Monday, August 31, 1987

U2 “Where the Streets Have No Name” released as single

Where the Streets Have No Name


Writer(s): Bono (lyrics), U2 (music) (see lyrics here)

Released: August 31, 1987

First Charted: April 4, 1987

Peak: 13 US, 16 CB, 13 GR, 15 RR, 11 AR, 1 CO, 4 UK, 11 CN, 27 AU, 2 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.4 UK

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 109.1 video, 86.45 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

U2 became superstars with their fifth album, 1987’s The Joshua Tree. It was their first #1 on the Billboard album chart and was certified for sales of 10 million in the United States alone. The first two singles, “With Or Without You” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” topped the Billboard Hot 100. The third single, “Where the Streets Have No Name,” reached the top 20. While “Name” wasn’t released as a single until August 1987, it hit the album rock chart four months earlier, reaching #11.

The band’s lead singer, Bono, wrote the song in response to a story he heard that in Belfast “by what street someone lives on you can tell not only their religion but how much money they’re making.” SF He contrasted that with a recent visit to Ethiopia where such divisions didn’t exist because the streets had no names. WK Journalist Michael Campbell said the song expresses hope for a utopian “world that is not divided by class, wealth, race, or any other arbitrary criterion.” WK

Musically, the song grew out of a demo The Edge, the guitarist, wrote toward the end of The Joshua Tree sessions because he thought the band were short on “exceptional live songs” and wanted to “conjure up the ultimate U2 live-song.” WK All Music Guide’s Steve Huey said the song’s “insistent, propulsive rhythmic drive and anthemic chorus eventually earned the song its status as part of the uppermost echelon of the band’s repertoire.” AMG

Recording the song proved to be difficult. Co-producer Brian Eno estimated that half the album sessions were spent on the song. The other producer, Daniel Lanois, called it “the science project song.” WK It required two time signature shifts and frequent chord changes. Bassist Adam Clayton said, “At the time, it sounded like a foreign language, whereas now we understand how it works.” WK

The song won a Grammy for Best Performance Music Video. They performed the song on the rooftop of the Republic Liquor Store in Los Angeles (a la The Beatles’ rooftop concert at Apple Records in 1969) and filmed it for the video.


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First posted 3/18/2023.

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