by John Walters
“How long to sing this song?” At least two more installments after this one.
Here’s one fan’s 21st through 30th favorite U2 songs, and if you’re looking for that Batman song on this list or even “The Sweetest Thing,” look elsewhere.
Timely tweet from this morning:
— Rob Stone (@RobStoneONFOX) January 25, 2018
How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, 2004
Uno, dos, tres, quatorze! Bruce Springsteen had a few funny words to say about that lyric when he inducted the band into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004 (Did you really think we were going to get through this entire list without including Bruce’s insanely funny and incredibly insightful speech about the lads?)
The band were all in their mid-forties when they wrote this adrenaline shot of a song that possesses the LED-battery energy of a 22 year-old who plans on keeping the candle burning straight up until his boozy brunch the next day. Can you think of another band that has written as many nuclear-powered rock songs past the age of 40 as this band has? They’ve slowed down of late, but I can think of four such tunes off the top of my head (the other three are higher on the list).
22. Two Hearts Beat As One
“New Year’s Day” was the first U2 song that really blistered the FM airwaves in the really Eighties, but this primal scream embodied the band’s spirit better. A note: This is apocryphal, which is to say that I wasn’t at the show but I think I recall my high school buddies telling me about attending a Van Halen concert in the early Eighties. The opening band was U2 and the crowd booed throughout the entire set (although this was a thing Van Halen fans proudly did no matter who was opening at the time).
23. The Electric Co. (Live)
Under A Blood Red Sky, 1983
Short for “electric convulsion therapy,” this tune originally appeared on the band’s but album, Boy. This is textbook early U2: jangling, piercing guitar layered over a crusading Bono.
24. Trip Through Your Wires
The Joshua Tree, 1987
How earth-shakingly great was The Joshua Tree? This throwaway harmonica foot-stomper doesn’t crack my Top 5 off that album, but it’s still on this list. This song is best listened to around a campfire while eating pinto beans off a tin plate.
Rattle And Hum, 1988
U2 loves its Memphis icons and then some. The band paid tribute to Dr. King twice on The Unforgettable Fire and once to Elvis. With this haunting tune they evened the score. If you can get past Bono wearing a leather vest over nothing, you can forgive the band’s greatest sin of the late Eighties. This is one of those U2 songs that was never a radio hit, but that is often on my internal radio dial. “In this heartland/In this heartland soil…”
- I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (Live)
Rattle and Hum, 1988
The Edge in the Rattle and Hum film: “It’s a gospel song pretty much. It doesn’t sound much like a gospel song the way we do it, but if you look at the lyric, the basic music, that’s exactly what it is.” This is one of U2’s most popular (2nd-highest charting) AND most critically acclaimed tunes, but I don’t think they really got it right on The Joshua Tree. I think they got it right here, performing it at MSG with the Harlem-based choir, New Voices of Freedom. It’s far more uplifting and spiritual. If this song bugs ya’, I didn’t mean to bug ya.
Note: The lead-in tune on the above video is “Party Girl,” which I wish could’ve made this list. “I know a girl named trampoline/You know what I mean…”
- Pride (In The Name Of Love)
The Unforgettable Fire, 1984
The band’s unapologetic and earnest dive into politics and human-rights issues, a flag-waving, boot-stomping tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., on an album that already has a song titled “MLK.” And yes, it was not a Friday morning, it was a Friday afternoon, for all you “Well, actually” types. What saves this song (for many, it is beyond salvation), is that opening guitar riff by The Edge, but then again, how many U2 songs have his opening riffs saved, right? Larry Mullen’s drum intro is also solid: If there’s one U2 song where you can imagine the band marching along to it like a colonial fife-and-drum corps, here is that song.
Believe it or not, this song is not even in the top 10 of U2’s highest-charting singles (it’s No. 11).
The Unforgettable Fire, 1984
It’s a fair criticism: Too many of the songs on this album sound like too many of the other songs on this album. This tune, for example, and the title track are basically fraternal twins. That’s okay. Still love the song. “Such a nice day/To throw your life away/Such a nice day/Let it go!” Notes: This is not the highest-ranked tune with “wire” in the title nor is it the highest-ranked tune of four letters or less.
- Miss Sarajevo
Original Soundtracks I, 1995
If you’re keeping score at home, that’s B.B. King and Luciano Pavarotti who’ve guested on U2 tracks. I chose this performance from Milan because here, in the seat of opera, Bono tackles the aria and he just freaking nails it! (4:04). Besides being a beautiful ballad, a “prayer” as Bono puts it, this song has a tremendous backstory: media journalist Bill Carter (The Late Shift) made a documentary film about a beauty pageant taking place in Sarajevo in 1993 the midst of the Bosnia-Serbia conflict and asked Bono to get involved. This song is part of the product.
The winner, Inela Nogic, was a 17 year-old blonde who four years later would be escorted to a U2 concert by the band. She now lives in the Netherlands.
- A Sort Of Homecoming
The Unforgettable Fire, 1984
Not unlike the studio version of “Still Haven’t Found,” this tune sort of rumbles along at the same pace throughout, but also has that one ethereal moment: “Ohhhh, Ohhhh, Ohhhh/On borderlands we ruuuuuuuu-uuuuuuhhhhuhh-uuuhhhhh-un…” Huge mistake to open the album with this song, as it doesn’t rev your engines. They should’ve opened it with the eponymous track . Low-hanging fruit, Bono.