- 19 Aug 01
MARK KAVANAGH considers U2’s adventures on the dancefloor
For a band so widely regarded as being at one with club culture, U2 very rarely treat us to dance versions of their singles, and their twenty year career has given us but a handful of classic dance mixes.
The most famous, the most uptempo, and the first (and only) to be released in its own right was Paul Oakenfold and Steve Osborne’s Perfecto Mix of ‘Even Better Than The Real Thing’, an electrifying stadium house mix that was also Oakenfold and Osborne’s finest hour. There was no initial intention to make the mix (and accompanying variations from Apollo 440) commercially available, but after massive pressure from club forces, led by BBC1FM’s Pete Tong, the dance mixes were released as a single late in 1992. They charted two places higher than the original ‘rock’ version, at number ten.
It wasn’t the first time Oakenfold had worked with U2. The DJ that’s currently leading the charge of the Stateside rave boom had been U2’s tour DJ and had earlier remixed ‘Mysterious Ways’. This more downtempo treatment was included on the original twelve inch of ‘MW’, which was withdrawn by Island, as the label did not want it to include the same tracks as the CD format. It also included more downtempo mixes of ‘MW’ by Stereo MCs and Massive Attack.
Oakey remained U2’s dance guru for some time. He was invited to Dublin to cast his ear over the sessions for Zooropa, and he remixed its most renowned track ‘Lemon’, which was only released as a single in Japan and Australia. his remix was, however, also included on the vinyl promo and Swing CD single format of the album’s ‘Stay (Faraway So Close)’, along with a David Morales ‘Bad Yard Club Mix’. Oakenfold later used the backing track from ‘Lemon’ on Grace’s ‘Skin On Skin’ single on his Perfecto label, which had initially surfaced on a promo entitled ‘Orange’. A rarity never issued on vinyl is the Underdog remix of ‘Stay’ – it only surfaced on a cassette given away free with Select magazine.
The second rarest U2 club mix is also from this era. Terry Farley and Pete Heller turned ‘Salomé’ into a delicious funky house anthem, and the highly sought after promo (now worth between £50 and £100) was its only excursion on vinyl. It was made available commercially on the CD of ‘Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses’ at the end of 1992.
Throughout 1995 and 1996, local promoters Influx and their peers became an influence on Bono and The Edge through their Thursday night parties at The Kitchen. Both U2 bods were regular fixtures out on the floor, and The Edge later referred to this period as “when techno was at its peak.” That said, techno’s influence on Pop was almost non-existent. Leftfield dance guru Howie B, who ran the obscure Pussyfoot imprint, was a regular attraction at Influx, and he was drafted in as a co-producer on the Pop album. The result is an album whose dancefloor influences were minimal and extremely experimental – Howie B was arguably the coolest dance cat on the block, but he wasn’t exactly famous for those hands-in-the-air moments.
Howie remixed Pop’s lead single ‘Discotheque’, and Influx mainman Johnny Moy got his turn on ‘Mofo’. House head Matthew Roberts and drum ‘n’ bass don Roni Size also remixed the latter. ‘Last Night On Earth’ appeared as a single with a rather cheesy PopMart mix of M’s 1979 hit ‘Pop Muzik’. The CD also included Danny Saber’s mix of ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’. The rarest U2 remix is from these sessions – Underworld’s take on ‘Mofo’ has never been released.
Fast forward to 2000, and Paul Oakenfold is back twiddling the knobs on ‘Beautiful Day’, the first single from All That You Can’t Leave Behind, with the result an uptempo funky house number that failed to capture clubland’s imagination. However, Ireland’s Chris Agnelli did the trick with his superb remake.
This year, for ‘Elevation’, the band secured the services of Leo Pearson and Johnny Moy (whose psychedelic rock treatment is a classic but not dancefloor friendly) and former big beat star Jon Carter.
Over the years, U2 have consistently turned down requests from dance acts and producers to clear samples of their work, with the piano line from ‘New Year’s Day’ a favourite for lifting. Dynamic Base was one of the first acts to do so – they somehow sneaked a European hit with ‘Africa’ on ZYX in the early nineties. It wasn’t until this year, however, that U2 gave permission for a sample to be used for the first time, and Musique vs U2’s ‘New Year’s Day’ was a massive club and pop hit after heavy exposure at the Miami Winter Conference.
Examples of uncleared dance twelves are innumerable, and this year we’ve had the naughty ‘Sunshine Day’ and ‘New Year’s Dub’ white labels, and the ‘Virtuoso’ trance anthem from Apex on Graham Gold’s Good:As imprint, which borrows the intro from ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’.
Their reluctance to clear samples made U2 unpopular in some quarters, especially around the time of Pop, when they were actively portraying themselves as down with dance music. But on the whole their experiments with club culture are regarded as a success, despite the fact that only the Perfecto Mix of ‘Even Better Than The Real Thing’ can be classified as a worldwide dance smash.