Ultimate Classic Rock AUGUST 8, 2011 - by Matt Wardlaw


The best U2 songs feature important contributions from a man known as David Howell Evans. Of course, he is better known to most by his rock and roll name of 'The Edge', and it's a tag that fits him well. Believe it or not, Edge turns the big 5-0 today, and we're looking at some of his band's best songs to celebrate. U2 has released over fifty singles in their illustrious career, never mind all the great album tracks, so it was hard narrowing it down to our final list, but we think you'll enjoy our take on the ten best U2 songs:

10 BEAUTIFUL DAY from All That You Can't Leave Behind (2000)

Rumours that Edge and his bandmates were planning a return to the classic sound of the best U2 songs turned into reality with the release of Beautiful Day, the first single from their 2000 release All That You Can't Leave Behind. Listening to the message within the words of Beautiful Day, about learning to appreciate what you still have when everything else has been lost, it wasn't hard to feel grateful for the renewal of U2 as a band.

9 BAD from The Unforgettable Fire (1984)

The deliberately understated and tender guitar that paints the initial strokes of Bad is signature Edge. His instrumentation continues to build throughout the progression of the song, so that by the time Bono sings "I'm not sleeping," we are all collectively emotionally spent from the song's journey. Bad stands tall as an all-time fan favourite and there's no debating as to why it's one of the ten best U2 songs of all time, sending fans into rapture when they break it out in concert, as they did on the final U.S. stop of their recent tour.

8 PRIDE (IN THE NAME OF LOVE) from The Unforgettable Fire (1984)

The lead single from 1984's The Unforgettable Fire, which opened new doors for U2 commercially and creatively, was inspired by the leaders who have sacrificed their lives fighting for their beliefs, most notably, Martin Luther King, Jr. Pretenders singer Chrissie Hynde sings additional backgrounds on the song, which has become an anthem of hope in the years since its release. Socially conscious as a group since inception, this is arguably one of U2's most important songs.

7 SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY from War (1983)

Addressing the tragic "Bloody Sunday" incident, Sunday Bloody Sunday was one of the earliest songs that showed Bono and U2 were not afraid to use their lyrics to educate the listening audience on important issues. Asking "how long must we sing this song?," Sunday Bloody Sunday begs for the end of senseless tragedy. Larry Mullen Jr. said in an interview "let's stop shooting people and sit around the table and talk about it," but it was the famous militaristic hook of his drumming on Sunday, recorded in a staircase, that has carried the message to millions of people over the years.

6 WITH OR WITHOUT YOU from The Joshua Tree (1987)

Clearly, commercially and we'd say, artistically, one of the ten best U2 songs, the smouldering With Or Without You finally brought the band their first number one hit in America. The fact that it deals lyrically with the yearning and struggles that exist within so many relationships once again showed U2's continuing ability to powerfully connect with their fans' daily reality.

5 DESIRE from Rattle And Hum (1988)

Edge's jangly guitar hangs at the edge of one of the most famously identifiable U2 song introductions ever, punctuated by Bono's singular "yeah" before being taken over by Larry Mullen Jr., who officially brings the song into full motion. Shuffling along with a Bo Diddley-esque rhythm - also borrowed previously by The Rolling Stones for Not Fade Away - early performances of Desire would often segue into a cover of Bob Dylan's All Along The Watchtower.

4 NEW YEAR'S DAY from War (1983)

Even with Edge doing double duty on piano and guitar for this U2 classic, New Year's Day allegedly almost didn't make the cut for 1983's War album because Bono was having trouble finishing the lyrics. Thankfully, he found his way to completion with the song, and the result was one of the first U2 songs to receive heavy airplay on MTV. The band rides horses in the video, although Edge himself opted to use a stunt double.

3 ONE from Achtung Baby (1991)

One arrived during a difficult creative period for U2, as they were in the midst of sessions for Achtung Baby, and reportedly spawned from Edge's improvisational moments as he was working on other songs for the album. Bono has said that when they did finally realise they had something special within the experimental riff for the song, the main melody and lyrics came quickly, something he termed as a "gift". The song remains one of the band's most popular and poignant compositions ever.

2 WHERE THE STREETS HAVE NO NAME from The Joshua Tree (1987)

In the Classic Albums documentary for The Joshua Tree, producer Brian Eno estimates that a good portion of the time spent recording the album was dedicated to capturing a satisfactory performance of the complex Streets. In fact, they struggled to the point that Eno almost wiped the tape clean to have them start fresh. Edge used the band's fans as inspiration for the melody of the track, putting himself into the seats of a U2 concert to imagine the type of song that he'd want to hear if he were attending the show.

1 MYSTERIOUS WAYS from Achtung Baby (1991)

The hypnotically addictive way that Bono weaves the lyrics of Mysterious Ways together, like a musical snake charmer of sorts, has done a lot for the enduring popularity of the second single from 1991's Achtung Baby. The track is a big part of the reason that we're celebrating Baby twenty years after the fact. From the moment the song was released, it was clear that U2 had once again put out a song that sounded like nothing else on the radio, and it still remains sonically current today.