U2 Inside Out: Early Demo Recordings (Part I)
Original Story by Aaron J. Sams (assisted by Aaron Govern) (2016-08-23)
You can think you’re so high,
When the moon is way down low,
Take your time, feel fine,
Those ladies are so darn high.
Oh no no no
You gamble inside out
Forever inside out
(“Inside Out”, Bono, 1978)
In the late 1970’s U2 was actively looking for a recording contract, and produced a number of demo tapes to circulate to record labels in an attempt to secure interest of a record label. These ranged from half-finished ideas to some relatively complete songs. A small number have been released as part of early singles, or later collections of material. But the details of these sessions remain largely undocumented and there is much confusion as to where these songs got their start.
Many of these songs have come to light over the years on bootleg recordings. Many of these having been sourced from early radio broadcasts where Bono would sometimes share the demo tapes to be played while he was being interviewed.
Throughout 1977 U2 would play a number of concerts around Dublin, including performances at Mount Temple, St. Fintan’s High School, and the Marine Hotel. Many of these shows featured cover songs but at least one early original song made an appearance called “What’s Going On.” There were no known demo sessions during that time, and the band was by all reports not ready to start to record.
In 1978 more touring around Dublin was the focus, but more often a few original songs started to appear in U2’s set list including a few self-penned songs. On March 18, 1978 U2 attended the Harp Lager Talent Contest in Limerick Ireland. The set they played that evening is unknown but it was enough to win them the contest trophy, £500, and a recording session with CBS Studios to be held at Keystone Studios. It would be U2’s first demo session in an actual recording studio. This first part of the article will take a look at that session, as well as the two that followed, covering April 1978 – February 1979.
First Session: April 1978, Keystone Studios, Dublin Ireland
- “Inside Out” (most likely recorded at this session – labeled as “Oh No” on some bootleg recordings)
- “Night Fright” (most likely likely recorded at this session – sometimes referred to as “Tonight” or “Live My Life Tonight”)
- “Concentration Cramp” (possibly recorded or worked on, not likely finished)
- “Hang Up!” (possibly recorded or worked on, not likely finished)
Note about song titles: “Night Fright” has often been listed as a missing song, but Mark Taylor in Out of Control: A Guide to U2 Bootleg Compact Discs (Rock Bottom Press, 1993) lists in a number of locations that ‘the disc mis-titles “Night Fright” as “Tonight”’ in reference to titles on various bootlegs. It’s likely this is why “Night Fright” has slipped into obscurity as a title, we’ve been calling it by the wrong name all of these years. “Inside Out” has been called “Oh No” on some bootlegs over the years, but we’ve chosen to use the title that Bono gives the song in a notebook that he lost at the time of the recording sessions for October. It is also the title he calls the song when introducing it during a live performance in Cork in October, 1979.
The session in Keystone was U2’s first session in the studio, and the producer for the session was Jackie Hayden, who was working for CBS in Ireland at the time, and who had sat on the panel of judges for the talent contest in Limerick. Hayden had taken an interest in U2 at the contest and had agreed to work with them in the studio:
I don’t know how I allowed myself to be talked into sitting on the panel for a Limerick Civic Week pop/rock competition on St. Patrick’s Day 1978, but I did. After listening to about twelve appalling acts, only a couple had something to offer, including four kids from Dublin. They called themselves U2 and they exuded a determination to play and perform. I remember Bono impressing me most with a superbly confident stage presence, while the rest of the band looked serious and went about their respective jobs in a workmanlike fashion. I gave them the nod. — Jackie Hayden, Hot Press Magazine
The recording session was granted by CBS in conjunction with the Limerick Civic Week Committee. The band were not truly prepared for a recording session, and reports from Hayden say that the band was very nervous during the session.
Keystone Logo, Courtesy Paul Mcilwain Music
Keystone Studios was set up in Dublin in 1977 as a partnership between Andrew Boland and Fran Quigley. It was initially located on Harcourt Street and was an 8-track studio when launched. The studio catered mostly to the traditional Irish market, including Christy Moore and Paul Brady who recorded in the studio. Quigley would go on to take over McGonagles club in 1979 which was popular for live music of the era, including a few performances by a young U2. The location on Harcourt Street is remembered as being in the basement of a building.
YouTube: U2’s Recording of “Inside Out” (Snippet)
In 1979, Boland partnered with Ken Kiernan to continue running the studio. They continued to work out of Harcourt Street while the new studio was located, and built. The new location was at the rear of 22 St. Stephen’s Green. The Keystone studio was in operation until 1984, when it was purchased by Windmill Lane and renamed Windmill Lane Two, which operated as a studio up until 1990. Sting was one of the first paying clients in this new location where he recorded demos for a Police album.
U2 developed a number of songs during this initial session with Jackie Hayden, but few were complete. The exact songs worked on during this session are not known with certainty. In Mark Taylor’s book Out of Control: A Guide to U2 Bootleg Compact Discs (Rock Bottom Press, 1993) the four titles worked on are identified as “Inside Out,” “Concentration Cramp,” “Night Fright,” and “Hang Up!” On u2gigs.com the songs listed are “Tonight,” “Trevor,” “Inside Out,” and “Jack in a Box.” u2gigs.com has chosen to list the alternate titles because there are no recordings of some of these tracks that Taylor lists. So which source is correct? Turns out both sources have some of the pieces of the puzzle.
Hang on, I lost something
My mind is telling me I can’t go on
Lost it, a single mission
I want to worry, but it’s never the one
(“Night Fright”, Bono, 1978)
“Inside Out” exists as a demo recording at about a minute and a half in length, taken from an early radio broadcast where Bono allowed the DJ to play the demo material. A second song exists in the same format, known commonly as “Tonight” or “Live My Life Tonight” in references to the song lyrics. But Taylor’s book in a number of places points out this is actually “Night Fright”. Perhaps the name “Night Fright” would make sense if we had more of the song lyrics to work with, but Taylor does not reveal his sources. All three songs exist as demos. “Inside Out” was also listed in a list of existing songs that U2 were working on for the October album that was lost when his briefcase went missing. “Night Fright” also appears in that list of songs, however “Fright” has been crossed out and it’s been renamed “It’s Just Night.”
Little is known of one of the other songs, but “Concentration Cramp” was being featured in the concerts that U2 were playing around Dublin at this time. The name of the song also appears in Bono’s notebook that he lost during the recording sessions for October. And at one point he contributed the lyrics of the song to a museum exhibit at the Hot Press Music Hall of Fame in Dublin:
White Walls, Morning Eyeballs
A Thousand Voices echo through my brain
Schools daze, new direction
Boxes beat the clockwork
1 2 3 4 everybody’s sweating
Blue trees and now the question
Yes I mean No. Sorry.
C-C-C-Concentration Cramp ha-ha-ha
(“Concentration Cramp”, Bono, 1978)
The fact that no demo for “Concentration Cramp” has ever surfaced means that if it was worked on during these sessions it is likely the band never got to the point where they were happy enough to commit the song to tape during the session. The band worked well into the night, and were finally chased out of the studio by an angered Larry Mullen Sr. before much progress had been made on complete versions of the songs. Another song from this time, “Hang Up!” also does not exist as a demo, and there is even less evidence that it existed than there is for “Concentration Cramp,” but it is possible that they did work on this other song without having recorded it. The name “Hang Up!” does pop up in a few places including a short note about early song titles in issue 12 of U2 Magazine.
YouTube: U2’s “Night Fright (Demo Version)” (Snippet)
“Trevor” has been listed as being part of this earliest session. It is our opinion that it is very unlikely that “Trevor” was a part of these sessions. Indeed, in March 2, 1980, at a concert in Tullamore, Ireland, Bono introduces the song as “This is a new one, this is called Trevor”, so it is unlikely that it came out of this early 1978 sessions if he was talking it up as a new song in 1980 two full years later. There are also no references to the song showing up until 1980 in U2’s live sets, first being noted as being played in February 1980 in U2’s live shows, but details before that time are spotty and it could have existed earlier.
Clips of “Inside Out” and “Tonight” have both surfaced and all have a similar audio quality, and all are approximately a minute and a half in length. The demo recording for “Trevor” that has surfaced is a full song at 3:10 in length, and has a much different (better) audio quality and the band is significantly more accomplished by the time this demo was recorded. For these reasons we do not believe that “Trevor” should be included when discussing this first session in Keystone, and we will discuss it later in the article. (Stay tuned for part 2)
Looking at it in detail, we can surmise that “Inside Out,” and “Night Fright” were almost certainly developed in studio at that time. It is likely that “Concentration Cramp” and “Hang Up!” were also worked on, but no audio record of these songs exists. It is highly unlikely that “Trevor” comes from this initial session with Jackie Hayden and was likely recorded in a later session which we will detail in part two of this article.
[Editors Note: An earlier version of this article listed “Jack in the Box” as part of this set of songs, but later information has caused us to shift this to 1980.]
Second Session: November 1978, Keystone Studios, Dublin Ireland
- “Street Mission” (Sometimes referred to as “Street Missions”)
- “Shadows and Tall Trees”
- “The Fool” (Identified as “Out of the Living World” in some bootleg recordings)
Note about song names: The song names listed above are all as they are listed in the release of “The Complete U2” set. “Street Mission” is indeed without the ‘s’ at the end in that release. It is also without on the cover of the song performed in the movie Killing Bono.
Typed Lyrics from The Fool, Taken from eBay Auction, 2004
This second recording session is perhaps the recording session we know the most about. The session saw the band return to Keystone Studios Harcourt Street location in Dublin with producer Barry Devlin. Ken Kiernan of Keystone Studios was also present at the session. Devlin was a member of the band Horslips, playing bass, and also dabbling in music production. Paul McGuinness had been involved in promotion of live gigs with Horslips manager Michael Deeny in the early 70’s, and came to know Devlin through this association. Devlin was approached by Paul McGuinness to produce the demo for U2.
Without having heard them, Barry counseled Paul on whether this was a wise move for him, as punk was nearly over and Paul had a job. Once he heard the band, he told him: “Remortgage the house, McGuinness.” “I just thought it was written all over them that they were stars,” says Barry. — Independent.ie
For years this second recording session was identified as having taking place in December as Devlin himself identified that as an approximate date in an interview. But in 2004 a copy of this demo tape was found on eBay containing three songs, “Street Missions,” “Shadows and Tall Trees,” and “The Fool.” The recording on eBay identified the actual session date as November 1, 1978, and that the tape itself was duplicated at Trend Studios in Dublin.
Original Copy of a Demo Tape, Taken from an eBay Auction
The eBay auction also included typed lyrics to “Street Missions” (plural) and “The Fool.” Bono signed these as “Paul Vox” having not yet adopted Bono as his name. They are marked c1979. These appeared to be early versions of the lyrics. The auction also included a set of handwritten lyrics for “Shadows and Tall Trees.”
Handwritten lyrics for “Shadows and Tall Trees”, taken from eBay Auction, 2004
These sessions were released in 2004 in The Complete U2. All three songs that appeared on the final demo tape were released as a digital EP in that set, titled “Early Demos.” These songs have not been released outside of that set at this time.
Devlin himself has revealed in interviews that he had started work on a fourth song with U2 during this session. It did not appear on the final demo tape that was circulated, leaving most to assume it remained unfinished. Devlin suggested in an interview with Hot Press that it may have been “Stories for Boys.”
In the studio I had the same experience that Jackie Hayden had on their first demo session in that Larry’s dad came and took him away before the session had ended. I said to him, “Excuse me Mr. Mullen I haven’t finished with the drum parts.” But it made no impression on him and Larry was gone. Whatever they were doing in the studio that night they weren’t succeeding with it – it was an atrocious demo, which it has to be said was mainly down to me. I really liked them – but it was obvious that there was no point me being around them at that stage. I came from a perspective where the guitar was blues based and not the kind of style that The Edge was playing. But I remember even then that The Edge “orchestra” was already becoming apparent. It was very evident to me that there was something new about the way they played.— Barry Devlin, Hot Press Magazine
Frank Kearns, who later recorded with Cactus World News was present at this second demo session held at Keystone Studios, arriving with Larry Mullen. He relates the story about Larry’s father showing up to interrupt a second demo session:
The session went on for a few more hours, and then there was a very loud banging on the door, followed by loud talking and movement in the control room. An enraged Larry’s dad stomped into the recording area and staring at Larry, announced, “Just what do you think you are doing? Mrs. Kearns had been on the phone wondering where Frank is.” I looked down in agonizing shame. Next thing we knew, Larry Sr. was saying to pack things up. They had exams the next day, and that meant the session would have to be abandoned. In fact, they were supposed to do five songs, but they ended up only doing three, as my mother had phoned Larry’s dad. So that was it — we had to pack up the gear! We drove home in complete silence.” — Frank Kearns
It is very unlikely that a fourth song was recorded, and may have never gotten past some initial work before the session was interrupted by Larry Mullen Sr, the second time he arrived to pick up Larry at one of these recordings sessions.
Typed Lyrics for “Street Missions”, taken from eBay Auction, 2004
The Edge spoke about this session with Devlin in the liner notes for The Complete U2:
When U2 went into the studio for the first time, in the fall of 1978, with “Horslips” front man Barry Devlin we were in good hands. Barry had a lot of experience in recording studios and managed to steer some very green young men through the process. The result, while capturing our earliest attempts at song writing, is the sound of a band still trying to get to grips with the recording studio. We ended up going back in four months later, with the next batch of songs, many of which ended up on the Boy album, and recorded a demo more like our live shows; messy, passionate, and inspirational. It didn’t get us a deal either, but Bono brought it around to every UK music paper, and the interest this coverage created brought us to the attention of Island Records.”
Some of the memories of The Edge seem a bit off. It is likely best the first recording session be forgotten based on Hayden’s comments about a nervous band unready to record, but it did happen prior to the session with Devlin. This second session yielded three strong songs and a demo tape that McGuinness would start to shop around to labels. The next demo session did include a couple of songs that would make it onto Boy but only after being re-recorded.
Trend Studios, mentioned on the copy of the demo pictured above (that appeared on eBay), was established in 1968 in Dublin, and is still around today operating under the name mediaTrends. They operate Ireland’s only CD Duplication plant, and at one point shared business offices with Windmill Lane. They touch on the U2 story as they were the studio used for duplication of U2’s demo tapes for distribution to record labels. U2 never recorded at Trend, but McGuinness did use them for duplication of the demo tapes for this session.
Third Session: February 1979, Eamon Andrews Studios, Dublin Ireland
- “Another Time, Another Place”
- “The Magic Carpet” / “Life on a Distant Planet” (sometimes erroneously called “Judith” / “No Man’s Land” or “Lost on a Distant Planet”)
- “Alone in the Light”
- “False Prophet” (sometimes erroneously called “I Realize”)
Note about song names: These songs have appeared on a number of bootlegs and in databases, sometimes with the wrong titles. The song “The Magic Carpet” is also known as “Life on a Distant Planet” both from recognized sources. Bono calls the song by the title “The Magic Carpet” when introducing it in concert, most notably in February 1980 when playing it at the National Stadium in Dublin. The Edge refers to the song in U2 by U2 under the title “Life on a Distant Planet.” Other names applied to the song include “Judith” due to the introduction, or “Lost on a Distant Planet”, but neither of these names have been mentioned in an official source that we can locate. “False Prophet” is mentioned by that name in Bono’s notebook that went missing at the time of recording October but has been misnamed “I Realize” on many bootleg recordings.
YouTube: “Alone in the Light (Demo)” – U2
In February of 1979 U2 once again went into studio to record, this time finishing a number of songs. The studio they used was Eamonn Andrews Studio, which was also located on Harcourt Street just doors down from Keystone. The studio in which U2 recorded was the original radio studio that Eamonn Andrews ran at the property since the 1960s. It is unknown if anyone had worked as a producer on the session, or if U2 had just worked with Freeley directly. The notes on the back of the “Another Day” sleeve suggested that U2 worked without a producer that day:
“Twilight” wasn’t produced and took 15 minutes in Eamonn Andrews 4 track Dublin, February 79 “that day we went on the bus to see Dave Freely the engineer
Eamonn Andrews Studios was founded by broadcaster Eamonn Andrews in the 1960s. At the time the studios were located in a building known locally as the Television Club, and operated as a dance club. The original building was located on Harcourt Street, just doors from where Keystone would be set up years later. Two studios were located on the property at 45 Harcourt Street. U2 recorded in the radio studio and there was a second studio used for band recordings. Eamonn Andrews was Ireland’s first multi-track recording studio featuring 8-track recording. David Freely was one of the engineers who worked in Eamonn Andrews on staff, and it was Freely who worked with U2 on at least one session.
YouTube: “False Prophet (Demo)” – U2
Five songs are known to have been worked on during this session, and recordings have appeared on bootlegs of all of these songs, “Another Time, Another Place,” “Life on a Distant Planet” (sometimes called “The Magic Carpet”), “Twilight,” “Alone in the Light,” and “False Prophet” (Sometimes called “I Realize”). “Twilight” did go on to be the b-side of the single “Another Day” when they needed a track to place on the single in 1980. A newer version of “Twilight” would be recorded and released on “Boy”.
YouTube: “Life on a Distant Planet (Demo)” – U2
In the liner notes for the remastered Boy release, the Edge speaks about the demo for “Twilight” which appeared on the b-side to “Another Day” and was released on the remaster:
“This recording was the B-side of the CBS single “Another Day.” We had to take this track from a vinyl record because the master tape is missing. If anyone knows the whereabouts of this 1/4 inch demo tape recorded at Eamonn Andrews’ studio, please call Principle Management”
It appears that the original master tape is missing from these sessions. The songs have circulated on a number of bootleg recordings, thought to have been sourced from demo tapes that Paul McGuinness handed out to various record labels in hopes of securing a deal. Eamonn Andrews suffered a catastrophic fire in 1983 so any hope that the original tapes still exist with the studio probably died out with that fire.
A very special thanks to Ken Kiernan, Paul Mcilwain, Valerie Hayde, Chas de Whalley and Eamonn Creevy for their assistance with parts of this article as well as the forthcoming second part.