U2101 – Night Fright, Inside Out, and Jack-In-The-Box

Today is a special date in U2’s history. As you read this, the day will have passed, but as I write this it is the 25th of September, 2016, the fortieth anniversary of the first meeting of what would later on become U2, the biggest band in the world. I thought that to celebrate the occasion, it would be neat to take a look at the earliest known songs that U2 recorded in a studio. From a studio session that took place in April of 1978, I give you “Inside Out”, “Jack-In-The-Box”, and “Night Fright” (also known as “Tonight”). Jackie Hayden, who would later become the general editor of Hot Press magazine and was, at the time, marketing manager with CBS Ireland, produced the session. His involvement with the band started with a talent contest in Limerick, for which he was a judge. U2’s reward for winning the talent contest was some studio time to record a demo, and so Jackie Hayden was roped into working with the fledgling band. This came very shortly after the transition from The Hype to U2 took place.


U2 had several original songs that they had been playing in their local shows – like “The Magic Carpet”, “Street Mission”, “The Fool” and “Shadows and Tall Trees”, some of which would later become much better known, whether due to official release or the fact that some of these other songs were chosen for the band’s first television performances. I’m not sure why they chose to record the songs that they did as some of the other songs that were known to exist at that time seem to be substantially more sophisticated. “Night Fright” in particular is especially goofy sounding, but even there, at the very beginnings of U2’s career, there were the seeds of what would come to define the band. “Jack-In-The-Box” is the most advanced of this trio of songs, and accordingly it was retained in U2’s live sets until a later date than the other two songs. In fact, there are no known performances of “Night Fright” other than the one that took place at this demo recording session. “Inside Out” falls somewhere between “Night Fright” and “Jack-In-The-Box” as far as demonstrating U2’s still developing song-writing.


Each of these songs showcases a bass player who is not content to simply follow the melody lines laid down by the guitar player, and a rock steady drummer with a penchant for laying down a dynamic beat. They reveal a guitar player who is already experimenting with guitar tones, who has a strong sense for combining melody and rhythm, and who realizes that by putting his own musical ego second the band as a whole is able to combine for even greater results. Finally, these recordings exhibit a passionate, intense singer with the uncanny ability to express just as much with his raw voice as he could with his lyrics. It’s no surprise that these songs aren’t contained in U2’s most recent set-lists. They simply don’t stand up to the songs that U2 has written since then. Still, they’re nice to go back to listen to. They serve as a reminder of not only how far the band has come but also that, even from the very beginning, these four young guys from Dublin had something special.

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Ever since I realized as a kid, while poring over the liner notes of the Bob Marley - Songs of Freedom boxed set, that writing about music was a viable career choice, one of my greatest desires has been to write about U2. The band has been a major part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I'm thrilled to have this opportunity to contribute a little something to the fantastic online community that's been built around the band.

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