U2 VidWorks: Red Hill Mining Town

Today, we are taking a look at the much-maligned promo video for U2’s “Red Hill Mining Town.” For those of you who don’t know the story, this video was filmed in 1987 before the Joshua Tree album had been released, when “Red Hill Mining Town” was still being considered as the lead single from the record. For whatever reason, and we will discuss some possible reasons below, the video was not put out into the public for twenty years, until 2007 when it was released as part of the anniversary package for The Joshua Tree.
The most likely reason that the video was not released in 1987, to my way of thinking, is that the song itself was not released as a single, so there was nothing for the video to promote. The prevailing opinion, however, which I don’t necessarily agree with, is that the video simply isn’t very good. To be honest, though, especially when compared to some of the videos from the band that did see the light of day, it really isn’t as bad as all that. The video was directed by Neil Jordan, an Irish film-maker who is pretty well known — he directed Interview With the Vampire, for one, although at the time that this video was made, he hadn’t done much, and it seems likely to me that nothing he had done at the time would have been on the scale of a music video for the soon-to-be biggest band in the world. I say that to get the point across that this wasn’t made by some amateur who was dabbling in film-making, but by a movie director who would go on to direct some really great movies. that fact doesn’t excuse a bad video, but it might go some way to explain some of the problems that do exist with “Red Hill Mining Town.” It seems to me that making 5-minute-long music videos is something quite different from making two-hour-long movies. For one thing, in a movie, the director has plenty of time to tell the story that he is trying to get across, which is not the case with a music video. The worst thing that I can say about “Red Hill Mining Town” is that it feels a little phony, but at least it attempts to be about something, which wasn’t always the case with music videos, even U2’s music videos, at this time.
The band is gathered in what appears to be a mine but is most likely a sound-stage and the video mostly focuses on Bono emoting for the camera while the other band members play kind of background roles. You know if you have read my recent articles that I don’t like it when the whole band is not represented equally, and that is another irritant with this video. Edge and Adam, in particular, are relegated to roles that are very much in the background. There are some nice, heartwarming shots of the birds, but the video just doesn’t do the horrors of the mining lifestyle justice. I suppose that the short film is meant to entertain, not to depress the viewers, but that’s like saying that Rock ‘N’ Roll is just entertainment, which has been disproven many times over by our favorite band. As always, I am interested to hear your thoughts on the video, so please comment below, and thanks for reading!

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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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