Best of the obscure

This post is brought to you by one part disappointment, one part nostalgia.


A friend has asked me to make her a Best of U2 mix. This is proving to be a lot harder than I thought. In fact, it might be the hardest mix I’ve ever made. Don’t get me wrong – there is nothing I enjoy more than putting together a good music compilation. So, I’m having a good time.

The problem is, U2 has a ton of great songs. Best of? Almost every song is a classic! So far, I have it narrowed down to, erm…70. (I’m working on it, I swear. But I honestly don’t know what to cut from the list of 70. Do you NEED the original version of “Stay” as well as the mind-blowing live version? Yes, yes you do. Does almost every song from Achtung Baby need to be on there? Well, it’s only their best album, so duh. Welcome to my brain for the last few days.)

Anyway. So, I’m not going to see their tour this time around. Despite my love for almost everything they’ve done ever, I’m not too excited about their latest effort. I hate that I don’t love it.

I was totally fine with my decision until I started working on this mix. Then I remembered how much I love The Boys, and that they put on a show like no one else. So I looked to see if tickets were still available.  They are – but only behind the stage. And, though there is not really a bad seat in at a U2 concert, behind the stage is not ideal. I don’t mind being high up in the nosebleeds, so long as I’m facing the stage. So…woe is me. Pity me. For the first time since 1997, I’m not seeing my beloved foursome on tour.

But hey, you didn’t click over here to read about me feeling sorry for myself. So, let’s get on with it.

Making this mix has also reminded me that U2 has so many hidden gems. Not breakout hits, these aren’t songs one would think about putting on a “best of” collection. Well, OK, so a few might actually be on The Best of U2, but they aren’t songs people remember when they think about U2. Not a “Streets” or “One” in the mix.

Without further adieu, here are some hidden gems in U2’s catalogue.

Closer to you every day. Didn’t want it that much anyway.
“Gone” (from Pop)
When Pop first came out, my friend and fellow U2 fanatic said she believed the song was about Bono’s Mr. MacPhisto from the ZooTV tour. I don’t know if she was right. But I do know this is one of my favorites from the album. See for yourself below. Also: The Edge is a fucking badass.

Love is hard, and love is tough. But love is not what you’re thinking of.
“Please” (from Pop)
One of the best songs about religion, written by a Christian talking about the dangers of religon. (Got that?) On the album, it’s all techno-driven and loud and angry. I love that version, but I also love this stripped down one from 2001.

Am I buggin’ you? I don’t mean to bug ya. OK, Edge, play the blues!
“Silver and Gold” (from Rattle and Hum)
According to legend, they wrote this song in one hour. Kind of hard to believe. It’s so powerful. And, of course, Bono is ever the showman. (Also, I just really like saying, “Am I buggin’ you? I don’t mean to bug ya.” Try saying it to someone who won’t get the reference. It’s fun.)

She will suffer the needle’s chill. She’s running to stand still.
“Running to Stand Still” (from The Joshua Tree)
To be honest, I didn’t give this song much thought until I saw the ZooTV tour. Bono gives a spine-tingling performance that always leaves me breathless. If you didn’t know what the song was about before, you will after seeing this.

The Irish been coming here for years, feel like they own the place.
“New York” (from All That You Can’t Leave Behind)
This is a pretty stirring song, all things considered. I don’t think it was written to be, but timing is everything. I saw them perform it in November, 2001, just a few months after Sept. 11th. Unlike the video below, during the song, they ran the names of every person who was killed that day. The audience held their breath through the last note. It was one of the most memorable experience of my life.

Don’t you know you old fool, you never can win.
“I’ve Got You Under My Skin” (from Frank Sinatra’s Duets)
After Natalie Cole but before American Idol, Bono did the whole split screen duet thing. The result is delightful, and oddly touching. (Also, Bono sounds super sexy.) See for yourself.

Still I’m waiting for the dawn.
“Yahweh” (from How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb)
This will go down in U2’s history as one of the songs best heard live. While it’s great on the album, this song is an anthem, best experienced in concert.

I spend my whole life running; he spends his running after me.
“The First Time” (from Zooropa)
Quite simply, this is one of the most beautiful songs ever written. Quiet, unassuming, perfect.

You are the first one of your kind.
“Original of the Species” (from How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb)
Another song I didn’t pay mind to until hearing it live. You guys – this song – this song is wonderful. Bono and The Edge wrote it for their oldest daughters. Before I knew that, I didn’t get it. I do now. “Original of the Species” is a glimpse into fatherhood. Bono and the Edge share what it’s like for them to watch their little girls grow up. Quite honestly, I can’t listen to the song now without tearing up. Also, this video you’re about to see is from the concert I went to. And it was Bono’s birthday. And his daughter’s. Pretty awesome to have that night captured forever on film. (And yet…I don’t own this DVD.)

Here she comes. Heads turn around.
“Miss Sarajavo” (from Original Soundtracks 1)
I don’t know that any introduction is needed. The song – and this performance in particular (seen in U2:3D) is breathtaking. Definitely a rare gem in the U2 ouvre.

Last, this is not really an obscure track (I don’t think), but it is my favorite U2 song of all time, so I must include it.

You say when he hits you, you don’t mind. Because when he hurts you, you feel alive. Oh now. Is that what it is?
“Stay (Faraway, So Close)” (from Zooropa)
I love it in any form: on the album, live, acoustic, plugged in, whatever. However, my favorite performance would have to be this one. Just look at how his eyes bulge, and his neck sticks out. Is it weird I think that’s incredibly sexy?

Next time round, I’ll come see you, Bono. I promise. In the meantime, I’m going to work on narrowing the compilation down to at least 50.

2 thoughts on “Best of the obscure

  1. Pingback: Learning how to walk « Pink the color. Pink the person. Hot dogs. Basically anything that's awesome.

  2. Pingback: Finally found what I was looking for « Pink the color. Pink the person. Hot dogs. Basically anything that's awesome.

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