Bad
by U2

Album: The Unforgettable Fire (1984)
  • This started as an improvisation by U2 guitarist The Edge, with the others joining in. It was recorded in three takes at Slane Castle in Dublin. The castle on the cover of The Unforgettable Fire is not Slane, but Moydrum Castle.
  • The lyrics do not specifically mention heroin, but Bono has introduced the song at concerts by saying it is about heroin addiction. A friend of theirs, Phil Lynott from the group Thin Lizzy ("The Boys Are Back In Town"), died after years of heroin abuse in 1986.

    Bono watched a lot of teens fall victim to the heroin epidemic in Dublin in the late '70s and early '80s. "They gave up everything they held sacred to this drug," he explained in the band bio U2 by U2. "I tried to describe that with the song, 'Bad,' what it was like to feel that rush, to feel that elation, and then to go on to the nod, the awful sleep that comes with that drug, and then scream: 'I'm wide awake, I'm wide awake, I'm not sleeping!' I can see what's going on."
  • This is the second song on the album where Bono sings about a heroin addict. The first was "Wire."
  • This was not a radio hit, but it became a live favorite and a centerpiece at their concerts. The live version on their 1985 album Wide Awake In America helped them gain popularity in the US.
  • U2 performed a 14-minute version of this song at the London Live Aid concert in 1985, which included a trip by Bono into the crowd at Wembley Stadium. Their set, which also included "Sunday Bloody Sunday," was voted Best Live Aid Performance by readers of Rolling Stone.
  • A prerecorded keyboard track was used for live performances to free The Edge up on guitar.
  • Bono would mix in snippets of other artist's songs when singing this live. He left it alone for the Wide Awake In America recording because he did not want to get sued, as they did with "The Electric Company."
  • The Wide Awake In America version contains an edit. They screwed up the last note, so a good one from another show was spliced on.
  • Bono often changes up the lyrics during live performances because he was never satisfied with the song. "That is potentially truly a great song... if I had finished it. And in a way I do finish it every night, live. I change the lyric. Poets have no problem with revising their work. Songs shouldn't be set in stone. If they are any good, they are living, breathing organisms."
  • Bono: "'Bad' was very difficult to do, almost an impossible collision of cultures for us. It was a different kind of songwriting, like Philip Glass meets Astral Weeks, Van Morrison crossed with German electronica. You have sequences which are rigid and metronomic and then you have a bass which is improvising all the way, and the voice too."

Comments: 29

  • Crbm from Philadelphia, PaThe song is also about Nelson Mandela, a Champion of Democracy and Former President of South Africa.
  • Jimmy from Belfast, United KingdomLet's get one thing clear regarding the second paragraph above in the songfacts part. Phil Lynott did not die of Heroin abuse.He died of pneumonia and heart failure due to sepsis.
  • David from Syracuse, NyI was watching the Live Aid concert as it was being broadcast back in 1985 on my 27 inch Sony Oak console TV, that I paid over a thousand dollars cash for, and also was recording it on my 450 dollar Sony Betamax VCR...how times have changed in the electronic industry! I was single, could you tell?
    And then I had to leave this bliss and go to work, I should have stayed home and kept on recording. I missed a lot of great performances. Those were good days. How times have changed. It freaked me out seeing Bono embrace those girls during Bad, it felt like his compassion at the time, would be teaching the world leaders the same thing. About stopping, paying attention to those in need and coming to their aid. It was almost like a Woodstock moment, but all these moments only seem temporary, like everything else in life. What a true shame.
  • Tom from Oconomowoc, WiThis is a great song, and the performance of it at Live Aid was fantastic, but there was nothing spontaneous about pulling the woman up on stage. Bono had already been doing this on the Unforgettable Fire tour (which I saw before Live Aid) and continued to do it on the Joshua Tree tour (which I saw after Live Aid). The repetition really disillusioned me and I lost interest in the band. Live Aid is available on DVD.
  • Johan Marius from Stavanger, NorwayThis song, live from Rattle And Hum, "NOT FADE AWAY". My Greatest moment in rock history...
  • Mark from Houston, Txi remember getting into this song while studying for tests in december 1984, a few weeks after i had seen them live from the third row at radio city music hall. the ulean pipe or whatever that sound was during the ooh oohs kept playing in my head. so beautiful.


    the live aid performance showed the world what U2 fans had already discovered, how good this band was.
  • Squid from Los Angeles, Cai first saw U2 at US3 in San Bernadino with my mom @ 5 years old (I think i was 5) and loved them ever since. But on that hot july 13th in Los Angeles, I sat the ENTIRE day waiting to watch Queen and U2. We were having a bar - b - que that day. I ran out to drag my mom inside, so we could watch together. I remember my mom crying by the time they got to covering Lou Reed's "Walk On The Wildside" and remember how she said that U2 will teach me more in life than i could ever imagine. Whenever i play this song, it breaks me. and as i grow older i see new meanings besides heroin abuse in it. More so, any self abuse is related to this song. And Bono mentioned many times that most of his songs have many interpritations, and for the most part, he supports all of them
  • Matt from Philadelphia, Pa"Bad" is probably my favorite all time U2 song - and I have been following them for for over 20 years. The Elevation Tour had "Bad" fading into "Where the Streets Have No Name" - it gives me goosebumps every time I hear it.
  • Chace from Colby, KsWhen they were playing live aid, Bono saw a woman in the front getting crushed by the audience. When the band was playing on, Bono was trying to get the ushers to come over and help her but they wouldn't come. So he jumped off the stage and helped pull the woman from the crowd. Bono did a dance with her and then he returned to stage. That's why the performance ended up being so long.
  • Simon from London, EnglandWhen played live is one of U2's best, such emotion in the song that is perfectly captured on a live stage
  • Shawn from Frostburg, MdU2 fan or not, If you can watch them perform this song live and not get goose bumps, then there must be something wrong with you.
  • Bill from Seattle, WaBefore Live Aid '85, I liked U2 a lot. After watching their performance of "Bad" that day, they've been my favorite band ever since. U2's songs have become a soundtrack to my life of sorts, but not because I've lived all these songs. It's because their songs anchor so many key memories throughout my life. I don't even need to know what songs are about (although I like to), because the lyrics are of an ethereal beauty that I need only to experience like a work of art. "Bad" exemplifies that for me and that's probably why it's still my favorite U2 song.
  • Andrew from Honolulu, HiDoes anyone know where you can purchase the full length Live Aid Show? "Bad" makes my heart race every time I listen to it. I jumped five rows down when they played it in their second show in Washington, DC RFK on the Achtung Baby tour in 1992!
  • Patrick from Hasbrouck Heights, NjI still don't understand why this song was never released as a single. It was definitely one of U2's greatest gems.
  • Boris from Maribor, OtherLike many other U2 songs,this song also contains brilliant, powerful lyrics. For me Bono's voice was on the highest level in "The unfogettablee fire" album and especilally in this song when he sings "I am wide awake, wide awake, I'm not sleeping.." It is also my uncle's, who is a huge U2 fan, favourite song.
  • Dina from Austin, United StatesAccording to the U2.com website, the lyrics are: "To let it go and so to FIND a way". Live, the lyrics quickly changed to "FADE" away, and later on, Bono would start singing the song as "FADE" and towards the end "NOT FADE AWAY", as seen in the Rattle and Hum film version. To me that puts a more optimistic spin on this redemption song. It's my favorite song by my favorite band.
  • Panzerfaust from Hermosillo, MexicoWhat about the "Rattle and Hum" version? On my point of view, is one of the greatest live performances in rock history.
  • Patrick from Humboldt, IaI love the part in the song where all the words end with -ation.
  • Jamie from Bethesda, MdWhen Bad came out on the Unforgettable Fire album...I was in College at Syracuse Universtiy......I listen to the song every day for about a year....It never gets old....throw in the live version from Wide awake in America and the Live Aid version with Ruby Tuesday mixed in and you get "one" of the greatest songs of all time.
  • Jeanette from Elkridge, MdBad is my favorite song by my favorite band. I have never heard them perform it the same way twice. That's what I like about them every show is different, you can seen them over and over and never get bored, especially with their huge catalog of music.
  • Marcelo from Campinas, BrazilTheir performance at the Live Aid concert (1985) remains the best. Even if they didn't think so at the time.
    Wish the band was still like that!
    "Thank you
    God bless you!"
  • Adrian from Belfast, IrelandOn a recent (June 2005) BBC documentary Bono said the band demanded he quit after his Live Aid performance and Larry Mullen admitted that they were about to abandone their set when Bono popped back up on stage (he'd had to jump down about 2 metres to dance with the crowd). Of course, as they both admitted, the performance elevated them into rock's elite - but it didn't seem like that to them at the time.
  • Mike from Indianapolis, InI loved to listen to this song on headphones because each time the cymbal's sound would start in one ear and finish in the other. Give it a try! Not as dramatic on stereo speakers.
  • Santiago from Porto Alegre, BrazilMore than any other U2 song, Bad represent everything that the band is: emotional and heart.
  • Sean from Middlesex, Englandlegend/rumour has it that as much as most people loved U2's set at Live Aid and what Bono did, Bono himself had a complete opposite view. He felt he should'nt have done what he did, and went off on a long holiday on his own to think about his future with the band. I think he just felt a little foolish after looking a the playback of he concert, and also the band were a little pissed-off, as they never got to play their third song. (Pride..in the name of love)
  • Jen from Boulder, Co"Colors clash, collide in bloodshot eyes."
    Love that lyric. One of my favorites.
  • Marty from Perth, AustraliaU2's best song, very intense and emotional.
  • Matt from Durham, NhAbsolutely. U2's best song, performed to perfection at its defining moment.
  • Bob from Boca Raton, FlThe Live Aid performance of this song is considered one of the great performances of all time. U2 was one of a couple of bands that really rose to the ocassion, and this song stood out. Bono worked the crowd, pulling girls out to dance with him. Unfortunately, part of the performance was not seen by t.v. viewers in America due to brief technical difficulties.
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