One series part II: The Videos

Version 1, directed by Anton Corbijn and produced by Richard Bell - State, was made in Berlin in February 1992. The video features members of the band in drag as well as two cars—with cartoonish paintings of a nude woman and man painted on the hoods and roofs—driving around Berlin. Interspersed throughout the video is the image of a rather stern looking older man, who is in fact Bono’s father. (Bono’s mother had died while he was young and Bono was raised by his father with whom he had a fairly distant relationship. According to interviews with Bono, he and his father began getting closer around the early 1990s.)

Version 2 was directed by Mark Pellington, edited by Bob Gleason and produced by Carina Rubin - Woo Art International. It was made in New York, also in February, 1992. This version of “One” was chosen as Number 99 by the editors of Rolling Stone in their list of the 100 best rock videos of all time.

Director Mark Pellington’s video for “One”—the first (sic) of three versions made for the single—may not have gotten as much attention as the other two, but his slow-motion, out-of-focus footage of running buffalo is a quietly elegant tour de force. Its power lies in its simplicity: The piece includes no band shots and was intended as a meditative video background for U2’s live performance of the song, which deals with AIDS and intolerance toward gays.

“We had done a cut of it, which we used in rehearsals,” says bassist Adam Clayton. “When the need for a video came up, we went back to it.” Built around the closing image of the beasts being herded off a cliff (a photograph by artist David Wojnarowicz, who died of AIDS in 1992), the video was played on MTV until, according to the band, the network determined it wasn’t right for heavy rotation, and it was replaced by the other two more MTV-friendly clips. one by director Phil Joanou, the other by photographer Anton Corbijn.

David Wojnarowicz was a controversial New York artist, prominent in the mid-to-late 1980s. His work, which has been described as media art and includes writings, performances, photo- and video-based pieces and installations, deals primarily with sexual/gender orientation and AIDS issues. Wojnarowicz died of AIDS in 1992.

In a March 4, 1993 interview with Alan Light for Rolling Stone, Bono discussed the use of David Wojnarowicz’ images in the “One” video. Bono said:

Adam is the man who turned me on to Wojnarowicz’s work, Whatever you do now, you are in the post-AIDS age. It’s there, and you’ve got to walk through it or around it. And if a record deals with any kind of erotic subject matter, the specter of AIDS is even all the more close.

You know, if Freud was even half-right, if sex is even close to the center of our lives, how is it that we leave it to pornographers and dum-dum guys? We leave the subject to them, and it’s reduced to titillation in the cinema, to these kind of half-baked plots. Wojnarowicz dealt with the subject seriously, he took it on. I can’t believe how people can just walk around it, you know? I’m sympathetic to Madonna in that respect, too. Whatever you think about her work, she’s actually just trying to say: “Look, here I am, and I have these feelings and ideas, and I know you do, but you’re not owning up. I will.”2.

Version 3 is considered the most “MTV-friendly.” It was directed by Phil Joanou and produced by Ned O’Hanlon - Dreamchaser Productions in New York in March 1992. This video uses the standard supermodels and banks on Bono’s sex appeal, featuring close-ups of the tortured-looking singer in a bar drinking and smoking cigarettes.

Check the video out here from our YouTube Channel:

Version 4: In 2006, U2 re-recorded the song as part of a duet with contemporary R&B singer Mary J. Blige. After being invited to join the group on-stage at a New York concert in 2005, Mary J. Blige performed the track with U2 and received a standing ovation. A recording of the song was later created, with Blige on lead vocals, Bono supplying additional vocals, and the band performing the music. This recording was featured on Mary J. Blige’s multi-platinum album The Breakthrough, released in late 2005.