I spent some time this past week listening to the unofficial Achtung Baby demos set . You know the one…there are early versions of “Until the End of the World,” and “Even Better Than the Real Thing,” and then some tracks that would go officially unreleased for twenty years, like “Blow Your House Down,” and “Heaven and Hell.” Well, in listening to this I was reminded of how far most of these songs came between their initial conception as rough ideas and their final release as full-blown U2 classics. One song, though, didn’t change much at all — “Where Did it All Go Wrong.” Now, to be fair, the song might have gone through dozens of iterations before the band got the song to the place that was captured in this set, so there’s no telling for sure, but I get the impression that the song and the title were fresh on their minds when the recording of Achtung Baby began. I say that the title was fresh because I always imagine the four members of U2 asking themselves that question after success turned out to not be all they had dreamed it would be in the late 1980’s. The first verse sounds very much like questions they might have been asking themselves around the time that Bono gave his famous “dream it all up again” speech. Just read these lyrics, the first of the song: “Did you get it? Did you need it? Was it really what you wanted? Was it good in the sun? Did you really have the fun?” I absolutely get the impression that these words are a reflection on U2’s first experiences with fame.
The music is also interesting, as it serves as a kind of bridge between where the band were coming from, with Rattle and Hum, and where they wanted to go with Achtung Baby. There are definitely classic rock and roll elements, like that guitar solo (which I adore) but those parts are sitting quite comfortably alongside more forward thinking ideas like the rapped-sung verses and the new guitar effects that Edge is utilizing here. I think it is quite possible that “Where Did it All Go Wrong” was one of the earliest songs that U2 worked on when they convened in Hansa to record what would become Achtung Baby.
“Where Did it All Go Wrong” has never been performed live. This isn’t so surprising when we consider that the song is a B-side, and those rarely make live appearances, but I think that, now that U2 has played “Acrobat” and “Red Hill Mining Town,” after a full-band version of “So Cruel” and any version of “Drowning Man,” “Where Did it All Go Wrong” is third on my list of older U2 songs that I wish the band would finally play. True, lots of casual fans wouldn’t get why it was such a big deal, but I bet that many hardcore U2 fans in attendance would think it was awesome. Also, Achtung Baby was successful enough that the song might not be as unknown as we think. There’s only one way to find out, boys, and that’s to give it a try. With the band pulling out so much early ’90’s stuff lately, there’s no time like the present, either. It would fit in perfectly with Bono’s talk about how it all “went to their heads.” What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.