Three (U2 EP)

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EP by
Released26 September 1979[1]
RecordedAugust 1979
StudioWindmill Lane Studios (Dublin)
GenreRock, post-punk
LabelCBS Ireland
ProducerU2, Chas de Whalley
U2 chronology
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic2.5/5 stars[2]

Three, also known as U2 3,[3] is the debut release by Irish rock band U2. It was released in Ireland on 26 September 1979 through the CBS Ireland record label.

Three compromises three songs recorded with producer Chas de Whalley at Windmill Lane Studios in August 1979. "Out of Control" appears on the A-side, with "Stories for Boys" and "Boy-Girl" on the B-side, the result of a listener poll on Dave Fanning's radio programme; the release is variously referred to as a single and an EP. It was the group's first chart success, selling all 1,000 copies of its limited-edition 12-inch vinyl almost immediately. Three reached number 19 on the Irish Singles Chart.

"Out of Control" and "Stories for Boys" were re-recorded the following year and included on the band's debut album, Boy. Three will be reissued for Record Store Day Black Friday in November 2019 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of its original release.


U2 first came to the attention of Jackie Hayden, a representative of the CBS Records label, through their participation in a music talent contest as part of Limerick Civic Week in March 1978. Hayden was on the judging panel, and the winning act would receive £500 and a chance to audition for the label.[4] Watching U2 perform, Hayden "liked them instantly", as he was drawn to lead singer Bono's "supremely confident stage presence" and the "workmanlike fashion" in which the other band members played. U2 ultimately won the contest.[4]

A few weeks later in April,[5] the group were booked for a recording session at Keystone Studios in Dublin to fulfill CBS's commitment to the Limerick Civic Week Committee.[4] Hayden oversaw the session but was not an experienced producer.[6] The session was largely unsuccessful, as the band were nervous about their first recording session.[4] Bassist Adam Clayton said, "It was horrible, because nobody told us anything." The group were also used to playing together in a room or on stage, and they found it difficult to communicate with each other while playing due to the studio setup, by which they were spread out and separated by baffles.[6] Hayden said that the intent of the session was for the group to record eight to ten songs to allow the label to better judge their repertoire, rather than spend the entire time refining two to three tracks. However, he did not think the band understood that,[4] as they were only able to complete one song, "Inside Out", by Clayton's recollection.[6] The session was supposed to last late into the night, but it ended abruptly at 11 PM after the father of drummer Larry Mullen Jr. arrived and demanded he take his 15-year-old son home, believing that school the following morning took priority.[6] Hayden was unimpressed by the recordings from the session but liked the band's material and work ethic.[4]

Several weeks later, Bono and bassist Adam Clayton visited Hayden at his office to discuss a recording contract, with Clayton acting as U2's de facto manager at the time. Though no one at CBS Ireland other than Hayden was interested in the band, he wanted to remain involved in their career. He gave them a copy of a standard CBS Ireland contract to review,[4] which would have included a commitment of two or three singles while giving CBS Ireland international rights to the material for five years.[5] However, the group had concerns with the contract. Hayden said the terms were non-negotiable and that CBS UK did not think CBS Ireland should signing new acts at all.[4] U2 amicably declined to sign the contract, believing it to be the wrong deal at the wrong time.[5] They remained in contact with Hayden, who continued to attend their concerts[4] and mention them in his reports to CBS UK.[5]

Hayden later met Paul McGuinness, who had agreed to manage U2, and the two shared an enthusiasm for the group. Hayden expressed to McGuinness that they would need a "very sympathetic producer" to translate the excitement of their live performances to studio recordings. McGuinness shared with him a second demo the group had recorded with producer Barry Devlin, consisting of the songs "Street Missions", "Shadows and Tall Trees", and "The Fool". Hayden said it was "infinitely better" than the audition demo he had produced, but still thought "there was a major gap to be bridged" between the band live and in the studio.[4]


In August 1979, U2 recorded demos with producer Chas de Whalley at Windmill Lane Studios, marking the first of what would be many recordings there by the band during their career.[7]

Release and promotion[edit]

The track order for Three was determined by a listener poll on Dave Fanning's nightly radio programme on RTÉ. A different member of U2 appeared on the show each night to play a different track. Callers chose "Out of Control" to be the A-side of the record, with "Boy/Girl" and "Stories for Boys" as runners-up, constituting the B-side of the record. The following month, Three was released by CBS Ireland in the Irish market only. It was produced as a 12-inch vinyl in a limited edition of 1,000 copies. Hayden hand-numbered each copy from 1 to 1,000. Three was the group's first chart success, selling out of the 12-inch vinyl almost immediately. A 7-inch vinyl single of Three was subsequently released, spending two weeks on the Irish Singles Chart and peaking at number 19.[8][9]

Following Three, the band released the singles "Another Day", "11 O'Clock Tick Tock", and "A Day Without Me" before releasing their debut studio album, Boy, in 1980. "Out of Control" and "Stories for Boys" were re-recorded for Boy. Live versions of the two songs were also later featured on various releases, such as the "Sweetest Thing" single and the Live from Boston 1981 digital album. "Out of Control" also made an appearance on U2 Go Home: Live from Slane Castle, Ireland. A live version of "Boy–Girl" was later featured on the "I Will Follow" single. The original EP made its CD debut in 2008 as bonus tracks on the Boy reissue. It has been reissued six times, but it remains a rarity and was first released on compact disc in 2008 as part of the bonus disc with that year's reissue of Boy.

Performance history[edit]

U2 performed all songs from Three live regularly in the band's formative years. The earliest known performances of "Out of Control" and "Stories for Boys" took place in August 1979. "Out of Control" was written on lead singer Bono's eighteenth birthday.[10] "Boy/Girl" may have also been played at this stage: a song named "In Your Hand" may have been related in some way to "Boy/Girl" but no recordings of it exist. The first confirmed performance of "Boy/Girl" took place in October 1979. All three songs were regularly performed on the Boy Tour in 1980–1981, although "Boy/Girl" appeared less than the others. "Stories for Boys," which premiered at an unknown date in August 1979, was used as a concert opener a few times before being moved to late in the main setlist, nearer to "Out of Control", which was typically the last song of the main set. In mid-March 1981, the Three songs were united to close the main set. "Stories for Boys" was first, followed by "Boy/Girl", which segued into "Out of Control". This trilogy lasted until the end of the tour.

"Boy/Girl" and "Stories for Boys" did not remain in the band's live repertoire long after the end of the Boy Tour. "Boy/Girl" was played three times afterwards, while "Stories for Boys" was initially frequently performed on the October Tour before it was removed from the setlist in late March 1982. "Out of Control", however, remained in the band's live show for longer, rotating with "Gloria" as the concert opener on the War Tour and the first leg of the Unforgettable Fire Tour. It then appeared twice late in the Unforgettable Fire Tour before returning sporadically to the setlist on the third leg of the Joshua Tree Tour and three performances on the Lovetown Tour. "Out of Control" then had an absence from live shows of over eleven years. It was played again on 15 May 2001 on the Elevation Tour. After initial infrequent performances proved popular with fans, it became more regular in the setlist as the tour progressed. It was retained on the Vertigo Tour for special occasions; it was played a total of nine times, including instances in Toronto and Los Angeles where U2 performed it with local bands. "Out of Control" made its U2 360° Tour debut in São Paulo.[11] It made 5 other U2 360° appearances. The song was also the closer to the Glastonbury 2011 set. The Vertigo Tour also saw part of "Stories for Boys" return to the setlist – Bono acknowledged its lyrical relationship with "Vertigo" by snippeting some lyrics from "Stories for Boys" at the end of "Vertigo". This snippet was a regular feature of shows on the Vertigo Tour's first leg but was done only sporadically on the second leg and never on subsequent legs. On the Innocence + Experience Tour, "Out of Control" was played second on the setlist, rotating with "The Electric Co." amongst other early U2 songs.

40th anniversary reissue[edit]

Three will be reissued for Record Store Day Black Friday in November 2019 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of its original release. It will be pressed on a 12-inch vinyl single weighing 180 grams and cut at 45 RPM, and will be available in a limited edition of 17,000 copies. All three songs will be remastered for the reissue.[12]

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics are written by Bono; all music is composed by U2.

Side 1
1."Out of Control"3:58
Side 2
1."Stories for Boys"2:39



Chart (1979) Peak
Irish Singles Chart[9] 19

See also[edit]



  • McGee, Matt (2008). U2: A Diary. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-1-84772-108-2.


  1. ^ Sams, Aaron; Kantas, Harry. "U2 – "Three" Single". Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  2. ^ Griffith, JT. U2 Three (Single) Review at AllMusic
  3. ^ Edge, The (2008). "Rare and Unreleased Tracks". Boy (Remastered deluxe edition booklet). U2. Island Records. B0010946-02.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Hayden, Jackie (5 June 1985). "Stories of Boys". Hot Press. Vol. 9 no. 12. Retrieved 29 December 2016.
  5. ^ a b c d McGee (2008), p. 16–18
  6. ^ a b c d McCormick (2006), pp. 56, 58
  7. ^ McGee (2008), pp. 23, 29
  8. ^ McGee (2008), pp. 21–24
  9. ^ a b "Irish Singles Chart". The Irish Charts. Retrieved 23 November 2009. Note: U2 must be searched manually.
  10. ^ "Bono in San Antonio". U2 Magazine. No. 3. May 1982. Archived from the original on 17 July 2011. Retrieved 5 November 2007.
  11. ^ "U2 Sao Paulo, 2011-4-10, Morumbi, 360° Tour – U2 on tour".
  12. ^ Copsey, Rob (9 October 2019). "Record Store Day Black Friday: Lizzo, Lewis Capaldi and The Weeknd among limited edition releases". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 11 October 2019.

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