Whenever U2 puts anything out for purchase, I make it a habit to at least buy the biggest, most elaborate, (most expensive) format available so as to not miss anything that is being made available as part of that release. Sometimes, if funds are available, I also buy copies of other formats, too. I’m certain that many of you reading this do the same thing. Normally, I know well in advance what special item(s) that deluxe edition purchase is going to include. However, back in 2004, I had just moved into a new apartment and I had been living without the internet for a while, so I was mostly unprepared when How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb hit stores. I remember making a trip to the local library to get online and learn what I could when HTDAAB was impending, so I knew when I got to the record store that morning in November that I was looking for a special edition that contained a book, but I was unprepared for the fact that I would also be receiving an additional song for my trouble. That song was “Fast Cars,” and, needless to say, I was hooked after hearing it just once.
It wasn’t just the fact that the song was limited in its dispersal into the world that made it so exciting. No, the coolest thing about this track was how different it sounded from anything U2 had ever released before! This was a total and complete divergence from the usual U2 sound, and it absolutely rocked! The drums are pounding, the bass is grooving, and Bono’s voice sounds otherworldly in its magnificence. From the very first note of the song, when the singer’s wail kicks off this excursion into the unexpected, I find this tune utterly transfixing. Bono has gone on record in the past about how much he admires belly dancers, and I can completely hear how the band was trying, with “Fast Cars,” to make something for those lovely creatures to ply their trade to. The song would sound as at home in one’s local Mediterranean eatery as it would blasting out of Bono’s home in the south of France…or from a stage on the Vertigo Tour.
Unlike many other B-sides or exclusive tracks, “Fast Cars” has been performed live, starting in Toronto in September of 2005, at the opening show of the third leg of the Vertigo Tour. Right as the band ripped into the song, Bono made a comment about how few people had heard “Fast Cars,” and I remember thinking, upon listening to a recording of the show, how proud I was that I knew the song that others might have missed out on. As I think about it now, “Fast Cars” really was the perfect song to go to when the band wanted to play something special during that period. It is energetic enough, upbeat enough, interesting enough, to satisfy, I believe, even the most disinterested of casual fans, while being enough of an oddity to put smiles on the faces of all the hardcore U2-ers.