- 09 Mar 17
Today is the 30th anniversary of the release of The Joshua Tree. To occasion, we bring you the last of our key tracks that didn't make it onto the final cut of the album. Stay tuned for our Joshua Tree cover story during the day.
March 9 – the date when The Joshua Tree was launched, all of 30 years ago, in 1987. It was the album that fired U2 into the stratosphere, reaching No.1 all over the world and going on to sell 25 million copies.
To mark this occasion, Hot Press have been selecting, for your delectation, seven of the less familiar tracks from the recording sessions that generated The Joshua Tree – one every day from now till March 9th. Some of our choices were never intended for a U2 record. Others might arguably have made the album even stronger. And more again just didn’t fit the flow, in an era when artists were far more limited by a requirement to come in at or under the 40 minutes you could fit comfortably onto a vinyl record.
There are any of a dozen reasons why decisions can be made to include or exclude tracks. But what we can say is that herein is an even greater abundance of U2 gold. Here's our second installment, with your guide: Valentina Magli.
7) DRUNK CHICKEN/AMERICA
“America, I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.”
'Drunk Chicken/America' is emblematic of The Joshua Tree sessions and the fact that the album celebrates the love/hate relationship the band had then – and in many ways may still have – with the United States.
It is a musical adaptation of the poem ‘America' by Allen Ginsberg. The poem itself is rich in cultural and political references as well as allusions to the poet’s life and fellow writers. The structure of the poem is irregular, but the rhythm is inspired by music. Ginsberg stated that the key to understanding the poem is in “the jazz choruses.”
America is personified in Ginsberg's poem, as a character that represents the prevailing values of industrialisation and greed, which destroyed the original spirit of the Promised Land.
The track was one of the first recordings carried out at Danesmoate house in Rathfarnham, where U2 turned the house into a recording studio and experimented boldly with producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois at the desk. It was given the working title 'Drunk Chicken’. "It's all Eno in truth,” Edge explained. "Brian started the improvisation, and although we were all willing, it never quite got past its Enoesque origins. It's clear from this track that we were still searching for clues, looking for the end of the thread."
In the long run, you might say that U2 found what they were looking for, and The Joshua Tree was the result. But there are clues in the ones that got away which confirm just how differently things might have panned out – both then and in the future. Might the inclusion of different tracks have made the success of The Joshua Tree less likely to have happened on the scale that it did? Or could it have pushed the album even deeper into the collective imagination of music fans?
We will leave that for you to decide. But on the day that The Joshua Tree was released, all of 30 years ago, it is a moment for us to celebrate. It is time for us, once more, to reach out and touch the flame...
Here's the song itelf, and below, a recording on Allen Ginsberg reading the poem: