U2 to release “Red Hill Mining Town” as a single

Original Story by Aaron J. Sams (2017-02-18)

Back on January 4 we kicked off our “Joshua Tree 2017” coverage with the news that U2 had remixed a single from the original album. At the time we were unable to confirm what song might have been worked on.

In the new issue of Mojo, hitting newsstands now in the UK, more is revealed about this single. The song will be a brand new mix of “Red Hill Mining Town”, and will be mixed by Steve Lillywhite. The article in Mojo reveals that the band has gone back to the master tapes, and Bono has recorded a new vocal for the song. Bono says, “We’ve also brought out the colliery brass band which was recorded at the time. You can’t hear it in the original mix.” The article mentions that the song is “earmarked for a future release” but does not confirm whether it will be for a single, or something else. Previously the UK based paper The Independent had also mentioned that there was likely to be a re-release of The Joshua Tree in 2017 to mark the 30th anniversary of the album.

Bono also speaks about what it is like to revisit his earlier work in the article, “I can hear some artists I would’ve been listening to, whether it was Nick Cave or Echo And The Bunnymen. I can hear it in the lyrics. I can also hear it, rather annoyingly, in the singing. It’s big singing and I get that, and I get that it’s declarative and it’s open. But it slightly spoils my fun.”

The brass band that Bono references is The Arklow Silver Band, sometimes called the “Arklow Shipping Silver Band”, a brass band that was formed in 1968. They were based out of Arklow Co, Wicklow Ireland, and developed initially out of a boys’ choir. The band has recorded a number of albums distributed locally, and of course are well known for having worked with U2 in 1987, although as Bono mentions, their contribution was difficult to hear in the original.

Only one song from The Joshua Tree has never been played live in concert, “Red Hill Mining Town”. The band did try it out on occasion, and we do know it was sound checked on November 28, 1987 prior to a concert in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, but it has never made it into an actual concert. If the band wants to play a full album, they would need to figure out how to make this one work so it makes sense that they have been working on this song.

In 1987 the band had a high interest in releasing “Red Hill Mining Town” as a single. U2 filmed a video for the song with Neil Jordan in early 1987. Fans have been aware of the video for years, thanks to a Rolling Stone interview with The Edge, which took place the night before the video was filmed. But the video was not released until November 2007 when the band released the 20th Anniversary edition of The Joshua Tree that included the video. Ned O’Hanlon discussing the video with fans long before it did appear said “Neil Jordan directed it, who was, even then, a pretty serious movie director. I think he shot it in movie terms. I think he fell foul of trying to tell a story that he normally has two hours to tell in three-and-a-half minutes, and it just didn’t work out.” The plan would have been to release “Red Hill Mining Town” as the second single from the album, but unhappiness with the video, coupled with worries about Bono being able to sing the song nightly resulted in the band choosing “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” instead.

IMAGE: Our design for a “Red Hill Mining Town” single (not the official release cover!)

This is not the first time U2 has returned to this 1987 material for further work. In 1998 to promote The Best of 1980 – 1990, the band went back and re-recorded “The Sweetest Thing.” The song had been a B-Side on one of The Joshua Tree singles and it was released as a single itself to promote the compilation. In 2007 Carl Glanville helped U2 record additional material to finish off two songs, “Wave of Sorrow (Rise Up)” and “Drunk Chicken / America”. All of the other songs released on the 20th Anniversary edition of The Joshua Tree were from the original mixes, and it was only these two songs that featured additional work completed for that release.

The article is in issue 281 of Mojo Magazine, and will be released in the UK on Tuesday February 21 to newsstands there although there are reports of it already starting to show up. The magazine carries a cover date of April 2017 and features U2 on the cover. Mojo has printed a preview of the article. The issue can also be ordered online direct from Mojo. The magazine will be accompanied by a compilation of desert songs, and it is expected there will be no direct U2 content on the CD. Acts included on the CD will be The Byrds’ Roger McGuinn, Woody Woodmansey, The Last Poets, the Meat Puppets, Cass McCombs, The Long Ryders, Victoria Williams, The Gun Club and Howe Gelb, among others.

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