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30 Years Ago: U2 (Briefly) Take Over an L.A. Street for the ‘Where the Streets Have No Name’ Video

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U2 held their first live performance of The Joshua Tree tour not in some sprawling stadium, but atop a Los Angeles booze emporium on March 27, 1987. The occasion was part-homage, and all Hollywood.

The Republic Liquor store, located at Seventh and Main Streets in L.A., became the nexus of fan attention long before U2 plugged in, when local radio stations pre-emptively announced that the band would be filming a video for “Where the Streets Have No Name” there at 3:30PM. In the finished clip, at least one of them can be heard noting that it’s “not one of those delightful neighborhoods.”

In fact, the intersection is at the northwestern border to the city’s infamous Skid Row. No matter. Hundreds of fans, perhaps as many as 1,000, arrived – threatening the shoot before it ever began. U2 quickly launched into what turned into an eight-song set. “Where the Streets Have No Name” was performed a total of four times, in order to get as many shots as possible for director Meiert Avis. They also played “In God’s Country,” “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “Pride,” as well as Curtis Mayfield‘s “People Get Ready” and a short snippet of Martha and the Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Street.”

By then, the police ordered a stop to things, as the area became hopelessly congested with onlookers. “You’re drawing people in here from Orange County and all over the goddamned place,” one officer says in the video. “We’re shutting this location down.”

U2 weren’t exactly surprised, however, by this turn of events. In fact, “getting busted,” Avis later admitted, “was an integral part of the plan.”

Prior to filming, crews had spent a week reinforcing the Republic Liquor roof to ensure it would not collapse. They’d also placed a back-up generator up there, so that filming could continue when the authorities inevitably pulled the plug. They even rebuilt the sign for the nearby Million Dollar Hotel, in order to create an eye-catching background image.

“The object was to close down the streets,” bassist Adam Clayton mused years afterward. “If there’s one thing people in L.A. hate, it’s streets closing down, and we’ve always felt bands should shake things up. We achieved it because the police stopped us filming. Were we worried about being arrested? Not at the time.”

Inspiration for it all came courtesy of the Beatles, who famously held a career-closing concert on Jan. 30, 1969 atop their own Apple Corps building at 3 Savile Row in London’s famously uptight business district. They were, of course, shut down by the cops. Bono didn’t shy away from the comparisons, in subsequent interviews. “It’s not the first time we’ve ripped off the Beatles,” he famously said.

Meiert Avis used U2’s original studio recording for audio on the clip, which went on to win a Grammy. The Republic Liquor Store later became a Mexican restaurant called Margarita’s Place, and it still attracts U2 fans to this day.

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