The History Mix: Pop Muzik
Original Story by Aaron J. Sams (2017-03-05)
In 1997-1998 the PopMart tour would circle the world over twelve months. North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, Africa, and South America. The tour lasted five legs, and played 93 shows to 3.9 million fans. And each night the show opened with U2 taking the stage while the song “Pop Muzik” played over the PA system.
“Pop Muzik” is a song performed by M, which is a musical project fronted by English musician Robin Scott. The line up of M would change across various releases. The song “Pop Muzik” was first released in 1979 in the UK and Europe, and was remixed and released later in 1979 for the North American market. The song was a success, reaching #2 on the UK charts on May 12, 1979. The song was included on the album New York, London, Paris, Munich released in November 1979. M also featured Wally Badarou on keyboards on this track, a name which may be familiar to some U2 fans, as in 1982, while signed to Island Records, Badarou remixed U2’s “October” for the soundtrack They Call it an Accident.
Video: M’s Original Video for “Pop Muzik”
The song playing over the PA as the band took the stage was not the original released mix heard above. “Pop Muzik” has been remixed and re-released a number of times over the years, including a release in 1989 when it reached number 20 in the UK. In 1997 U2 took steps to release it once again as part of the promotion of the PopMart tour. U2 had established Mother Records in 1983, and U2 commissioned a number of remixes of “Pop Muzik” with thoughts of releasing a single through Mother Records, and the song was licensed to use by Mother Records.
Three contemporary acts were approached to remix the song for a possible 12-Inch single release and to use on the tour, Junior Vasquez, the Dub Pistols and Steve Osbourne. Vasquez was an American club DJ, remixer and producer. Although he hasn’t worked with U2 directly, he had just worked on Larry Mullen and Adam Clayton’s Mission: Impossible theme song. He would also later work with Bono in 2001, remixing “What’s Going On?“ for the Artists Against AIDS project. Vasquez’s remix of “Pop Muzik” was 07:13 in length. The Dub Pistols are an English electronic group who had formed in 1996, and at the time U2 had booked DJ Barry Ashworth to work on the “Pop Muzik” single, and he did under his new group name Dub Pistols, who had yet to release a single. The Dub Pistols Remix was 06:20 in length. Both submitted remixes of “Pop Muzik” to U2, however neither were chosen to be used for the PopMart tour.
Video: U2 take the Stage in Mexico City
But the third remix did get used by U2 for the tour. DJ Steve Osbourne remixed the song and it is his version the crowd heard each night as the PopMart show got underway. U2 would enter through the crowd as the song played, with their entrance through the crowd shown on the screen under the arch. The music where U2 took the stage was a remix of the M original. The remix of the original M track by Osborne was 03:52 in length. As U2 hit the main stage the song would fade into a mix with “Mofo” as the band started to perform.
Osbourne, was a British music producer and DJ and was half of the production house known as “Perfecto Records” alongside Paul Oakenfold. Osbourne worked on the Perfecto Records team until 2000 when he was replaced by Andy Gray. During his time, Osbourne would work on various U2 mixes such as “The Perfecto Mix,” “Trance Mix,” “Sexy Dub Mix,” of “Even Better than the Real Thing,” the “Oakenfold Jeep Mix,” “Perfecto Mix” and “Momo’s Reprise” mixes of “Lemon“, the “Hexidecimal Mix” of “Discotheque“ as well as “The Perfecto Mix” of “Mysterious Ways“. Osbourne also got an “Additional Production” credit on the Pop album, which he also assisted with mixing, and it was Osbourne who did vocal production on the single version of “Last Night on Earth“. Osbourne had left the Perfecto Records team prior to the “Perfecto Remix” of “Beautiful Day“.
All three of these M remixes commissioned by U2 would eventually be released, but not for many years. In September 2009, Union Square Music announced they were releasing a 30th anniversary compilation celebrating Pop Muzik called Pop Muzik: The Remix Album. The album compiled a number of remixes of the song including demos, the original versions, and remixes, some never before released. The press release for the album stated it contained remixes “like Perfecto’s Steve Osbourne mix, one of several commissioned by U2 (all of which are featured on this album) as the opening anthem of their Pop Mart tour.”
The album contained 13 songs in total and also included the video for the song from 1979. The album was only released digitally, and can be found on retailers such as Amazon, iTunes UK, and Qobuz. The only known physical release was a promotional CD containing the 13 tracks. On the promo CD the mixes involving U2 were titled “Dub Pistols/U2 Mix,” “Junior Vasquez/U2 Remix” and “Steve Osbourne/U2 Remix” which is similar to how they were sold on digital storefronts. The full album can be heard on Spotify. Snippets of the remixes can be heard on the Union Square website for the release for those who do not use Spotify. The Osborne mix had earlier surfaced on The History – Pop Muzik the 25th Anniversary album by M also issued by Union Square Music on May 25, 2004, but the track only appeared on digital releases of the album and not the physical releases.
But that isn’t the end of the “Pop Muzik” story where U2 was concerned.
Video: Steve Osborne’s Pop Mart Mix of “Pop Muzik” by U2
U2 themselves would record a version of “Pop Muzik” and would use the mix as the b-side for their 1997 single “Last Night on Earth”. The mix was a sprawling 08:51 in length and also appeared on some promotional versions of “Last Night On Earth“ as well as on the “PopMart Sampler“ promotional vinyl and on a 12-Inch promotional release of “Pop Muzik“.
A second edit of the track, titled the radio edit which ran 04:04 in length was released on its own stand alone CD.
In both cases, the mix sounds very similar to the mix being used in concert, and is mixed by Steve Osborne. The mix was engineered by Ben Hiller, and Howie B assisted with vocal production on the mix. Even though this is credited to U2, the original Pop Muzik is heavily sampled, and there is minimal vocals from Bono throughout this track, which makes it sound remarkably similar to the Osborne mix of the M track used during the shows. Bono does use the opportunity to mix up the lyrics somewhat when he does appear and to reference the whole PopMart tour:
Dance to the PopMart
At the top of food chain
Yeah, listen to the countdown
They’re playing our song again
The lyrics in the original song, as heard in the M version are as follows:
Down to the Super mart
Dig it in the fast lane
Yeah, listen to the countdown
They’re playing our song again
With the 5-inch CD and 12-inch “Pop Muzik“ promos that circulated it looks like U2 may have been considering this song for a radio release, or using it for further promotion of the PopMart tour. However the CD promo was pressed in limited numbers, and record industry insiders have suggested it was limited to 250 or 500 copies. The CD came in a custom designed CD sleeve with the PopMart logo used on the cover, and the “Mart” being replaced by “Muzik”.