A Celebration of U2’s Record Store Days

Original Story by Aaron J Sams (2022-04-22)

Record Store Day is being held on Saturday, April 23 this year. The event was first held in 2008, and has grown to include two annual events, the main Record Store Day in April, and a second event on Black Friday in November. The event was started to bring attention to the independent record store, and to get customers into these locations through a series of limited releases only released in person initially. The day celebrating the independent record shop now has listings on their site for stores participating in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, as well as the United States where it all started. We are also aware that stores in other countries do participate, even if they have not listed themselves on the Record Store Day site.

U2 has been participating in Record Store Day for a number of years now. That’s included fourteen audio releases, and one non-audio release. Their first year participating was in 2010, when they joined the Black Friday event with “Wide Awake in Europe”, and although only participating occasionally starting out, since Record Store Day in 2017, there has been a U2 release at each event. The early releases for Record Store Day were labeled as Record Store Day Exclusives, which are releases which are only available through independent shops, and are not available elsewhere. U2’s releases since 2018 have been “RSD First” records, which means that although initially they are made available through independent shops, after a time they can be sold through other retailers. One example of this is “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” which was initially available only through independent retailers, but has since been made available direct from Universal music via The Sound of Vinyl.

We have been tracking the Record Store Day releases for a while now. One of the most common questions we get asked is how many copies are released of each. You’ll notice that we’ve been explaining that the number we provide is the number listed on the USA Record Store Day site. There’s a reason we clarify that, as a couple of years ago we started to question whether that was a total number, or if it was a number just for the copies available in the USA. Investigating other artists showed that more copies were being pressed than were being reported in the US number, and that the US number is a number that only speaks about the number of copies produced for that region.

We’ve since been able to confirm with someone who works with U2 on these releases that the numbers for each release is much higher than the number presented on the USA site. That number is indeed just a listing for the USA, and there are additional copies pressed for other countries. We have also been able to confirm some of those numbers with those involved with Record Store Day. Below you’ll find a discussion of the numbers we know. Not every release has a total number. In some cases we are extrapolating from other releases to get a number. We’ve identified where we have done that.

This year is the 15th anniversary celebration for Record Store Day. U2’s release celebrates the 40th anniversary of their single “A Celebration” on black vinyl. The release contains the original two tracks from the single, and has a new version of “A Celebration” mixed together from alternate takes of the song, and a previously unreleased live version of “Party Girl” from 2015. “A Celebration” will have 7500 copies in the USA, an additional 3600 copies in the UK and Ireland, and the overall print run is 21,000 copies worldwide.

“Gloria” was released for the 40th anniversary of the single in November 2021 for Black Friday. The release was a 12-inch yellow vinyl, and included the original studio version of the song to represent the 1980s, and then included three live versions of the song, one from the 1990s, one from the 2000s, and one from the 2010s. Of the live versions, two were unreleased, and the third had only been previously available via the iTunes set, The Complete U2. “Gloria” had 7000 copies in the USA, and 3500 copies in the UK and Ireland, and a total print run of 17,000 copies.

“Fire” was planned for Record Store Day in April 2021 but the event was delayed because of COVID, and the event happened in June instead that year. The release was a 12-inch picture disc featuring a photo of a ring of fire on one side, and a photo of the band from 1979 on the reverse side. The single included the original studio tracks from the single, “Fire” and “J Swallow” as well as two live versions of “Fire” (Werchter, July 1982 and London, December 1982). All of the songs included on this release had been previously released. The “Fire” picture disc had numbers very similar to this year’s “A Celebration” – 7500 copies in the USA, 3600 copies in the UK and Ireland and an overall print run of 21,000 copies. We can also share that of the 3600 copies in the UK and Ireland it appears that 2500 copies were sold in the UK, and the remaining 1100 copies were sold in Ireland.

Boy celebrated it’s 40th anniversary in the Fall of 2020, and for the Black Friday event, U2 issued a new version of the album in white vinyl. This pressing uses the 2008 master of the album, and includes a unique fold out poster. The 2020 pressing of Boy for its 40th anniversary had the biggest run of copies to date with 10,000 copies produced for the USA, an additional 10,000 copies for the UK and Ireland, and a total run of 30,000 copies worldwide including the UK, Irish and US copies.

Two other singles have been celebrated for their 40th anniversary. “11 O’Clock Tick Tock” was released for Record Store Day in 2020 (but delayed until August due to COVID). The pressing in translucent blue vinyl featured the two original tracks from the single, as well as two newly released tracks from a show at the Marquee in September 1980. “11 O’Clock Tick Tock” had 7000 copies in the USA, and 3500 copies in the UK and Ireland. A total run number isn’t know, however, it is probably equivalent to what was done for “Gloria”. “Three” was the first single celebrated for the 40th anniversary, released in black vinyl and featuring the original three songs that were featured on the EP in 1979. However only one of these songs was the original version from 1979, the other two songs were alternate recordings. “Three” was listed at 7000 copies in the USA, and we know from it being individually numbered that there were 17,000 copies worldwide. We have seen numbers up to 17,000 but no numbers beyond that. This means the pressing was probably the same quantities as “11 O’Clock Tick Tock” and “Gloria”.

Two releases tied to the Experience and Innocence tour. “The Europa EP” was the last unique release prior to the start of the 40th anniversary pressings, released on black vinyl. The EP featured live versions of “Love is All We Have Left” and “New Year’s Day” from the 2018 tour, as well as a new remix of each track. “The Europa EP” had a low quantity in the US at 5000 copies, and a higher than usual quantity in the UK and Ireland, also at 5000. It is unknown what the total pressing number for this release was, although we would guess it was between 15,000 and 20,000 copies worldwide. “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” also featured tracks from the 2018 tour, the version of “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” that featured Gavin Friday and Regine Chassagne on vocals with U2 on backing had a USA run of 7000 copies. The B-side was the original version of the song from 1995. We do not know the total over all pressing number is, although like other releases where 7000 were distributed in the USA, we would guess that there was a total run of 17,000 copies.

The two releases before that were both new singles from U2’s 2017 album Songs of Experience. “Lights of Home” was released in April 2018 with three mixes of the title track, including two that had been found on the deluxe version of the album. It was a 12-Inch picture disc. We do not have any information on total copies produced, but we do know that there were 5000 copies produced for the USA. The other release, “The Blackout” was produced by Third Man Records for release in November 2017 for Black Friday. 20,000 copies were produced in total for worldwide distribution. Of those 20,000 copies there were 750 special coloured vinyl copies in black and white vinyl, sold at two locations in the US (Third Man in Nashville and Detroit), one shop in London (Rough Trade), and one shop in Dublin (Freebird). Third Man Records also gave away a small number of test pressing copies via events in the USA. It is suggested only 10-15 of these test pressing copies were given out and each is individually numbered. “The Blackout” featured the album version of the song, and a remix by Jacknife Lee of the title track.

“Red Hill Mining Town” was a limited edition picture vinyl, which featured the new mix of “Red Hill Mining Town” on both sides. We don’t have a total number for this release, but we do know that in the USA 7000 copies were distributed. It is likely that another 10,000 copies were pressed for the worldwide market, but we cannot confirm that number, and our number is based purely on what was done with other releases pressed in this number for U2 later. The “Red Hill Mining Town” release also saw U2 release two versions of a limited “fanzine” called From Desert Springs Everything, focusing on The Joshua Tree. This booklet was numbered and 500 copies were distributed in Europe and 1000 copies were distributed in North America. There were slight differences in the booklet distributed in both regions. The back of the booklet also listed a mailing address, and those sending in a letter would later receive a limited The Joshua Tree patch. (This offer has since been discontinued.)

The older releases before “Red Hill Mining Town” were well documented for pressing numbers, with worldwide numbers being given in press releases, and we were able to confirm some additional information via Record Store Day direct. Songs of Innocence in April 2015 was a limited, numbered pressing, and had 5000 copies available worldwide. Tracking the numbers, we saw no numbers that would suggest over 5000 copies had been produced, and saw no duplication of numbers. “Ordinary Love” was pressed at 10,000 copies worldwide in November 2013, and 6500 copies were distributed in the US, with the remaining 3500 copies being distributed in other countries. And the first record, the one U2 first participated with was “Wide Awake in Europe” in November 2010 which was announced to be a limited pressing of 5000 copies. Although announced at 5000 copies, there was a print run of 6500 copies of the sleeve. Contacts at the record company confirmed there were extra sleeves printed due to quality issues on some individual sleeves that had to be rejected. (Of note, U2 also produced a limited edition map for Black Friday in 2014, and an unknown number of copies were distributed to stores participating in the event. It is similar to the map produced in the fan club gift the same year, but has different markings.)

It was the 2021 releases of Tomb Raider and Red, Hot and Blue for Record Store Day which first got us looking at these numbers again. Both of these contained a U2 song, and had been out of print for some time. Tomb Raider had a low run for the USA, just 750 copies, but there were 2500 copies in total worldwide. The USA site listing mentioned both the 750 number and the total. Red, Hot and Blue had similarly low numbers. In that case 1100 copies were available in the US, 900 were available in the UK, and 100 copies available in Ireland. The total worldwide run for Red, Hot and Blue was 2,200 copies globally.

For those interested in even more information about U2’s Record Store Day releases over the years, we maintain discography entries for each release, which can be visited through one main page here. These contain additional information about the releases, additional artwork and images, and more information about the tracks released.

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