My favorite of U2’s early B-sides is probably the song “Touch,” from the 11 O’Clock Tick Tock single. “Touch” started out as a song called “Trevor,” which I have always thought to be about a friend of the band’s, or at least of Bono’s, from the Bible study group they attended. The lyrics to the first version of the song state that “Trevor lives forever,” which I understand to be a reference to the eternal life that their friend supposedly gained through his belief in Jesus Christ as the son of God. This version of the song appeared in 1979 and very early 1980. It seems that the change to “Touch” was made some time around March or April of 1980, as the last appearance of “Trevor” appears to have been on March second of 1980, and “Touch” was recorded on the fifth of April, of that same year. What is interesting to me is that even when “Trevor” was performed live, at at least some of those performances, Edge’s background vocal consisted of the words to “Touch”‘s chorus, so there doesn’t seem to be a clear date or time at which the switch was made.
Another interesting factoid about “Touch” is that the studio version of it was produced by Martin Hannett, probably most famous for his work with Joy Division and New Order. If you don’t know, Joy Division was a big influence on the young men who formed U2, and, to this day, Bono frequently snippets Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” in live performances of “With or Without You.”
That’s all about the history of the song, but I haven’t told you yet why I like it so much. “Touch” is fun and upbeat, with an infectious rhythm and a strange, kind of lilting melody in the verses. The chorus is also a big part of the reason that i enjoy “Touch” so much. The words, simply “T-t-touching you,” repeated a few times, leave unexplained what happens when the singer touches the person in question. I like that because touching a person really can lead to all kinds of beautiful things, and the song kind of leaves it up to the listener’s imagination what results when the singer touches the other person. Even without that ambiguity, though, “Touch” is a winner because of the attitude it expresses. It is the perfect post-punk song, a little bit sour but a little bit sweet at the same time.
“Touch” has not been performed since the end of the Boy Tour in 1981. A few weeks back, I hit on the idea of U2 playing a residency of several nights, maybe a week-long thing, where they play an album or two in its (or their) entirety each night. I really think that U2 should do something like this, and at the night celebrating Boy, they should play “11 O’Clock Tick Tock” and its B-side, “Touch.” Hearing those songs from a modern U2 would just about make my year, and I would make a bet that I’m not alone in that. Tell me in the comments below what you think about the band resurrecting “Touch,” or about the whole residency idea in general.