Song: “With or Without You” by U2
Reached #1: May 16, 1987 (their first, 3 weeks)
According to the always-reliable (*cough*) Wikipedia, this song was almost never completed. In late 1985, the band spent considerable time on the song, never getting it much past “awful”. Even during the Joshua Tree recording sessions, they weren’t quite able to get the song under control, reaching the point where producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois threw in the towel.
Bono liked the song enough to keep working on it separately… and found salvation for the song in a new (and very experimental) electric guitar. The Edge was playing with something called the Infinite Guitar – an instrument capable of incredible effects if you didn’t mind the occasional nasty electric shock – in another studio while Bono continued to re-work the backing track in his studio. The combination, it seemed, was exactly what the track needed, so The Edge came over to Bono’s studio and laid down what became the guitar track for the song (in two takes, no less).
25 years later, this is still one of U2’s most memorable tracks. And it almost never happened.
Now, I have a confession to make. The Joshua Tree was one of the last full-length albums I ever bought – unfortunately, beyond the singles, I never got into the rest of the album. I’m sure the problem was me, because U2 are musical geniuses… but it was about this time that I switched over to mostly buying singles. It wasn’t just Joshua Tree, but that was the album I remember as being the one that convinced me that I’d do just as well buying singles and making my own mixtapes for my car (and, later, mix CDs once ripping and burning CDs wasn’t so much of a hit-and-miss proposition).
Tomorrow’s only #1 hit comes from an artist who’s been on the blog once before – and about whom I was totally wrong, apparently…
Other songs that reached #1 on May 16:
1964 – “My Guy” by Mary Wells (her first, 2 weeks)
1981 – “Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes (her first, 9 weeks)