)
  • Psalm 121 (Read by Bono, Episode 11 Elevation)
  • Psalm 150 (Read by Bono, Episode 11 Elevation, Christmas Vigil)
  • “Little Boy Lost” – William Blake (Read by Adam, Episode 26 Elevation, Christmas Vigil)
  • “Little Boy Found” – William Blake (Read by Adam, Episode 26 Elevation, Christmas Vigil)
  • “Moondance” – Van Morrison (Read by Bono, A Sense of Wonder)
  • “Into the Mystic” – Van Morrison (Read by Bono, A Sense of Wonder)
  • “A Sense of Wonder” – Van Morrison (Read by Bono, A Sense of Wonder)
  • “The Bright Field” – R.S. Thomas (Read by The Edge, Episode 4 Elevation)
  • “Praise Song for the Day” – Elizabeth Alexander (Read by The Edge, Episode 20 Elevation)

Also airing in 2020 have been 27 of the 60 letters that Bono shared on his 60th birthday back in May. On the station, Bono is reading his fan letters to other artists, and they are then followed by the song to which he has been speaking about. Although they started out airing a new letter weekly, the frequency of these slipped to monthly in October, but eight new ones aired on Christmas eve and are now in regular rotation.

We’re told that the programming for the station has been mapped out for several years to come. Looking forward to seeing where they take it. The first six months have been interesting. Some future plans include a regular show by Adam Clayton, possibly a replacement for the current show by The Edge. It has also been mentioned by the hosts on The Spectrum that Larry Mullen will host a show in the future, to date he has been silent on air, but has been involved behind the scenes in programming of the station.

YouTube Channel Refresh

After a number of months of work on their YouTube channel, U2 officially announced they were relaunching the YouTube channel on September 17, 2020. The announced plan was to regularly update the content on the channel with new videos and remastered older videos at high definition. The station launched with a new lyric video for the acoustic version of “Stuck in a Moment” and was followed up by a series of videos tied into All That You Can’t Leave Behind to promote the 20th anniversary release of that album. The full list of new uploads is as follows:

Not only are they uploading new videos to the account, they are also uploading upgraded versions of older videos. These videos don’t come to the top of the videos list when they are upgraded, but to date the following videos have been added in a newly upgraded format:

Only a few other videos were added this year prior to the announcement of the relaunch of the station. “11 O’Clock Tick Tock” from a 1981 performance on television was uploaded to promote the release of that song for Record Store Day. (Two other performances from that day have been more recently released.) The other, was the video for the song Bono did with Frank Sinatra, released in 1993, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” The video was uploaded in advance of Bono’s 60 Songs that Saved My Life playlist in May.

Also released through U2’s channel this year was a song performed by Bono with his son on piano, called “Let Your Love Be Known”. The song was recorded at home and posted on March 17, 2020. The song was written in response to the COVID-19 infection in Italy, and in reaction to a story which showed people singing from their balconies in the pandemic when shut away from other contact.

A second version of the song arrived via Will.i.am, of the Black Eyed Peas. He took Bono’s original and added his own vocals and instrumentation to the song. The new version included vocals by Jennifer Hudson and featured Yoshiki on piano. This version of the song was titled “SingForLife” and was used in a number of ads for the charity World Central Kitchen. A third version of the song was performed by Zucchero for Earth Day. That version was recorded using Bono’s original vocal plus additional vocals in Italian by Zucchero. This time the song was titled “Canta La Vita” and Zucchero’s performance took place in a deserted Colosseum in Rome.

Outside of U2’s channel, AR Rahman released a new copy of “Ahimsa” with AR Ameen. Although it strips out Bono’s vocals, the video still makes use of his illustrations used in the lyric video for the song. Also U2 gave their blessing for Finneas to remix “Beautiful Day” using a range of performers including Camila Cabello, Chris Martin, Tove Lo, and Ty Dolla $ign. U2 were not involved in this release, but Bono did introduce it as part of the “Dear Class of 2020” special.

The YouTube channel upgrade wasn’t the only video that U2 shared this year. Through U2.Com, there were a number of events where the band streamed full video releases from their archives. Most of these were upgraded video formats, upscaled to HD in some cases, or shown in HD for the first time in others. (Slane, however, was streamed in lower than DVD quality.) These streaming events were typically available to stream after the debut for a few days, or in the case of Berlin, for the remainder of your 2020 subscription. The events were promoted in the Zootopia boards, with organized events to discuss the videos, to make the first viewing a community event. The following videos were streamed:

  • Experience and Innocence Tour, Berlin (March 14)
  • Zoo TV Tour, Sydney (April 19)
  • Elevation Tour, Slane Castle (May 10)
  • Vertigo Tour, Chicago (July 18)
  • Elevation Tour, Boston (October 30)

Other Releases

The band has not released a lot of recordings this year, but they’ve appeared in a number of documentary projects throughout the year, including the following:

  • Bono appears on the Alicia Keys audiobook, More Myself
  • Bono appears in Shane McGowen documentary Crock of Gold (Bono appears as part of an ensemble on stage and we see about 40 seconds of his performance of “A Rainy Night in Soho”.
  • Bono appears in a Boomtown Rats documentary Citizens of Boomtown [More]
  • Adam Clayton appears in a Phil Lynott documentary Songs for While I’m Away [More]
  • Bono, The Edge and Adam Clayton appear in a Windmill Lane documentary, Windmill Lane [More]
  • Larry Mullen appears in a Jack Charlton documentary Finding Jack Charlton [More]
  • Bono appears in Jimmy Carter documentary Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President
  • Bono appears in a Moya Brennan documentary, Moya [TG4, Airing Now]

U2Songs Changes and Updates

We’ve spent most of 2020 reviewing different areas of the site, implementing improvements, doing upgrades, and making sure things are robust enough to do what we want.

The biggest area of focus is our coverage of the new U2 X-Radio station. Right from the start we’ve been bringing you news and updates about the station, and we’ve added a few dedicated sections for coverage. We have our news and scheduling page, where you can see news about the station, and upcoming programs that will debut on the station. We have added a detailed statistics page for the station, allowing you to see different stats from songs played, to hosts airtime, and more. The statistics are live and change as the station does, and we’re quite proud of that content. And finally we have an episode guide which tracks what has been played on the station, and information about individual programs from ongoing programs to one off specials.

The lyric section of the page got some much needed love this year as well. We’ve been updating our lyric entries so that when you view them you’ll get some added content. Added in this year? For any lyrics that don’t have an attached image you will now get a word map showing the most repeated words in the lyrics. Also, with the thanks of Universal Records and YouTube Music, we’ve been able to add in streaming music for many of the songs. So now when you click for a lyric, you can also listen to the song in many cases. Finally we’ve rebooted the entrance pages for the lyrics section, allowing you to filter down further than just by title. Just want to see a live lyric? Go direct there. Want to see a list of songs that U2 have covered by other artists? A list of instrumental songs U2 have released? They are quick list to pull up. We plan on adding more here as this year progresses.

We’d also like to welcome Nicole Ford to the team here at U2Songs. Nico has joined our team at the end of 2019 and will be popping up in a few areas around the site in the near future. Keep your eyes peeled, we are in the process of getting things set up for her to join the team in full. We’ll be sharing more news soon. Thanks for joining us in all this craziness!

Finally, I’d like to spotlight a few of my favourite stories from this past year that we covered under news…

We’ve got a few things already planned for the first few weeks of 2021, and look forward to being able to expand and show you a few of the projects we have been working on. Thanks for joining us this year and we hope we can keep you entertained in the months to come! Our hope is this update finds you safe and well and that we all have a happy new year ahead! Sláinte chugat!

Past Year End Reviews

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