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Flashback Video: 'Where the Streets Have No Name' by U2

Ever since the dawn of MTV and Friday Night Videos, the music video has significantly impacted musical tastes and pop culture. It might not be as extreme as when the Buggles declared that "Video Killed the Radio Star", but there is no arguing that the music video certainly could make or break a song's popularity. So this regular Flashback Video feature will serve to remember some of the music videos from the great '80s decade that made an impact on me in one way or another.

This issue we will cover "Where the Streets Have No Name" by U2. This is the opening track from The Joshua Tree and the third single released from that album in August of 1987. It only peaked at #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 in November of that year and would win a Grammy Award for Best Performance Music Video in February of 1989.

The music video for "Where the Streets Have No Name" was directed by Meiert Avis. He, like U2, is from Ireland and directed some of the band's earlier videos including "I Will Follow", "New Year's Day" and "The Unforgettable Fire". He then directed several videos for The Thompson Twins in 1985 including "King for a Day". Prior to "Where the Streets Have No Name", Avis also directed the video for U2's first single from The Joshua Tree, "With or Without You". Around this same time he also directed several videos from Bruce Springsteen's Tunnel of Love album including the title track and "Brilliant Disguise". He also returned to direct the 1989 video for U2's "All I Want is You" from Rattle and Hum. Avis then continued to direct music videos and television commercials for the decades that followed.

The music video for "Where the Streets Have No Name" had a concept similar to the Beatles famous Apple Records rooftop concert from January 30, 1969, which they used in their movie Let It Be. U2's video shoot took place on March 27, 1987 on the roof of of the Republic Liquor Store on the corner of 7th and Main Street in Los Angeles. For the impromptu concert, U2 played "Where the Streets Have No Name" four times, and also played "People Get Ready," "In God's Country," "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "Pride (In The Name Of Love)." Prior to filming, a week was spent reinforcing the roof of the liquor store to ensure it would not collapse if it were to be intruded by a group of fans. A backup generator was put on the roof so the shooting could continue in the event that the authorities shut off the power on the primary generator, which did end up happening during filming.

The video begins with an aerial shot of a block in Los Angeles, and clips of radio broadcasts are heard with disc jockeys stating that U2 is planning on performing a concert downtown and expecting large crowds. Police show up to the set and inform the band's crew of the security issue that the film shoot is causing. There was about two minutes of this before the song even begins followed by an abbreviated version of the song's long instrumental intro which takes another 45 seconds before Bono begins to sing. Then we see footage of the band performing the song to the crowd gathered in the street. Towards the end of the song, the police tell the crew that the performance is about to be shut down, and eventually police walk onto the roof while the crowd are booing the police. The police attempting to shut down the filming due to safety concerns actually happened during filming, just as seen in the video. According to Avis, the events depicted in the video show what actually happened that day "almost in real time", and that "getting busted was an integral part of the plan." The police trying to shut it down does make it feel a little more rock and roll. You can see it all for yourself here in the music video for "Where the Streets Have No Name" by U2...

Even though the Beatles had done something similar 18 years earlier, the video sure still stood out in the '80s. At the 1988 MTV Video Music Awards, U2 had both "Where the Streets Have No Name" and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" nominated for Video of the Year and Best Group Video, but both lost out to INXS "Need You Tonight/Mediate" in both categories.

Hope you enjoyed another trip back to the '80s thanks to Flashback Video!

1 comment

1 Comment

Photog Smurf
Photog Smurf
Mar 28, 2022

Such an iconic tune, second only to their hit, “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”.

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