Author Topic: Why is U2's song output slow? (compared to bands like the beatles)  (Read 453 times)

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Offline fEZbeing

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The Beatles made 30 studio albums and they were only around for a just over a decade. How come U2 has never been the type of band to release an album every 2 years? U2 don't even make EP's, and non-album songs are a very rare occurrence. 

I just realized U2 been around for 42 years, yet only have about 240 songs.

Even Coldplay have about 180 songs and they've only been around for 22 years.



Offline wons

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Re: Why is U2's song output slow? (compared to bands like the beatles)
« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2018, 02:37:53 AM »
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The Beatles made 30 studio albums and they were only around for a just over a decade. How come U2 has never been the type of band to release an album every 2 years? U2 don't even make EP's, and non-album songs are a very rare occurrence. 

I just realized U2 been around for 42 years, yet only have about 240 songs.

Even Coldplay have about 180 songs and they've only been around for 22 years.

Actually, U2 have about 275 songs known to the public and counting. They have other songs, but they are not known to the public. Its a very big catalog of songs compared to a lot of other artist that started when they did or maybe a little before. They have actually recorded nearly 30 albums worth of songs going by the idea of 10 songs per album and these are just songs that are known to fans/public.

The Beatles spent most of their time writing and recording rather than touring. A 20 date or 30 date tour was the norm in 1964,1965, 1966. Kind of small by todays standards and then they stopped touring after the summer of 1966. The writing and recording process was also much shorter in the 1960s. Artist back then would release a new album every 3 or 4 months. There were less options in the studio when recording.

So I think that explains some of it. I think U2 have put out a lot of material over time especially compared with artist who are the same age or been around as long as U2. U2's writing and recording process slowed after the 1980s to give the band more time to make a great album and take it on a long year or two year world tour. Plus there is the need for breaks and some downtime over such a long career. Plus 275 songs over 40 years is still at least 10 songs or more every 18 months which is the equivalent of one album every 18 months.

Offline laoghaire

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Re: Why is U2's song output slow? (compared to bands like the beatles)
« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2018, 06:25:52 AM »
I know the Beatles are considered to be unusually prolific, so we don't need to use them as a standard to judge normal output by.

I don't, however, know what a typical 40 year old band's output is.

If U2's is smaller, that's ok by me if they prioritized family more than some bands. Or if a typical band's output has more filler than they do, I am also happy with their choices.

Offline Johnny Feathers

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Re: Why is U2's song output slow? (compared to bands like the beatles)
« Reply #3 on: July 12, 2018, 07:13:14 AM »
30 studio albums by the Beatles?  More like 13, plus non-album singles and such.  You're counting a lot of material that was duplicated and re-issued at the height of their popularity.

Also, EVERYONE looks poor compared to the Beatles.  I think there are a few reasons at work:
They were practically geniuses.
They had 2-3 songwriters in the band.  GENIUS songwriters.
There were plenty of cover songs early on.
The record industry "wanted" as much material as it could be given back then.  Now bands strategize with the record companies for album/tour campaigns, which they can milk/promote over the course of several months/years.  Back in the 60's, lots of bands were cranking out an album a year or more.  Even through the 70's.
You're looking at a band who was still very young.  U2's output in the 80's, while still nowhere near the Beatles, was considerably faster back then.  They had four albums in their first five years as a band.

As for why isn't U2's output faster?  Who knows.  A lot of reasons, maybe.  Long tours.  Lack of inspiration.  Too many choices.  Other priorities as they get older.  As someone else mentioned above, recording in the 60's was a much faster process: a few takes and you're done.  And everyone tends to slow down as they get older, and U2 is certainly getting older.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2018, 01:41:18 PM by Johnny Feathers »

Offline wons

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Re: Why is U2's song output slow? (compared to bands like the beatles)
« Reply #4 on: July 12, 2018, 11:57:02 AM »
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  And everyone tends to slow down as they get older, and U2 is certainly getting older.

They don't seem any slower live in concert. I saw the same energy on last years Joshua Tree Tour 2017 and this years Experience And Innocence Tour that I saw on the ZOO TV tour back in 1992 which I saw four times.

I think the creative process in writing and recording might be slower but not because of age. Its because the choices and options thanks to technology are now enormous, the bands resources(money) to just spend time in the studio are also enormous. The pressure to make it is long gone. They've made it times 10, times a 100, times a 1,000. Then there is the fear of putting out an album that is not up to par or their standards. Also, the albums are timed with the tours for them and most tours in order to do their best business need to be at least 3 years out or more from the last tour to get the best results at the boxoffice.


So they could probably record and put out material faster, but that would mean not every album would have a tour to go with it. Plus they would have to be willing to release material that was not polished to their standards. Another option would be going totally retro in the recording process, like locking themselves into Slane Castle for 3 months with old recording technology and see what happens with the results in that short period of time.

Offline Luzita

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Re: Why is U2's song output slow? (compared to bands like the beatles)
« Reply #5 on: July 12, 2018, 12:44:35 PM »
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  And everyone tends to slow down as they get older, and U2 is certainly getting older.

They don't seem any slower live in concert. I saw the same energy on last years Joshua Tree Tour 2017 and this years Experience And Innocence Tour that I saw on the ZOO TV tour back in 1992 which I saw four times.

I think the creative process in writing and recording might be slower but not because of age. Its because the choices and options thanks to technology are now enormous, the bands resources(money) to just spend time in the studio are also enormous. The pressure to make it is long gone. They've made it times 10, times a 100, times a 1,000. Then there is the fear of putting out an album that is not up to par or their standards. Also, the albums are timed with the tours for them and most tours in order to do their best business need to be at least 3 years out or more from the last tour to get the best results at the boxoffice.


So they could probably record and put out material faster, but that would mean not every album would have a tour to go with it. Plus they would have to be willing to release material that was not polished to their standards. Another option would be going totally retro in the recording process, like locking themselves into Slane Castle for 3 months with old recording technology and see what happens with the results in that short period of time.
U2’s output has slowed down a lot from when they were a young band. In their first 5 years they put out 4 albums, so that’s almost one a year.

I think people have pretty much covered the reasons for the slowdown:

1) They tour extensively.
2) They’re already rich and famous, so there’s no pressure to put out another album.
3) They’re already rich and famous, so there’s pressure NOT to put out a bad album.
4) They have other priorities, like family and activism.



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Offline Johnny Feathers

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Re: Why is U2's song output slow? (compared to bands like the beatles)
« Reply #6 on: July 12, 2018, 01:46:51 PM »
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They don't seem any slower live in concert.

I meant their creative output.

Offline ShankAsu

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Re: Why is U2's song output slow? (compared to bands like the beatles)
« Reply #7 on: July 12, 2018, 02:09:28 PM »
The Beatles didn't put out 30 studio albums in 10 years.  Most of those are compilations and re-packaging the same songs.
Also, i don't think you can compare bands from the 60's to current bands.  The Stones were also very prolific.  I think back in those times the labels forced bands to put out new material because they were afraid artists would get forgotten after a few months.

Offline Boba Fett

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Re: Why is U2's song output slow? (compared to bands like the beatles)
« Reply #8 on: July 12, 2018, 04:51:20 PM »
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I saw the same energy on last years Joshua Tree Tour 2017 and this years Experience And Innocence Tour that I saw on the ZOO TV tour back in 1992 which I saw four times.

Can only comment on JT30, but to compare the energy levels of that tour with ZOO TV is laughable. JT30 showcased a band that played very well and professionally and a staging that was simple yet incredibly effective. Really enjoyed it. But U2 circa ZOO TV was a band at the height of its powers. Groundbreaking, wildly ambitious production matched with a band going above and beyond in the passion stakes.

Put it this way - I could imagine Bono walking off stage after JT30 and being quite capable of doing a lengthy meet and greet. But after ZOO TV I always imagined him slumped to the floor in the shower absolutely exhausted.

Offline shineinthesummernight

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Re: Why is U2's song output slow? (compared to bands like the beatles)
« Reply #9 on: July 12, 2018, 06:42:39 PM »
Because, comparatively speaking, the Beatles were running a sprint and U2 is running a marathon.

Offline McSwilly

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Re: Why is U2's song output slow? (compared to bands like the beatles)
« Reply #10 on: July 12, 2018, 08:15:33 PM »
When they were young, they released their best albums in 1980, 82, 83, 84, 87, 89 - and that doesn't include Blood Red Sky.

Offline wons

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Re: Why is U2's song output slow? (compared to bands like the beatles)
« Reply #11 on: July 12, 2018, 09:38:16 PM »
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I saw the same energy on last years Joshua Tree Tour 2017 and this years Experience And Innocence Tour that I saw on the ZOO TV tour back in 1992 which I saw four times.

Can only comment on JT30, but to compare the energy levels of that tour with ZOO TV is laughable. JT30 showcased a band that played very well and professionally and a staging that was simple yet incredibly effective. Really enjoyed it. But U2 circa ZOO TV was a band at the height of its powers. Groundbreaking, wildly ambitious production matched with a band going above and beyond in the passion stakes.

Put it this way - I could imagine Bono walking off stage after JT30 and being quite capable of doing a lengthy meet and greet. But after ZOO TV I always imagined him slumped to the floor in the shower absolutely exhausted.

When U2 were practicing for the outdoor part of the ZOO TV tour in early August 1992, the band would play the full show at the stadium around the usual show time of 9 pm to 11 pm. Then they would make it back to the Hotel by Mid-night and spend time talking to the fans signing. I know because my friends and I did this for an entire week while they practiced at Hershey Stadium. In terms of energy output for each of the band members during the show, there really is no difference between 1992 and 2017-2018.

You would have to go back to the Boy Tour through War Tour years where Bono would dive into the crowd and not be seen again for several minutes or be climbing to the roof of a nearby building during a song, to find a time when Bono was really expended more energy than he usually does and would be exhausted to a degree much greater than seen in future shows. ZOO TV was a well rehearsed professional show and usually came in at just two hours in length. Bono spent a lot of time singing and playing guitar. There was not a lot of extra time for antics that would have worn him out.

Offline Dali

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Re: Why is U2's song output slow? (compared to bands like the beatles)
« Reply #12 on: July 14, 2018, 11:25:33 AM »
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The record industry "wanted" as much material as it could be given back then.  Now bands strategize with the record companies for album/tour campaigns, which they can milk/promote over the course of several months/years.  Back in the 60's, lots of bands were cranking out an album a year or more.  Even through the 70's.
I like the thought that, back then, the record labels wanted as much material as they could be given by a band. These days, too much good stuff ends up on the cutting room floor and goes straight to the vault, often even without being finished, because record labels believe in scarcity as a selling point for more units of the same product. And even if it's finished songs that go to the vault, often a band tears them apart and plucks them for new songs that aren't necessarily better.

I attribute that to there being too many filters that an album has got to go through before release, and too many concerns about the image of a band.