"North Star" (2004)

Demo Song

Background Information

“North Star” is a song that was initially worked on during the How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb sessions, and again for the No Line on the Horizon album. It is believed the song may yet appear on the album Songs of Ascent should it ever be released.

“North Star” was first mentioned in an article on Michael W. Smith, titled “Ready for His Close-Up” from CCM Magazine in late November 2004, it was revealed that U2 worked with Smith in studio in Dublin:

A side jaunt to Ireland produced an impromptu invitation from U2’s Bono to drop by for dinner “with the boys.” The dinner extended into an excursion over to the “secret” studio where the band was recording with famed producer Steve Lillywhite, who helmed U2’s first three albums and had co-production credits on Achtung Baby and All That You Can’t Leave Behind. Michael found himself in yet another surreal musical heaven and was one of the first people privy to the title of the long-awaited new U2 album, set to release Nov. 23. Sitting in the Dublin studio with the larger-than-life rock stars, Bono played some snippets of music and then turned to his American friend and said he thought the title of the new album might be How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. “Do you know how we do that?” the Irishman asked knowingly. “No,” Michael offered. “Love, love, love,” Michael mimics Bono’s poetic answer, with his own attempt at an Irish brogue. That exchange became the inspiration for Michael’s song “I Am Loved” (together with a viewing of The Passion of the Christ) on his new album, which Smitty penned with his Rocketown label-find artist and songwriter Taylor Sorenson. The two wrote the song in 15 minutes. (“My favorite songs are always the ones that happen that fast,” Smith says.)

But back in the Dublin studio, the surprises kept on coming as Michael was invited to sit in on a tracking session with U2 and lend his considerable talents on the B3 organ. While he’s not sure his part will actually make it onto the final album, at this point he doesn’t really care. Needless to say, it would be pretty hard to beat that kind of a memory. The song he jammed on, fittingly, honors another Nashvillian—Johnny Cash. Entitled “North Star,” the song celebrates The Man in Black’s unwavering, immovable faith. (“Just like the North Star,” Michael beams.)

During the 2010 leg of the U2360 tour, U2 introduced a number of new songs live in concert. “Glastonbury,” “North Star,” and “Return of the Stingray Guitar” were all introduced for the first time on August 6, at the opening show of the tour in Turin, Italy. (“Glastonbury” had been sound checked August 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 (five times!), “North Star” had been sound checked on August 2, 5 (twice), and “The Return of the Stingray Guitar” was sound checked on August 4 and 5.) Another song debuting was “Every Breaking Wave” on August 21, 2010 at Olympic Stadium in Helsinki, Finland. “Mercy” made it’s tour debut on September 12, 2010 in Zurich, Switzerland at Letzigrund Stadion. And on October 3, 2010, U2 debuted “Boy Falls From the Sky” at Estadio Cidade de Coimbra in Coimbra, Portugal. “North Star” was played at 15 shows through the U2360 tour, making its debut on August 6 in Turin, and last being played on June 29, 2011 in Miami, Florida.

In a May 2011 interview in Hot Press magazine with writer Olaf Tyaransen, Bono revealed some information about a few of the new songs that the band has been working on and discussed “North Star” again.

No, actually we’ve got a few going (laughs). We have Songs of Ascent, which is a kind of ecstatic album, ambient, very beautiful songs. But it’s a real stained-glass window of a record, elegiac, I think you could describe some of the songs, beautiful. There’s one song called “Mount Zion,” that’s beautiful. There’s a song called “Soon”, there’s a song called “Every Breaking Wave”. Then there’s — we went in to make some club music with RedOne and we got some very extraordinary club sounding stuff, one called “I’ll Believe Her When She Sings”. Let me think if I can remember all of them now … “North Star”, that’s a ballad actually, that’s a beautiful song: we’ve actually played it acoustically onstage a little bit on the tour. And then we, the sort of rock album — although I think “rock” is the wrong word for it — the next sort of “regular U2 band” album, we started to make with Danger Mouse.

When the album Songs of Ascent was nearing completion and looked to be ready for 2011, U2 agreed to loan a song to the movie Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon, released in June 2011. The song would be featured in the movie, and was planned for a single release to promote both the movie and the album, as the band had done with “Elevation” years before in Tomb Raider. The song given to producers of the movie was “North Star”, and although the album eventually was not released, the song did make it into the movie, and can be heard in that film at a couple of spots during the film. The song was not included on the soundtrack for the film, and in the movie it is in the background and conversation is layered over top of the song.

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