11 O’Clock Tick Tock

Completing the trilogy of obscure non-album early singles, “11 O’Clock Tick Tock” is also remarkable because, long before hiring the now legendary producer Brian Eno, this single saw them hire the also legendary (and most famous for Joy Division) producer Martin Hannett, and indeed it happens to be the only U2 single that Hannett produced. Released in May 1980, it’s also the very final release that appeared before Boy.

These two factors transpire to be critical to the song’s sound: by now, Edge had now mastered the delay enough to get some proper effect out of it, and whilst Bono’s lyrics still could err on the side of nebulous rather than abstract or poetic (A painted face/And I know we haven’t long), there is clearly a sharper focus to them. Hannett’s influence, meanwhile, was most obvious within the rhythm section; an overtly dubby feel to the bassline and a dry drum machine imitation from Larry lend a slight Joy Division feel to the song whilst still ensuring that the band don’t sound like some poor and overly deliberate imitation. Whilst “11 O’Clock Tick Tock” isn’t a classic in the U2 canon, but it is nonetheless the first U2 release that sounds like it’s worth buying, and it gave some idea as to how Boy would turn out that coming October.

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~ by 4trak on April 18, 2008.

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