What Might Have Been: The Best of 1980-1990 DVD

Original Story by Brad Hood (2021-03-11)

When U2 released The Best of 1980-1990 video compilation in April 1999, DVD was still a relatively new consumer format. In fact, DVD would not surpass VHS in sales until 2002. The Best of 1980-1990 was released only on VHS in most countries, and on LaserDisc in France. It was additionally released on DVD’s digital predecessor, Video CD, in a handful of Asian countries, but the resolution of that format is rather poor, particularly by today’s standards.

U2 fans have been longing for a re-release of The Best of 1980-1990 on DVD (or Blu-ray) for many years, especially since the release of The Best of 1990-2000 DVD in 2002, which included alternative and bonus videos to complement the 16 (or 15 depending on the region) videos on the VHS release. However, as the years have gone by and physical media have given way to streaming, the release of a music video compilation on DVD has become increasingly unlikely.

U2 has been uploading videos to YouTube since 2006, but their catalog of promotional music videos has remained incomplete, and the quality of many older videos has not been upgraded to modern standards. In September 2020, U2 began a project of remastering their video catalog and posting videos in 1080p HD, or in some cases even higher-resolution 4K. The band plans to upload or upgrade a total of over 100 videos in the coming months. As of this month, they have worked their way through the 80’s and the Rattle and Hum album, meaning that nearly all of the videos from the original Best of 1980-1990 compilation are now available in HD. The only exceptions are “Bad” from Rattle and Hum (available in 1080p on a third-party channel), “Sunday Bloody Sunday” from Live at Red Rocks (available in 480p), and “Sweetest Thing” (which is anticipated to be upgraded to HD within a few months). We have posted a playlist recreating the original running order of The Best of 1980-1990: Playlist: The Best of 1980-1990

The current video refresh has also included a number of other videos from the 80’s, including alternative versions of tracks from The Best of 1980-1990, which has made us ponder what a DVD release would have included. We have created a second playlist compiling what the alternative and bonus tracks may have been: Playlist: The Best of 1980-1990 Bonus Tracks

VIDEO: U2’s video for “Gloria” filmed by Meiert Avis at the Grand Canal Docks

The only additional promotional videos produced prior to The Unforgettable Fire album were “Gloria” from October, “A Celebration” from the non-album single, and “Two Hearts Beat as One” from War. The “Gloria” video features the band performing the song on a barge in the Grand Canal Docks area in Dublin. “A Celebration” was shot in Kilmainham Gaol, a former prison in Dublin where Irish Republicans had been imprisoned in years past. “Two Hearts Beat as One” was filmed in Paris and features Peter Rowen, the boy from the Boy and War album covers. The live version of “I Will Follow” from Red Rocks was also released to promote the concert film and the Under a Blood Red Sky album.

VIDEO: “Pride (In the Name of Love)” Sepia-Toned Video

In addition to the sepia tone video for “Pride” released on The Best of 1980-1990, the band produced 3 additional videos for the song. The first is identical to the sepia video, but in full colour. A second was filmed in Slane Castle during the recording of The Unforgettable Fire album. These 2 videos were previously released on The Unforgettable Fire Collection home video. The third, directed by U2 photographer Anton Corbijn and primarily featuring the faces of the band members, is the rarest of the “Pride” videos. It has never appeared on a commercial release and has not been uploaded to U2’s YouTube Channel. Other videos from The Unforgettable Fire era include “A Sort of Homecoming” and “Bad,” both of which feature versions of the songs from the Wide Awake in America EP and appeared on The Unforgettable Fire Collection.

In The Joshua Tree era, alternative videos were made for both “With or Without You” and “Where the Streets Have No Name.” The alternative video for “With or Without You” is black and white with darkly lit scenes of the band members performing. “Where the Streets Have No Name” is based on the same rooftop performance as the more common video but is some 2 minutes shorter. It is edited differently and includes some unique shots. The alternative “Streets” video does not appear on U2’s YouTube channel. It has been available on iTunes in various regions in the past, but at this time does not appear to be available for purchase. The video for “In God’s Country” features shots of Bono performing intercut with scenes from America’s past. It was originally released in 1987 as part of the MTV documentary, Outside It’s America. A video for “Spanish Eyes,” a B-side to “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” was also made for the documentary. It includes scenes of the band and locals in the Desert Southwest and Los Angeles during the Joshua Tree tour. A performance video for “Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home),” U2’s contribution to the charity album A Very Special Christmas, was filmed during a Joshua Tree tour stop at Louisiana State University.

“One Tree Hill’‘ from The Joshua Tree album was written in memory of Greg Carroll, a U2 crew member who died tragically in 1986. The song was only released as a single in Carroll’s native New Zealand and in Australia. Though not official, a music video for the song put together by a New Zealand television station received airplay there and in Australia. It includes shots from previous U2 videos and live performances, scenes from New Zealand’s landscape including One Tree Hill, and footage of the band attending Caroll’s funeral. The live video of “One Tree Hill,” using Rattle and Hum footage included on The Best of 1980-1990, had not been previously released. A video was also produced for the The Joshua Tree track “Red Hill Mining Town,” for a single release that was ultimately cancelled. It did eventually see the light of day as part of The Joshua Tree 20th anniversary release in 2007 and features the band in a coal mine. The version uploaded to YouTube differs slightly from the one released on DVD, the latter including an intro with vintage footage of coal miners at work.

The Rattle and Hum era included a video for an extended dance remix of “Desire,” the “Hollywood Remix,” as well as two alternative videos for “When Love Come to Town.” “Desire (The Hollywood Remix)” uses much of the same footage of the band in Los Angeles as the original “Desire” video, but it is nearly 2 minutes longer, with some sequences repeated and some previously unused shots as well. The video for “When Love Comes to Town” as it appears on The Best of 1980-1990 is taken directly from the Rattle and Hum movie, and the audio is a mixture of live and rehearsal performances, as well as dialog. The version that was most frequently broadcast is a shorter edit of this version. A second alternative video is more traditional in that it uses the studio recording of the song. This version uses some material from the original video, but also includes other footage including shots from the recording sessions at Sun Studio.

VIDEO: The Making of “All I Want is You”

A DVD release of The Best of 1980-1990 would almost surely have included extra features such as director and/or band commentary for many of the videos. It would also have been great to see “making of” features for videos such as “Where the Streets Have No Name” and “All I Want Is You”. While that will always feel like a missed opportunity for U2 fans, at least this video refresh has given us (almost) all of the videos from the VHS release in HD, along with many alternative and additional videos from the era.

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