U2’s ‘Rattle and Hum’ Gets Cut Down by Our 45-Minute Album Police
It seems U2 couldn't decide exactly how to commemorate their coronation as rock's new socially conscious kings. So after the multi-platinum success of The Joshua Tree and the celebratory sold-out tour of the world's biggest arenas that followed, they hedged their bets a bit.
The result was 1988's Rattle and Hum, which combined an album's worth of new studio material with live covers and new takes on several of their biggest hits. Together it was all a bit too much. More importantly, with a running time of one hour and 12 minutes, it wantonly violated the rules of our 45-Minute Album Police. So we set them loose to cut this perhaps overly ambitious album down to a more manageable size.
Nick DeRiso: This was uncommonly easy. Just take out all of the backward-looking live stuff – except, notably, for "Silver and Gold." Originally given to Steven Van Zandt for his Artists United Against Apartheid charity project, the track might have gotten lost if not for its inclusion on this blockbuster album. (The original, which also features Keith Richards and Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones, is very much worth seeking out.)
I did rearrange the album, since it didn't make the same musical sense after all of those deletions. Putting the album's best songs first and last? Also uncommonly easy. But I was struck all over again by "God Part II" while compiling this. Love the sentiment and the blistering groove, but Bono seems to be rejecting everything this overly nostalgic album actually ended up being about.
3. "All I Want Is You"
4. "Silver and Gold"
5. "God Part II"
6. "When Love Comes to Town"
7. "Hawkmoon 269"
8. "Love Rescue Me"
9. "Angel of Harlem"
Leave out: "Helter Skelter," "Van Diemen's Land," "All Along the Watchtower," "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," "Freedom for My People," "Pride (In the Name of Love)," "The Star-Spangled Banner," "Bullet the Blue Sky."
Michael Gallucci: U2 were the biggest band in the world after 1987's The Joshua Tree and its massive tour. While they were on the road, they recorded songs at various stops in Memphis, Dublin and Los Angeles. They also recorded several of the live shows. Somewhere along the way, someone decided to combine all of these recordings for U2's next album.
That was a mistake. It's not that Rattle and Hum is a bad album. It's actually quite good. But there's no flow to it, mostly because the live songs sound like they're squeezed in among the studio recordings to bring the album close to the compact disc's maximum running time of 80 minutes (the album clocks in at 72 minutes). So it makes sense to cut every single one of those live songs from the album, as well the 38-second "Freedom for My People" -- which doesn't include a single member of U2 -- for a much more compact, and way better LP, that runs a solid 40 minutes. I pretty much left these studio tracks in the same running order as they appear on the original record with one exception: I moved "Desire" to the opening slot, where the slashing guitar intro serves as a perfect album starter.
2. "Van Diemen's Land"
3. "Hawkmoon 269"
4. "Angel of Harlem"
5. "Love Rescue Me"
6. "When Love Comes to Town"
8. "God Part II"
9. "All I Want Is You"
Leave out: "Helter Skelter," "All Along the Watchtower," "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," "Freedom for My People," "Silver and Gold," "Pride (in the Name of Love)," "The Star Spangled Banner," "Bullet the Blue Sky."
Rob Smith: Rattle and Hum saw the biggest band on the planet consummate its relationship with America after a long flirtation, and as is often the case in these situations, the result was messy and a little underwhelming. There were moments of pure loveliness and grandeur (“Van Diemen’s Land,” “Angel of Harlem,” “All I Want is You”), as only U2 could provide, side-by-side with ponderous moments (“Heartland,” “Hawkmoon 269”) and songs that tried a bit too hard to connect (live takes on Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” and their own “Silver and Gold”).
So I split the album between live and studio sides. The live side could only start with the band “stealing back” “Helter Skelter,” and could only end with the ferocious run-through “Bullet the Blue Sky,” bookending the lovely gospel-fueled and choir-enhanced “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and a terrific “Pride.” Side Two features the best of the studio tracks, which for me were the best part of the album. “All I Want Is You” closes out my Rattle and Hum, as it did the actual Rattle and Hum, and as it should. “Love Rescue Me” is sacrificed for its length. The thing is, I don't know whether this makes the album better or just shorter. U2 have made rather remarkable live documents in the decades since Rattle and Hum, as well as superior studio albums. Trying to combine the two, even as the soundtrack to a film, leaves one hungry for more of either ... or both.
1. "Helter Skelter"
2. "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"
3. "Pride (In the Name of Love)"
4. "Bullet the Blue Sky"
5. "God Part II"
6. "Van Diemen's Land"
8. "Angel of Harlem"
9. "When Love Comes to Town"
10. "All I Want Is You"
Leave out: "Hawkmoon 269," "All Along the Watchtower," "Freedom for My People," "Silver and Gold," "Love Rescue Me," “Heartland,” "The Star Spangled Banner."
Bryan Wawzenek: If you cut all of Bono’s proselytizing stage banter, does it take this bloated piece of self-aggrandizement down to less than 45 minutes? Not quite? Okay then, let's throw out the baby with the bathwater and 86 every live track. This version of “Silver and Gold” might blister, but if it's not worth the cost of keeping “Okay, Edge, play the blues!”
On second thought, one of the concert cuts can stay: the fully Gospelized rendition of “I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For.” It’s overblown, like so much of Rattle and Hum, but the soaring spectacle is soulful nonetheless. Besides, some of the studio songs are awfully dull. “Heartland” should've been burned in The Unforgettable Fire and even the Edge’s family members don't want to hear him whine about Tasmania on “Van Diemen’s Land.” While we’re at it, why not kill “Love Rescue Me” and “Hawkmoon 269” and replace them with era-appropriate B-sides “Dancing Barefoot” (a better cover than those on the original double LP) and “Hallelujah Here She Comes”? Even better, let's turn Rattle and Hum into an A-list EP by limiting it to “Desire,” “Angel of Harlem,” “When Love Comes to Town” and “All I Want is You.” Too far? Maybe. Okay, Edge, play the blues ...
2. “Hawkmoon 269”
3. “Angel of Harlem”
4. “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”
5. “When Love Comes to Town”
6. “Love Rescue Me”
7. “God Part II”
8. “All I Want is You”
Leave out: “Helter Skelter,” “Van Diemen’s Land,” “All Along the Watchtower,” “Freedom for My People,” “Silver and Gold,” “Pride (In the Name of Love),” “Heartland,” “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “Bullet the Blue Sky”
Matthew Wilkening: This all pretty clearly should have been two separate projects. While combining them doesn't exactly create a muddled mess, it does diminish the collective impact these generally excellent new studio tracks could have had as one sub-40 minute album. If Rattle and Hum was released in 2018, the live tracks would be a bonus disc that I wouldn't even bother to rip onto my iPod (yes, I still sometimes use one).
Also: If "Van Diemen's Land" was less than a minute long, I'd include it as the opening track, because it makes the opening of "Desire" seem even more exciting than it would be on a cold start.
2. "Hawkmoon 269"
3. "Angel of Harlem"
4. "Love Rescue Me"
5. "When Love Comes to Town"
7. "God Part II"
8. "All I Want is You"
Leave out: “Helter Skelter,” “Van Diemen’s Land,” “All Along the Watchtower,” “Freedom for My People,” “Silver and Gold,” “Pride (In the Name of Love),” “Heartland,” “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “Bullet the Blue Sky."