Revisiting the Past

Original Story by U2Songs.Com Team (2022-04-12)

With the rumours that U2 are putting together an album of reworked older songs for this November, the team here at put together some of our own thoughts about this album and what songs we might have an interest in hearing. There are already a few amazing examples of what the band is capable of when they revisit older songs. Bono’s version of “Stay (Faraway, So Close!) with Craig Armstrong is sublime. Adam and Bono’s reworking of “Tomorrow” for the Common Ground album is another song that got an amazing reinvention. And “If You Wear that Velvet Dress” with a musical treatment by Jools Holland and his Friends leaves goosebumps. You can hear these embedded below as you take a moment to read through things.

This will be U2’s first compilation of older material since U218 Singles was released in 2006. That compilation and the two before it, The Best Of 1980-1990 and The Best of 1990-2000 were mostly collections of the original versions of songs, with a small number of songs reworked for these albums. This time out it appears U2 are going back and reworking all of the songs on the compilation. Adam Clayton has said in an interview with O Globo that the new interpretations “breathe new life into the songs.”

As part of our anniversary here at (27 years this month!) we’re taking a few moments as a team to put a few of our song choices out there…we’ll leave our initials at the end of each pick so you know who’s picked what. There’s a guide at the end of the article. We’ve sorted things below by album and most of our picks seem to come from the earlier albums.

Boy (1980)

“A Day Without Me” is a pretty dark song that’s dressed up in bright colours, and I’d like to see a 61-year old Bono’s take on a song he wrote at 19 about his own removal from life/society. (GD)

October (1981)

“Stranger in a Strange Land” is a song I would love to see revisited by the band. Straight forward in its imagery, relevant as ever — since history never teaches us anything, and a melody that would shine through Bono’s newly found use of his voice. (HK)

VIDEO: “Tomorrow” Recreated for Common Ground [Discography Entry]

War (1983)

Keeping with the Songs of Surrender theme is “Surrender” from the War album. I’ve always heard this in my head with a strong programming/dance beat during the verses and I’d love to hear a version of that. (DM)

“Drowning Man” is a song the band has been rehearsing on and off for years before a tour, but it somehow never makes the setlist. Building up on this particular song could be an “opportunity for greatness”, and a true Innocence to Experience moment in U2’s back catalogue. (HK)

U2 really tapped into the zeitgeist of the early 80’s because they genuinely shared the angst people were experiencing at the time, and it came through in their music. One song I would love to hear reworked is “Seconds.” It authentically captured the existential dread of the Cold War, and now with the pandemic, the Russia/Ukraine conflict, and all of the political divisiveness in Western society, a lot of people are having those same feelings. I think some subtle changes to the song could reflect the worries that are weighing on our minds today. (BH)

The Unforgettable Fire (1984)

“Wire” is one of those songs that is subject to interpretation, but to me it has always been about hopelessness and suicidality. The subject is dealt with a bit ambivalently, which accurately portrays how difficult and exhausting it is to deal with someone who has lost hope and can’t be trusted with their own safety. Suicide rates today are higher than ever, with the pandemic, uncertainty about the future, and political extremism contributing to a toxic social environment for many. I would definitely like to see “Wire” reimagined taking today’s societal pressures into account, though perhaps offering some hope to those who are really struggling. (BH)

This may sound very much like something U2 would actually do…a version of “A Sort of Homecoming” with maybe strings and more of an epic, cathedral type vibe. They could make it a benefit/plea for peace for the Ukraine situation. (DM)

VIDEO: “Sunday Bloody Sunday” Recreated for One Presents AGIT8 [Discography Entry]

The Joshua Tree (1987)

I would love to hear a version of “Bullet the Blue Sky” that is glitchy, grimey, tech, dirty masterpiece that is 100% out of character of U2. Every tour since Joshua Tree U2 has essentially re-written “Bullet the Blue Sky”, which I absolutely appreciate as it is one of my all-time favorite songs. However, I think the song deserves the nastiness of Edge’s guitar shaped into some incredible sub-Rezz styled bass madness. (NF)

Achtung Baby (1991)

I’d like to see “Even Better Than the Real Thing” or “Mysterious Ways”. I am trying to imagine either of these songs being reworked into something that was not a dance song. It could be interesting! (GD)

Zooropa (1993)

I’d love to hear the band revisit “The Wanderer.” Bono is now the same age that Johnny Cash was when he recorded the original vocals. He gave the original vocal to Cash, feeling the more experienced voice fit the song better than his own. Well you are there now Bono, lets hear it. And maybe the band can put a Johnny Cash spin on the track on the musical side, Bono taking that walk under atomic skies. Rick Rubin worked with Cash extensively in his later years, I’m sure he could provide U2 some help in taking it in a Johnny Cash direction. (AJ)

My first choice of song, would probably be “The Wanderer” from Zooropa with Bono on vocals. The version they did for the Johnny Cash tribute had an urgency and immediacy that was incredible. I’d love to hear a proper studio version of that. (DM)

VIDEO: “Stay (Faraway, So Close)” Recreated for Craig Armstrong’s As If To Nothing [Discography Entry]

Pop (1997)

“Wake Up Dead Man” is so raw and bare, I can’t imagine it any other way, and so for this very reason I’d like to see a full reimagining. (GD)

At their Atlanta stop on the Vertigo tour U2 sound checked a stripped down rock version of “Mofo”. It sounded amazing! Rumors were always circulating that they had written this alternate version and would perhaps integrate it into the setlist on this tour. That never happened. Without a doubt I love the original version of “Mofo”, however, I do not think they will ever play “Mofo” again live as it is written on the Pop record. That is disappointing for me to say because I love the song so much. That being said, a rock version could easily fit into any setlist throughout the past 20 years. I think it’s only fair the world hear what I heard them soundcheck that day in Atlanta because it is fantastic! (NF)

No Line on the Horizon (2009)

With an album title like Songs of Surrender how can you resist revisiting “Moment of Surrender”? It was a stand out track from the album, and in the months that it ended the U2 shows on the U2360 tour, it seemed that Bono was finding new aspects of the song, and building towards something else. Would love to do what the band could do with it unshackled from the rest of the album. But I will admit, knowing the magic of how the original came about, it would be nice if Danny Lanois and Brian Eno could be part of things. (AJ)

Other Songs

They need a single to push out. Previous collections saw U2 revisit “Sweetest Thing”, as well as new songs in the form of “Electrical Storm”, “The Hands that Built America”, “The Saints are Coming” and “Window in the Skies”. Wouldn’t it be lovely if they released a studio version of “Mercy” after all this time? We all know the song. It leaked out during the recording sessions of How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb and many fans love that version of the song. Polish that up, put it together, and release it as a lead single. And it fits the brief, it’s a song that U2 have released before, however, only a live version which is now on the next-to-impossible to find “Wide Awake in Europe” EP. I know I for one would be bouncing off some walls if that appeared on an upcoming compilation. (AJ)

VIDEO: “If You Wear that Velvet Dress” Recreated for Jools Hollands’ Small World, Big Band Volume 2 [Discography Entry]

Guide to Entries – AJ: Aaron Sams; BH: Brad Hood; DM: Don Morgan; GD: George Dias; HK: Harry Kantas; NF: Nicole Ford

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