Continuing on from what we started last week – that is, looking at underrated songs from All That You Can’t Leave Behind – I thought that this week we could examine “Wild Honey”. Recorded, of course, in the year 2000 for inclusion on the album that came out that same year, the story goes that “Wild Honey” almost didn’t make the cut. On the All That You Can’t Leave Behind Electronic Press Kit, Edge talks about the song, claiming that because “Wild Honey” came so easily, and sounded like it came easily, the band at first didn’t take the song very seriously. The band had to reconsider, though, because everyone who heard it thought it was “the best thing”. With feedback like that, I’d have included it too!
When All That You Can’t Leave Behind was released to stores, I was working at a record store, so I sold my fair share of the album. I fondly remember the day that a young man came in looking for U2’s latest. I asked him if he was a fan of the band, and he told me that while he wasn’t particularly a big U2 fan, a buddy of his had recommended the album on the strength of “wild Honey”. He said that he’d been told that it was the most fun his buddy had ever heard a “big” (read: massively popular) band having on record.
That’s really a fairly good description of the song. “Wild Honey” is light and carefree, and I imagine that might be the reason that many U2 fans tend to discount it. The song certainly isn’t as moving or thought-provoking as “Peace on Earth”, or as glorious and uplifting as “Beautiful Day”, but it has a special kind of magic that’s all its own. In some ways, it is the culmination of everything All That You Can’t Leave Behind was intended to be – the sound of the band playing together in a room, unburdened by lots of effects. “Wild Honey” is simply good fun, and it does a good job of breaking up some of the weighty topics that other songs from All That You Can’t Leave Behind deals with.
“Wild Honey” made its live debut at the final show of the first leg of the Elevation Tour, in New Jersey. Producer Daniel Lanois, who is a fine artist and guitarist in his own right, joined the band onstage for the song’s initial performance. The song was then performed once in that same tour’s second, European, leg, before returning to the set-list somewhat more regularly on the final leg of the Elevation Tour. “Wild Honey” appeared at thirty percent of the third leg’s thirty shows – that’s nine performances on that leg, for a total of eleven performances ever. U2 concerts are such emotional events, I wonder if the band felt that the song was too airy to deserve another chance at the spotlight when they have so many other, weightier things to talk about. I also understand that Larry isn’t a big fan of the song, so that might be a reason it hasn’t made a reappearance. Still, if the band are ever looking for something easy-going to break out during an acoustic set, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised to see “Wild Honey” resurface.