This was U2's first #1 hit in the US. It was the first U2 single to do better in America than in England.
The lyrics are about relationships, but can be interpreted many ways. They were written by Bono, who wanted to write a love song that dealt with real issues in relationships.
In 1987 Bono explained that everybody in the group knows what the line "And you give yourself away" means: "It's about how I feel in U2 at times - exposed. I'm not going to do many interviews this year. Because there's a cost to my personal life, and a cost to the group as well." (thanks, Kristine - Davenport, IA)
The Edge used a distortion device called an "Infinite Guitar" to create the wail. It was invented by Michael Brook, who The Edge worked with on the soundtrack for The Captive. Brook created the Infinite Guitar by replacing the pickup on a guitar with a magnetic device that vibrates the strings. Co-producer Daniel Lanois told Mojo magazine January 2008 about the recording of this song: "'For 'With Or Without You' we had the rhythm and the chords then we were testing Michael Brook's Infinite Guitar Invention. I asked Edge just to play a little something with it. He did two takes and those are the ones in the ultimate mix of 'With Or Without You.' Beautiful sounds, stratospheric."
This was voted best single of 1987 in a Rolling Stone magazine readers poll.
This won an MTV Viewer's Choice award in 1987.
Bono intended this as part of a trilogy with 2 other songs that did not make the album. At the time, he felt this did not make any sense without the other 2 songs.
This was played on 2 episodes of the show Friends. First towards the middle of the second season, then in the middle of the third season. It became the anthem of the characters Ross and Rachel after it was used in an episode where he dedicated it to her on the radio. (thanks, Britney - Calabasas, CA)
On the Rattle and Hum tour, Bono added the lyrics at the end... "Yeah, we'll shine like stars in the summer night, We'll shine like stars in the winter night, One heart, One hope, One love." (thanks, Bill - Johnstown, PA)
This was the first single that U2 released on CD. The single also appeared in CD Video format and is a rare collectible. About 50 copies were made to demo the Philips CDV system.
U2 played this for the first time in Tempe, Arizona on April 4, 1987, the second night of The Joshua Tree
tour. Bono mixed in parts of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart
This was used in the 1994 movie Blown Away. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France, for above 3)
This returned twice to the UK Top 75 within the space of eight months, both due to performances by reality show contestants. In October 2008 following a performance by contestant Diana Vickers on X Factor and again in May 2009 thanks to Shaun Smith's rendition of the song during a semi-final edition of Britain's Got Talent.