Red Hill Mining Town
by U2

Album: The Joshua Tree (1987)

Songfacts®:

  • This is about the United Kingdom miners' strike of 1984. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had instituted a policy where mines that were considered unprofitable were shut down. Bono wanted to explore the impact the strike had on the miners' friends and families. "I was interested in the miners' strike politically, but I wanted to write about it on a more personal level," he told NME in 1987. "A cold statistic about a pit closure and redundancies that follow is drastic enough on one level, but it never tells the full human story. I wanted to follow the miner home and write about that situation in the song."

    He continued: "The untold story of the coal strike is the number of family relationships that either broke down or were put under great strain. That was the final blow. Men would lose their pride in themselves and wouldn't be able to face their children or sleep with their wives." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Richard - Newport, Isle of Wight, England
  • This was going to be the second single off The Joshua Tree, but they decided not to perform this on tour and could not promote it effectively.
  • This was dropped from the set list of the Joshua Tree tour when they discovered during rehearsals that Bono could not hit the high notes consistently. As a result, it was never performed live until U2's 30th anniversary tour opener in Vancouver on May 12, 2017. Bono explained in an interview with BBC Radio 2:

    "I used to write songs that I couldn't sing. And sometimes that was OK because the strains of the notes I couldn't reach was part of the drama, but occasionally they would really just wreck the next show," he said. "So I just left 'Red Hill Mining Town' off. But since then, I sing a bit better - or at least I've learned how to sing."
  • A video was shot with film director Neil Jordan (Interview With The Vampire). It begins with historical footage of real-life miners before showing the band performing on a London set that looks like an underground mine. The clip was never officially released, as the band was not happy with it and decided not to use the song as a single. In 2007, however, it mysteriously showed up on YouTube just days before the release of the album's 20th anniversary reissue.
  • The song was inspired by folk music. Bono wanted The Joshua Tree to explore various forms of American music they had encountered while touring there.
  • Bono told BBC Radio 2's Chris Evans that he tried to copy the gravel-voiced white soul singer Joe Cocker when recording his vocals for this song.
  • The album was produced by Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois and, according to Bono, Lanois saved his vocal by detecting an undesirable effect. The singer recalled to Musician in 1987: "I was listening to the vocals of 'Red Hill Mining Town' coming back in the mix and I was thinking, 'Why does the singer sound like a rich man with pound notes stuffed in his pockets when it's a song about unemployment?' And the engineer was scratching his head. Dan Lanois walks in and says, 'God almighty, stereo plate echo! I keep telling these people. They've been using it since they invented it not because it's right but because it's available.' So he said, 'Turn it off. Put it in mono and edge it to the left,' and there it was again."
  • U2 was already popular by the time they released their fifth album, The Joshua Tree, but it brought them to a higher level of fame. It topped the charts across the globe, including the US and UK, and remains their best-selling album with 25 million copies sold worldwide.

Comments: 15

  • Jimmy from SeattleBono's voice ... soars and grinds with such raw, honest emotion. I'm not sure what the guy in the lyric is "hanging on" for, but with Bono singing for him, I BELIEVE he really needs it and I pray he gets it soon. Little thing in this vocal that always slays me: As it's winding down in the last dramatic moment, you hear a sound from his voice - not words, but what I think it's called a "glottal stroke," it's kinda like a brief sob or moan ... so glad the producer, Eno or Lillywhite, left it in. If I hear it at the right moment, it can bring tears to my eyes. Hear it at 3:50 or so.
  • Broncobuff from SeattleBono's voice ... soars and grinds with such raw, honest emotion. I'm not sure what the guy in the lyric is "hanging on" for, but with Bono singing for him, I BELIEVE he really needs it and I pray he gets it soon. Little thing in this vocal that always slays me: As it's winding down in the last dramatic moment, you hear a sound from his voice - not words, but what I think it's called a "glottal stroke," it's kinda like a brief sob or moan ... so glad the producer, Eno or Lillywhite, left it in. If I hear it at the right moment, it can bring tears to my eyes. Hear it at 3:50 or so.
  • Nick from La Paz, BoliviaOne of the best from the album! Beautiful melody. Once again, Bono manages to put us in the skin of the characters he sings about.
  • Jimmy Wooldridge from Hull Red Hill is a brilliant song. Great lyrics, great sound. Now Bono's voice is more matured I'm sure he could hit it right live. He sang Miss Sarejevo live in Milan, hit really high notes in that. The song is brilliant in my opinion. He hits very high notes in One Tree Hill and he does that live.
  • Karen from Kennett Square, PaThis was the favorite in my college days. All of us loved it. I think they should rework it somehow so that it can be performed live. I think it is more loved by fans than they realize. Joshua Tree equals college memories to me. I just feel it when I hear the album. I love the feeling.
  • Bert Van De Kamp from Den Bosch, NetherlandsU2 Traveled the California desert with photographer Anton Corbijn while finishing this album.
    A visit to the ghost town of Bodie CA and subsequent exposure to stories about certain residents there may have inspired these lyrics.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0rFoW3hPuA
    Beautiful and inspiring place
  • Eddie from East Islip, NyThis song never quite got the recognition it deserved. One of my favs from the joshua tree era!!!
  • Heather from Los Angeles, CaHow come they called the album "The Joshua Tree"? I live in the desert and have seen many a Joshua Tree. Not too much else growing in the Mojave actually.
  • Lily from Godrics Hallow, Englandi think the best line is: "we steep so low to reach so high" so true! love you bono!
  • Ray from Memphis, TnOne of my fav' U2 songs. Great singing by Bone et al. I agree - very underrated song.
  • Nick from Bridgeton, MeGreat song, wish it was released as a single only to add to the infamy of one of the greatest albums ever.
  • Jim from Burlington, Vtone of the most underrated U2 songs
  • Rick from Humboldt, IaAn awesome song with a great chorus.
  • Brett from Grand Rapids, MaPersonally I think this song doesn't get the credit it deserves. It's one of my favorite songs on the Joshua Tree, Although all the songs on this album are great. I personally wish they would have released the video.
  • Brian from Meriden, CtAnother absolute GEM on the less-explored second side of this landmark classic album, which itself explores the American West. The second-side opener sets the tone with the hard realities of mining families even when there is work. It continues on, painting the images of the pain and struggles of the human experience onto a desolate and unforgiving desert landscape to which it is so desperately tied.
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