I got into a conversation on Twitter with David Franklin and Chip Swain about what songs we skip on U2 albums. I think it may have started by one of us saying we didn’t skip any songs on Songs of Innocence and then it just snowballed from there. It’s not that we don’t like these songs, it’s just that we like other songs on the albums better and don’t have the patience to sit through the ok ones to get to the great ones – at least that’s how I feel. Like I’ve always said, the worst U2 song is still better than any other song. It’s like pizza – even when it’s bad, it’s good. So here are three different points of views of U2 song skips.
Since it’s my blog, we’ll first look at what songs I skip on U2 albums. Unlike my counterparts, there is at least one song on each album I skip. Again, it’s not that I don’t like them, but in comparison to the rest of the album, I like them less. I have listed U2 albums in order from my favorite to my least favorite. I did not include Under a Blood Red Sky, Wide Awake in America or Passengers.
THE JOSHUA TREE skips:
1. “Mothers of the Disappeared”
2. “Bullet the Blue Sky”
You might be wondering how I can skip two songs on my favorite album? I also include the b sides of Joshua Tree as making it my favorite album, so I am really only skipping 2 songs out of 18.
RATTLE AND HUM skips:
1. “Van Dieman’s Land”
2. “Freedom For My People”
3. “Bullet the Blue Sky”
Hopefully the Edge fans won’t hate me for skipping “Van Diemen’s Land,” but while it’s cool to have Edge sing lead, I would rather get to the rest of the album. “Freedom For My People” is not even a U2 song, so of course I skip it. And I skip “Bullet the Blue Sky” on The Joshua Tree, so I also skip it on Rattle and Hum. Just really not a fan of “Bullet.”
ACHTUNG BABY skips:
1. “Even Better Than the Real Thing”
I was never a fan of “Even Better Than the Real Thing,” even after I heard it live on the ZooTv Tour. Usually after I hear songs live, I fall in love with them – like I did with “The Fly” and “Mysterious Ways.” But I didn’t like “Even Better Than the Real Thing” until I heard Larry’s driving drum beat opening each show on the last leg of the 360 Tour in 2011 – but I still skip it when listening to Achtung Baby.
ALL THAT YOU CAN’T LEAVE BEHIND skips:
1. Peace on Earth
2. New York
I am just not a fan of “Peace on Earth,” New York,” or “Grace,” but the all the other songs on the All That You Can’t Leave Behind are superb and more than make up for those three. Although these are the same three songs that were so timely and important after 9/11 and hearing “New York” in New York in October of 2001 just a month after the tragedy was heart wrenching and comforting all at the same time.
SONGS OF INNOCENCE skips:
1. “This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now”
This is almost unfair because the album is only two months old, but “This is Where You Can Reach Me Now” has not reached me as of yet. I absolutely love every song on Songs of Innocence, except “This is Where You Can Reach Me Now.” I don’t dislike it. I just love the other songs SO much more.
NO LINE ON THE HORIZON skips:
1. “Fez: Being Born”
2. “White as Snow”
3. “Cedars of Lebanon”
Coincidentally, these are the only three songs (along with “Stand Up Comedy”) that were never played live on the 360 Tour. Not sure if that has anything to do with why I skip them or not, but I was never a fan of those three songs from the first time I listened to No Line on the Horizon, but I love the rest of the album.
UNFORGETTABLE FIRE skips:
1. “4th of July”
2. “Elvis Presley & America”
I am not a big fan of instrumentals, so of course I skip “4th of July.” As much as I love Elvis Presley and the fact that U2 has a song about Elvis, I just can’t get into “Elvis Presley & America.” And I adore Martin Luther King, Jr, but I’d rather skip “MLK” and get to the rest of the great songs on Unforgettable Fire.
2. “Playboy Mansion”
3. “Wake Up Dead Man”
I love Pop. I know a lot of people write it off, but it is a great album with brilliant lyrics. Even though “Miami” is great live, I still skip it on the album. I was never a fan of that city anyway. “Playboy Mansion” has never done anything for me. Sometimes I enjoy Bono’s haunting screech on “Wake Up Dead Man,” but I usually skip it.
1. “Stranger in a Strange Land”
I love October. Like Pop, most people write this album off. I have to confess I rarely listen to U2’s first three albums, but October is by far my favorite of the three – probably because it is such a drum driven album. “Stranger in a Strange Land” is my least favorite song on October, so I skip it – simple as that. I loved “Scarlet” live on the 360 Tour, especially Larry’s drum solo, but I skip when listening to the album.
2. “The Refugee”
3. “Red Light”
1. “An Cat Dubh”
2. “The Ocean”
3. “Shadows and Tall Trees”
3. “Daddy’s Gonna Pay for Your Crashed Car”
HOW TO DISMANTLE AN ATOMIC BOMB skips:
1. “Man and a Woman”
2. “Crumbs From Your Table”
3. “One Step Closer”
5. “Fast Cars”
I am not and never was a huge fan of How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, as made evident by me skipping half of the album. It used to be more than that until I heard “Vertigo” and “City of Blinding Lights” again live in the 360 Tour. I was just never into How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb or the Vertigo Tour. It’s like 2005 was the U2 void year for me. Can’t explain it because I was crazy obsessed on the Elevation Tour prior and the 360 Tour after.
Truth be told, as if it wasn’t clear already, I rarely listen to the last four albums I listed (War, Boy, Zooropa, and How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb). I listen to my favorite songs off each of them on my U2 playlist, but I rarely listen to those four albums in their entirety. I apologize for my lack of explanation for why I skip those songs I listed – basically they are my least favorite on the album. In my opinion, Achtung Baby and Songs of Innocence are U2’s most complete albums – even though they aren’t my favorite albums. The Joshua Tree and Rattle and Hum (aka The Joshua Tree part 2) are my favorite albums, mostly because of they were my first loves and their phenomenal b sides. If you take out the songs I skip on those two albums and replaced them with the b sides, you would have two perfect albums. So that makes Achtung Baby my third favorite album and Songs of Innocence my fifth favorite, after All That You Can’t Leave Behind. I am not quite ready to bump Songs of Innocence up to the number four slot after just two months. And I have to wait until after the tour because the Elevation Tour is the main reason All That You Can’t Leave Behind is my fourth favorite U2 album. It’s funny how hearing songs live changes your view of them, but listening to ALYCLB brings back all those wonderful memories of the amazing, once in a lifetime Elevation Tour. Again, let me say (or write) that I don’t dislike any of the songs I skip on the albums, there isn’t a bad U2 song. These are just my least favorite songs I skip to get to my favorite songs.
Here is what David Franklin had to say about what songs he skips on U2 albums:
On the subject of skips, when talking about u2 songs, I’ve wavered back and forth. On one hand, it’s perfectly normal and accepted that any and all good bands, even the iconic ones, have tunes that are just a bit off the mark. Hell, even the bands themselves agree. Sometimes even publicly! On the other hand, I find it sort of unsettling to label a song by the most influential and important band of my life, as a “skip”. And, so, even in the very few songs that I am about to list for you here, I have a confession to make. I don’t actually skip any of them! They may not resonate with me on the same scale as the rest, but within each, there is more than a little salvageable “stuff”? Maybe its the perfect lyric, even a tiny one….maybe its The Edge front and center in just the right spot. Perhaps it’s Larry pounding away causing me to tap my toes, or even the subtle but undeniable undercurrent supplied by Adam. EVen the skips have one or more of the above. I can’t with a straight face admit that I feel they have any bad songs. The single song that comes closest to this accusation, for me, is Boots off No line. And even if I begrudgingly admit that when performed live, it has some penache, I honestly care very little for the song.
Let me get the easy ones out of the way, album speaking. For me, there are zero skips on the following: Boy, October (this effort seems to be maligned within the “expert” circles, but I adore it), War (although “the refugee” probably comes about as close as possible without me removing it?!), Joshua Tree, Achtung Baby, and yes….Songs of Innocence. So, that’s Boy, October, War, Joshua, Achtung and Songs that I cant name a single skip. Oh, by the way, I’m not including Rattle and Hum in here.
The Unforgettable Fire:
1. “4th of July.” This may be kind of an unfair additon, as its a funky and odd little instrumental, but as such, it serves the purpose. I cant fathom anyone popping in the “Fire” cd and saying “I have to hear that “4th of July thing”?!
2. “Elvis Presley and America.” I’ve tried…really and truly tried to embrace this song. Every time I read of someone in the ever expanding arena that is the u2 twitterverse go on about how meaningful and real this song is, I kind of kick myself and ask “am I missing something?” I know it was kind of impromptu and that it has to do with the obvious admiration of Mr. Presley, but…I’m not its biggest fan.
1. “Numb.” Now, within this tune, there is definitely one of those things that I pick out that saves it and I love. Bono has some soaring and beautiful background vocals. But…cool video at the time aside, this has never done much for me.
Theres a couple others on here that I would certainly label “average”, such as “Babyface” (dont kill me!), “Some Days” and “Dirty Day.” But, they provide more than enough for me to leave them on the right side of the ledger.
1. “Miami.” I’ve heard that its good live. I think I may have even listened to a recording of it as such. But, I havent seen or heard it in person, and….I’m not from Miami. The polor opposite of this song for me is “California.” Pure and beautiful. In my estimation, the lads got off the plane, much younger (though not dumb?!), saw the sun, the sand, the scantily clad girls literally all around them and decided they simply must write a song about it! I keep waiting for them to make a song called “Minneapolis”. But alas….
2. “The Playboy Mansion.” Too much crammed into this one. And, paired back to back with “Miami” creates what I think is the band’s weakest spot on any of their albums.
All That You Can’t Leave Behind:
This is an interesting album in that it sort of served as their re-entry into mainstream america, and also was a bit of a lightning rod for both the staunchy expert types as well as the hard core fans. This album contains the most polarizing songs for me, as some of the huge hits that I have rocked out to and danced to live….are the same ones that it’s tempting for me to lump into the other side? Ultimately, I didn’t and don’t, but I’m not the biggest fan of “Elevation.” I’m listening to it as I type this as it were, and musically…it has moments of lift off, moments of pump your fists into the air and scream and shout, but there’s just something soulful missing from it that I’ve never personally attained. Now, let me reiterate…I am NOT putting “Elevation” onto any skip list!!
1. “Peace on Earth.” I love the message, I love Bono’s tone and sincerity. It’s just a wierd spot for it. For me anyway. That being said, there are some lyrics in here that I love. Absolutely love.
2. “New York.” See the above “Miami”. If they wrote a song about all the cities that have made an impact on them, I suppose that the list could get lengthy. I have heard some recordings of this one from in New York. The ones that stick out and certainly resonate are those shows from October of 2011 immediately after 9/11. Now those were some emotional and powerful performances. But, when this one comes on the Ipod, it doesn’t have that same emotional punch as the live version does from those shows. And, probably just like “Miami,” don’t think this one could or would work anywhere else.
3. “Grace.” Kind of an odd little ditty.
Even after I typed that, I’m super torn on “Peace on Earth”. Cause, as it played, It just didn’t feel right to include it, but….I’m not gonna go back and delete!
How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb:
1. “A Man and a Woman.” This song was largely crucifed by the expert crowd as downright terrible. It’s not that bad. But, its’ not incredible either. And, I’m in love with the lyrics: “losing love to find romance”…. gorgeous words. But, the song itself is…eh?
2. “One Step Closer.” Even though musically….this song has some other worldly parts. But, the music and lyrics just never come together for me. Each kind of shines seperately, never together.
No Line on the Horizon:
1. “No Line on the Horizon.” I don’t love the start, but then it kinds of redeems itself and it gives the listener the stirrings that something majestic is coming, something sonic. But, then the chorus is kind of a bummer. Almost a complete deacceleration? The best part of the song is the “ohh, ohh, ohh…the songs in your head, are now on my mind….”
2. “Get on Your Boots.” enough said.
3. “Cedars of Lebanon.” kind of a downer closer.
So, by my count…that’s 13 songs. Not too bad considering that all the other ones are borderline masterful at worse, and at their best? Iconic. Once in a lifetime. And even these 13…I can and do find something in each one to latch onto and I’ll hum along with each, and yes…even Boots.
– David Franklin
I must interject here. I strongly disagree with David about both “No Line on the Horizon” and “Get on Your Boots.” I absolutely love both those songs! I’m guessing even U2 doesn’t agree with me about “No Line on the Horizon” because they dropped it from the set list on the final leg of the 360 Tour, but that song rocks and yes David the best line is “the songs in your head are now on my mind.” And Adam’s bass on it is just fantastic! Now, “Get on Your Boots.” I realize I am in the minority here because I love it, I mean I really love Boots! It’s actually in my top 10 songs because “Get on Your Boots” represents and reminds me of the great 360 Tour and the amazing times I had. “LET ME IN THE SOUND” has become my U2 tour anthem. I must admit that the main reason I love “Boots” is because of the live version when Larry stands up back to back with Bono pounding his drums shouting “LET ME IN THE SOUND!” I completely agree with David about loving the October album and that “Numb” is a great video!
Here is what Chip Swain had to say about what songs he skips on U2 albums:
The No Skip test
When I first received Songs of Innocence, I played it. Start to finish. I do this with every new U2 album upon its release. I didn’t love it immediately. I liked it, but more importantly I noticed there weren’t any songs that didn’t interest me. I took that as a good sign. After listening to it again and again and again, certain songs began to emerge as favorites and often when this happens, other songs fade away as tracks I will skip when listening to the album as a whole. This didn’t happen with this album. In fact, it’s been over 2 months of listening to this album and I still listen to the whole thing. Start to finish. I made a comment that this is the first time this has happened since Achtung Baby. Now, I wasn’t 100% sure this was true, and even though it seemed that way in my head, I recently set out to find out what songs I just plain skip when I listen to a specific album start to finish.
I started at Zooropa and worked forward, excluding October and Boy. My “No Skip Test” would occur as follows. I would listen to the album once through (even though I know all the songs, I haven’t listened to them in this way in a long time) Then I will play the album again and if I am bored or eager to move on…skip!
I don’t remember enjoying this album that much when it was first released. I specifically remember not liking ‘The Wanderer.” I listened to the album all the way through. When I played it back for the second time, I skipped nothing. “The Wanderer” is still not my favorite, but I enjoyed the album from start to finish. Surprisingly, “Numb” was the only other song I came close to skipping.
I am an Unapologetic PopFan. “Please” is in my top 5 songs of all time. But I skip “Miami” always. I usually skip “Staring at the Sun,” “The Playboy Mansion” and “If You Wear That Velvet Dress.” I gave the entire album an honest chance, but I still skipped “Miami,” “Staring at the Sun” and “The Playboy Mansion.” I did enjoy ‘Velvet Dress’ more this time around.
All That You Can’t Leave Behind:
I was eager to play this album from start to finish. I had forgotten the order of the songs and hadn’t listened to the ‘back half’ of the album in a long time. I played it once through and was reminded quickly why I hadn’t listened to the back half in a long time. The second time through: “Wild Honey,” “Peace on Earth,” “When I look at the World”: all skipped. I love “New York”, so I listened to that and let “Grace” play out.
How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb:
I have an affection for this album. It probably doesn’t hit the highest highs that ATYCLB hits, but I think it has more to offer. At least that was my recollection going into the No Skip Test. In truth, it’s very similarly formatted. First six tracks are all very solid. Non-skippable. I wanted to give “Man and Woman” a real chance, but just had to hit skip about a minute in. Doesn’t do it for me. I didn’t skip “Crumbs from Your Table,” but did skip “One Step Closer.” “Original of the Species” and “Yahweh” are both very listenable.
No Line on the Horizon:
Third consecutive album that’s very top heavy. (A consistent trait through the years I noticed) “Breathe” breaks up any otherwise very skipable back half of the album. After listening the whole thing all the way through, I skipped the following songs the second time through: “No Line on the Horizon,” “Unknown Caller,” “Fez-Being Born,” “White as Snow” and “Cedars of Lebanon.”
After completing this I decided to go back to the beginning, which for me was War and see if there are any other albums that pass the No Skip Test.
I hadn’t listened to this album start to finish in maybe 15 years at least. I was surprised how much I loved it. “The Refugee” was the only song I skipped when I went through it a second time. I also was inspired listening to “Like A Song”.
Probably the album that sounds most like an “80s” album. A little stuck in time. However, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would (I was bored by “The Unforgettable Fire”’s appearance on the 360 tour). Second time through I skipped “4th of July” and “Elvis Presley and America.” (Does that make me unpatriotic?)
The Joshua Tree:
I had truly forgotten what an unbelievable album this is. When you listen to it in order as it is meant to be heard, it’s pretty staggering. I did not skip any of these songs. Although admittedly, if it were placed anywhere else in the album, I would have skipped “Mothers of the Disappeared.”
Rattle and Hum:
Often dismissed as just the soundtrack from U2’s self-indulgent movie, this album is criminally underrated. I listened to this all the way through expecting it to contain a ton of skips. I didn’t skip one.
The basis for my test. I hadn’t even SEEN my Achtung Baby CD in years. I know it by heart. I put it in the CD player and was reminded why I love it. Even the often criticized “Tryin’ to Throw Your Arms Around the World.” I have to admit, I didn’t love “Ultraviolet” when they played it on 360, but still, it’s not skipable. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the skip test came when I listened to Achtung Baby the second time around. I actually skipped “One.” Blasphemy, I know. Perhaps because I’ve heard it so many times? I don’t know. I guess I just was eager to get to ‘The End of the World!’
The intro to Zooropa goes on FOREVER. It’s like 2:00 before the song really kicks in. That’s pretty crazy for a first track of a new album…So many songs from the 90s were 5+ minutes long. There are only 3 on Songs of Innocence that are over 5 minutes, but none over 5:30…Overall progression of tempo on most of the albums is similar. Starts faster, ends slower…Track 3 seems to have a consistent feeling of importance. One, Numb, Mofo, Elevation, Sometimes You Can’t Make it On Your Own, Moment of Surrender
– Chip Swain
I must interject once again because I strongly disagree with Chip regarding “When I Look at the World.” It is my second favorite song off All That You Can’t Leave Behind and in my top 20 U2 songs. The lyrics are just brilliant. “When your thoughts are too expensive to ever want to keep.” And the way Bono sings that chorus – chills! And “No Line on the Horizon”? I love that song, as I have already mentioned. But Chip, how can you ever forget how amazing The Joshua Tree and Rattle and Hum are?! I agree with Chip that Achtung Baby and Songs of Innocence are U2’s most complete albums, and that Pop is fantastic.
It is great to discuss U2 with other fans and get their perspectives, different from your own. But all three of us skip the following songs from U2 albums: “4th of July,” “Elvis Presley & America,” “Miami,” “Playboy Mansion,” “Peace on Earth,” “A Man and a Woman,” “One Step Closer” and “Cedars of Lebanon.”
What songs do you skip on U2 albums? Please comment below.