- 16 Mar 23
36 years ago today, U2 released 'With or Without You' – the lead single from their iconic fifth studio album, The Joshua Tree. The track became the band's first No.1 hit in the U.S., topping the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks. It's since been featured on lists of greatest songs of all time. To celebrate, we're revisiting the story behind 'With or Without You'...
Before recording The Joshua Tree, U2 decided to rehearse in Danesmote, a period house in Rathfarnham on the outskirts of Dublin. The room they occupied was beautiful, with high windows and natural light flooding in. The rehearsals went so well that they decided to do the album there…
“We had experimented a lot in the making of The Unforgettable Fire,” The Edge recalls. “We had done quite revolutionary things like ‘Elvis Presley and America’ and ‘4th of July’. So we felt, going into The Joshua Tree that maybe options were not a good thing, that limitations might be positive. And so we decided to work within the limitations of the song as a starting point. We thought: let’s actually write songs. We wanted the record to be less vague, open-ended, atmospheric and impressionistic. To make it more straightforward, focused and concise.”
Concise it may be, but ‘With or Without You’ is anything but straightforward.
“Paul McGuinness didn’t want to release it as a single,” Gavin Friday reveals. “But I told Bono that it was a certain No. 1. It was one of the biggest arguments I ever had with Paul, and in the end Bono sided with me. In fairness to Paul he did come up to me afterwards and apologise. He said, ‘You were right.’ And of course I was!”
In the midst of extremely busy times for U2, The Edge stars on the cover of the new issue of Hot Press.
The acclaimed musician offers a fascinating glimpse into his creative life, in a major Hot Press original – coinciding with U2's new album of re-interpretations, Songs of Surrender; a Disney+ docu-special; a new Sarajevo documentary, Kiss The Future, in which they're featured; and news of the band's starring role in the launch of a spectacular world-leading venue in Las Vegas.
In the piece, the guitarist – and producer of Songs Of Surrender – writes passionately about the inspiration behind the upcoming album, and the process of re-imagining some of U2's most beloved tracks.
Order the issue below: