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History FAQ

D: Everything You Know Is Wrong - Achtung Baby to Passengers
  1. What is Salomé?
  2. Where did they get the name Achtung Baby?
  3. Who were those characters Bono used in the live shows during the Zoo TV tour?
  4. What is "Automatic Baby"? Will there be an album?
  5. Tell me about the Negativland incident.
  6. I've seen pictures of U2 wearing radiation suits on a boat. What was that about?
  7. What are those letters you can barely read on the cover of Zooropa?
  8. I've seen a picture of Bono wearing a red leather Fly suit. When did he do that?
  9. Who are those big-headed U2 caricature-like people that emerged from the b-stage during some Zooropa Tour shows?
  10. Who or what is Passengers?
  11. Are those real movies and real people listed in the Passengers: OS1 liner notes?

1. What is Salomé?

Salomé is the name of the most famous U2 bootleg, a 3-CD set of U2's early studio sessions for the Achtung Baby album. The set was released before the album in different forms under different names before the final collection -- just under 3-and-a-half hours of music -- came out in 1992. Because it includes very early recording material, Salomé offers a look into U2's songwriting process. Multiple versions of the same song appear on the set, with some tracks lasting as long as 13 minutes. To some U2 fans, an attempt at listening to Salomé would likely feel like root canal. To others, it has become a valued -- though unofficial -- part of U2's recording output. More recently, a seven-disc version of these studio sessions has surfaced. The additional material is made up of synthesizer and drum tracks, with little "complete" material. [M2, AS]

2. Where did they get the name Achtung Baby?

U2's soundman Joe O'Herlihy used the phrase "achtung baby" often during the work on the album in Berlin. The phrase is used first in the Mel Brooks film The Producers, about the making of a musical called "Springtime for Hitler", a guaranteed Broadway bomb. The name was chosen so that it could not be taken seriously, deflecting focus from the serious lyrics on the album and thus protecting U2 from further critical attacks like they received with Rattle and Hum. "Achtung" is the German word for "attention", so the title translates to "Attention, Baby!" - an utterance of warning.

Bono actually says "achtung baby" in the album, during "The Fly" - it's about two minutes into the song. This is clearer on its live versions: Bono shouts "achtung, baby!" right before the Zoo TV screens flood the audience with images and cheap philosophy.

Adam also joked that he tried to convince the band to name the album "Adam", but then went on to say they had tossed the idea around of naming it "Man" -- clearly meant to contrast with the band's first album's title. [AC, JP, HVT, CG]

3. Who were those characters Bono used in the live shows during the Zoo TV tour?

See the Live / Concert FAQ for an answer.

4. What is "Automatic Baby"? Will there be an album?

In January, 1993, when the U.S. was celebrating the inauguration of Bill Clinton, there were several "Rock & Roll Inaugural Balls". On the 20th, R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe and Mike Mills joined U2's Larry and Adam in a performance of "One." The union of these artists was immediately labeled "Automatic Baby" (as in Automatic for the People and Achtung Baby, their latest albums). There was never an album, and never will be. The song, however, appeared on several hard-to-find, limited release compilations. It also appears on the slightly easier-to-locate 1997 Island Records compilation Amazing Grace. [SL, AS]

5. Tell me about the Negativland incident.

The Negativland "U2" single put out in late 1991 by SST Records featured two tracks, both of which sampled U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For". Shortly after its release, an enormous legal document arrived at SST from Island Records / Warner-Chappel Publishing, the gist of which was that SST was getting its butt sued for putting the thing out. Among the charges being leveled were that the packaging was deceptive (this was reportedly the biggest problem that Island had with the record), that the use of various unauthorized samples on the single were copyright infringement (Negativland maintained that as a piece of satire the samples should have been allowed) and lots of other charges. Incidentally, the "deceptive" packaging was that the single had "U2" in huge letters on the front with "Negativland" in really small letters across the bottom. Island apparently felt that such packaging was intended to deceive the consumer into believing it was a U2 release.

SST and Negativland got squashed. They settled out of court. Total damages: $90,000. SST tried to get Negativland to pay the entire bill while Negativland offered to pay half. No agreement was reached and Negativland left SST records, whose owner (Greg Ginn, ex-Black Flag guitarist) threatened lawsuits. Shortly thereafter Negativland put out a CD and magazine combo entitled "The Letter U and the Numeral 2" which documents the whole fiasco, including press releases, legal documents, articles and everything else possibly concerned with the whole situation.

Finally, I think it's worthwhile to let U2 have their say in this. The Edge was interviewed by Mondo 2000 magazine in 1992. Two members of Negativland took part in the interview, although this was not revealed to the Edge until halfway through the interview. What follows is a very brief excerpt of U2's perception of the incident.

EDGE: Yeah, well from what I can remember, I can't remember the exact sequence of events, but as it was presented to us, you know, "Here's the record, here's the album sleeve, Island are already on the case here, and they've objected because they feel it's, because of the artwork, this is at a time when a lot of people are expecting a new U2 record," and they felt that, from their own point of view, in a pure business sense, nothing about art, I just think they felt there was a chance that people would pick up the record in a record shop and think, "Oh, this is the new U2 album." [MJS]

6. I've seen pictures of U2 wearing radiation suits on a boat. What was that about?

Sellafield is a nuclear plant owned and maintained by Britain's state-owned British Nuclear Fuels, Ltd. (BNFL). U2 was protesting the building of another Sellafield-type reactor and also the poor safety record of the current plant. Cancer levels are statistically higher around the Sellafield plant, and fears of leaks into the sea have been a constant discussion. Greenpeace, along with U2, was protesting its imminent operation, so the band donned radiation suits for the trip and photo op. Bono ruined his boots by walking in contaminated water and on contaminated soil.

Quoting from the book U2 by Jackie Shirley:

"Also that month they took part in a much-publicised Greenpeace protest at the Sellafield nuclear powerstation in north-west England. The original plans to play a concert on the site were banned in the High Court. Instead the band wore radiation suits and carried drums of allegedly polluted mud from Irish beaches to the perimeters of Sellafield 2. 'They can call us mad Paddies if they want to, but we can't put a lot of faith in politicians,' said Bono." [JP, MK, DC]

7. What are those letters you can barely read on the cover of Zooropa?

The letters in purple are parts of the titles of various U2 songs that the band had apparently been working on.

Line 2 - WAKEUPDE - Wake Up Dead Man
Line 3 - WANDER - The Wanderer
Line 4 - ISSMEKILLM - Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me
Line 5 - ETDRESS - If You Wear That Velvet Dress

Only "The Wanderer" appears on Zooropa. The other songs were released later in the 90s. [Z, CG]

8. I've seen a picture of Bono wearing a red leather Fly suit. When did he do that?

See the Live / Concert FAQ for an answer.

9. Who are those big-headed, U2 caricature-like people that emerged from the b-stage during some Zooropa Tour shows?

See the Live / Concert FAQ for an answer.

10. Who or what is Passengers?

Passengers was a side project of U2. In short, it's a musical collaboration by the members of U2 and Brian Eno. It gave U2 a chance to experiment with different "textures" in the music. They were joined for this project by Brian Eno, Howie B, and Pavarotti, and other "passengers", so they didn't call it a "U2 record".

Original Soundtracks 1 started out as being a sequel of sorts to a series of albums called Music for Films that Brian Eno made in the 70's. The idea was for U2 to really open up creatively, to explore more abstract music without being inhibited by expectations of the band. It is also important to note that for perhaps the first time Brian Eno was allowed to lead the band and have an immediate and direct influence on the direction of the music, rather than taking the backseat as a producer. Adam has said that the album was "an opportunity to get all [the] stuff out that there really isn't room for on our own records".

Larry has gone on record as saying he really didn't like the results and found the album over-indulgent. It is interesting to see where they were musically and also note the likely influence it had on the band's later development of Pop (which didn't even have Eno as producer). [MK, JP]

11. Are those real movies and real people listed in the Passengers: OS1 liner notes?

The booklet of Original Soundtracks 1 contains tons of hidden messages.

1. Movie Descriptions: all these are written by Ben O'Rian and C.S.J. Bofop. "Ben O'Rian" is simply an anagram for Brian Eno, while "C.S.J. Bofop" also becomes Brian Eno when you replace every letter with the one that precedes it in the alphabet: B(C) R(S) I(J) A(B) N(O) E(F) N(O) O(P).

2. "Slug": Peter von Heineken is a joke on U2's manager, Paul McGuinness. "Jutta Minit" becomes "just a minute" when pronounced quickly.

3. "Always Forever Now": "Venda Davis" is an anagram for David Evans (Edge's real name), "Tanya McLoad" becomes Adam Clayton, while "Kiley Sue LaLonne" unscrambles as Anne-Louise Kelly, the album's production manager. Finally, "Pi Hoo Sun" is phonetic for P. Hewson - Paul Hewson being Bono's real name.

4." Ito Okashi": "the face of a child drawn on a melon" is a direct reference to the babyface which appears on the Achtung Baby CD, the Zooropa cover and several other releases.

5. "Hypnotize (Love Me 'til Dawn)": "Evans" is Edge's last name in real life. "Tony Corbin" refers to Anton Corbijn, U2's longtime photographer.

6. "Theme from Let's Go Native": "Barry Boedders" is one R away from being an anagram for Des Broadbery, a regular studio crew member for U2. [TVT]

History FAQ menu

A: The Early Years: Three to Under a Blood Red Sky
B: The Unforgettable Fire to Conspiracy of Hope
C: Rock's Hottest Ticket - The Joshua Tree and Rattle and Hum
D: Everything You Know Is Wrong - Achtung Baby to Passengers
E: Let's Go Shopping - Pop to The Best of 1980-1990
F: Where Two Roads Meet - The Million Dollar Hotel, All That You Can't Leave Behind, and The Best of 1990-2000
G: Love and Peace or Else: Africa, iPods, and Atomic Bombs