"White City" (1984)

Demo Song

Background Information

“White City” is a song that was developed for The Unforgettable Fire. “White City” is a demo recording that has been mentioned a number of times over the years. One of the earliest mentions of the song was In 1991, in an interview with Propaganda magazine, Daniel Lanois made mention of “White City”:

“Some of it was stressful, we put too much time into making things that didn’t make the record, which is a lesson that artists have to learn.” Lanois said. “There was one called ‘White City,’ which I think is still on the shelf, every now and again rumour gets around that they’re going to take it down from the shelf and work on it again. We spent a lot of time on other tracks that didn’t make the album too, the titles of which I’ve forgotten.”

In 2003, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, OH celebrated U2 with an exhibit focusing on the band. As part of that exhibit, notebooks identified as being Brian Eno’s were on display. However, we believe these may have actually been notebooks kept by Daniel Lanois after reading his autobiography, Soul Mining.

Regardless of who wrote in the notebook that was on display, on one page pertaining to the album The Unforgettable Fire, a number of songs are documented. Some have information beyond just the title, but others are just listed with a name. “White City” is listed on that page with nothing more than the title.

In August 2009, Bono and The Edge appeared on BBC to debut an outtake from the 25th anniversary edition of The Unforgettable Fire release. The song was called “Disappearing Act” and Edge discussed its origins in another song:

“Well, it was originally called ‘White City’, and it was a track we started with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois back in 1983 when we were recording The Unforgettable Fire. And we discovered it about six months ago, and we dug it out and did some work on it in France a few weeks ago, and it’s now finished.”

In the notes to that remaster of The Unforgettable Fire The Edge did discuss the song further:

“‘Disappearing Act,’ formerly known as ‘White City,’ was recorded at the beginning of the Slane sessions before we had set up our multi-track recording equipment, hence it only existed as a stereo instrumental recording. We did multi-track tape recordings of a simplified version later on, but for whatever reason, it never inspired a compelling vocal melody idea; maybe because when we came to re-cut the track, we omitted the section before the chorus, which in ‘Disappearing Act’ turned out to be a crucial section. So after 25 years and a few weeks, while in France on a break between shows on the 360 tour, ‘White City’ was completed and became ‘Disappearing Act.”

So the song “White City” was initially developed in 1984, but was shelved until 2009, when it became “Disappearing Act” and was released on the remastered edition of The Unforgettable Fire for that album’s 25th anniversary.

Related Demo Titles