ET Spotlight: The Best of U2
Entertainment Tonight (1998-10-22)
Why was now the perfect time for rock supergroup U2 to release a greatest hits compilation? While shooting the video for the album’s single, “The Sweetest Thing,” band members BONO, THE EDGE, ADAM CLAYTON and LARRY MULLEN JR. discuss how they assembled this anticipated collection.
Question: Why is now a good time for U2 to release this collection?
Bono: We have to accept the fact that there’s people out there that aren’t familiar with our work in the eighties. There’s a lot of people who are into U2 that came into U2 on “Achtung Baby” and “Zooropa.” There’s something that really rings true about these songs and it’s kind of ecstatic music. That’s how I look at it. It’s so high… in a good way as in uplifting.
Larry Mullen Jr.: The whole idea behind doing this greatest hits; and it’s something that we’ve wanted to do for a couple of years, just to clear out. Every band does a greatest hits normally after two or three years. We waited a long time and it just feels right. It’s the right time for us to do this.
Question: Would you call this project a musical autobiography?
The Edge: It’s not really an autobiography. It’s more just little, tiny polaroids. Just moments captured down through that ten year period that have remained fresh and special and unique.
Question: How did you choose what to include?
The Edge: There’s about fifteen moments that crystalized. Fifteen songs that have, ten years later, actually stood the test of time.
Question: How can you best sum up your career in the Eighties?
Adam Clayton: For me it was like, this is our first album and it might be our last one. Then we got to make two albums and then three and we slowly began to realize that we were half way through the Eighties by then. It was something that we just didn’t know where it would go. The pressure really wasn’t on us until after “The Joshua Tree” when we were playing stadiums, and doing stadium tours is hard work. Pre ’86 or ’87 it was a “doss” but after that it got a bit serious.
Question: Where do you think U2 is headed?
Larry: We’re always striving to do something different and to be on that cutting edge. We don’t feel that we’ve actually finished what we started. It’s like there’s unfinshed business and that’s why we still do it. There’s stuff left for us to do.
Question: What about the collection of B-sides that goes with this album?
Bono: The B-sides are really important. It’s like they’re more revealing. A lot of times we wrote them in the middle of the night, as we were recording them, usually being thrown out of studios. People would be knocking on the doors saying, “You have to leave,” but we don’t have a B-side. It’s a bit like a photograph, like a polaroid. You didn’t take that much care putting it together, but it captures a moment that tells a story.
Adam: There was a lot more material to have a look at and some of it was pretty unfinished. So it was quite hard to go through it again. I think what we ended up with is really good.
Larry: Those B-side packages were really for U2 fans or for people who were into what U2 was into, whatever that was. There’s a greater license to put whatever we liked on it. The funny thing is that on the B-sides collection, we’ve got nearly everything.
The Edge: I’m very happy to say that I like this group of songs that we’ve put out — both the A-sides and the B-sides because I feel they do actually still hold true and I think that they’ve dated well.
Question: You’ve gone back and re-recorded one of those B-sides, “The Sweetest Thing.” Why this song?
Bono: It was Ali’s birthday and I didn’t make it for the birthday. (laughs) I wanted to write her a little sweet song, but it ended up a little bit sour, as all the best love songs are. I can’t write these straight love songs. They make me want to throw up.
Question: Why re-explore this particular song as the single?
Adam: “Sweetest Thing” was a situation where we got it up and we were looking at it because we knew we hadn’t really finished it.
Bono: It was written during the album sessions for “The Joshua Tree.” We forgot about it until this compilation record we put together of our A-sides and our B-sides from the Eighties.
The Edge: It was actually the one song that we always felt that we could have nailed better than we did. In my mind it was always a pop song and I just felt we could do it better. We went in for a couple of days to try rewriting and Bono resang and we remixed it. It came together very quickly and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.
Adam: Edge came up with a couple of extra chords and it was a really quick thing. So we said, “Yeah, let’s stick them in.”
Question: Now, you’re shooting a video for it.
The Edge: Yeah.
Question: You don’t sound amused.
The Edge: Really, videos are not much fun to do. There really quite boring. We try as much as possible to limit them to a day or half a day, if we can get away with it. One way that we keep it amusing for ourselves is when we get a chance to do something that’s kind of surreal or completely over-the-top.
Larry: Yeah, but you can’t really beat the “Lemon.” I mean four men in a mirrorball lemon. You can’t really top that.
Adam: Yeah. (laughs) I always thought we’d either end up working with animals or whatever ‘cause it’s kind of a circus anyway, this whole U2 thing.