Let Me In The Sound: Demos from the No Line On The Horizon Sessions

Original Story by Harry Kantas (2019-09-12)

In late February 2009, No Line On The Horizon was released. This album went on to power the U2360 Tour, the world’s most successful Rock’n‘Roll tour of all time. A record that took 8 years to beat! I still remember queueing up for the midnight release at Dublin’s HMV on Grafton St, even though the album had already leaked online in its entirety.

Speaking of leaks, there have been a few. Who can forget “Mercy”, that Bono handed over to a fan on a CD-R copy of How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, or the infamous Eze Beach clips, or the leaked demo of “Discotheque” back when the internet was still relatively young. Or, pre-dating the world wide web, “The New U2”, or “Axtung Beibi” 5xLP of leaked master tapes from recordings and rehearsals for Achtung Baby. The list goes on.

U2 however learned to embrace, and play with this concept. And the fans, remained loyal, and even though we usually get our hands on a new release early, we still go out and buy the official releases.

In that vein, today’s offering comes from a while back. Darren Keen, a long time U2 fan and great musician from Kidderminster England, has decided to share with us some of his treasure from 2009’s No Line On The Horizon‘s recording sessions from the Olympic Studios in London.

Darren, how long have you been a U2 fan for?

I have been a fan since 1983 and the release of the live at Red Rocks video. Songs such as Sunday Bloody Sunday and Surrender stood out to me but it wasn’t until the release of the making of the Unforgettable Fire video that I truly became hooked. Bad was definitely the stand out song for me and still is to this day..

Do you follow the band on tour, and if so, any memorable gigs?

My first show was at the NEC on June 3rd in 1987 during the JT tour. I also attended the Wembley Stadium show on 13th June 1987. For a 11 year old boy it was a truly amazing experience. Next show would have been during the POPmart tour in 97 at Wembley Stadium. Highlights of this show would be standing right at the front against the barriers around 15 ft from The Edge. Dallas gave me a plectrum form Edge’s mic stand after the show. I also made it to the front at U2’s show in Manchester during the Vertigo Tour. I would not see the band until the 360 tour in Cardiff and again on the JT tour at Twickenham a full 30 years after my first show.

That first show at the NEC in 87 was quite memorable due to the sheer volume of the crowd, plus the stand in which I was seated was moving two and throw. U2 brought a couple of guys onstage to play a version of Knocking On Heaven’s Door during this show. Other moments were watching the POPmart gig stood next to the Longpigs who had supported U2 at this show. They were true fans also…

During the Vertigo Tour show I was able to meet Paul McGuiness who unbeknown to him was most probably looking for me HaHa! Larry had spotted me trainspotting Edge’s rig with my little binoculars and note book and Larry was pointing in my direction with his drum stick. A few minutes later I saw Mr McGuiness frantically searching the crowd in the area where I was stood so I decided to go over to him instead in hope to take him off my scent. It worked. Some time later I helped Paul Kultchar (U2/Edge fan and Edge spotter) with his Vertigo Tour Guitar Data spreadsheet. All the digital delay (TC Electronic 2290) info.

I actually made a lot of use of that spreadsheet, so I’m very happy to meet the person responsible for it, and say thanks for your work, it helped many of us Edge fans back in the day, trying to dial in the sound on our guitar rigs! Speaking of which, I understand you were in a U2 tribute band yourself, and may also have an interesting story or two to share…

Yes I was a member of quite a successful U2 tribute band from around 2005 till 2015. The original members regrouped last year to perform a series of charity gigs but nothing is set up for the future. Highlight of this reunion was a gig in Somerton Somerset UK that was attended by Michael Eavis, the main man behind the Glastonbury festival. We shared the bill with Nigel Clarke from UK band Dodgy on this night also. Other highlights were playing at the Playa Honda music festival in Lanzarote and touring with Dave Sharp Ex-Alarm guitarist. The Alarm toured with U2 in the early to mid 80’s and Dave joined us onstage for a rendition of Knocking On Heavens Door just like The Alarm did with U2.

Another major event for us was a recording of Pride for a gadget called Beamz which was reviewed by Jonathan Ross on his show. This can be viewed on YouTube. U2 were also at the show promoting the No Line On The Horizon album. Downside to this recording was that there was only one place for tech support at the show and our singer Paul got the golden ticket. Paul viewed the band rehearsing for the show and also the recording of the songs to be aired the following night on tv. Apparently U2 played Breathe 3 times before Bono was happy with the performance. I have some behind the scenes photos . I also got to speak to Dallas Schoo on the phone and he informed me of the new toys that Edge was employing at this time….

Darren, are you a U2 collector?

Not so much of a serious record collector but I do have quite a few books and guitar related info that I hoard in droves. I suppose I have quite a bit of vinyl from the 80’s but nothing too rare. The usual cds dvds are all present and a few bootlegs here and there.

Let’s talk about the NLOTH stems. How did it fall into your lap?

Now not too sure how much I can say regarding how I got these stems but what I will say is this: the band used my friend’s laptop to record one of their sessions as all the band’s laptops (producers’ included) were being used in other rooms due to the nature in which U2 work. The band took a copy of the files but didn’t delete them from my friend’s hard drive. My friend (some years after the event I must say) sent the files to me.

What did you make of these demos when you got to listen to them for the first time? NLOTH can be a tough record to connect with, how did you feel about it when it first came out?

I must admit that I wasn’t a massive fan of the album but as with many U2 albums I think the songs came alive during the tour. U2 are one of the few bands that to me sound better live than they do on the records. No Line On The Horizon has got some great songs but the best versions are definitely live performances of songs like Breathe and Magnificent. I think it/s mainly because Edge’s guitar has room to do its thing in a live setting.

Here’s a bonus recording from the u2songs archive, from the Hanover Quay Recording sessions in June 2008. It features The Edge working on an alternate hook for “Magnificent”.

If you feel like thanking Darren for sharing these files with all of us, he is on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DMK2U.
Here’s a demo from his band, for those interested:

Lastly, a note. These tracks are either incomplete, or rehearsals, and thus have never been officially released by the band. That being said, there is no guarantee that we can host them online forever, so smell the flowers while you can..!

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