U2 VidWorks – Bad

Before we get into today’s topic, I want to mention quickly that if you haven’t had a chance to check out the 4k stream of Berlin 2018, available for viewing on U2.com as I type this, do yourself a favor and watch it right now…before you read the rest of this article. The video is a thing of greatness. Seriously, it is a new favorite of mine from the band, and seeing it in the best possible definition is a must.

This week’s article is about the main promotional video for the greatest song ever, “Bad,” from The Unforgettable Fire. I am not talking about the video clip that was excised from Rattle and Hum and shown on MTV and other channels, but rather the video that U2 recorded in 1984 and released the following year as part of The Unforgettable Fire video collection. The audio is from the Wide Awake in America EP and was recorded in London. Later on in the year of this video’s release, the song “Bad” would play an important role as the song that the band was playing when Bono catapulted their careers into the stratosphere of super-stardom with his actions at Live-Aid. Of course (as should be obvious to you if you’ve seen it) the Live-Aid footage is a much greater document of the song’s power and energy, but several factors, including that performance’s near twelve-minute length, prohibit it from being used for regular promotional purposes. The London version, otherwise known as the “Tour Version,” (so named because it was a document of the European leg of the Unforgettable Fire Tour and was mainly intended to promote the American leg of that same endeavor) is a nice compromise as it still showcases the Bono and the band’s passion, which is a key point in this song’s appeal, but clocks in at a comparatively short eight minutes.

The video starts out with a nice concept. We see Bono and Edge in a dressing room as Edge opens a door that the camera heads through, leading us into a crowded arena with the house lights on. This transition is a little clumsy, as it is obvious that the arena footage is not what was really on the opposite side of that door, but was added using whatever special effects existed at the time. It is a nice idea, and the execution was probably pretty good for the technology that they were working with at the time, so whatever embarrassment it makes me feel is quickly forgotten. After that opening, the scene of the lit arena is quickly replaced by a scene of an arena lit by small lights…probably cigarette lighters, I imagine, and then we see the band entering from back-stage. Now, it is clear from the footage that follows that it was all put together later on by some talented video editor, because the band’s wardrobe changes several times throughout the video. Unfortunately, Bono’s ridiculous hair does not change throughout the video, but I kind of love that the band had such bad fashion in the early days. They’ve certainly come a long way in that regard, although I know some fans who would argue that point. Despite the man’s sartorial shortcomings, he was (and remains) a master showman and a damn great singer. I’ve mentioned many times that one of Bono’s greatest gifts is that his singing makes the listener feel the feeling that he is trying to convey, and this live video does that job doubly. We can see Bono oozing desperation and passion as well as hear it in his voice. It is just plain great to watch him, as well as the other members of the band, get caught up in the song and lose himself to it. This video is a wonderful reminder of why I love this song so much, and as such it is one of my favorites in the band’s catalog of music videos.

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Ever since I realized as a kid, while poring over the liner notes of the Bob Marley - Songs of Freedom boxed set, that writing about music was a viable career choice, one of my greatest desires has been to write about U2. The band has been a major part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I'm thrilled to have this opportunity to contribute a little something to the fantastic online community that's been built around the band.

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