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20 Insanely Great U2 Songs Only Hardcore Fans Know

Listen to lesser-known gems from the band’s catalog

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U2 had a whole mini-catalog of songs prior to recording their debut LP Boy, and after that they always wrote far more tunes than could fit on any one album. Some of these songs were relegated to B-sides, while others were merely played live a handful of times. For every forgettable song like “Womanfish,” there’s a brilliant one like “North and South of the River” or “Salome.” Here’s a guide to 20 of the best obscure songs from the Irish quartet.

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17. ‘Xanax and Wine’

The line "how to dismantle an atomic bomb" appears nowhere on U2's 2004 LP How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, but you can hear it on "Xanax and Wine," a song they wrote during the final days of recording the album. The track eventually evolved into "Fast Car," but it lost its raw, frenetic energy in the process. Thankfully, they released "Xanax and Wine" on a rarities collection a few years later. 


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18. ‘Native Son’

U2 have proved that it's possible to over-think a song and screw it up. Their 2004 song "Vertigo" was a big hit, but many fans prefers the tune in its original incarnation as "Native Son." It's not glossy, still has some rough corners and probably wouldn't have worked in an iPod commercial. The good news is they put it out so fans can compare the two. 

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19. ‘Mercy’

"Mercy" was originally slated for How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, but for some reason it was yanked at the last minute. One fan wound up with a bootlegged copy and it was uploaded to the Internet in late 2004. U2 fans fell in love with the anthemic song, many of them arguing it was one of the most U2-ish songs every written. The band finally got on board in 2010 when they began playing a revised version of the song in concert. One of those versions came out on the band's 2010 EP Wide Awake in Europe

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20. ‘Lady With the Spinning Head’

Achtung Baby is undoubtably one of U2's greatest albums, but it had a very difficult birth. When they began cutting the album in Berlin, Germany, they were simply unable to finish any songs they were happy with. One of their early attempts is "Lady With the Spinning Head." They eventually gave it up and scrapped it for parts, using elements of it on "Zoo Station," "The Fly" and "Ultraviolet (Light My Way)." It's trippy to listen to it today since it sounds like all those songs combined. 

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