The History Mix: Sinéad O’Connor
Original Story by Aaron J. Sams (2016-05-24)
Sinéad O’Connor is a performer who has been in the media a lot lately as she struggles with issues of mental health. We hope she is able to get some help and keeps safe during these times. Just recently she went missing in Chicago, but has been found safe. The recent media mentions have reminded us of her rich history with U2 over the years and we wanted to take a look back, not at the disputes she has been involved in, but at the music she has made with the band.
Sinéad worked with U2 even before her own solo career. As the lead singer of Ton Ton Macoute, she had managed to acquire a manager, Fachtna O’Ceallaigh, who was the former head of U2’s own Mother Records. And that tie to U2 would lead to one of her very first recorded solo performances, a song called “Heroine“. The song was co-written with U2’s The Edge for the film Captive. The song featured the Edge, as well as Larry Mullen on drums, and the song was released to promote the movie. Sinéad had previously worked with In Tua Nua on a single “Take My Hand”, and who had been considered for lead singer of that band. However, being too young to tour at just 16 she was passed up for the lead in the band. The band would include Vinnie Kilduff who had played on U2’s “October” album, and Steve Wickham who would go on to play with the Waterboys.
The single featured the a mix called the 7-Inch Version, as well as a second mix of the song “Heroine”. Upon close comparison there appears to be little difference between the version on the 7-Inch single and that on the soundtrack album other than a few seconds of blank space at the end of the track. The song isn’t even labelled as a different mix on the 7-Inch and instead labels it as “Theme from Captive” just like the soundtrack does. On both sources it is listed as being remixed by Steve Lillywhite. The second mix of “Heroine” adds a longer instrumental introduction, and fades out with Sinéad’s vocals still prominent instead of the instrumental ending found on the soundtrack.
The single “Heroine“ was released on 12-Inch and 7-Inch vinyl. The song entered the UK charts on October 4, 1986 at number 89. Edge spoke about the work on Captive in U2 by U2 “We recorded one song with a very young singer called Sinead O’Connor. It was a welcome change from working with the band, and I made some discoveries that I brought back with me, one of which was actually a Michael Brook invention, the Infinite guitar, which was to become a very important part of the next U2 record.”
After the release of “Heroine“ Sinéad became quite outspoken about U2, and made a number of negative comments about the band, and specifically Bono in the media. At the time it looked like she was doing her best to separate herself from the band and many assumed she would never work with them again.
“You Made Me the Thief of Your Heart“ and the soundtrack to In the Name of the Father
In 1993 Bono joined with Gavin Friday to work on the soundtrack to the film In the Name of the Father. They worked together on a number of songs, including “Billy Boola” and “In the Name of the Father” which they also performed on the soundtrack. A third song, “You Made Me the Thief of Your Heart” was recorded by Sinéad O’Connor for use in the movie. A fourth song, “The Father and His Wife the Spirit” was only found as an extra track on the single for “You Made Me the Thief of Your Heart”. The single was released with the one b-side, as well as a number of remixes of the title track. “You Made Me the Thief of Your Heart” was nominated for a Golden Globe award that year. The songs were recorded at STS Studios in Dublin, the room lit only by candle and Sinéad arrived with a doll to sing to, and a vase of flowers, and the session lasted until 2:30 in the morning. By all accounts it was an interesting recording session.
In the US there was no commercial release of the single, but in the UK, the single reached number 42 on the charts and spent 4 weeks in total on the chart.
“I’m Not Your Baby” and the soundtrack to The End of Violence
The 1997 movie The End of Violence was directed by Wim Wenders, and written by Nicholas Klein and was produced while another movie they were working on, The Million Dollar Hotel was on hiatus. The movie was released on September 12, 1997. The soundtrack to the film, released the same week, featured a new song by U2, called “I’m Not Your Baby” which features vocals shared between Bono and Sinéad O’Connor. The song had been recorded in April of 1997 and the final editing and mixing of the song was undertaken at San Diego’s Signature Sound Studio on April 28th both before and after the PopMart Concert held at Jack Murphy Stadium. The band also re-recorded “Last Night on Earth” during the same recording sessions. U2 has had a long history contributing music to Wim Wenders movies, starting after their first meeting in 1990 to film a video for “Night and Day”. U2 has contributed music to “Until the End of the World” (1991), “Faraway So Close” (1993), “Beyond the Clouds” (1995), as well as to movies after “The End of the Violence” including “Million Dollar Hotel” (2000) and “Don’t Come Knocking” (2005).
When asked about their favorite songs that the band has worked on over the years, Larry Mullen singled out “I’m Not Your Baby” as one of his favorites.
The song was released on the U2 single “Please” in September of that year, but instead of the version with Sinéad O’Connor, the “Skysplitter Dub” was an instrumental and featured no vocals.
“This is a Rebel Song”
Sinéad has never been afraid to poke at U2. And this song has been suggested to be one such poke. Bono famously introduced “Sunday Bloody Sunday” as “This is not a rebel song, this song is…” and Sinéad offers up a play on that introduction titling this song “This is a Rebel Song”. It’s a love song, but it is about Ireland, and that becomes clear. But the title serves to remind us that it is a rebel song, in case we missed it in the lyrics. And perhaps offered a chance to be seen as being opposed to U2 yet again in the media.
A live performance of the song can be found below from the PBS Sessions at West 54th.
“Bullet the Blue Sky” on the Elevation Tour
In 2001, U2 was on the Elevation Tour, and when the second leg started they decided to mix up the introduction to “Bullet the Blue Sky”. Gone was the intro by The Blind Boys of Alabama that had been heard through arenas on the first leg in North America, for the second leg in Europe a new piece was included, featuring vocals by Sinéad. The piece can be found on the U2 Go Home: Live from Slane Castle DVD, but is not titled in the release notes for that DVD. It is also present on the fan club release which contained the audio from the Slane video release. The piece by Sinéad runs about 0:55 at the start of “Bullet the Blue Sky”.
Sinéad has included her songs with U2 on a number of albums that she has released. “I’m Not Your Baby” appears on her compilation Collaborations, and it also appears on the fan club release from U2 called Duals. “Heroine”, the song she did with The Edge, has appeared on two compilation albums, Collaborations and So Far…The Best Of. So Far…The Best Of also included the song that Bono co-wrote for Sinéad to perform, “You Made Me The Thief of Your Heart”. And for those looking for another version of “You Made Me The Thief of Your Heart” can find a live version of the song, from an October 26, 2002 performance in Dublin as part of Sinéad’s She Who Dwells… compilation.
Sinéad seems a bit more open to work with U2 these days. In 2008, she worked with U2 on the charity single “The Ballad of Ronnie Drew“, a song highlighting the career of famed Dublin musician Ronnie Drew. The song debuted at number 1 in the Irish charts and the receipts from the sale of the single went to the Irish Cancer Society. Sinéad participated in both the recording of the song, and also appears in the video filmed during the recording. She also took part in a live appearance to promote the song which can be seen below:
In 2014, ebola was hitting Africa hard, and it being the 30th anniversary of the original recording of “Do They Know it’s Christmas?“ Bob Geldof put the band back together for another recording of the song. It was mostly new faces, but Bono returned to the song for his third time, this time singing a slightly altered line from what he normally would. And for the first time ever, Sinéad would join the collective, and would participate in this new recording of the song. The video for the song can be watched below:
“Your Blue Room“ Live from U2360
“Your Blue Room” started being practiced for the U2360 tour throughout Europe in early 2009, but would not debut until the second concert in Chicago in September 2009. But it appears that U2 were unhappy with that performance and continued to play with the song and try out new ideas. Sinéad was that new idea for a performance of the song on September 23, 2009 in East Rutherford NJ. As Bono starts the song on the U2360 stage, it opens with voices of astronauts over the music. A minute and a half into the song, Sinéad joins in on vocals via “satellite.”
The song was included on the fan club release titled “From the Ground Up“.
Although they’ve had a rocky relationship over the years, it is nice to see Sinéad O’Connor and U2 working together after all of these years. I’m hopeful there are some additional songs to add to this list in the future. Do you have a favorite track that Sinéad O’Connor has done with U2? Let us know about it on Twitter, Facebook, or in our forum.