Monday, 5 March 2012

March 2012

The March 2012 blogs feature a look at early period U2, and the first three UK Madonna albums. To look at either blog, click the relevant link to your right.

"Walk on by, walk on through"

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Madonna: UK LP’s 1983-1986

As previously mentioned on this very site, the current vogue for reissuing albums seems not to be based on the quality of the record, but - at times - what’s in the vaults from that period, and thus what you have to pad the thing out with. This may explain why you can get a double-disc version of Squeeze’s “Argy Bargy”, but not the (arguably) superior “East Side Story”. Or why Mercury reissued the second, and weakest, Dexy’s album “Too Rye Ay” as a double-CD set, on the basis that the other two albums the band had released had already been given the “expanded edition” treatment, so they might as well complete the set.

With Madonna, it’s all a bit odd. Soon, “Like A Prayer” will be 25 years old. And yet, the version that you can buy in the shops today is EXACTLY THE SAME as the one you could buy in 1989 - apart from the perfumed sleeve, of course. Now, I am all in favour of record companies not ripping you off by getting you to buy an album you already own in order to get some “previously unreleased (ie. Not very good) material”, but I worry that newer Madonna fans will therefore be unaware of just how important “Like A Prayer” is, because you can get it on Amazon for four quid. If it’s cheap, it must be a bit rubbish, no?

It gets stranger. In 2001, to coincide with her first World Tour since 1993, Warners decided to reissue the first three Madonna Long-Player’s (some countries got a reissue of 1987’s remix set “You Can Dance”, but that’s another story). Quite why only the first three records got this special treatment, I don’t know - some might tell you that these are Madonna’s three weakest records, recorded as they were slap bang in the middle of the 80’s, using 80’s recording techniques, and thus sound very 80’s. I did think that maybe it was because “Like A Prayer”, album number 4, was recorded digitally, and that these three were all done on analogue equipment - but “Like A Virgin” was recorded using digital equipment, so bang goes that theory.

There is a link between the three records - although this is not the reason they all got reissued. In the UK, all three of them had all been reissued before. Some briefly, some very high profile. So, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Madonna’s debut 45 on Sire, and the release of new LP “MDNA” - and Warners own cash-in boxset of most of the older albums - this is the first in a series of randomly timed articles looking at Madonna’s LP’s. Future articles will appear as and when, although the format of each will differ in style, just to make things interesting.


Issued in 1983, Madonna’s self titled debut album appeared in the UK on LP and Cassette. The Compact Disc format was still in it’s infancy, and even though CD editions of the album appeared in selected territories, including West Germany, no copies were either pressed in the UK, or overseas for the UK market.

Madonna’s recording career for Sire had been based around giving the label a single, rather than an album, and with her disco background, Madonna’s first release in the States was the 6-minute long “Everybody”, designed specifically for the 12“ format. It was heavily edited down for the 7” release, and future material written for this LP seems to have been done with a view to possibly releasing most of the songs on the album as 12” singles. Indeed, when “Holiday” and “Physical Attraction” appeared as a-sides in the UK and US respectively, it was the album mixes that adorned the 12” editions of these singles.

Despite the lengthy nature of the songs, and thus the album, (8 songs only, yet with a 40 minute plus running time), several songs were shorter on LP than on 12” - “Everybody” had a minute chopped off from the original 12” mix, but was still longer than the 7”, and both “Lucky Star” and “Borderline” were the recipient of extended mixes when issued on 45 that were longer than the already lengthy LP versions. “Burning Up” appeared in a new mix, or possibly even a new recording, and was a couple of minutes shorter than the original US 12” mix. Of the eight songs on the LP, six of them would appear as a-sides (or at least as a Double-A side) in either the US, UK, or both - and even the remaining two songs would appear as B-sides in the UK.

Although much is made of “Madonna” being a worldwide success, I understand most of the “units” shifted in the UK occurred after it was reissued in 1985. Some of the singles released to promote the original release performed badly, with “Borderline” stalling outside the top 40 altogether when issued as a single in early ‘84.

After “Like A Virgin” catapulted Madonna into the public eye in 84/85, the debut LP was reissued in the UK, under the helpful new title of “The First Album” - just so any “new” fans would be able to work out quite what it was. It used the same typeface as “LAV”, and although a new cover was also used, the photo did still at least date from circa 1983. The reissue appeared on LP and Cassette again, and also on CD. The LP, for some reason, used the same inner sleeve as the 1983 original, so the design of the inner now bore no resemblance to the LP cover. By now, Sire’s UK releases could be identified by the “WX” prefix on the catalogue numbers on the LP and Cassette pressings, although CD’s were still being pressed in Europe for sale in the UK, and thus came with a wholly numeric catalogue number instead, at the time starting “7599” - however, the catalogue number shown on the CD itself and the spine ommitted the first three digits. This oddness would continue for a good decade or so.

Although little mention was made of it, the CD edition of the record differed from the LP and Cassette versions. The original “4.48” mix of “Burning Up” was replaced by a shorter mix, dubbed “The Video Mix”. The reason for this is that “Burning Up” was never issued as a 45 in the UK, and for the video, the US 7” Edit was used as the backing track. This video was included on the 1984 Madonna Video EP, and as this was the first time most people in the UK had heard this mix, it thus became known as the “Video” mix. On the CD edition of “The First Album”, the running time on the back cover next to “Burning Up” showed “4.48”, but the actual timing on the disc itself showed “3.45”. I understand this error was never rectified on later pressings, and similar mistakes were made on overseas reissues, such as the Australian edition.

Part of the 2001 reissue campaign was to try and return Madonna’s albums back to their “original” state. And so, “The First Album” reappeared on CD that year as “Madonna”. The “Video Mix” remained in place, because the original US album had (AFAIK) used this version of the song, so the aim was to try and make the release look and sound like the original American pressing. But this doesn’t explain why the original “4.57” mix of “Everybody” was replaced by the 6-minute long US 12” mix. So, what we now had - ignoring the bonus tracks for a moment - was an album the same length as the original UK LP, but with one song shorter, and one song longer! The only reason I can think that “Everybody” appeared in “extended” form was that when the single was issued on CD in 1995 by Sire in Germany, copies were mispressed, and played the “4.57” mix instead of the 12” version. Was this some sort of apology by the record company? Maybe, but given that the “4.57” mix is now a bit of a rarity, it seems odd. (If you can’t find an original 1983 “Madonna” LP with these original mixes intact, or a vinyl/cassette “First Album”, they can be found on the b-sides of the 1985 UK “Angel” 45 (“Burning Up“), and the 1991 Black Vinyl 12” reissue of “Holiday” (Everybody)).

The decision to return the albums to their former state was slightly ruined by the inclusion of bonus tracks, but for many people, these had the potential to be of interest. However, for some reason, the powers that be decided that each CD should only have two bonus tracks - even though there was space to include more than this. So, “Madonna” got the 12” mixes of “Lucky Star” and “Burning Up” as extras, the latter making it’s first official appearance on a UK release, the former having only been available on the limited “US Remix” 12” in 1984. But even so, with the 12” mixes of “Everybody”, “Holiday” and “Physical Attraction” already in place as part of the main album, it’s a shame that the “missing” 12” mix, that of “Borderline”, could not have been tagged on as well.


Madonna (1983 original, LP, Sire 92 3867 1)
Madonna (1983 original, Cassette, Sire 92 3867 4)
The First Album (1985 reissue, LP, Sire WX22)
The First Album (1985 reissue, Cassette, Sire WX22 C)
The First Album (1985 reissue, CD, Sire 7599-23867-2, with “Video” mix of “Burning Up”)
Madonna (2001 reissue, CD, Sire 9362-47903-2, with “Video” mix of “Burning Up” and 12” mix of “Everybody”, plus 2 extra tracks)

Like A Virgin

The album that catapulted Madonna into the stratosphere, “Like A Virgin” was not too dissimilar in sound to it’s predecessor. The “Minnie Mouse On Helium” vocals were still there, and it was still a wall of drum machines and synths - the only difference was that where “Madonna” sounded like it was aimed at the clubs, “Like A Virgin” had it’s eyes set firmly on the top 40. There were more songs on this LP than the debut, but it had a shorter running time.

Again, the LP was first issued in the UK on LP and Cassette. There was a famous Bulgarian release, on the Bankahtoh label, which came in a completely different sleeve, was retitled “Kamo Geba”, and swapped two of the songs - so “Dress You Up” now appeared at the end of side 1, and Madonna’s Rose Royce cover, “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore”, started side 2.

After “Into The Groove”, originally tossed away as a b-side, became a sizeable hit in the UK, Sire reissued the LP with “Into The Groove” as an extra track, as an incentive to get new fans to buy the record. It was included at the start of side 2, in front of “Dress You Up”. The reissue appeared on LP and Cassette, with the “WX” catalogue number in use. The catalogue number of the LP was “WX20”, as opposed to the “First Album”’s “WX22”, which suggests that the ’second’ album was reissued before the first - but this was just a technicality, and both reissues appeared in the shops on the same day. The reissue was also made available on CD, and as a Vinyl Picture Disc - housed in a die cut sleeve, this remains the only Madonna LP to be released - officially - as a picture disc in the UK, and the only Madonna UK picture disc full stop to be housed in a die cut sleeve, Madonna’s UK 12” picture disc singles coming instead in clear sleeves, sometimes with a backing card, but not - so far - in a spined sleeve with the vinyl on show.

The 2001 reissue is a bit shabby in my view. Again, in order to “return to nature”, the decision was taken to remove “Into the Groove”, on the basis that the album had never been reissued with this track in the US. However, by doing so, it meant that the only versions of “Into The Groove” available at the time in the UK were both in remixed form (on 1987’s “You Can Dance” and 1990’s “The Immaculate Collection”), and this ridiculous situation would not be resolved until 2009, when the original mix appeared on Best-of set “Celebration”.

Bonus track wise, well, it’s OK - the 12” mixes of “Like A Virgin” and “Material Girl”. But given that all four of the singles released from this LP appeared in extended form…it’s a bit like dangling a carrot in front of a horse, than snatching it away at the last minute. I would sooner have “Into The Groove” on the record as opposed to a pair of dance mixes, and indeed, my copy of the 2001 reissue is still sealed.


Like A Virgin (1984 original, LP, Sire 925 157 1)
Like A Virgin (1984 original, Cassette, Sire 925 157 4)
Like A Virgin (1985 reissue, LP with “Into The Groove”, Sire WX20)
Like A Virgin (1985 reissue, Cassette with “Into The Groove”, Sire WX20 C)
Like A Virgin (1985 reissue, Picture Disc LP with “Into The Groove”, Sire WX20 P, die cut sleeve)
Like A Virgin (1985 reissue, CD with “Into The Groove”, Sire 7599-25181-2)
Like A Virgin (2001 reissue, CD, Sire 9362-47901-2, with 2 extra tracks)

True Blue

Madonna’s first “grown up” album, the missing link between “Like A Virgin” and “Like A Prayer”. The voice is deeper, the subject matter darker, and although the album seems, on the face of it, to carry on in the plinky-plonk synth style of the earlier records, there was something else going on here. The first single from the album was the miraculous “Live To Tell”, which in it’s unedited form, was six minutes of epic heartbreak, a bit like Bananarama covering Leonard Cohen. Album opener “Papa Don’t Preach” dealt with teenage pregnancy, “True Blue” nodded it’s head to Frankie Valli, and even the jaunty sounding “Where’s The Party” was a bit miserable - “Don’t want to grow old too fast, don’t want to let the system get me down”, Madonna grumbled. Fairly impressive stuff. And even the more “pop” material has a bit of ‘oomph’ - “Open Your Heart” is thrilling, “White Heat” is enlivened with film samples throughout.

The first single was planned to be album closer “Love Makes The World Go Round”, and it was previewed at the end of Madonna’s Live Aid performance in Philadelphia in 1985, but the plan was shelved - the song was never even played on stage again. Instead, “Live To Tell” got the nod, and came complete with a video showcasing the new conservative looking Madonna - all prim and proper, and married off. Quite what the “wannabes” who had spent 1985 wearing their underwear as outerwear thought of this, is anyone’s guess.

The album was issued in the summer of 1986, appearing in the UK on LP, Cassette and CD. In America, the album appeared in a sleeve which depicted Madonna on the cover, but with no mention of her name, nor the album title. These were only to be found on the spine and the rear cover. In the UK, there was some concern that people might not know whose album it was - this seems unlikely, given that Madonna was now the most famous woman in the world. Anyhow, the decision was taken to print the “Madonna - True Blue” logo from the rear cover on the front as well.

The following year, Madonna conducted her first world tour, including three shows at Wembley Stadium. No toilet circuit gigs for this lady. A fourth show was planned, but due to ‘noise pollution’ issues in the neighbourhood, it was refused. However, promoters believed a Madonna show somewhere else would sell, so a fourth UK show was added for the Saturday before the London gigs, at Roundhay Park in Leeds. Now, I’m not sure if the promoters were from the US, and thought that Leeds looked quite near to London on a map, but suffice to say, London based Madonna fans did not rush to buy tickets for a gig 185 miles away. A week before the event, a sizeable number remained unsold. As it stands, the Leeds show is the one that has passed into legend - Madonna’s birthday was on the Sunday, so there was a chant of “Happy Birthday”, and the show also coincided with more nude photos in “Penthouse”, so there was another chant of “get your tits out for the lads” - batted away by Madonna with the retort “forget about my tits honey, they belong to me” - and a huge cheer from the crowd!

To coincide with the UK tour, Sire decided to repress the vinyl edition of the album. Now, in the days when vinyl sold in huge numbers, albums would regularly be re-pressed, with stickers listing the hits the album had spawned. The later the pressing, the more hits would be printed on the sticker. The tour edition repressing has a sticker listing all five hits (initial 1986 copies only listed two) and included a free tour poster tucked inside, complete with a suitably informative extra sticker. For many years, nobody really seemed to talk about this reissue, but by the time I got my copy in 1993, copies were changing hands for £20 apiece. It’s now valued at double that. It’s a nice item, but you do wonder if all Sire did was get a load of pressed but un-sold copies, stick the extra sticker on the front, shove a poster inside, and voila! Instant collectable time. The catalogue number of the poster edition was the same as the non-poster editions, all that was different was the “poster inside” sticker, and the poster itself. Quite how many of these were issued with the poster, I am not too sure. But it’s all to do with supply and demand, and if there were only, say, 10000 issued with the poster, then that’s the sort of thing that adds to the value. Unlike the first Beatles LP where the label design can be used to “date” the pressing, it’s difficult to know how many different editions of “True Blue” were pressed before the poster edition (at least two, the one with the “2 Hits“ sticker, and one with the “5 Hits“ one), how many had the poster, and how many were issued at a later date without the poster. Post 1987 pressings do exist on LP, as I don’t think the vinyl edition was deleted until at least the late 1980’s.

Unlike the reissues of “Madonna” and “LAV”, musically, the 2001 edition of “True Blue” sounds the same up to the bonus track stage. Again, to return to it’s ‘roots‘, the logo-less US cover was used for this version. And once again, the bonus tracks are a nice extra, but are simply the tip of the iceberg - you get the 12” mixes of “True Blue” and “La Isla Bonita”, but not the 12” mixes of “Papa Don’t Preach” or “Open Your Heart”. And that’s even before we start talking about the Dub mix of the latter, the short and long instrumental mixes of “La Isla Bonita”, or the DJ Edit and 7” mixes of all of the singles. But it’s better than nothing, and of the three reissues, is probably the least ’messy’.


True Blue (1986 original, LP, Sire WX54)
True Blue (1986 original, Cassette, Sire WX54 C)
True Blue (1986 original, CD, Sire 7599-25442-2)
True Blue (1987 reissue, LP with free tour poster, Sire WX54)
True Blue (2001 reissue, CD, Sire 9362-47902-2, with 2 extra tracks)

FYI - all of the 2001 reissues came in cases which had two stickers on - one mentioning “Digitally Remastered” and another plugging the 2001 tour. All were originally shrinkwrapped as well, but sealed copies may not sell for much more than unsealed copies. The forthcoming “Complete Studio Albums” boxset includes all three of these albums, using repressings of the 2001 reissues, with their bonus tracks still intact. “Into The Groove” is still AWOL though. Apart from the aforementioned "True Blue" pressings, it is likely that the first two albums were also repressed enough times to warrant different "includes the hits..." stickers for different pressings. I hope to look at the 1987 “You Can Dance” release later this year.

U2: 1979-1990

Long before the whole Blur V Oasis spat, the question used to be “REM or U2 - which is better?”. The consensus was that REM were the winners here - they spent the whole of the 1980’s selling not many records, but followers believed their brand of Byrds-inspired indierock had an authenticity to it that U2 didn’t have - they may have started as a spiky, post-punk bunch of upstarts from (mostly) Ireland, but ended the decade as globe straddling rockstars, peddling a sort of ‘widescreen’ rock that to some, epitomised the blandness of the decade.

It was a slightly different story thereafter - U2 reinvented themselves with 1991’s “Achtung Baby”, and although there were some hiccups thereafter, a chunk of the critics have always had a soft spot for them. REM meanwhile split up recently, with dissenters asking why they hadn’t thrown in the towel ten years ago. But to be fair, both bands had their good and bad points throughout their entire career. Ignore some of the filler on some of those albums, and you realise just how good some of the U2 stuff is - “One”, in particular, remains the second greatest single released by anybody, after Springsteen's “Born To Run”.

At the end of the 90’s, and start of the Noughties, inbetween their “Pop” and “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” albums, U2 released a pair of decade spanning best-of releases - the first one covering 1980-1990, the second 1990-2000. There was no new U2 material in 1990, hence the ‘appearance’ of the same year in both sets. Inspired by this, this is the first of three U2 articles that will appear, probably randomly, over the next few months (or years), with each article devoted to a specific time frame. This month, it’s 1979-1990 - the band’s first single was released in Ireland in 79, so the first best-of seemed to start after this date on the basis that not many people bought U2 records before 1980. Future articles will cover 1990-2000, and 2001 onwards.

The First 11 Years

Like so many other bands, U2’s earliest releases were relatively obscure - and thus, now highly valuable - releases. Their first single was the three-track EP “Three”, released on 12” in Ireland only on CBS Records. Done in very limited numbers, it has been reissued on various occasions over the years in the UK, with later releases on both 7” and in picture sleeves. Of the three songs on the EP, two were re-recorded for the band’s 1980 debut LP “Boy” - the third track, “Boy Girl” was not given such treatment, presumably so that anybody who had the EP would not feel cheated when they bought the album.

After another Irish-only 7”, the band’s international debut 45 was “11 O’Clock Tick Tock”, issued in the UK on Island Records. An exclusive non-album single, the track is actually quite well known in U2 circles, as the band took to playing it live on a regular basis over the years, and a number of live versions of the track later appeared as a B-side and on the 1983 live LP, “Under A Blood Red Sky”. The follow up single, the not so well known “A Day Without Me”, was released as the first single from “Boy”.

“Boy” showcased the post-punk influences that fed into the band at this stage, and although it might at times sound rudimentary when compared to the grandiose rock of “The Joshua Tree”, there are some who feel U2 were never better than when they were this fiery and noisy - indeed, the band have regularly returned to this record when it has come to throwing a few curveballs into their live set.

Following the slightly so-so “October”, an album that sounds to me very much that it is suffering from “second album syndrome”, the band issued a stand alone 45, “A Celebration”, in 1982. This is very much an oddity, as the band later admitted to not liking it that much, and haven’t played it live since 1983. It was not a big seller either, so is actually harder to find than any of the singles from “October”, as it’s non-album status, combined with it’s relative scarcity, help to add to it’s rarity value. It is perhaps telling that the b-side, “Trash Trampoline And The Party Girl”, is far more well known, the band opting to perform it live regularly throughout the 80’s as an encore.

It was with 1983’s “War” that U2 finally started to make records that would eventually seal their reputation as creators of “epic” rock. The band began to fuse the fury of the early records with a more “mainstream” sound, and when this worked, it worked brilliantly - the minor key sadness of “New Years Day”, the politicised cry of “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, the simple but effective bass-driven beauty of “40”, the latter probably the most famous U2 album track ever, as it has long been the set closer in concert.

1984’s “The Unforgettable Fire” built on the critical and commercial success of “War”, and offered up a similar vibe, although one that was starting to edge a bit more towards the mainstream. Although “Pride” is only a stones throw away from being just too overblown and bombastic, the title track is an elegant piece of beauty, possibly the finest U2 moment from this part of their career. It was followed in 1985 by the “is it an EP or is it a mini-album” US release, “Wide Awake In America”, featuring a couple of live tracks and a couple of B-sides. It has been reissued on several occasions over the years, including on CD, and the copy I have from the late 80’s on the Island Masters label features a catalogue number suggesting it is indeed an “album”.

The same summer, and U2 went stellar following their performance at Live Aid. One of several acts who all claim to have stolen the show at Wembley that afternoon, Bono famously jumped down from the stage during the performance of “Bad” to go and meet and greet the front row. The band simply kept playing until he made it back onto the stage, by which time they had over-run and had to leave before playing what should have been their third and final song. Fact fans - neither of the two songs U2 did that day were ever released as singles in the UK, as “Sunday Bloody Sunday” - the opening number - was only released as a single in certain overseas territories (“Two Hearts Beat As One” was released as a single in the UK instead, using the same cover and similar B-sides).

And so, with 1987’s “The Joshua Tree”, U2 became megastars. The sort of album that the NME probably hate nowadays, it’s a perfect showcase of why some people both despise U2 and why others love ‘em - the punky roar of “Boy” now eroded and more or less gone, replaced by a polished and sleek brand of “grown up” music. It also has that “classic album” cover feel, a great photo of the band, in black and white, in a desert. And whilst Bono & Co have become an easy target in recent years, their singer a public hate figure, there’s no denying that there is some very, very good stuff on this album. The propulsive throb of “Where the Streets Have No Name” is utterly thrilling, the likes of “With Or Without You” simply stunning in their slow burning build up. U2 were now so big, that import copies of the “In God’s Country” 45 were sold in such large numbers, that it actually got a UK Top 50 chart position - the first time anybody since (I think) The Jam had managed such an unusual feat.

And yet, bizarrely, “The Joshua Tree” was the beginning of the problems. The band were now playing mega-arenas in the UK, US, and the rest of the world, but Bono admitted he struggled with this, he wasn’t sure how a 4-piece rock band could fill such large stages. The band would later get around such issues during the 1990’s by having a huge TV on stage (the Zoo TV tour), or emerging from a giant glitter ball during the encore (the Pop tour) - effectively, taking the mickey out of the “stadium rock“ show. But this was nothing compared to the controversy of “Rattle And Hum”. The band had been invited to make a movie - not by starring in the next “Police Academy” film, but to make their own ‘Rockumentary’. The group agreed, and the “theme” of the film was “U2 In America”, as the band wandered around the States, educating themselves about traditional American music. So, in one scene, they’d be hanging out with BB King, in another, there’d be a gospel choir doing “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”.

Released in 1988, the film was panned. Critics claimed that U2 were attempting to tell the audience what they already knew about music, or that they were trying to align themselves with the good and the great of American music, and the criticism hit the band hard. U2 were now seen as being pompous, egotistical and self-righteous - and that was just for starters. The accompanying album was a bit of a mess as well - an oddball mix of live recordings, covers and new songs. But for every pointless cover of something like “All Along The Watchtower”, there was a piece of epic genius like the shimmering beauty of “All I Want Is You”. It was patchy, but occasionally, inspired. Indeed, “Rattle And Hum” spawned more singles in the UK than any previous LP they’d released. The band headed out on another tour to promote the record, the “Lovetown” tour, where the opportunity to shoe-horn material from “Rattle And Hum” into the set was afforded, and worked rather well.

U2 ended 1989 with a series of now famous homecoming shows at The Point in Dublin over the Christmas period. In the recent “From The Sky Down” documentary, Bono explained how he felt their return to Ireland was viewed with an element of confusion from the audience. They had “returned” from the USA looking like a different band to the one that had left - footage from the Dublin gigs show Bono wearing a Stetson, The Edge with his hair in a pony tail clad in stone washed denim. Bono believed that U2 had lost their way and that they now looked, and sounded, like a completely different group. To be honest, listening to some bootlegs I have of the Dublin shows, the band at least sound on top form - the pointlessness of “All Along The Watchtower” aside, the shows were a simple blast through the hits, and the better album tracks, including oldies from “Boy”, and the setlists were inspired. But the band felt they had run their course, and Bono famously announced during one show that they were having to “go away, and dream it all up again”. In 1990, the band reconvened for a series of problematic recording sessions, but eventually, during one jam, The Edge played the chords for what would eventually become “One” - and U2 were reborn.

U2 on 45

Although their first single was first released on 12”, U2 tended to shy away from the format during the start of their career. It wasn’t until the “War” album that they began to release singles on this format on a regular basis in the UK, and even then, some releases were academic - the “New Year’s Day” 12” featured the same songs as the doublepack 7”, but was of less interest as it included the album version of the a-side instead of the unique 7” edit.

With the follow up release, U2 showed their dance credentials, as “Two Hearts Beat As One” turned up on 12” laden with remixes, and from then on, the band would use the format either as an opportunity to resurrect the spirit of the EP, or to indulge in their dance tendencies. On occasions, the number of b-sides the band had hanging around was such that some singles would feature different bonus tracks on different formats, but these were few and far between.

With “The Joshua Tree”, the band dabbled in the world of the maxi-single, with both “With Or Without You” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” featuring the same track listing on the 7” editions as the other formats, but thereafter, the 7” and Cassette editions were usually for the collectors only, as the band made a concerted effort to include bonus tracks on the 12” (or, by now, the CD format as well) that could not be found on the ‘short play’ formats.

When it was first issued, the “Best Of 1980-1990” release came with a bonus CD, entitled “The B-Sides 1980-1990”, which was a selective trawl through the lesser known items in the band’s back catalogue. Fifteen such songs were picked, space prevented any more than this being included, and the running order was not chronological, but this worked in it’s favour, as it allowed the 1982 b-side “Party Girl” to appear at the very end - fitting, given that, as mentioned earlier, it was a regular encore when the band played it live in the 80’s. The choice of songs seemed to be based around band favourites, and the CD made for an entertaining listen in it’s own right, as the quality of some of these songs was fairly impressive.

By choosing “random” songs, it meant that the bonus CD was not quite a completists dream - indeed, in many instances, the b-sides from latter period singles were available on the 7” and 12” formats, few of the “12” only” bonus tracks made the set. The only exception was the extra tracks from “All I Want Is You”, with the two covers from the 12”/CD editions both making the set. If, like me, you still needed a copy of this single at the time, buying the double-disc “Best Of” allowed you to get the 7” version of “All I Want Is You” instead, and not miss out on any rarities. This would also have been the case with the 12” edition of “The Unforgettable Fire”, but even though the exclusive b-side from that release, “Bass Trap”, made the set, it was edited for inclusion on “The B-Sides“ - and to date, this edit still remains unavailable on any other U2 release.

Given that the double-CD version of “Best Of” is thus an essential buy, the singles discography listed below is based around recommended formats you should buy on the basis you already have the 2-CD edition. Where a single was issued on 7” or double-7”, and this is the ’format of choice’, this is what I have listed. Where other formats exist with the same songs, or have extra songs on “Best Of”, these are shown. In addition to this, where a single was issued on 12”, either as an essential second format, or included additional material over the 7”, this is listed instead or as well as. It sounds complex, but it isn’t really.


As well as the singles list, I have also listed the albums U2 released between 1980 and 1989. I have decided to list the original vinyl pressings, as this is the format I have most of them on. It also allows me to demonstrate the “personalised” catalogue numbering system the band had in the UK.

If you’re new to the band, well, you may prefer to get the expanded reissues that exist of all five of the studio albums. “Boy”, “October” and “War” were all given 2-CD expanded reissues in 2008, whilst super-duper deluxe editions of “Unforgettable Fire” and “Joshua Tree” exist. The other albums have all been reissued on CD at least once, and although there is a “fancy” edition of “Under The Blood Red Sky”, the bonus DVD with this release is just the “already available” concert video “Live At Red Rocks”, so the original vinyl LP will do the same audio-wise if you prefer your records in big sleeves.


Boy (1980, LP, Island ILPS 9646)
October (1981, LP, Island ILPS 9680)
War (1983, LP, Island ILPS 9733)
Under A Blood Red Sky (1983, LP, Island IMA 3)
The Unforgettable Fire (1984, LP, Island U2-5)
The Joshua Tree (1987, LP, Island U2-6)
Rattle And Hum (1988, 2xLP, Island U2-7)

“Wide Awake In America” was issued in 85 as a US Mini Album, but made it’s debut in the UK in the late 80’s, and was made available on CD [IMCD 75]. The live version of “Bad” which kicks off the record, for some years, remained unavailable on any other U2 release, but all four songs are on the expanded “Unforgettable Fire“ release.


Three EP: Out Of Control/Stories For Boys/Boy Girl (Numbered Irish Only 12”, CBS 12-7951)
Another Day/Twilight (Demo) (Irish Only 7”, CBS 8306)
11 O’Clock Tick Tock/Touch (7”, Island WIP 6601)
A Day Without Me/Things To Make And Do (7”, Island WIP 6630)
I Will Follow/Boy Girl (Live) (7”, Island WIP 6656)
Fire/J Swallo/11 O’ Clock Tick Tock (Live)/The Ocean (Live)/Cry (Live)/The Electric Co (Live) (2x7”, Island UWIP 6679)
Gloria/I Will Follow (Live) (7”, Island WIP 6733)
A Celebration/Trash Trampoline And The Party Girl (7”, Island WIP 6770)
New Year’s Day (Edit)/Treasure/Fire (Live)/I Threw A Brick Through A Window (Live)/A Day Without Me (Live) (2x7”, Island UWIP 6848)
Two Hearts Beat As One (Edit)/Endless Deep (7”, Island IS 109)
Two Hearts Beat As One (Club Version)/New Year’s Day (US Remix)/Two Hearts Beat As One (US Remix) (12”, Island 12IS 109)
Pride/4th Of July/Boomerang I/Boomerang II (2x7”, Island ISD 202, also on 12”)
The Unforgettable Fire/A Sort Of Homecoming (Live)/Love Comes Tumbling/Sixty Seconds In Kingdom Come/The Three Sunrises (2x7”, Island ISD 220)
The Three Sunrises/The Unforgettable Fire/A Sort Of Homecoming (Live)/Love Comes Tumbling/Bass Trap (12”, Island 12IS 220, different sleeve to 2x7“ format)
With Or Without You/Luminous Times/Walk To The Water (7”, Island IS 319, also on Cassette/12”/CD)
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For/Spanish Eyes/Deep In The Heart (7”, Island IS 328, also on Cassette/12”)
Where The Streets Have No Name/Race Against Time/Silver And Gold/Sweetest Thing (12” with lyric insert & poster, Island 12IS 340, also on Cassette/CD)
Desire/Hallelujah Here She Comes/Desire (Hollywood Remix) (12”, Island 12IS 400, also on CD)
Angel Of Harlem/A Room At The Heartbreak Hotel/Love Rescue Me (Live) (12”, Island 12IS 402, also on CD)
When Love Comes To Town/Dancing Barefoot/When Love Comes To Town (Live from The Kingdom Mix)/God Part 2 (The Hard Metal Dance Mix) (12”, Island 12IS 411, also on CD)
All I Want Is You (Edit)/Unchained Melody (7”, Island IS 422, initial copies in numbered tin with unique p/s. Also on cassette. 12” editions add “Everlasing Love”, CD also adds LP version of a-side)