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Arts and Entertainment

Flashback Monday: U2 Performs On A Roof In Downtown L.A.

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As Paul McCartney prepares to shut down Hollywood Boulevard tonight, we remember that beautiful day in 1987 when U2 did a live show on a rooftop of a liquor store in downtown L.A..

It was all filmed as the official video for "Where The Streets Have No Name," back when MTV still showed videos and U2 was unquestionably the biggest band in the world.

The impromptu performance was an homage to The Beatles, who did the same thing in their final concert in "Let It Be." (As Bono said at the time, "It's not the first time we've ripped off the Beatles.)

It took place on the rooftop of the Republic Liquor store at 7th and Main on March 27, 1987. The location is now a Mexican restaurant (Margarita's Place) that still draws tourists, as in this Flickr photo from last year.

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The video shows the police about to shut down the show at at any moment: one cop is heard saying, "You're drawing people in here from Orange County and all over the goddamned place. We're shutting this location down."

According to band manager Paul McGuinness, the confrontation was overly dramatized; the band was hoping to get shut down by the authorities, but the police let them play.

The video was directed by Meiert Avis and produced by Michael Hamlyn and Ben Dossett and went on to win a Grammy. Hamlyn was almost arrested following a confrontation with the police, according to an interview with Uncut magazine. Avis later said that "getting busted was an integral part of the plan."

Adam Clayton later said, "The object was to close down the streets. 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."

It was actually was not quite as impromptu as it appeared: Prior to filming, a week was spent reinforcing the roof of the liquor store to ensure it would not collapse if fans swarmed onto it, according to Wikipedia. A backup generator was also put on the roof so shooting could continue if the authorities shut off the power on the primary generator. They also rebuilt the sign for The Million Dollar Hotel, which can be seen in the background, as an added draw in case no one showed up.

The performance attracted about 1,000 people, not the 30,000 predicted in the radio clips at the beginning of the video. The audio was actually a studio recording, although the band played four versions of their Joshua Tree hit.

Enjoy this blast from the past. We salute you, fist-pumping guy in a baseball cap perched on that one-way sign and curly-haired dude dancing in the streets.

Here's a less high-quality version with less audio overlay.