I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
"I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"
Single by U2
from the album The Joshua Tree
Released May 1987
Format 7" vinyl, 12" vinyl, CD, cassette
Recorded Danesmoate House in Dublin, Ireland, 1986
Genre Rock, gospel[1]
Length 4:37
Label Island
Writer(s) U2 (music), Bono (lyrics)
Producer Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois
U2 singles chronology
"With or Without You"
"I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"
"Where the Streets Have No Name"
Music video
"I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" on YouTube
Music sample
"I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"

"I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" is a song by rock band U2. It is the second track from their 1987 album The Joshua Tree and was released as the album's second single in May 1987. The song was a hit, becoming the band's second consecutive number-one single on the US Billboard Hot 100 after "With or Without You", while peaking at number six on the UK Singles Chart.

Like much of The Joshua Tree, the song was inspired by the group's interest in American music. "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" exhibits influences from gospel music and its lyrics describe spiritual yearning. Lead vocalist Bono's vocals are in high register and guitarist The Edge plays a chiming arpeggio. The song originated from a demo the group used to develop a unique drum pattern played by drummer Larry Mullen, Jr.

"I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" was well-received by critics. It has subsequently become one of the group's most well-known songs and has been performed on many of their concert tours. The track has appeared on several of their compilations and concert films.


Writing and recording

"I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" originated from a demo variously titled "The Weather Girls" and "Under the Weather" that the band recorded in a jam session.[1][2][3] Bassist Adam Clayton called the demo's melody "a bit of a one-note groove", while an unconvinced The Edge, the band's guitarist, compared it to "'Eye of the Tiger' played by a reggae band". However, the band liked the drum part played by drummer Larry Mullen, Jr.[4] Co-producer Daniel Lanois said, "It was a very original beat from Larry. We always look for those beats that would qualify as a signature for the song. And that certainly was one of those. It had this tom-tom thing that he does and nobody ever understands. And we just didn't want to let go of that beat, it was so unique."[2] Lanois encouraged Mullen to continue developing the weird drum pattern beyond the demo.[4] Mullen said the beat became even more unusual, and although Lanois eventually mixed most of the pattern out to just keep the basics, the rhythm became the root of "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For".[4]

"I've always liked gospel music and I encouraged Bono to take it to that place...It was a very non-U2 thing to do at the time, to go up the street of gospel. I think it opened a door for them, to experiment with that territory...[Bono]'s singing at the top of his range and there is something very compelling about somebody pushing themselves. It's like hearing Aretha Franklin almost. It jumps on you and you can't help but feel the feeling."

The group worked on the track at the studio they had set up at Danesmoate House in Dublin.[2] Lanois compared the creation of the song to constructing a building, first laying down the drums as the foundation, then adding additional layers piece by piece, before finally "putting in furniture".[5] Lead vocalist Bono was interested in the theme of spiritual doubt, which was fostered by Eno's love for gospel music, and by Bono's listening to songs by The Swan Silvertones, The Staple Singers, and Blind Willie Johnson.[6] After The Edge wrote a chord sequence and played it on acoustic guitar "with a lot of power in the strumming", the group attempted to compose a suitable vocal melody,[4] trying out a variety of ideas.[2] During a jam session, Bono began singing a "classic soul" melody, and it was this addition that made The Edge hear the song's potential.[4] At that point, he remembered a phrase he had written in a notebook that morning as a possible song title, "I still haven't found what I'm looking for". He suggests it was influenced by a line from the Bob Dylan song "Idiot Wind": "You'll find out when you reach the top you're on the bottom".[4] He wrote the phrase on a piece of paper and handed it to Bono while he was singing. The Edge called the phrase's fit with the song "like hand in glove". It became the song's refrain and title.[4] From that point on, the song was the first piece played to visitors during the recording sessions.[4]

As recording continued, a number of guitar overdubs were added, including an auto-pan effect and a chiming arpeggio to modernise the old-style "gospel song".[5] While The Edge was improvising guitar parts one day, Bono spotted a "chrome bells" guitar hook that he liked.[4] It was added as a counter-melody to the song's "muddy shoes" guitar part,[4] and it is this hook that The Edge plays during live performances of the song. Bono sang in the upper register of his range to add to the feeling of spiritual yearning; in the verses he hits a B-flat note, and an A-flat in the chorus.[5] Background vocals were provided by The Edge, Lanois, and co-producer Brian Eno, their voices being multi-tracked. Lanois suggests that his and Eno's involvement in the track's creation aided in their background vocals. He stated, "You're not going to get that sound of, 'Oh they brought in some soul singers' if you know what I mean. Our hearts and souls are already there. If we sing it'll sound more real." The song's writing was completed relatively early during the band's time at Danesmoate House. The mix was worked on for a while, though, with most of the production team contributing. The final mix was completed by Lanois and The Edge in a home studio set up at Melbeach, a house purchased by The Edge. They mixed it on top of a previous Steve Lillywhite mix, which gave the song a phasing sound.[4]

Lanois says he is very attached to "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and has, on occasion, joined U2 on stage to perform it.[5] The original "Weather Girls" demo, re-titled "Desert of Our Love", was included with the 2007 remastered version of The Joshua Tree on a bonus disc of outtakes and B-sides.[3]


Initially, "Red Hill Mining Town" was planned for release as the second single. However, Bono was unable to sing the song during pre-tour rehearsals and the band were reportedly unhappy with the video shot by Neil Jordan, so "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" became a late choice for the second single.[7] The single was released in May 1987. On the US Billboard Hot 100, the song debuted at number 51 on 13 June 1987. After nearly 2 months on the chart, the song reached number one on 8 August 1987, becoming the band's second consecutive number-one hit in the United States. The song spent two weeks in the top spot, and remained on the chart for 17 weeks.[8] On other Billboard charts, the song peaked at number 16 on the Adult Contemporary chart,[9] and number two on the Album Rock Tracks chart.[10] The song also topped the Irish Singles Chart,[11] while peaking at number six on the on the Canadian RPM Top 100[12] and the UK Singles Chart.[13] In New Zealand, the song peaked at number two on the RIANZ Top 40 Singles Chart, while reaching number six on the Dutch Top 40 and number 11 on the Swedish Singles Chart.[14]

Music video

The music video for the song was filmed on Fremont Street in Las Vegas on 12 April 1987 following their Joshua Tree Tour concert in that city.[7] It features the band members wandering around while The Edge played an acoustic guitar. The music video was later re-released on the U218 Videos compilation DVD. Pat Christenson, president of Las Vegas' official event organization, credits the group's video with improving the city's image among musicians. "The whole perception of Vegas changed with that video," Christenson said, adding, "Now all the big names come here, some of them five, six times a year."[15]


"Spanish Eyes" was created early during The Joshua Tree sessions. It began as a recording made in Adam Clayton's house of Clayton, The Edge, and Larry Mullen Jr. playing around with several different elements.[16] The piece evolved substantially over the course of an afternoon, but the casette and its recording was subsequently lost and forgotten. The Edge found the cassette towards the end of the album sessions and played it to the rest of the group. The band realised that it was a good track, but did not have enough time to complete it prior to The Joshua Tree's release.[16]

"Deep in the Heart" stemmed from a three-chord piano piece Bono composed on the piano about the last time he had been in the family home on Cedarwood Road in Dublin, which his father had just sold.[16] The memories of his time living there gave rise to many of the lyrical ideas on the song.[16] The Edge and Adam Clayton reworked the piece extensively, with Bono later describing the finished result as "an almost jazz-like improvisation on three chords", also noting that "the rhythm section turned it into a very special piece of music."[16] The song was recorded in a similar manner to the song "4th of July" from U2's 1984 album, The Unforgettable Fire; The Edge and Clayton were playing together in a room and unaware that they were being recorded on a 4-track cassette machine by the band's assistant, Marc Coleman.[16]

Live performances

Island Records commissioned New York choir director, Dennis Bell, to record a gospel version of the song, and Island intended to release it after U2's single. However, Island boss Chris Blackwell vetoed the plan saying that a second single would look like a money grab. Bell subsequently formed his own label and found a distributor for the song.[17] While in Glasgow in late July 1987 during The Joshua Tree Tour, Rob Partridge of Island Records played the demo that Bell and his choir, The New Voices of Freedom, had made.[18] In late September, U2 rehearsed with Bell's choir in Greater Calvary Baptist Church in Harlem for a performance together in a few days at U2's Madison Square Garden concert. The Edge's guitar was the only instrument that U2 brought to the church although Mullen borrowed a conga drum. The rehearsal was done with the church's audio system and footage was used in the Rattle and Hum motion picture. Several performances were made with a piano player; however, the version used in the film includes only Bono, The Edge, Mullen, and the choir. Audio from the Madison Square Garden performance appears on the accompanying album.[19]

A live performance of the song appears in the concert films PopMart: Live from Mexico City, Vertigo 05: Live from Milan, Live from Paris and the most recent U2 360° at the Rose Bowl. The versions on the Mexico City and Milan concert films comprise of just Bono's voice and The Edge's guitar until after the first chorus where the drum and bass parts kick in. Digital live versions were released through iTunes on the Love: Live from the Point Depot and U2.COMmunication albums.


"I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" received praise from many critics. Hot Press journalist Bill Graham described the song as on the one-hand as a "smart job of pop handwork, pretty standard American radio rock-ballad fare" but that "the band's rhythms are far more supple and cultivated than your average bouffant HM band of that period".[20] The Sunday Independent suggested that the song was proof the band could be commercially accessible, yet not resort to rock clichés.[21] NME remarked that the song showed that the band cared about something, which made them "special".[22] The Rocket noted that Bono's lyrics about needing personal spirituality resulted in a "unique marriage of American gospel and Gaelic soul" and that the "human perspective he brings to this sentiment rings far truer than the rantings of, say, the born-again Bob Dylan".[23] Several publications, including The Bergen Record and The Boston Globe, called the track "hypnotic" and interpreted it as depicting the band on a spiritual quest.[24][25][26] The song finished in 18th place on the "Best Singles" list from The Village Voice's 1987 Pazz & Jop critics' poll.[27]


"I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" has been acclaimed by many critics and publications as one of the greatest songs of all-time. In 2001, the song was ranked at number 120 on the RIAA's list of 365 "Songs of the Century"—a project intended to "promote a better understanding of America's musical and cultural heritage"—despite the group's Irish origins.[28] In 2003, a special edition issue of Q, titled "1001 Best Songs Ever", placed "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" at number 148 on its list of the greatest songs.[29] In 2005, Blender ranked the song at number 443 on its list of the "The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born".[30] In 2010, Rolling Stone magazine placed the song at number 93 of its list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time".[31] Los Angeles Times critic Robert Hilburn called it U2's "Let It Be", in reference to The Beatles song.[32] The staff of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame selected "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" as one of 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.[33]

"I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" appeared in the 1999 film Runaway Bride, and it is also heard several times in the 1994 film Blown Away. It was also used as the background song in the 1987 edition of the BBC Rock 'n' Roll Years during the clip of the 1987 general election.

The song has been covered by heavy metal band Disturbed on their fifth studio album, Asylum, under the acronym "Ishfwilf". It was also covered by Cher as the opening song on every tour she has done since the "Love Hurts Tour" and still plans to use the song as the opening for her World Tour 2012.[34]

Track listing

All songs written and composed by U2. 

No. Title Producer Length
1. "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"   Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois 4:38
2. "Spanish Eyes"   U2 3:16
3. "Deep in the Heart"   U2 4:31
Total length:


Chart (1987) Position Certification
Austrian Singles Chart[14] 10
Canadian RPM Singles Chart[12] 6 Gold[35]
Dutch Top 40[14] 6
French Singles Chart[14] 37
Irish Singles Chart[11] 1
New Zealand RIANZ Top 40 Singles Chart[14] 2
Swedish Singles Chart[14] 11
UK Singles Chart[13] 6
US Billboard Hot 100[9] 1
US Billboard Adult Contemporary[9] 16
US Billboard Album Rock Tracks[10] 2

See also

  • List of covers of U2 songs - I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For


  1. ^ a b Dalton, Stephen (2003-09-08). "How the West Was Won". Uncut. 
  2. ^ a b c d O'Hare, Colm (2007-11-21). "The Secret History of 'The Joshua Tree'". Hot Press. 
  3. ^ a b The Edge (2007). Release notes for The Joshua Tree by U2 (20th anniversary edition box set).
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k McCormick (2006), pp. 181-182
  5. ^ a b c d e King, Philip, and Nuala O'Connor (directors) (1998). Classic Albums: U2 The Joshua Tree (Television documentary). Eagle Rock Entertainment. 
  6. ^ Stokes (2005), p. 65
  7. ^ a b McGee (2008), p. 103
  8. ^ "Hot 100 - Week of August 08, 1987". Billboard. http://www.billboard.com/#/charts/hot-100?chartDate=1987-08-08. Retrieved 2010-05-17. 
  9. ^ a b c "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For - U2". Billboard. http://www.billboard.com/search/?keyword=I+Still+Haven%27t+Found+What+I%27m+Looking+For#/song/u2/i-still-haven-t-found-what-i-m-looking-for/309855. Retrieved 2009-11-23. 
  10. ^ a b "U2: Charts and Awards". Allmusic. Archived from the original on 2009-11-21. http://www.webcitation.org/5lShoqdHr. Retrieved 2009-11-23. 
  11. ^ a b "Irish Singles Chart". The Irish Charts. http://www.irishcharts.ie/search/placement. Retrieved 2009-11-23.  Note: U2 must be searched manually.
  12. ^ a b "Top Singles - Volume 46, No. 20, August 22 1987". RPM. 1987-08-22. http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/rpm/028020-119.01-e.php?&file_num=nlc008388.0850&type=1&interval=24&PHPSESSID=8btpc55uesvhffgnhp22r4co86. Retrieved 2009-11-25. 
  13. ^ a b "EveryHit.com search results: U2". Everyhit.com. http://www.everyhit.com. Retrieved 2009-11-22.  Note: U2 must be searched manually.
  14. ^ a b c d e f "1ste Ultratop-hitquiz". Ultratop. http://www.ultratop.be/en/showitem.asp?interpret=U2&titel=I+Still+Haven%27t+Found+What+I%27m+Looking+For&cat=s. Retrieved 2009-11-23. 
  15. ^ Clarke, Norm (2002-04-12). "U2 Video Helped Make Vegas An Entertainment Mecca". Las Vegas Review Journal. 
  16. ^ a b c d e f Hutchinson, John (1987-10-01). "Luminous Times: U2 Wrestle with Their Moment of Glory". Musician. 
  17. ^ McGee (2008), p. 104
  18. ^ McGee (2008), p. 109
  19. ^ McGee (2008), pp. 110-111
  20. ^ Graham (2004), pp. 30-31
  21. ^ Hand, Lisa (1987-03-08). "'Joshua Tree' blooms". Sunday Independent. 
  22. ^ McCready, John (1987-03-14). "Out of Little Acorns...". NME. 
  23. ^ Boyd, Glen (1987-04-01). "The Joshua Tree". The Rocket. 
  24. ^ Jaeger, Barbara (1987-03-17). "'Joshua Tree' Lifts U2 to an Even Loftier Level". The Bergen Record. 
  25. ^ Morse, Steve (1987-03-01). "The Joshua Tree". The Boston Globe. 
  26. ^ Harrington, Richard (1987-03-22). "U2 Can Be Famous; Breaking Into the Big Time With 'Joshua Tree'". Washington Post. 
  27. ^ "The 1987 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll". robertchristgau.com. http://www.robertchristgau.com/xg/pnj/pjres87.php. Retrieved 2011-03-11. 
  28. ^ "Songs of the Century". CNN.com. Cable News Network. 2001-03-07. http://archives.cnn.com/2001/SHOWBIZ/Music/03/07/list.top.365.songs/index.html. Retrieved 2011-03-08. 
  29. ^ Trynka, Paul (editor-in-chief) (2003). "1001 Best Songs Ever". Q (Special edition). 
  30. ^ "The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born". Blender (41). 2005-10. http://www.blender.com/lists/68125/500-greatest-songs-since-you-were-born-451-500.html?p=2. Retrieved 2010-07-02. 
  31. ^ "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone (Special collectors edition). 2010. 
  32. ^ Hilburn, Robert (2 December 2004). "Ask the Critic: Robert Hilburn". http://www.calendarlive.com/music/hilburn/cl-wk-ask2dec02,0,136800.htmlstory. Retrieved 2008-01-19. 
  33. ^ "500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 2008-06-02. http://web.archive.org/web/20080602080941/http://www.rockhall.com/exhibithighlights/500-songs-tv/. Retrieved 2011-03-08. 
  34. ^ [1]
  35. ^ Looking%20For&ica=False&sa=U2&sl=&smt=5&sat=-1&ssb=Artist "Gold Platinum Database: I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For". Canadian Recording Industry Association. http://www.musiccanada.com/GPSearchResult.aspx?st=I%20Still%20Haven't%20Found%20What%20I'm Looking%20For&ica=False&sa=U2&sl=&smt=5&sat=-1&ssb=Artist. Retrieved 2011-07-12. 
  • Graham, Bill; van Oosten de Boer, Caroline (2004). U2: The Complete Guide to their Music. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-9886-8. 
  • McGee, Matt (2008). U2: A Diary. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-1-84772-108-2. 
  • Stokes, Niall (2005). U2: Into the Heart: The Stories Behind Every Song. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press. ISBN 1560257652. 
  • U2 (2006). McCormick, Neil. ed. U2 by U2. London: HarperCollins. ISBN 0-00-719668-7. 

External links

Preceded by
"Shakedown" by Bob Seger
Billboard Hot 100 number one single
August 8, 1987- August 15, 1987
Succeeded by
"Who's That Girl" by Madonna

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