The ATU2 Tours team has acquired a previously uncirculated, exclusive recording of a legendary U2 concert — one that almost didn’t get made if not for a resourceful dad. But first, some background …
The Tours team recently shared a significant update of pages covering U2’s early Irish and U.K. shows from 1976 to 1980. The project followed several months of extensive research at the British Library and a deep review of newspaper digital records. We found undiscovered concerts and were able to update more than 200 shows with clippings to provide evidence of previously unknown song performances, set lists, concerts ads and support acts. To further validate evidence, we’ve been listening to audience and radio recordings of the early years. Recordings from 1976 to 1980 are rare, however, and until now the earliest circulated U2 recording is a broadcast by the Irish radio company RTE: the Cork Opera House concert on Oct. 22, 1979. The earliest private audience recording in circulation is the Tullamore show on March 2, 1980.
But in the last few weeks, we came into possession of an earlier concert recording that preempts both of those, and until U2 lets us in their archives, this is their earliest known live recording.
On Aug. 11, 1979, U2 played a 3 p.m. concert at Dublin’s Dandelion Market, a venue long since demolished, and on the present site of the Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre. U2 played 10 concerts there in 1979, the first in May 1979 and the 10th just before Christmas. At the Aug. 11 Saturday afternoon show, the support act was The Strougers, and their band member Pete McCluskey recorded the concert in its entirety. Ever since, only the full performance of "Out Of Control" has been made public by McCluskey via YouTube in 2011, and since then the recording has become the Holy Grail of U2 live recordings.
The entrance to the Dandelion Market at Gaiety Green, Dublin.
The Tours team has listened to the recording of this energetic concert, which was aided by a passionate audience unaware they were listening to history in the making. The concert took place around six weeks before U2’s official release of U2 Three on Sept. 26, 1979, on CBS Ireland.
The set list contains several unreleased tunes (visit the concert page for a full set list, including two snippets that feature Edge playing U2’s “Twilight” and Bono doing his best Robert Plant impersonation of Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog”), featuring two early U2 songs that were never officially recorded, not even in demo form. To our knowledge they do not exist on any circulated live recording. Essentially, they are previously unheard by U2 fans around the world.
The first song, “In Your Hand,” has appeared in some reviews of early Irish shows, but is otherwise unknown to the wider U2 audience.
The second song is “Concentration Cramp.”
As is often the case with fledging bands, early songs can be written in different formats as the art of songwriting progresses — melodies and lyrics may differ, for instance — until the final accepted format of the song is adopted. In the case of “Concentration Cramp,” the melody is familiar because the song is similar to an early recorded demo song known as “Live My Life Tonight.” “Concentration Cramp” has very different lyrics, with Bono’s handwritten lyrics originally on display in the late 1990s in Dublin, at the now-defunct Hot Press Irish Music Hall of Fame, then transferred to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland for most of 2003.
The Dandelion rendition seems to share significant parts of the instrumental backing as well as a few lyrical segments with the recorded demo of “Live My Life Tonight” (check out this short sound clip of the demo for comparison). Another early U2 myth has thus been resolved, as early audience members have previously told the Tours team about different versions of this song.
The Stougers’ McCluskey gave an interview to ATU2 about the recording’s background.
ATU2: Pete, this recording is just wonderful. But explain how you discovered U2?
Pete McCluskey: Well, I had my own band, The Strougers, and being a Dublin band, we went to several concerts, and the first time I saw U2 was at another legendary Dublin venue, McGonagles on South Anne Street in late 1978, when my band supported them. I was utterly impressed by the musicianship of such a young band. They were just 17, 18, and a couple of years younger than myself and my band colleagues. … I was particularly keen to catch them in concert again.
The Strougers backstage with Bono and Ali Stewart at Dublin McGonagles, 1978.
ATU2: So how did you come about supporting U2 at the Dandelion in August 1979?
PM: In July 1979 … The Strougers had managed to get support to U2, who were playing the Dandelion Market (editor’s note: the concert on July 28, 1979), and after our show I was so impressed with the band that I went to the dressing room to speak with them. In the room was Paul McGuinness, and I was so excited, I was forward enough to speak to McGuinness – who was so different to the rest of us, smoking a cigar – and convinced him we should play as support again. A few days had passed and we were accordingly invited to play the Howth Youth Club in North Dublin on Aug. 10, 1979.
Pete McCluskey (foreground) at Dublin McGonagles, 1978
ATU2: What was that show like?
PM: It was actually very tense. I had arrived at the soundcheck and Bono was very nervous sitting in the center of the concert room, checking out the … sound, as there were several A&R folk arriving for the gig that night, presumably from CBS London to check out these Irish youngsters. I had acquired a tape machine and took it that night to record the gig, but unfortunately in my excitement managed to press “play” instead of “record.” And thus nothing was recorded.
ATU2: So how did the Dandelion show come about the following day?
PM: The next day around lunchtime, McGuinness got a message through to us that they were playing at the Dandelion and The Strougers could be support. We only had a few hours to get ready, so I had to go home to get my guitar, and that is when near disaster struck. … I couldn’t get into my bedroom as I didn’t have a key with me, and my mother had the only key available and had gone shopping … Luckily, my father arrived home, and [after I] explained the dire circumstances, he got on his bike, cycled the best part of 6 miles into town, amazingly found my mother in a curtain shop, got the key off her, and cycled home. I duly got my guitar out of the bedroom, but knew I couldn’t possibly make it on time. [I] spotted a taxi across the road from where I lived — and thus got in to it for my very first taxi ride.
ATU2: So if it wasn’t for your father, this tape wouldn’t exist?
PM: Absolutely. My father saved the day! I am pleased that I recorded the show, and hadn’t realized the significance of it and its place in history until quite recently.
Pete McCluskey, who recorded U2’s performance at Dublin Dandelion Market on Aug. 11, 1979.