Even Better Than the Real Thing

"Even Better Than the Real Thing"
Single by U2
from the album Achtung Baby
B-side "Salomé"
Released 8 June 1992 [1]
Format CD single, Cassette
7" single, 12" maxi
Recorded 1991
Genre Alternative rock
Length 3:41 (Original Mix)
6:40 (Perfecto Mix)
4:30 (Perfecto Mix Edit)
Label Island
Writer(s) U2
Producer(s) Steve Lillywhite with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois
U2 singles chronology
"Even Better Than the Real Thing"
"Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses"
Achtung Baby track listing
"Zoo Station"
"Even Better Than the Real Thing"
Alternative cover
Remixes single

"Even Better Than the Real Thing" is the second song on U2's 1991 album Achtung Baby. It was released as the album's fourth single on 8 June 1992.

Writing and recording

"Even Better Than the Real Thing" originated from a chorus guitar riff that the Edge composed in Los Angeles during the Rattle and Hum sessions.[2][3] A demo of the song, called "The Real Thing," was recorded at STS Studios during the same session in which "Desire" was recorded.[4] The band remarked that the song's guitar riff reminded them of the Rolling Stones, but that it sounded "deeply traditional."[2] Consequently, it was shelved until the Achtung Baby recording sessions, when the band took the multitrack recording of the demo to Hansa Studios in Berlin in late 1990.[4] The band made little progress on the demo there, as the Berlin sessions were fraught with conflict and difficulty in completing songs.[4]

The recording sessions, as well as the general mood, improved after the band returned to Dublin in 1991 to record at the "Elsinore" mansion on the Dalkey coastline.[2] The song turned around after the Edge purchased a DigiTech Whammy effects pedal, which created a "double octave sweep" on the guitar riff.[2] The band rediscovered their sense of fun and incorporated that into the writing of the song.[4] Producer Brian Eno originally argued against the song's inclusion on the album when it contained the lyric "There ain't nothing like the real thing", claiming the song had to be "more ironic." After the lyric was revised to "Even better than the real thing," Eno changed his stance and supported the song's inclusion.[5] Lead vocalist Bono explained the song's lyrics, as well as why the title was lengthened to "Even Better Than the Real Thing": "It was reflective of the times [the band] were living in, when people were no longer looking for the truth, [they] were all looking for instant gratification."[2] Richard Branson requested to use the song in advertisements for his "Virgin Cola" to compete with Coca-Cola (who had been using the tagline "the real thing" for years), but the band declined.[4]

Single release

When the covers to Even Better Than the Real Thing, "The Fly," "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses," and "Mysterious Ways" are arranged, a picture of the band members driving a Trabant is formed.

Music video

The music video was shot in London, England on January 1992.[6] It was directed by Kevin Godley, formerly of 10cc and Godley & Creme, and produced by Iain Brown.[6] It won an MTV Video Music Award in 1992 for Best Special Effects for its unique 360-degree camera rollover rig, designed and built by Simon Tayler of Artem in London specifically for the video.[7]

Live performances

The song was performed at every date of the band's Zoo TV and PopMart Tours, and was played sporadically on the Elevation Tour. The "Fish Out of Water" remix, later released in the 20th anniversary edition of Achtung Baby, was played as the opening song during the 2011 legs of the U2 360° Tour. This remix would return for performances during the Innocence + Experience Tour.


The song peaked at #12 becoming one of the few U2 singles that failed to reach the top 10 in the UK Singles Chart. It made #8 on the Dutch Top 40. A few months after its initial release DJ Paul Oakenfold remix charted better than the original, reaching No. 8. In the United States, the single was a hit on rock radio, where it reached #32 on the Billboard Hot 100, #1 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, and #5 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart. In 1997, readers of Mojo named the song the 71st-best track of the 1990s.[8]

The Perfecto Mix

A few months after its initial release DJ Paul Oakenfold's remix charted better than the original, reaching No. 8 in the UK. It also reached #27 on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart and #35 on the Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales chart. Oakenfold later supported U2 on their PopMart Tour.

Track listings

7": Island (IS525) and cassette: Island (CIS515)
No. Title Length
1. "Even Better Than the Real Thing"   3:41
2. "Salomé"   4:32
12" maxi: Island (12IS515) and CD maxi: Island (CID525)
No. Title Length
1. "Even Better Than the Real Thing"   3:41
2. "Salomé"   4:32
3. "Where Did It All Go Wrong?"   3:57
4. "Lady with the Spinning Head" (Extended dance remix) 6:08
CD maxi: Island C REAL 2 and cassette: Island (422-862 281-4)
No. Title Length
1. "Even Better Than the Real Thing" (Perfecto mix) 6:41
2. "Even Better Than the Real Thing" (Sexy dub mix) 7:18
3. "Even Better Than the Real Thing" (Apollo 440 Stealth Sonic remix) 6:42
4. "Even Better Than the Real Thing" (V16 Exit Wound remix) 3:19
5. "Even Better Than the Real Thing" (Apollo 440 vs U2 instrumental) 6:27
12" maxi: Island REAL U2
No. Title Length
1. "Even Better Than the Real Thing" (Perfecto mix) 6:37
2. "Even Better Than the Real Thing" (Trance mix) 6:47
3. "Even Better Than the Real Thing" (Sexy dub mix) 7:14



Standard version

Chart (1992) Peak
Australian ARIA Chart[9] 11
Austrian Singles Chart[9] 8
Canada RPM Top 100[10] 3
Dutch Top 40[11] 8
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[12] 20
French Singles Chart[9] 34
German Singles Chart 28
Irish Singles Chart[13] 3
New Zealand Singles Chart[9] 8
Swedish Singles Chart[9] 10
Swiss Singles Chart[9] 18
UK Singles Chart[14] 12
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[15] 32
U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play[15] 27
U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales[15] 35
U.S. Billboard Album Rock Tracks[15] 1
U.S. Billboard Modern Rock Tracks[15] 5

Remix version

Chart (1992) Peak
Irish Singles Chart[13] 10
UK Singles Chart[14] 8



In his Jacques Lu Cont guise, Stuart Price reworked the song for the 2011 tribute album AHK-toong BAY-bi Covered. "The original multitracks gave me an insight into how U2 worked," he remarked, "but I couldn't be too precious about the track."[16]

See also

List of covers of U2 songs - Even Better Than the Real Thing


  1. Sams, Aaron; Kantas, Harry. "U2 – "Even Better Than the Real Thing" Single". U2songs.com. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 McCormick, Neil (ed), (2006). U2 by U2. HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 0-00-719668-7. p. 225.
  3. Graham, Bill; van Oosten de Boer (2004). U2: The Complete Guide to their Music. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-9886-8.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 Stokes, Niall (2005). U2: Into the Heart: The Stories Behind Every Song. Thunder Mouth's Press. pp. 96–97. ISBN 1-56025-765-2.
  5. Gill, Andy (June 1995). "Brian Eno". Mojo. (subscription required)
  6. 1 2 The Best of 1990-2000 (DVD). U2. Universal Music Publishing BV. 2002.
  7. "Artem Homepage". Artem.com. Retrieved 2012-08-14.
  8. "Mojo Readership Top 100 Tracks of the '90's". Mojo (40). March 1997.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "U2 – Even Better Than the Real Thing". Hung Medien. Retrieved 2009-11-26.
  10. "Search Results: Even Better Than the Real Thing". RPM. 1992-09-19. Retrieved 2009-11-24.
  11. "Single top 100 over 1992" (PDF) (in Dutch). Top40. Retrieved 15 April 2010.
  12. Nyman, Jake (2005). Suomi soi 4: Suuri suomalainen listakirja (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Tammi. ISBN 951-31-2503-3.
  13. 1 2 "Irish Singles Chart". The Irish Charts. Retrieved 2009-11-23. Note: U2 must be searched manually.
  14. 1 2 "EveryHit.com search results: U2". Everyhit.com. Retrieved 2009-11-22. Note: U2 must be searched manually.
  15. 1 2 3 4 5 Billboard Allmusic.com (Retrieved January 16, 2009)
  16. "What's On Your Free CD?", Q, December 2011, pp6–7

External links

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