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Flashback: U2 Play a Forgotten Science Fiction Tune in 1979

Watch a teenage U2 play “Life on a Distant Planet” on Irish TV

By October of 1979, the four members of U2 had been gigging around Ireland for three solid years, and they were finally starting to get some recognition. Their debut EP had just landed in record store bins, and it got them enough buzz to land on the cover of Hot Press magazine. Even better: Local radio was playing their first single, “Out of Control,” which gave them enough momentum to land a booking on the TV show Aspects of Rock.

For reasons that remain baffling, they opted to skip strong new songs like “Stories for Boys,” “Another Time, Another Place” and “Out of Control” in favor of “Life on a Distant Planet,” one of their lesser tunes that would soon fall out of their repertoire. The songs that later wound up on their debut LP, 1980’s Boy, largely dealt with the journey from childhood to adulthood, while “Life on a Distant Planet” is a science fiction tune unlike anything else in U2’s catalog. “Children scream and shout/Their eyes torn out,” Bono sings. “Judith turns around and stumbles/To the ground.” As you can see in the video, Bono also made some questionable wardrobe and hairstyle choices during this time.

Things were happening very quickly for U2 at the time. Promoters in London began booking them at clubs, landing them on the cover of NME before they even had a record deal. In March of 1980, they inked a deal with Island Records in the women’s bathroom at the Lyceum Ballroom. They headed into the studio that same month, though “Life on a Distant Planet” was never attempted in the studio. And while the band has released super obscure 1970s tunes like “Cartoon World” on various archival releases, “Life on a Distant Planet” remains in the vault. 

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