The History Mix: Samples of U2

Original Story by Harry Kantas / Aaron Sams (2018-03-22)

In music, to sample means to take part of one sound recording and using it in a different song. It could be the full song reused or just a single instrument. Sampling became popular with the rise of DJs in the 1970s experimenting with manipulating vinyl on multiple turntables, and has continued its rise over the years. In 2016, Tim took a look through the use of samples in U2’s own work. Today we’ll take a look at the other side of the coin, work that has legally, or perhaps not so legally, sampled U2’s work. This isn’t meant to be a full list of every song that uses a U2 sample but will attempt to touch on the more well known examples of U2 being sampled into other songs, with a focus on those that obtained legal permission to sample from this material.

Kiss AMC – “A Bit Of…”

The group known as Kiss AMC is widely known as the first group to clear samples of U2 for use in a released track.

Kiss AMC, a British collective from Manchester, borrowed a sample from “New Year’s Day” for their song, “A Bit Of…” The song was issued on Syncopate Records in July 1989 where it was released under the title “A Bit Of…” as the samples from U2 had not yet been fully cleared. The song charted for two weeks under that title. Once the final deal to use the samples was made, the song was quickly re-released under the new title of “A Bit of U2”.

The single itself used a photo of Peter Rowen, taken from the cover shoots for Boy as part of the cover image. Rowen’s eye would also appear on the label for the 7-Inch.

The single is a bit unique because not only do they sample “New Year’s Day” they mention U2 in the song, “We like Indy pop and bands with weird names / Of course it’s only right, just one mixed to two / I talk about James and a bit of U2 / AMC, a bit of U2” and later in the song, “Now that’s an example of what we’re about / You expected U2 but we dropped it out”.

The song spent five weeks on the charts in the UK, peaking at #58.

The single was released on a variety of formats, including a picture 7-inch, 7-inch, 12-inch and CD. A video for the song was also released for promotion. The song was also included in a number of compilations around the time of release.

IMAGE: Clockwise: “A Bit Of…” 7-inch, CD, 12-inch and picture disc

Known Versions:

  • A Bit Of… (Emilio Pasquez 7-Inch Mix) (03:49)
  • A Bit Of… (Emilio Pasquez 12-Inch Mix) (05:50)
  • A Bit Of… (Greg Wilson & David Holmes Remix Edit) (04:26)
  • A Bit Of U2 (Double Trouble Remix) (05:16)
  • A Bit Of U2 (Dubstrumental) (04:28)
  • A Bit Of U2 (The Amazonian Mix) (06:30)

Negativland – “U2”

Negativland is an American experimental music group from San Francisco. They started producing and performing music in 1979. In 1991, Negativland released an EP titled “U2”, featuring a picture of a U-2 spy plane on the cover.

The EP featured extensive sampling of U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, including kazoos, to add to the parodic theme. There are 2 remixes of the song present on the EP. With the release of Achtung Baby near by, and U2’s promotional machine in full motion, Island Records proceeded to sue Negativland, over the use of “U2” on their cover, claiming a deliberate attempt to confuse U2 fans. The lawsuit was over violations of trademark protection with the use of U2’s name, and copyright law, over the use of unauthorized “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” samples.

The “Special Edit Radio Mix” of ISHFWILF adds a sample to an uncharacteristic, profane rant by radio DJ and American Top 40 icon, Casey Kasem. Part of that sample has Kasem trying to deliver a run-down of U2’s line-up, going “These guys are from England and who gives a shit?” (Fun fact: Casey Kasem is also the voice of “Shaggy” in the “Scooby Doo” animated series.)

“U2” was withdrawn and deleted. It was then replaced by another EP, called “Guns”. The cover for “Guns” was very similar to “U2”, retaining the font, colour scheme, the U-2 spy plane, and a gun pointing to it. The back of the EP came with a note to U2, that read: “This recording is dedicated to the members of our favorite Irish rock band, their record label, and their attorneys. The music is two U.”. No sampling of U2’s music was present in “Guns”.

IMAGES: “Guns” Single, Front and Back

The “U2” adventure fueled Negativland’s subsequent launch of Fair Use: The Story of the Letter U and the Numeral 2, a CD and book release, documenting Negativland’s lawsuits with Island Records, including correspondence and legal documents.

While many people, including the members of Negativland at the time, thought U2 were supporting Island Records’ lawsuit against them, that was not the case.

In June 1992, and while U2 were promoting their ZOO TV Tour, R. U. Sirius, publisher of the magazine Mondo 2000, set up an interview with The Edge, and had his friends, Don Joyce and Mark Hosler (both members of Negativland), conduct the interview. Joyce and Hosler started the interview by asking Edge about his views on ZOO TV use of samples and copyrighted material without permission, and then proceeded to reveal themselves. Edge’s response was that U2 were bothered by the raw legal approach Island Records had taken on the matter, and how much of it was done without U2’s knowledge: “By the time we realized what was going on it was kinda too late, and we actually did approach the record company on your behalf and said, ‘Look, c’mon, this is just, this is very heavy…’”. Island Records had reported that U2 never authorized the use of samples from “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, to which Edge replied: “That’s complete bollocks, there’s at least six records out there that are direct samples from our stuff.”.

In August 2007, Joyce provided an audio cassette copy of the Mondo 2000 interview with The Edge to the U2 fan website You can find more info on the interview by heading over to U2interview here and here.

The “U2” single (along with other related material) was re-released in 2001 on a “bootleg” album titled “These Guys Are from England and Who Gives a Shit”, released on “Seelard Records” (the bootleg version of Negativland’s record label “Seeland Records”).

IMAGES: “U2” Single, Front and Back

Known Versions:

  • U2 (1991 A Cappella Mix) (07:15)
  • U2 (Special Edit Radio Mix) (05:47)
  • U2 (A Cappella Version – Live) (07:16)
  • U2 (Edited Special Edit Radio Mix) (05:42)

Jeep Grrlz – “Re-Wired”

“Wire” was reissued in February 1, 1999 as “Re-Wired” by the group known as Jeep Grrlz. The group heavily incorporated “Wire” into their song, and were playing the song throughout clubs in Europe when it came to the attention of Island Records. After the issues with the Negativland in 1991, Island wasn’t in a hurry to shut down another act for using U2 samples. They approached U2, and it was The Edge who apparently gave permission for the song to be released, and Island went back to the Jeep Grrlz, and offered them a contact. The mix was tightened up and released on Island Records, home of U2 as well. The song was released on CD single as well as a promotional 12-inch release.

The song uses so much of “Wire” that many have described this as a remix of the U2 song over the years.

The band was made up of D:Stress, Jake Knights, and Love Chocolate. Jeep Grrlz had formed in 1994, and had put out a number of singles independently prior to the Island Records contract. “Re-Wired” was the only single released under that contract, but the song would be featured on a number of compilations on the Universal label, including Pure Dance 4 and Dance Action as well as being featured on a number of label produced promotional compilations. The singles released later in 1999 were on the Music for Lager label.

The song failed to chart in the UK.

IMAGE: “Re-Wired” CD

Known Versions:

  • Re-Wired (7-Inch Edit) (03:31)
  • Re-Wired (Wiseass Mix) (08:03)
  • Re-Wired (2 Sheet Mix) (07:39)

Musique vs U2 – “New Years Dub”

Musique was a duo made up of Moussa “Moose” Clarke and Nick Hanson. If “Re-Wired” saw U2 giving acknowledgement to a sample, the Musique vs U2 track took it a step further with U2 fully embracing the song, including promotion of the song on U2.Com, and appearing in the video for the song.

“New Years Dub” samples U2’s “New Year’s Day” – using music from the U2 track with a new vocal recorded by Barney C. In this case the band gave full permission, and a spokesperson for U2 told Music Week, “The band thought it was a great song which is why permission to use the sample was given.”

Clarke was a DJ with some success at the time of the remix including a song, “Choose Life” that had appeared on the Trainspotting soundtrack. Hanson was also working in music production, and had been responsible for mixing compilations mixes for a number of labels. (Hanson has since gone on to handle A&R at Arista Records). The track was mixed and debuted at the Miami Winter Music Conference in 2001, and was the first release from Musique. The Music Conference coincided with U2’s time in Miami rehearsing and opening the 2001 Elevation tour, and a copy of the song made it back to the band. The band quickly gave permission for the song to be released, and a single was produced and released on May 21, 2001 featuring a variety of remixes of the song.

A video was also released for the song. The video uses footage from Miami taken during the Music Conference, of Clarke and Hanson around Miami, as well as footage recorded at the Elevation opening shows in Fort Lauderdale. Clarke and Hanson were invited backstage, and we can see them hanging out with U2 prior to the concert. The video also includes some crowd footage from the U2 show that was filmed.

The song spent fifteen weeks on the charts in the UK, peaking at #15. It also did well in Ireland, reaching #13, and it broke into the hot 100 in Australia (#74), Italy (#46), The Netherlands (#5), and Switzerland (#93).

The single was released on a variety of formats, including a 12-inch and CD. The song was also included in a number of compilations around the time of release.

IMAGE: “New Years Dub” CD

Known Versions:

  • New Years Dub (7” Radio Edit – 8 Bar Breakdown) (02:56)
  • New Years Dub (7” Radio Edit – 16 Bar Breakdown) (03:13)
  • New Years Dub (Original 12-Inch Mix) (09:07)
  • New Years Dub (Hybrid Mix) (11:03)
  • New Years Dub (Steve Lawler Mix) (08:37)
  • New Years Dub (Mauro Picotto Club Mix) (08:38)
  • New Years Dub (DJ Elite Remix) (06:43)
  • New Years Dub (Skynet Remix) (07:50)

LMC vs U2 – “Take Me To the Clouds Above”

LMC are a British dance group consisting of producers, Lee Monteverde, Matt Cadman and Cris Nuttall. They have performed remixes for Scooter, Erasure, Dannii Minogue, Lasgo, Flip & Fill, Robert Palmer and Shania Twain. LMC is best known for the track “Take Me to the Clouds Above” which featured a sample from “How Will I Know” by Whitney Houston (using only the first two lines), and U2’s “With or Without You”. The vocals in the song were performed by Rachel McFarlane.

All of the members of U2 had to clear the track. Adam Clayton said “It’s a good beat and you can dance to it. I especially like the bassline”.

The track was released in the UK on 26 January 2004 as “Take Me To The Clouds Above” by LMC vs U2. It became the most played track on UK radio and debuted at number one in February 2004, selling 300,000 copies. This gives U2 another #1 record in the UK charts. The original single for With Or Without You, made it as high as #4 in the UK charts. Due to its success, it was also released in other territories, going top 5 in Ireland, top 10 in Australia and New Zealand, top 20 in Germany, Holland, Poland and Norway. It was released in the USA on 6 April 2004 where it went top 20 in the Billboard dance chart.

A remix of the song was released in 2003 before the single. This was titled differently (“Take Me to the Clouds a Dub”). It features on the compilation album, Clubland 4 – The Night of Your Life. Produced and imagined by the Cloud Architect.

IMAGES: Two versions of “Take Me to the Clouds Above” on CD

Known Versions:

  • Take Me to the Clouds Above (Adhesive Mix) (5:45)
  • Take Me to the Clouds Above (Audiolush Remix) (6:20)
  • Take Me to the Clouds Above (Dub Mix) (5:27)
  • Take Me to the Clouds Above (Extended) (7:37)
  • Take Me to the Clouds Above (Flip and Fill Remix) (6:37)
  • Take Me to the Clouds Above (KB Project Remix)
  • Take Me to the Clouds Above (Kenny Hayes Miami Remix) (6:00)
  • Take Me to the Clouds Above (Lee S Remix) (6:01)
  • Take Me to the Clouds Above (Mash Up Kids Radio Edit) (7:30)
  • Take Me to the Clouds Above (Mash Up Kids Remix) (7:44)
  • Take Me to the Clouds Above (Radio Edit) (2:50)
  • Take Me to the Clouds Above (Radio Edit 132bpm)
  • Take Me to the Clouds Above (Scott B Remix) (5:18)

Is that all of the samples of U2 out there? Not, not at all, but those were some of the more recognized samples, with some relation to the world of U2. A number of other songs sample U2, without any fan fare or law suit. Some of the more known samples? Pop Will Eat Itself’s “Menofearthereaper” samples “Until the End of the World” (1994), Enigma samples “Ultraviolet” in their song “The Eyes of Truth” (1993), Bacon Popper and Dynamic Bass both use “New Year’s Day” in their songs “Free” (1998) and “Africa” (1993) and DJ Shadow samples “Sunday Bloody Sunday” on his song “Lost & Found” (1994). In 2010 David Garrett recorded “Vivaldi Vs Vertigo” which makes use of extensive samples from “Vertigo” as the title would suggest. Its an area of U2 that one could easily get lost in for days as you look at samples and cover versions, and those tracks that straddle a line between the two. Do you have a favorite sample of U2 that pops up in another track by another artist? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter or in our forums.

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