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Restore "The Joshua Tree" Album

Restore The Joshua Tree [album]!

This site is devoted to telling the story of the classic U2 Album called The Joshua Tree.


In 1987, U2 released an album that changed their history. I mean by this that until this point, they were considered the biggest underground band of unknowns in the world. They had released albums like Boy and War which were considered classic modern rock, and other less understood works like The Unforgettable Fire, but had not broken through until March of 1987 when the stores opened and sold "The Joshua Tree" .

What needs restoring?

But what do I mean by "Restore The Joshua Tree"? The answer goes back to the recording of this album, a time when Bono, The Edge, Adam and Larry were being introduced to new types of music they had ignored before, Blues, R&B, American Music. At the same time, they were experiencing the heartbreaking suffering of Ethiopia, the strife of El Salvador and Guatemala, and the oxymoron's of Reagan's America. And U2 was writing songs like they never had before. 

Now most bands write a lot of songs for an album, but hopefully among them are 10 good enough songs to release as an album. The other tracks are forgettable, throwaway or left for another time which almost never comes. However, as the "weeding" process started to take place during the Joshua Tree sessions, they came down to almost 20 tracks considered good enough to be placed on the album.

The Edge and Bono Talk

Not long after the album came out and hit it big, I began to notice an interesting trend in the interviews where the band would talk about the learning process they had gone through, the exposure to so much they had not considered before, and how they had "learned to write songs", a lot of songs. I pored through other interviews and stories, and found one in Hot Press (one of Ireland's premier music magazines) as reprinted in America in Three Chords and the Truth, (a book you may be able to still special order from Harmony Books).

The following excerpt is from from Hot Press, December, 1987, from an article by Bill Graham with an interview with Edge and Bono:

[Edge:] "... For instance, we disagreed vehemently about what songs should go on the album. If Bono had his way, 'The Joshua Tree' would have been more American and bluesy, and I was trying to pull it back."

That compromise led to the later flood of new B-side tracks. Bono will argue that "the album is almost incomplete. 'With or Without You' doesn't really make sense without 'Walk to the Water' or 'Luminous Times'. And 'Trip Through Your Wires' doesn't make that much sense without 'Sweetest Thing.'

[end of excerpt]

Another interview was on Radio One in Dublin, with Dave Fanning, where Bono talks about how they originally thought of releasing a double album, but there were so few good double-album releases (he mentions Bob Dylan's "Blonde on Blonde" as being a good one). He also felt that their pared down version of "The Joshua Tree" was almost "too much" for one listen as it was released.

Single album, Extra Songs

Ultimately, with these interviews and others as evidence, there was plans at one point to release The Joshua Tree as a double-album with up to 18 songs. As we all know, this was not to be, but U2 did not leave its fans without options. In most of U2's history, b-sides were either old reworked demos that had been sitting around for years, or live tracks to attempt to capture the concert energy of U2. In the case of the Joshua Tree, however, 7 of the songs left off the album were released as via b-sides of the first three singles. Island Records even marketed three-packs of these singles in many parts of the world as "The Missing Tracks"


Having laid out the facts of the story, let me now get into my opinions on the subject. While I like The Joshua Tree the way it is (and many have emailed me not to argue with success), I tried to piece from interviews and articles what the track listing MIGHT HAVE BEEN if all 18 tracks were issued together. Back in October of 1993, I first posted this story and my suggested restored track listing for other U2 fans on Usenet and the U2 mailing list now known as Wire and sparked controversy on the subject. Overwhelmingly, though, I have received mail from other fans about how they could hear the music in a new way and get something from it they had not previously.

So finally, let me give you the Ingredients to make your own "restored" Joshua Tree album. Of all the b-sides, only Race Against Time doesn't really cut it as an album track, IMHO. Anyways, I put the b-sides where I thought they belonged based on the information available through these interviews and what sounded right to me.


To make your own "restored" Joshua Tree, you will need your Joshua Tree album, plus the first three singles (or at least the 2 CD version of the Greatest Hits). These singles were released on CD and were available here in the US in the import section of your favorite local music store. In order of release, these singles are: With Or Without You, I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, and Where The Streets Have No Name.

Track Listing for restored Joshua Tree

Side A and B are for those making cassettes. You can also fit the entire 18 tracks on an 80 minute CD if you have a burner!

Side A: Side B:
Where The Streets Have No Name Red Hill Mining Town
Silver And Gold (Studio Version) Race Against Time
I Still Haven't Found... In God's Country
Spanish Eyes Trip Through Your Wires
With Or Without You Sweetest Thing
Luminous Times One Tree Hill
Walk To The Water Deep In The Heart
Bullet The Blue Sky Exit
Running To Stand Still Mothers Of The Disappeared

Other U2 and Joshua Tree Sites

The U2 Links Page provided by Dustin Hall is just about as complete a list as possible for linking to U2 cyberspace.

So now what?

Once I began to listen to The Joshua Tree with my "restored" track listing, I find that I cannot listen to it any other way. As fans of the band, a concerted effort by us could generate a response and possibly a restored release. Maybe someday, the band will release the full version (At least they corrected on the Gold release that annoying track index problem that was on most releases with Exit and One Tree Hill)

One problem is that the original singles are out of print and almost impossible to find. You can get most of these missing tracks by getting the 2-cd version of the Greatest Hits 1980-1990 that contains a B-Sides compilation on the second disk in addition to getting the remastered Gold Disc version of The Joshua Tree, itself. While these are out of print, you might try looking at www.spun.com to see if they have used ones in stock.

Finally, there is also now a video with U2 talking about making the album. It is a retrospective, so it is the band of today talking about events back then, so they don't talk about the missing tracks. However, they do play some unheard mixes and isolated tracks, which is cool. You can get this Making of on DVD or VHS at Amazon.com.


Author: Bill Tiede

U2 - Atomic: Then and Now
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