History: Why did U2 get in trouble with Stephen Sondheim Music licensing issues with another song writer mess up album covers
When U2 first released Under a Blood Red Sky, the original version of “The Electric Co.” that was on the album included a 27-second snippet of Bono singing Sondheim’s “Send In The Clowns.”
The band failed to get permission and pay the appropriate licensing and royalty fees to include Sondheim’s tune on the album.
When Sondheim objected, U2 agreed to pay a $50,000 (US) penalty for the unauthorized use and to press all future releases with a new version that did not include the 27-seconds of “Send In The Clowns.”
So the original version of the album has the full “Electric. Co.” running 5:18 and the edited version of the album has the song ending at 4:51.
Your best bet for finding the original release with the unedited version of “Electric Co.” is to track down a vinyl copy of the album. The original pressing will say 5:18, while future pressings on vinyl were corrected to say 4:51.
CDs are a different story.
Some have the full song, others have the edited version.
There’s some thought that European-pressed CDs will have the full song.
What’s strange is that you can’t rely on the listed running time to tell which version is on a CD.
Based on conversations with other fans, it appears that if you had a group of 10 Under a Blood Red Sky CDs, chances are 6-7 of them would have different times printed on the CD cover, sleeve notes, and/or the CD itself.
I’ve yet to hear anyone offer a good explanation for why the record company people never figured out exactly how long each track was. [M2, MJ]