"Concentration Cramp" (1978)

Demo Song

Background Information

“Concentration Cramp” is one of the earliest songs that U2 had worked on, identified as likely having been worked on in the April 1978 session at Keystone Studios.

The song “Concentration Cramp” is included in a list of songs that are written in Bono’s handwriting, including songs we know U2 had worked on as well as songs from other artists such as “Mannequin” and “Jumping Jack Flash” that they had worked on in their earliest live shows. The photograph is from U2 by U2.

“Concentration Cramp” was dated at 1978 in a Hot Press Music Hall of Fame exhibit in Dublin, which displayed the lyrics to the song:

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
(“Concentration Cramp”, Bono, 1978)

In March 1981, Bono lost a briefcase of personal effects in the Pacific North West. The contents of the briefcase were found and returned to him in 2004, and we know that included within was a steno pad with hand written notes by Bono. One page of the pad included possible song names that the band was working on including “Julie Says,” “The Cry,” “Gloria,” “When I Fall Down,” “Pop,” “Cars and Aeroplanes,” “No Man’s Land,” “Talking,” “Spring,” “Father is an Elephant,” “Boy,” “G to E or C to E,” “Shelter from the Storms / The End of Fire,” “Concentration Cramp / Christmas – Gloria,” “Inside Out,” “Beatles,” “Its Just Night Fright” (Fright is crossed out), “Street Mission,” “Drive on John,” “Speed of Life,” “Pete the Chop,” “Love is a Word,” “False Phropfit,” “Beast,” “Instrumentals,” “Is Just As Well,” “Buzz”.

The back of that page has some notes which appear to be partial lyrics to “I Fall Down”: “When I fall down, we all fall down. I shout the fall and falling…” but it also includes some additional notes about “Three voices,” (Possibly “Three Verses”) “Juggle”, “Shelter from the Storm,” and “White”.

Another page in the book had several rough sketches of possible logo designs and some lyrics sketched over the page including “Black Shirt White Hair”, “Beginning – Beauty – The Fall”, “Middle – Status Symbols, Plastic Flowers (Flames?), cars, the bridge silver ware Boy” “Change the face – wall street crash” “Cabaret” “Silver Race”, “Believe in Me,” “War”, “Status Symbols”, “Trumpets” as well as three song names, “Twilight,” “I Will Follow” and “The Ocean”.

On the back of that page are more notes, including “October,” “Rain,” “Shelter from the Storem” again and notes about “Steel”, “Solo”, “Doodle”.

Another page included dates and a note “I Wouldn’t mind being on a windmill”.

It is impossible to know for sure which of these are actual songs they developed, although the first page mentioned is clearly a listing of songs, and the page with beginning and middle noted seem to be an attempt to put together an album.

“Concentration Cramp” was an early song which was developed prior to U2 recording the album, Boy. Bono spoke about it in U2 by U2 and another early song, “Cartoon World”:

I was trying to find our sound through childish things, nursery rhymes. There was a song called “Concentration Cramp” built around a kid’s word game: “Let’s go, concentration, let’s go.” All that. “Cartoon World” was the same. We were trying to figure out our language. It was all very healthy — I think even then we knew we had to find some new kind of cool, based on uncool.

“Concentration Cramp” is also mentioned as an old song of U2’s in the article “The Unbelievable Book” by Neil McCormick talking about Eamon Dunphy’s The Unforgettable Fire biography of U2:

No analysis of their early numbers: “Street Mission” — a rock epic of spiritual longing that would end their sets — “Life on a Distant Planet”, “The Fool”, “Cartoon World”, “Speed of Life”, “Concentration Cramp”, “So Sad”, “In Your Hands” — songs in which they first got to grips with their music and Bono defined the two characters that would dominate his early lyrics, The Boy and The Fool (only one of whom ever made it onto vinyl).

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