The History Mix: U2’s Christmas Songs

Original story by Harry Kantas (2015-12-04)

In November 1984, Bono and Adam Clayton arrived in the early morning to a studio in London where they would participate in history. That was the first Band Aid recording of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” Bono participated on vocals while Adam played bass. It was the first time the band participated in recording any Christmas song, and it was a great start, going on to be one of the biggest Christmas singles, and spending five weeks at #1 in Ireland.

The single was released with the single version, as well as a longer 12-Inch Mix, and some versions got an instrumental version called “Feed the World” which had Christmas greetings from the artists, including Bono. Bono’s greeting can also be heard in the 12-inch mix below:

In 1987 it was time for a full band foray into Christmas songs. On October 12, 1987 a compilation called A Very Special Christmas was released worldwide with funds going to Special Olympics. This first record was overseen by Jimmy Iovine for A&M Records, who would also produce “Rattle and Hum” for the band. Artists donated their time, producers and labels waived all fees, and 100% of the proceeds went back to Special Olympics.

U2 covered “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”, a song originally written by Phil Spector. The song was recorded during a tour stop in Glasgow, Scotland, and Darlene Love was present to contribute backing vocals to the song. Darlene had sung the tune on Letterman in 1986, starting a tradition which would continue until his show left the air. Each Christmas Darlene would return to the show and perform the song again, so it is only fitting that she appear here on U2’s version.

There was also a live version of the song filmed for possible inclusion for Rattle and Hum. Perhaps you haven’t seen this live performance of the song?

We also include the studio version here for you to listen to if that’s more to your liking:

There would be no Christmas cheer throughout the 1990s, and the next time U2 would be involved in a Christmas song would be a follow up to 1984’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas” – Band Aid 20. For the 20th anniversary of the song, a new version of “Do They Know it’s Christmas?“ was recorded, mostly with fresh new faces, but Bono was asked back and once again contributed his now famous line.

In 2009, U2 would once again record a Christmas song together, this time, “I Believe in Father Christmas” a cover of a Greg Lake classic. The song was initially recorded for a project (RED) themed magazine which featured new audio and video tracks as each issue was released. U2’s contribution came during Issue 2. It would also later be released through an EP released at Starbucks, titled “All You Need is Love”.

In 2014, Bono returned once again to the Band Aid project, recording a new version of “Do They Know it’s Christmas?” with another new cast of performers. This time his signature line has been rewritten.

Another 2014 project was a Christmas song that Bono recorded with Michael W. Smith, called “The Darkest Midnight.” The song is a traditional Irish carol, and the song title itself refers to the winter solstice. Bono’s version is a spoken word rendition. The original can be found on Smith’s album The Spirit of Christmas.

Perhaps next year there will be new Christmas songs under the tree from U2?

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