Rattle and Hum

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Rattle and Hum
Artwork for compact disc release
Studio album with live tracks by
Released10 October 1988
GenreRock, roots rock[1]
ProducerJimmy Iovine
U2 chronology
The Joshua Tree
Rattle and Hum
Achtung Baby
Singles from Rattle and Hum
  1. "Desire"
    Released: 26 September 1988
  2. "Angel of Harlem"
    Released: 1 December 1988
  3. "When Love Comes to Town"
    Released: April 1989
  4. "All I Want Is You"
    Released: 12 June 1989

Rattle and Hum is a hybrid live/studio album by Irish rock band U2, and a companion rockumentary film directed by Phil Joanou. The album was produced by Jimmy Iovine and was released on 10 October 1988, while the film was distributed by Paramount Pictures and was released on 27 October 1988. Following the breakthrough success of the band's previous studio album, The Joshua Tree, the Rattle and Hum project captures their continued experiences with American roots music on the Joshua Tree Tour, further incorporating elements of blues rock, folk rock, and gospel music into their sound. A collection of new studio tracks, live performances, and cover songs, the project includes recordings at Sun Studios in Memphis and collaborations with Bob Dylan, B.B. King, and Harlem's New Voices of Freedom gospel choir.

Although Rattle and Hum was intended to represent the band paying tribute to rock legends, some critics accused U2 of trying to place themselves amongst the ranks of these artists. Critical reception to both the album and the film was mixed; one Rolling Stone editor spoke of the album's "excitement", another described it as "misguided and bombastic".[2] The film grossed just $8.6 million, but the album was a commercial success, reaching number one in several countries and selling 14 million copies. Lead single "Desire" became the band's first UK number-one song while reaching number three in the US.[3] Facing creative stagnation and a critical backlash to Rattle and Hum, U2 reinvented themselves in the 1990s through a new musical direction and public image.


"I was very keen on the idea of going wide at a time like that, just seeing how big this thing could get. I had always admired Colonel Parker and Brian Epstein for realising that music could capture the imagination of the whole world."

—U2 manager Paul McGuinness, explaining his original motivation to make a movie.[4]

While in Hartford during the 1987 The Joshua Tree Tour, U2 met film director Phil Joanou who made an unsolicited pitch to the band to make a feature-length documentary about the tour. Joanou suggested they hire Martin Scorsese, Jonathan Demme, or George Miller to direct the film. Joanou met the band again in Dublin to discuss the plans and again in France in September before the band chose him as director. The movie was originally titled U2 in the Americas and the band planned to film in Chicago and Buenos Aires later in the year.[5] It was later decided that the Chicago venue wasn't suitable, and instead U2 used the McNichols Sports Arena in Denver to film. Following the success of Live at Red Rocks: Under a Blood Red Sky, which had been filmed in Denver four years earlier, the band hoped that "lightning might strike twice".[6] With production problems and estimated costs of $1.2 million the band cancelled the plans for December concerts in South America. At the suggestions of concert promoter, Barry Fey, the band instead booked Sun Devil Stadium at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, the same city where the Joshua Tree tour began.[6]

The movie is a rockumentary, which was initially financed by the band and intended to be screened in a small number of cinemas as an independent film. After going over budget, the film was bought by Paramount Pictures and released in theatres in 1988, before arriving on video in 1989. It was produced by Michael Hamlyn and directed by Phil Joanou. Paul Wasserman served as the publicist.[7] It incorporates live footage with studio outtakes and band interviews. The album is a mix of live material and new studio recordings that furthers the band's experimentation with American music styles and recognises many of their musical influences. It was produced by Jimmy Iovine and also released in 1988.

The title, Rattle and Hum, is taken from a lyric from "Bullet the Blue Sky", the fourth track on The Joshua Tree. The image used for the album cover and movie poster, depicting Bono shining a spotlight on Edge as he plays, was inspired by a scene in the live performance of "Bullet the Blue Sky" recorded in the film and album, but was recreated in a stills studio, and photographed by Anton Corbijn.[8] Several vinyl copies have the message "We Love You A.L.K." etched into side one, a reference to the band's production manager Anne Louise Kelly, who would be the subject of another secret dedication message on several CD copies of the band's later album, Pop.

Studio recordings[edit]

The album opens with a live cover of The Beatles' "Helter Skelter". Its inclusion on the album was intended by the band to reflect the confusion of The Joshua Tree Tour and their new-found superstar status. Bono opens "Helter Skelter" with this statement: "this is a song Charles Manson stole from The Beatles ... we're stealing it back".[9]

Bono said "Hawkmoon 269" was in part as a tribute to writer Sam Shepard, who had released a book entitled Hawk Moon. Bono also said that the band mixed the song 269 times. This was thought to be a joke for years until it was recently confirmed by The Edge in U2 by U2, who said that they spent three weeks mixing the song. He also contradicted Bono's assertion about Shepard, saying that Hawkmoon is a place in Rapid City, South Dakota, in the midwestern United States.[10]

The album contains a live version of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower". "Angel of Harlem" is a horn-filled tribute to Billie Holiday. The bass-heavy "God Part II" is a sequel of sorts to John Lennon's "God".

The lead single, "Desire", sports a Bo Diddley beat. During the Joshua Tree tour, in mid-November 1987, Bono and Bob Dylan met in Los Angeles; together they wrote a song called "Prisoner of Love" which later became "Love Rescue Me". Dylan sang lead vocals on the original recording, a version which Bono called "astonishing", but Dylan later asked U2 not to use it citing commitments to The Traveling Wilburys.[11] The live performance of "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" (recorded with a full church choir) is a gospel song. "When Love Comes to Town" is a blues rocker featuring B.B. King on guitar and vocals.

U2 recorded "Angel of Harlem", "Love Rescue Me" and "When Love Comes to Town" at Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee, where Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash and many others also recorded. They also recorded an unreleased version of "She's a Mystery to Me" and Woody Guthrie's "Jesus Christ", which appeared on Folkways: A Vision Shared. The band started writing "Heartland", in 1984 during The Unforgettable Fire sessions, and it was worked on during The Joshua Tree sessions.[12] All of the studio tracks apart from "Heartland" were performed in concert on the Lovetown Tour, which began almost a year after Rattle and Hum's release.

In addition to the nine studio tracks that comprised one-half of the double album, a number of additional recordings from the Rattle and Hum sessions would be released on various singles and side projects. "Hallelujah Here She Comes" was released as a B-side to "Desire", and "A Room at the Heartbreak Hotel" was released as a B-side to "Angel of Harlem." Covers were released as B-sides for the rest of the singles—an abbreviated cover of Patti Smith's "Dancing Barefoot" would be released as a B-side to "When Love Comes to Town" (the full version would see release on the 12" version of the single and on CD on the 1994 soundtrack album to Threesome), while "Unchained Melody" and "Everlasting Love" would be released as the B-sides to "All I Want Is You." A cover of "Fortunate Son" recorded with Maria McKee would not be released until 1992's "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses" single; a version of the soul classic "Everybody Loves a Winner" by William Bell, also recorded with McKee, would eventually be released on the 20th anniversary edition of Achtung Baby.

Studio versions of "She's a Mystery to Me" (a Bono/Edge composition that would eventually be recorded and released by Roy Orbison), Bruce Cockburn's "If I Had a Rocket Launcher", Percy Sledge's "Warm and Tender Love", and "Can't Help Falling in Love With You", while recorded, have yet to be released. (A solo Bono cover of the Elvis Presley classic would be released on 1992's Honeymoon in Vegas album, however.) A cover of the Woody Guthrie song "Jesus Christ" was also recorded during these sessions for eventual inclusion on the cover album Folkways: A Vision Shared. Lastly, a cover of "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" was recorded and released for the first A Very Special Christmas album, released at the end of 1987.

Live performances[edit]

The band were filmed at McNichols Sports Arena in November 1987.

The band chose to film the black-and-white footage over two nights at Denver's McNichols Sports Arena on 7 and 8 November 1987. They chose the city following the success of their U2 Live at Red Rocks: Under a Blood Red Sky video which was filmed in Red Rocks Amphitheatre near Denver in 1983. "We thought lightning might strike twice" said guitarist the Edge. The first night's performance was disappointing with Bono finding the cameras infringing on his ability to play to the crowd.[6] The second Denver show was far more successful and seven songs from the show are used in the film, and three on the album.

Hours before the second Denver performance, an IRA bomb killed eleven people at a Remembrance Day ceremony in the Northern Irish town of Enniskillen (see Remembrance Day Bombing). During a performance of "Sunday Bloody Sunday", which appears on the film, Bono condemned the violence in a furious mid-song rant in which he yelled "Fuck the revolution." The performance was so powerful that the band said they were not sure the song should have been used in the film. After watching the film, they considered not playing the song on future tours.[13]

Colour outdoor concert footage is from the band's Tempe, Arizona shows on 19 December 1987 and 20 December 1987. Tickets were sold for $5.00 each and both nights sold out within days. The set was different each night with the band throwing in some rarely performed songs including, "Out of Control", "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)", "One Tree Hill", and "Mothers of the Disappeared". For the latter, all four members played at the front of the stage, each under a large spotlight.

The performance of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" is from the band's impromptu "Save the Yuppies" concert in Justin Herman Plaza in San Francisco, California on 11 November 1987. The video intersperses the performance of the song with footage from the band's performance of "Pride" from the same show, during which Bono spray-painted "Rock and Roll Stops the Traffic" on the Vaillancourt Fountain. This caused a bit of controversy, and ultimately, the band paid to repair the damage and publicly apologised for the incident. The phrase "Rock and Roll Stops the Traffic" reappeared 18 years later in the video "All Because of You" when an unnamed fan appeared with the sign at 1:55 in the video.[14] It also reappeared in February 2009, when the band played on the rooftop of the BBC Radio studios in Langham Place.[15]

Dennis Bell, director of New York gospel choir The New Voices of Freedom, recorded a demo of a gospel version of "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For".[16] While in Glasgow in late July during the Joshua Tree Tour, Rob Partridge of Island Records played the demo for the band.[17] In late September, U2 rehearsed with Bell's choir in a Harlem church, and a few days later they performed the song together at U2's Madison Square Garden concert. Footage of the rehearsal is featured in the movie, while the Madison Square Garden performance appears on the album.[18] After the church rehearsal, U2 walked around the Harlem neighbourhood where they come across blues duo, Satan and Adam, playing in the street. A 40-second clip of them playing their composition, "Freedom for My People", appears on both the movie and the album.[19]

During "Silver and Gold", Bono explains that the song is an attack on apartheid. "The Star Spangled Banner" is an excerpt of Jimi Hendrix's famous Woodstock performance in 1969. The noise of the crowd was sampled extensively by The KLF for 'the Stadium House Trilogy' of singles on their 1991 album The White Room.[20]

Alternative live concert footage captured for the film in other cities during the 1987 tour (but ultimately not used for the final cut of the film) included:

  • Foxboro, Massachusetts, Foxboro Stadium, 22 September 1987
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, JFK Stadium, 25 September 1987
  • New York, NY, Madison Square Garden, 28 September 1987
  • Long Island, New York, Rehearsals on a beach, 19 October 1987
  • Boston, Massachusetts, Boston Garden, 18 September 1987 (color footage)

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic3/5 stars[1]
Chicago Sun-Times3/4 stars[21]
Chicago Tribune3/4 stars[22]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music3/5 stars[23]
Entertainment WeeklyB[24]
Los Angeles Times4/4 stars[25]
Rolling Stone3.5/5 stars[27]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide4/5 stars[28]
The Village VoiceB+[29]

Rattle and Hum divided critics when it was released in 1988.[30] Some reviewers panned it, feeling that U2 were making a deliberate and pretentious attempt at rock and roll renown.[26] Writing in Rolling Stone, Anthony DeCurtis called the album "calculated in its supposed spontaneity" while demonstrating "U2's force but devoting too little attention to the band's vision".[27] Jon Pareles was more critical in The New York Times, finding each song genuinely egotistical and "embarrassing in a different way", while Tom Carson from The Village Voice said the band suffered from profound ignorance rather than pretension on an album that was terrible "by almost any rock-and-roll fan's standards".[26] Village Voice critic Robert Christgau was more enthusiastic, calling it "underrated if grandiose".[31] In his consumer guide, he complimented half of the new material and the live versions of past songs by U2, whom he called naturally pretentious but also innovative for their unique rock style that "melded Americana into their Old World riffs".[29] In a rave review for the Los Angeles Times, Robert Hilburn called Rattle and Hum a "frequently remarkable album" that more than matched The Joshua Tree and credited U2 for reviving the "idealism and craft of [rock's] finest moments",[25] while Hot Press reviewer Bill Graham said it was their "most ambitious record" yet.[26] In the UK, Stuart Baillie of NME gave it a positive 8/10 review. Contentiously, his review replaced a much more negative 4/10 review by Mark Sinker in which he described it as "the worst album by a major band in years". It was pulled by editor Alan Lewis as it was feared that criticism of the band would affect the magazine's circulation.[32]

At the end of 1988, Rattle and Hum was voted the 21st-best album of the year in the Pazz & Jop, an annual poll of American critics published by The Village Voice.[33] In other critics' lists of the year's top albums, it was ranked number one by HUMO, second by the Los Angeles Times and Hot Press, 17th by OOR, 23rd by NME, and 47th by Sounds.[23]

According to review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a "Certified Fresh" rating of 67%.[34] Roger Ebert panned the film, saying the concert footage was poorly lit and monotonous, with little use made of the crowds. Review partner Gene Siskel was more sympathetic, praising the music and finding the footage of the Harlem gospel choir particularly moving.[35] Joanou called the picture "pretentious".[36]

"Rattle and Hum was conceived as a scrapbook, a memento of that time spent in America on the Joshua Tree tour. It changed when the movie, which was initially conceived of as a low-budget film, suddenly became a big Hollywood affair. That put a different emphasis on the album, which suffered from the huge promotion and publicity, and people reacted against it."[37]

— The Edge
"But I wasn't prepared for the difference in the size of the movie campaign and the average record campaign ... how all across America for a couple of weeks, you couldn't turn on your TV without getting U2 in your face. That's not the way records are marketed. It's much more subtle and I think a lot of the band's old fans found it distasteful. The aftermath I think, quite honestly, was that no one wanted to hear about U2 for a while."

 —Paul McGuinness[38]

Despite the criticism, Rattle and Hum was a strong seller, continuing U2's burgeoning commercial success. It hit number one on the US Billboard 200 albums chart, remaining at the top spot for six weeks; it was the first number-one double album in the US since Bruce Springsteen's The River in 1980.[39] Rattle and Hum also reached number one in the UK and Australian charts. In the UK, it sold 360,000 copies in its first week,[40][41] making it the fastest-selling album at that point (a record it held until the release of Oasis's Be Here Now in 1997). In 1989, while at a press tour in Sydney, Australia (where the band was touring with B.B. King and working on demos for the follow-up album Achtung Baby), Bono stated, "making movies: that's the nonsense of rock & roll", which Rolling Stone magazine claimed was almost an apology for the film. "Playing shows is the reason we're here", he added.[42] Lifetime sales for the album have surpassed 14 million copies.[43]

Despite their commercial popularity, the group were dissatisfied creatively; Bono believed they were musically unprepared for their success, while Mullen said, "We were the biggest, but we weren't the best."[44] By the Lovetown Tour, they had become bored with playing their greatest hits.[45] U2 believe that audiences misunderstood the group's collaboration with King on Rattle and Hum and the Lovetown Tour, and they described it as "an excursion down a dead-end street".[46][47] Towards the end of the Lovetown Tour, Bono announced on-stage that it was "the end of something for U2", and that "we have to go away and ... dream it all up again".[47] The band subsequently reinvented themselves in the 1990s, incorporating alternative rock, electronic dance music, and industrial music into their sound, and adopting a more ironic, flippant image by which they embraced the "rock star" identity they struggled with in the 1980s.[48]

Track listing[edit]


All lyrics are written by Bono; all music is composed by U2, except where noted.

1."Helter Skelter" (live at Denver, Colorado)Lennon–McCartney (lyrics and music)U23:07
2."Van Diemen's Land"The Edge (lyrics)U23:06
3."Desire" U22:58
4."Hawkmoon 269" U26:22
5."All Along the Watchtower" (live from "Save the Yuppie Free Concert", San Francisco)Bob Dylan (lyrics and music)U24:24
6."I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" (live at Madison Square Garden, New York) U2 with The New Voices of Freedom5:53
7."Freedom for My People"Sterling Magee (lyrics and music); Adam Gussow (music)Sterling Magee and Adam Gussow0:38
8."Silver and Gold" (live from Denver, Colorado) U25:50
9."Pride (In the Name of Love)" (live from Denver, Colorado) U24:27
10."Angel of Harlem" U23:49
11."Love Rescue Me"Bono and Bob Dylan (lyrics)U2 with Bob Dylan6:24
12."When Love Comes to Town" U2 with B.B. King4:14
13."Heartland" U25:02
14."God Part II" U23:15
15."The Star Spangled Banner" (live)John Stafford Smith (music)Jimi Hendrix0:43
16."Bullet the Blue Sky" (live at Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Arizona) U25:37
17."All I Want Is You" U26:30
Total length:72:27


U2: Rattle and Hum
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPhil Joanou
Produced byMichael Hamlyn
Music byU2
CinematographyRobert Brinkmann
(black-and-white footage)
Jordan Cronenweth
(Color footage)
Edited byPhil Joanou
Midnight Films
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • 27 October 1988 (1988-10-27) (Ireland)
  • 4 November 1988 (1988-11-04) (United States)
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$5 million
Box office$8.6 million[49]
1."Helter Skelter" (live at McNichols Arena, Denver, Colorado, 8 November 1987[50])Lennon–McCartneyU2 
2."Van Diemen's Land" (recorded at the Point Depot, Dublin, Ireland, May 1988[51])The EdgeU2 
3."Desire" (recorded at the Point Depot, Dublin, Ireland, May 1988[51])U2U2 
4."Exit"/"Gloria" (live at McNichols Arena, Denver, Colorado, 8 November 1987[50])U2 ("Exit"), Van Morrison ("Gloria")U2 
5."I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" (rehearsal recorded at Harlem, New York, September 1987[52])U2U2 with The New Voices of Freedom 
6."Freedom for My People"Adam Gussow and Sterling MageeSterling Magee and Adam Gussow 
7."Silver and Gold" (live at McNichols Arena, Denver, Colorado, 8 November 1987[50])BonoU2 
8."Angel of Harlem" (recorded at Sun Studio, Memphis, Tennessee, 30 November 1987[53][54])U2U2 
9."All Along the Watchtower" (live at Justin Herman Plaza, San Francisco, California, 11 November 1987[55])Bob DylanU2 
10."In God's Country" (live at McNichols Arena, Denver, Colorado, 8 November 1987[50])U2U2 
11."When Love Comes to Town" (afternoon rehearsal and evening live performance at Tarrant County Convention Center, Fort Worth, Texas, 24 November 1987[56])U2U2 with B.B. King 
13."Bad"/"Ruby Tuesday"/"Sympathy for the Devil" (live at McNichols Arena, Denver, Colorado, 8 November 1987[50])U2 ("Bad"), Jagger/Richards ("Ruby Tuesday", "Sympathy for the Devil")U2 
14."Where the Streets Have No Name" (live at Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Arizona, 20 December 1987[57])U2U2 
15."MLK" (live at Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Arizona, 20 December 1987[57])U2U2 
16."With or Without You" (live at Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Arizona, 20 December 1987[57])U2U2 
17."The Star Spangled Banner" (Excerpt)John Stafford SmithJimi Hendrix 
18."Bullet the Blue Sky" (live at Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Arizona, 20 December 1987[57])U2U2 
19."Running to Stand Still" (live at Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Arizona, 20 December 1987[57])U2U2 
20."Sunday Bloody Sunday" (live at McNichols Arena, Denver, Colorado, 8 November 1987[50])U2U2 
21."Pride (In the Name of Love)" (live at McNichols Arena, Denver, Colorado, 8 November 1987[50])U2U2 
22."All I Want Is You" (Heard over end credits)U2U2 


  • Bono – lead vocals, additional guitar, harmonica
  • The Edge – guitar, keyboards, backing vocals, lead vocals on "Van Diemen's Land"
  • Adam Clayton – bass guitar
  • Larry Mullen Jr. – drums, percussion

Guest performers

  • Bob DylanHammond organ on "Hawkmoon 269", backing vocals on "Love Rescue Me"
  • The New Voices of Freedom – gospel choir on "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"
  • Joey Miskulin – organ on "Angel of Harlem"
  • The Memphis Horns – horns on "Angel of Harlem" and "Love Rescue Me"
  • B.B. King – guest vocals and lead guitar on "When Love Comes to Town"
  • Billie Barnum, Carolyn Willis, and Edna Wright – backing vocals on "Hawkmoon 269"
  • Rebecca Evans Russell, Phyllis Duncan, Helen Duncan – backing vocals on "When Love Comes to Town"
  • Brian Eno – keyboards on "Heartland"
  • Benmont Tench – Hammond organ on "All I Want Is You"
  • Van Dyke Parks – string arrangement on "All I Want Is You"

Additional musicians (field recordings and tapes)



Region Certification Certified units/sales
Argentina (CAPIF)[69] Gold 30,000^
Australia (ARIA)[70] 7× Platinum 490,000^
Brazil (Pro-Música Brasil)[71] Platinum 250,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[72] 7× Platinum 700,000^
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[73] Gold 50,000^
Finland (Musiikkituottajat)[74] Gold 28,632[74]
France (SNEP)[75] Gold 100,000*
Germany (BVMI)[76]
Platinum 500,000^
Germany (BVMI)[77]
2× Platinum 100,000^
Hong Kong (IFPI Hong Kong)[78] Gold 10,000*
sales in 1989
Netherlands (NVPI)[80] Platinum 100,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[81] Platinum 15,000^
Norway (IFPI Norway)[73] Gold 25,000*
Portugal (AFP)[82] Gold 20,000^
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[83] Platinum 100,000^
Sweden (GLF)[73] Gold 50,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[84] 2× Platinum 100,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[85] Platinum 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[86]
4× Platinum 1,200,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[87]
3× Platinum 150,000^
United States (RIAA)[88] 5× Platinum 5,000,000^
Worldwide 14,000,000[89]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone



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