“Red Hill Mining Town,” the song that leads off side two of the vinyl version of The Joshua Tree, came together after the brutal National Union of Mineworkers coal strike in 1984. Bono, who had just met Bob Dylan and was studying his folk traditions, thought he’d give voice to the miners with this new song. Drawing from stories in the news and a book called Red Hill: A Mining Community, Bono weaved together a story about how the effect the strike had on coal miners and their families.
The song was hard to write, taking well over a year to come together, and Bono had a hard time nailing the vocals. What we hear on The Joshua Tree was U2’s best stab. Plans for the song to be released as the album’s second single after “With Or Without You” were abandoned and the song was never played live because Bono often had trouble consisting hitting the high notes. Larry Mullen was once quoted as saying that “Red Hill Mining Town” was “one of the lost songs,” but by being “over-produced and under-written,” it never lived up to its potential.
But now U2 is giving the song a second chance. A new Steve Lillywhite remix has been completed for release on a picture disc in time for Record Store Day, a sample of which can be found below. Note the new brass arrangement. (I’ve heard the whole thing–please don’t ask where I got it and no, I can’t share–and I can tell you that it’s MUCH better.)
Interesting aside: The song was premiered on Dave Fanning’s show on RTE in Ireland. Those who ripped the song from the replay of the broadcast and tried to sync things through iTunes March were gifted with the full and proper version of the remix. Was that a bingo or an oopsie?