I fondly remember the fervor that hit U2’s online fan community back in August, 2002 when their new single, “Electrical Storm” first debuted on BBC Radio 1. It seems that the program’s DJ, one Sarah HB, had run into Bono on her wedding day. As a gift, he had given her a CD that contained a demo version of the band’s new song. Of course, as a radio host, she simply had to play the song on her radio show. The problem was that the song wasn’t due to debut on radio for another three weeks, so U2 had to rush promo copies of the single out to other radio stations to meet the demand for the song that Sarah HB’s airing had created. Within hours of the song’s debut on the radio, Mp3s began popping up all over the internet, and fans were wondering whether or not this was the “official” version of the song. In the intervening years, I’ve often wondered if Bono was simply being generous or if his gift had been intended all along to create the appetite for the song that resulted.
The demo version that Sarah HB played on the radio turned out to be substantially different from the final versions of the song. Edge’s guitar part, especially on the choruses, changed dramatically on the version of the song that was officially released, and even the lyric contained a change, albeit a small one. (In the third verse, the demo version has Bono singing “Hope the rain will wash away our bad luck”, while the finalized lyric changed that line to “Need the rain to wash away our bad luck”). When The Best of 1990-2000 finally hit stores in November of that year, the limited edition contained two versions of “Electrical Storm” – the original or “band version” of the song, and the “William Orbit mix”, which contained a mellow keyboard introduction, and which was named for the producer who remixed the song. Both of these versions are uplifting and propulsive, and both feature the same stellar vocal from Bono. Lyrically, the song is about a couple that is going through a rough patch. The song draws a comparison between stormy weather and the tension that exists in the air when two lovers are arguing, as they try to come to a reconciliation. The chorus perfectly summarizes the song’s meaning with the line “If the sky can crack, there must be some way back”
Oddly enough, “Electrical Storm” didn’t make its live debut until the 360 tour in 2009, almost seven years after the song’s introduction on the radio, although it was partially soundchecked in 2005 during the Vertigo Tour. Even after the song was finally played live, it only appeared three times total before being dropped again. My guess is that the song inhabits that mid-tempo range that the band so dislike. It’s doubtful that “Electrical Storm” will ever be played live again, but the good news is that the song’s second performance was released for posterity on 2012’s fan club exclusive release From the Ground Up.
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