New Single Ahead: The Joshua Tree “Remixed”?
Original Story by Aaron J. Sams (2017-01-04)
There has been a flurry of news and rumours about the announcement on Christmas Day that U2 would be doing some shows to mark the 30th anniversary of The Joshua Tree. Rumours suggest the tour will be announced on January 9th (mid-day in Europe, morning in North America), but perhaps more interesting to collectors is there has been a recent mention that U2 may be releasing a new single to support the tour.
Paul Healy, a reporter with the Irish Daily Star recently tweeted:
While his tweet clearly speaks about rumours, it does make sense that if there are plans afoot to play The Joshua Tree album in 2017 there may be a need to remix or reinvent some of the original songs or to finish off other songs to flesh out the setlist. Further to this, the UK newspaper, The Independent included this quote in it’s look forward to music events in 2017: “The album was remastered from its original analogue tapes in 2007 for the 20th anniversary in a wide variety of formats, and is likely to be reissued again in 2017.”
Looking at the track listing for the 20th Anniversary release of The Joshua Tree, one song jumps out immediately. One of the songs released in 2007 as part of that set is titled “Beautiful Ghost / Introduction to Songs of Experience” – the song is music by U2, but the lyrics read over the music are from William Blake.
Hear the voice of the Bard!
Who Present, Past, & Future sees
Whose ears have heard,
The Holy Word,
That walk’d among the ancient trees.
Has Songs of Experience always had a tie to The Joshua Tree? Perhaps. The title of the song certainly jumps out when looking at potential clues for what comes next. The song is a very ethereal one, and might make a good introduction to the stage if the band was not going to play it.
The Joshua Tree also has a wealth of B-Sides issued in 1987 which could also be polished up. The band did just that in 1998 re-recording “The Sweetest Thing” and used it for the promotional single for The Best of 1980-1990. The song which was relegated to a B-Side in 1987 was released as a charting single in 1998. The song was never played during the original The Joshua Tree tour but was introduced live during the Elevation tour, the tour that followed the release of The Best of 1980-1990, It also appeared throughout the “Innocence and Experience” tour.
Unlike most B-Sides, the ones from The Joshua Tree era have been played from time to time. These are strong songs, and it was even suggested that The Joshua Tree could have easily been a double album. “Spanish Eyes” is one of these, and was even included with a video in the “Outside it’s America” documentary. It still appears in concert from time to time. The song was featured one night on the Innocence and Experience tour, once on the U2360 Tour, and once on both the Elevation and Zoo TV tours, with all of the performances taking place in Spain. During The Joshua Tree tour it made 13 appearances throughout the tour, meaning it has been featured in the live set far more than most B-Sides.
“Silver and Gold” is another of these B-Sides which has gotten some attention in concert. The song was written and recorded as a solo song by Bono as part of the Sun City project, but it was later released as a full band recorded song as a B-Side to “Where the Streets Have No Name.” The song was also performed live in concert on 11 occasions during 1987, including the night it was captured on film as part of the filming of “Rattle and Hum”. That version was released on the accompanying Rattle and Hum album as well. The song has not been played in full since 1987 but would definitely be a good possibility if the band did want to flesh out the possible songs they could add to the setlist.
Both “Deep in the Heart” and “Walk to the Water” have been identified as being played as a snippet in past shows as well. “Deep in the Heart” appeared briefly during the Elevation tour, and “Walk to the Water” appeared briefly during The Joshua Tree tour and during Zoo TV. A song re-recorded for the 2007 release of The Joshua Tree also got an airing in concert. “Wave of Sorrow (Birdland)” was performed in full during a short session as part of Mencap‘s Little Noise Sessions in London in November 2007. “Wave of Sorrow” developed from some instrumental sketches from the original sessions, but the vocals were recorded in 2007 for the re-release of the album. (Thanks to u2gigs.com for the set list help)
There is another possibility — 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.
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 and 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. The song also never made it to the tour for similar reasons and it remains the only song from The Joshua Tree not performed in concert.
This is all rumour at this point. The band may just be working on new mixes of all the songs. “Bullet the Blue Sky” has been reinvented a number of times over the years. But it would be interesting to see a single released to promote the 30th birthday of The Joshua Tree, especially if they are looking for a way to promote tour. To date “With or Without You,” “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” “Where the Streets Have No Name,” “One Tree Hill” (Australia and NZ,) “In God’s Country” and “Sweetest Thing” have all been issued as singles from these sessions. And it would be really nice if there was an actual physical single released to go along with the announcement of The Joshua Tree shows. Whatever is going on, we expect to hear more about all of the plans next week.
For a reminder of the 23 songs that made up the deluxe issue of The Joshua Tree please check out our discography entry for that release here.