U2's 50 Greatest Songs

A definitive guide to 35 years of music that changed the world

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5. "Bad"

"Bad" is a powerful song about a painful subject. Bono wrote it to address the rampant heroin abuse that was crippling recession-plagued Dublin during the early Eighties, basing his lyrics on the experiences of people he knew personally. "I've always had a real respect for responsible people," Bono said, discussing the song. "But I also have a real respect for irresponsible people. There is that side of me that wants to run." The hypnotic, Velvet Underground–inspired track took just three takes to record, with Brian Eno adding keyboards and minimal overdubs. But "Bad" really took off live as a surging communal hymn; radio DJs have been choosing the version on the 1985 concert EP Wide Awake in America over the studio version for decades, and the triumphant 12-minute version U2 played at Live Aid in 1985 (during which Bono brought a woman out of the crowd and danced with her) became one of the festival's most memorable moments. Recalled Adam Clayton, "It's only after six months of touring it and talking to different people that you get to the inner truths of the song."

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