"Street Mission" (1978)

Demo Song

Background Information

“Street Mission” (sometimes called “Street Missions”) is one of U2’s earliest songs, and one that the band recorded in their November 1978 sessions as Keystone Studios.

In November 1978, U2 went into the studio with producer Barry Devlin for their second recording session. During that session they recorded three tracks, “Street Mission,” “Shadows and Tall Trees,” and “The Fool.” All three songs were completed and they were the first songs used to try to gain U2 a recording contract. In 2004, as part of The Complete U2, all three tracks were finally released. “Street Mission” is sometimes mislabeled as “Street Missions” but the iTunes release did not contain the additional S.

“Street Missions” has been mentioned a number of times throughout the years. In U2 by U2, U2 talk about the March 1978 contest they had entered in Limerick:

Edge: I think we played three of our songs. All like three minutes, really simple stuff.

Larry: We did ‘Street Mission’ and a couple of others.

Adam: I think we did ‘Life on a Distant Planet’ and something called ‘The TV Song,’ so named because it sounded a bit like the band Television. It was kind of a melodic, mid-tempo thing whose chief appeal was that we could actually get to the end.

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. “Street Mission” is mentioned in that notebook. 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.

“Street Mission” 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).

We have taken an in depth look at U2’s pre-Island Records demo sessions in two parts. Part One dealt with 1978 – February 1979. Part Two dealt with the latter part of 1979 until early 1980. “Street Mission” is discussed in Part One.

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