"The Little Things That Give You Away" (2015)

Demo Song

Background Information

“The Little Things That Give You Away” is a song that U2 has developed for Songs of Experience.

The song was first teased on Instagram in a post by U2, titled simply “Naima by Bono” and featuring an artwork done by Bono with lyrics surrounding the picture. The lyrics are the lyrics to “The Little Things That Give You Away” but at that time it was unknown as to what they were. The post was made on June 28, 2015.

Naima by Bono #U2ieTour

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“The Little Things That Give You Away” was first mentioned in Q Magazine (Issue 351, dated October 2015, released August 2015). In that issue, Dorian Lynskey speaks with the band while they were traveling between Boston and New York on the U2ieTour. (The image above dated from the same period.)

The only upside of the bike crash was that Bono had time to write. He’s so excited about the songs that he offers Q a lift so he can preview some of them. The songs he plays from his phone (credited to “NotUs”) sound vibrant and irresistable, especially “Civilisation,” “Instrument Flying,” and “The Little Things That Give You Away.” One acoustic demo, “Much More Better,” deals with his accident. He sings along: “I only sing to prove that I’m here.”

At the end of 2015, Q Magazine (February 2016 issue) released their preview of upcoming music for 2016, including a one page article on U2. The article draws from other sources and previous interviews, but there is also some new content, including a discussion with Adam Clayton and more info from Bono.

Last year, Bono played Q four new songs in various states of completion, “Instrument Flying” had a sleek, motorik quality. “The Little Things That Give You Away” was vibrantly anthemic; “Much More Better” was a deeply personal acoustic demo about Bono’s recovery from his bike accident; and the tense, heavy “Civilisation” sounded like a surefire album opener. Bono described Larry Mullen’s colossal drum roll in the middle of the song as “my favorite bit on a U2 album in years.” He also previewed an untitled, riff-heavy song related to Songs of Innocence’s “Volcano,” mentioned the titles “Landlady” and “Where the Shadows Fall,” and said that the producers so far included Slaves’ producer Jolyon Thomas and Andy Barlow of electronic duo Lamb. Elsewhere, he has talked about songs called “Red Flag Day” and “Get Out of Your Own Way.”

On January 12, 2017, U2.Com ran an article where Bono speaks, called “Music Can Pull People Together…“. In that article he is asked to give a title of one of the new songs and a lyric, and whether or not they will play new songs on the new tour. Bono gives the following reply:

Might. My favourite at the moment is “The Little Things That Give You Away”. Here’s a couple of verses:

“The night gave you a song,
a light had been turned on,
You walked out in the world
like you belonged there
As easy as a breeze,
each heart was yours to tease
Is it only me who sees there’s something wrong here
It’s the little things that give you away
The words you cannot say
Your big mouth in the way
It’s the little things that reveal and betray
Has the hunter now become the prey
It’s the little things, the little things
That give you away
I saw you on the stairs
You didn’t notice I was there
That’s cos you were busy talking at me
Not to me
You were high above the storm
A hurricane being born
But this freedom, it might cost you your liberty
It’s the little things that give you away
The words you cannot say
Your big mouth in the way
It’s the little things that reveal and betray
Has the hunter now become the prey
It’s the little things, the little things that give you away”

Theres a very big tangent at the end of this this, that’s very revealing – but that’s enough for now.

The song also gets a mention in February of 2017, in an article published in MOJO Magazine (Issue 281, cover date, April 2017):

Of the songs Bono currently imagines will make the final tracklist, his current favourite is “The Showman,” “It’s like something from Rubber Soul,” he enthuses. “It’s about singers. It’s not me.” To illustrate his point he quotes the song’s lyrics to MOJO: “The showman gives you front row to his heart/The shaman prays that his heartache will chart/Making a spectacle of falling apart/Is the heart of the show.” Other likely inclusions are “The Best Thing About You Is Me” and “The Little Things That Give You Away,” while both “Red Flag Day” and “Summer of Love” reference the refugee crisis in Europe. “Two songs that have a similar theme,” says Bono “about people running for their lives on the same Mediterranean that we’re running through the shallows. “Summer of Love” is achingly beautiful and empty. It could be a big song and it’s tiny. These are real tunes.”

The song did not just appear full formed in June 2015. Prior to that Bono had spoken at length about a song called “The Morning After Innocence.” Speaking with Charlie Rose in September 2016, Bono revealed that one song had likely become the other:

Ah, yes. That’s kind of the theme of it. It’s changed. Funny that you should — that’s odd. I told you about that and I shouldn’t have. And that song, “The Morning After Innocence,” turns into “The Little Things That Give You Away” which I’ve just told you there.

The last mention of “The Morning After Innocence” came in May 2015, when Bono spoke to Rolling Stone. “The Little Things That Give You Away” started getting mentions in late June of the same year. This is one of the songs that U2 probably worked on extensively during rehearsals for the U2ieTour. The song will appear on Songs of Experience. It has also been performed on The Joshua Tree 2017 tour since the opening night of that tour in May 2017.

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