Irish superstars U2, who, after 10 albums, years of critical acclaim, as well as international success, have yet to release a collection of their biggest songs, will put out the first of three planned greatest-hits collections on Nov. 2.
The album, tentatively titled The Best of U2: Volume One 1980-1990, will also be accompanied by a separate B-sides collection covering the same era, according to a representative for the band's London-based publicity firm RMP, who preferred not to be named.
The deal for the release of the trio of "best of" albums is reportedly worth $50 million for the band, which has been laying low on an extended vacation since the end of the yearlong tour in support of its 1997 album, Pop. The deal is unlike mega-deals by other top acts such as Janet Jackson and R.E.M., in that it covers previously released material, not new recordings.
The decade of material the first collection will cover was one of the most fruitful for the band, whose members include singer Bono, guitarist the Edge, drummer Larry Mullen Jr. and bassist Adam Clayton.
Beginning with their 1980 debut, Boy, and continuing through their commercial peak, 1987's multi-platinum The Joshua Tree, the decade found the group perfecting their brand of strident, often political rock. The Irish superstars' signature sound is exemplified by the interplay between singer Bono's brooding vocals and the Edge's hard-hitting guitar riffs. U2 have released 10 studio albums during their 20-year career, racking up sales of 87 million albums worldwide.
Although the track listing is unconfirmed, among the rock radio staples likely to appear on the first volume are "Gloria," "Sunday Bloody Sunday," "New Year's Day," "I Will Follow," "(Pride) In the Name of Love" (RealAudio excerpt), "Where the Streets Have No Name," "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," "With Or Without You," "Desire," "Angel Of Harlem," "When Love Comes To Town" and "All I Want Is You."
Continuing their political activity, which has included everything from participating in the Artists United Against Apartheid album in the mid-1980s to recent support efforts for a peaceful solution to the political conflict in Ireland, the members of U2 met with U.S. President Bill Clinton last week.
In an exclusive interview with the Irish Independent newspaper, Clinton said Bono "gave me and [First Lady] Hillary [Rodham Clinton] a good book -- 'The History of Dublin.' " Bono hobnobbed with the president while the U.S. leader was in Dublin, Ireland last Friday on an official visit.
The meeting at the American ambassador's residence was the second for the unlikely pair, who first met in 1995 when Bono gave Clinton a book of writings by late Irish poet William Butler Yeats that featured the inscription, "This guy wrote some good lines too."
The first lady also paid tribute to U2 during the official state visit, praising the Irish band for keeping up spirits during the difficult peace process in their native country. "I know also that the songs of U2 and other great musicians have filled the Waterfront in recent months," Mrs. Clinton said, according to a report posted on the unofficial "ZooNation" website that was written by a reporter for the Belfast Telegraph.
With a Christmas season that is seemingly light on gift-giving blockbuster releases, save for a seminal Bob Dylan live album and a rumored Bruce Springsteen box set, the U2 album could be a boon for retailers.
"Real U2 fans will probably already have all the songs that would be on it," said Mark Anthony, the pop/rock buyer for a Chicago Tower Records outlet. "But it will be good for people who only own a couple of albums."
What Anthony, who had not yet heard about the release of the collection, said would likely be a must-have was the B-side collection, which he predicted could be "very big."
As far as new releases, Anthony said U2 are always one of the biggest at his Tower outlet, right up there with hometown heroes the Smashing Pumpkins and pop diva Janet Jackson.