Here is my unofficial and non-authoritative list of what I consider to be the best U2 songs that have never appeared on one of their official studio albums. Some of these were B-Sides to singles, some are cover songs, some have only been released in limited fashion, and one has never been officially released in any format to my knowledge. (Some of these songs, however, have shown up recently on remastered deluxe editions of U2 CDs). So here is my list in descending order:
10. Summer Rain
Released on the limited edition U2-7 CD, this song has an infectious beat that makes it feel like a fun summer song -- rain or shine.
9. The Ground Beneath Her Feet
U2 put Salman Rushdie's lyrics to music and the result is a beautiful, melodic treat. This was released on a 4 or 5 song EP that was given out for free in the Sunday edition of a major European newspaper. As luck would have it, a friend of mine happened to be traveling in Scotland at the time and picked one up for me.
8. Can't Help Falling in Love
As a huge Elvis and U2 fan, what could be better than to combine the two. Technically this is a solo effort by Bono and he makes the most of it by infusing Elvis's 60's hit with the right amount of soul. The live version the band often performed during its Zoo TV Tour is equally enthralling.
7. Hallelujah Here She Comes
With lyrics like "I see you're dressed in black, I guess I'm not coming back. Hallelujah, hallelujah here she comes," how can you not love this song?
6. Xanax and Wine
I had a hard time deciding between this song and Fast Cars which mostly shares the exact same lyrics and similar musical arrangement. I went with this one because the Edge's guitar in this one has more punch to it.
5. Jesus Christ
U2 recorded this song in Sun Studios in Memphis during their Rattle and Hum phase. It has that raw, upbeat vibe to it that reminds a bit of one of my personal favorites that also came out of the Sun sessions -- Angel of Harlem.
4. Big Girls Are Best
Also a part of the U2-7 CD, the best way that I can think of to describe this song is funky. Plus it has the greatest title of all the songs in the U2 canon.
3. Flower Child
A light-hearted song made more so by the incessant thrumming of the acoustic guitar. I believe this song was recorded either during the "All That You Can't Leave Behind" or "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" sessions. (I forget which)
2. Wave of Sorrow
For more on this song see my previous post. It's a song that is as lyrically beautiful as it is melodic. I think it would have been a perfect fit on the Joshua Tree album, as it was recorded during those sessions.
1. She's a Mystery
U2 wrote this song for Roy Orbison who recorded a much less exciting version of it for one of his last albums. To my knowledge, U2 has never actually recorded a version of the song. They did, however, perform it live at least twice during their Rattle and Hum tour and it is available only on concert bootleg recordings. The song also has an Angel of Harlem flavor to it and it fits well with that style of classic American rock. Hopefully one day they will release one of the live versions on a box set or something.
Well, there's my list. Some other songs that were in contention and could be listed as Honorable Mentions include Levitate, Love You Like Mad, Dancing Barefoot, Smile, and Always.