Even though The Joshua Tree is U2’s best-selling album, there are some songs – outtakes and the like – which are connected to this record but are still slightly obscure. One such example is the “One Tree Hill Reprise”, which will be released in about three months on the thirtieth anniversary edition of The Joshua Tree. I have no idea at all what this track could be, but I am excited to hear it. Another track that has a connection to The Joshua Tree and is, I suppose, a good bit more well-known than the song I mentioned above is “Heartland”, a song that was worked on during the sessions for The Joshua Tree but didn’t see release until the following year on the follow-up LP Rattle and Hum. During the band’s recent live Q&A session on Facebook, The Edge mentioned “Heartland” as the one song from The Joshua Tree sessions that he was “mad (they) didn’t put on the album”.
In a way, The Joshua Tree and Rattle and Hum are irrevocably joined in my mind. After all, both of the albums were inspired, to different degrees, by distinct portions of America culture – The Joshua Tree by life in the desert of the western part of the nation, and Rattle and Hum by American roots music, such as the blues and the early days of rock and roll. Add to this the fact that the Rattle and Hum movie is really about The Joshua Tree Tour of 1987, and you have an inarguable tie between the two albums. I guess, it’s fitting, with this relationship in mind, that there would be some left-overs from The Joshua Tree that would finally see the light of day on Rattle and Hum.
Heartland is a bit of a sombre affair, quite dissimilar from some of the more raucous songs on The Joshua Tree, such as “In God’s Country” and “Trip Through Your Wires”, as well as more up-beat songs from the latter album such as “Desire” and “God part II”. Adam’s throbbing bass is almost hypnotic at the beginning of the song, especially when it’s joined by some sublime guitar chords, and, later in the piece, by Edge’s wailing background vocals and Larry’s skillful drumming. The lyrics to “Heartland” are mostly about a road-trip undertaken by Adam and Bono, but also a little bit about a romantic relationship. One particular line that’s always grabbed me is Bono’s statement that “love changes everything”. Never were truer words sung.
Unlike most of either The Joshua Tree or Rattle and Hum, (“Red Hill Mining Town” being the obvious exception) “Heartland” has never been performed live. I know that U2 already plans to perform some other rarely or never played songs on the upcoming Joshua Tree Tour 2017, so I’m asking for a lot here, but wouldn’t it be magical if U2 played “Heartland”? In my opinion, it would make a moving highlight as an acoustic performance from the B-stage in the middle of the set. If the set-list image that Adam shared recently on U2’s social networks is any indication, U2 are already planning to perform songs that have less of a connection to The Joshua Tree and “Heartland” would be an exciting addition, really surprising long-time dedicated fans in the process.