See U2, REM Play Bill Clinton Inauguration as Automatic Baby - Rolling Stone
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Flashback: U2 and REM Join Forces for Bill Clinton Inauguration

Automatic Baby, the one-time-only supergroup, played ‘One’ – pissing off Don Henley in the process

It’s no secret that Donald Trump has struggled to book performers for his inauguration. It’s gotten so bad that a Bruce Springsteen cover band pulled out of a New Jersey inaugural party, even though they were booked long before Trump even entered the presidential race. He’s ultimately been forced to settle for 3 Doors Down, Lee Greenwood, Toby Keith and America’s Got Talent runner-up Jackie Evancho. “We’ve gotten calls that almost sound a little bit desperate: ‘Does anybody want to perform?'” music manager Ken Levitan told Rolling Stone. “At this point, we haven’t had anybody that has any desire to perform at the inauguration.”

Things were very, very different back in January of 1993 when Bill Clinton was getting sworn in. There were huge concerts all over Washington DC that week, culminating with Fleetwood Mac reuniting to perform his campaign theme “Don’t Stop.” MTV put together their own inaugural ball featuring Don Henley, En Vogue, Boyz II Men, 10,000 Maniacs and a one-off mashup of U2 and REM featuring Michael Stipe, Mike Mills, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. They called themselves Automatic Baby since their two most recent records were Automatic For The People and Achtung Baby. You can watch them perform “One” right here.

According to Bill Flanagan’s stellar book U2: At The End of the World, Don Henley was none-too-pleased when he learned that the organizers wanted Automatic Baby to close out the show. “[MTV co-founder Tom] Freston goes up to Henley,” wrote Flanagan,” and says, “‘Look, Don, you do your whole set, close the show, and then after the applause ends these other guys’ll come out and do ‘One’ as a sign off.'” Henley didn’t buy it. “Henley goes pale – he looks shaken,” wrote Flannigan. “He reminds Freston that he is supposed to close the show. Then he turns, goes into his dressing room and shuts the door. Freston is left starting at the closed door wondering if he should knock, when someone comes up, hands him a portable phone, and says he has a call. Freston says hello and gets an earful of Irving Azoff, Henley’s powerful manager, telling him he’s made a big mistake and now Don’s not going to go on.”

Needless to say, Freston folded and let Henley close out the show. Automatic Baby only did the single song and they haven’t played together since, but that’s somehow enough to get them their own Wikipedia page. If they do ever reunite, it certainly won’t be for a Trump event. It would probably be tough for Trump to even get tribute acts for U2 and REM to play any show for him, and he if did the Don Henley cover band would probably insist on playing last. 

In This Article: REM, U2


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