U2′s upcoming Joshua Tree 2017 tour has the group’s hardcore fans quite amped up. It’s the first time in the band’s history they’ve performed a classic album, meaning that super rare songs like “Trip Through Your Wires,” “Red Hill Mining Town” and “In God’s Country” are guaranteed to be played every single night. Some of them haven’t been touched in three decades, and “Red Hill Mining Town” has never been played live.
Many fans, however, are most excited about hearing “Exit” again. The haunting song about a religious fanatic that turns to murder (inspired by Norman Mailer’s 1980 novel The Executioner’s Song) was a regular highlight of the 1987 Joshua Tree tour, but two years later it played an unlikely role in the murder trial of actress Rebecca Schaeffer, the actress on the popular TV show My Sister Sam starring Pam Dawber, who was killed by an obsessed fan named Robert John Bardo. A psychiatrist told the court he was influenced by “Exit,” and they even played the song in court while Bardo banged his knees like a drum and mouthed the words.
It was an extremely disturbing episode for the band and probably explains why they dropped it from their live repertoire. They only live performance after 1987 came on October 14th, 1989 during a stop of the Lovetown tour in Melbourne, Australia. There’s no video, but you can hear a very clear recording right here. This took place months after the Schaeffer murder, but before the “Exit” information came to light. Now that nearly thirty years have passed since the horrific murder, U2 have a great opportunity to reclaim the song from that horrible connotation.