seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA

U2’s Los Angeles Rooftop Video Shoot

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Irish rock band U2 records the video for “Where the Streets Have No Name” on the rooftop of the Republic Liquor store in downtown Los Angeles on March 27, 1987, at a time when MTV still shows videos and U2 is unquestionably the biggest band in the world. The video shows police advising the U2 crew that they will shut down the performance due to crowd safety.

It takes place on the rooftop of the Republic Liquor store at 7th and Main. The location is now Margarita’s Place, a Mexican restaurant that still draws tourists. The impromptu performance is an homage to the Beatles final concert, as depicted in the film Let It Be. As lead vocalist and primary lyricist Bono says at the time, “It’s not the first time we’ve ripped off the Beatles.

The video shows the police about to shut down the show at any moment with one cop 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 is overly dramatized. The band is hoping to get shut down by the authorities to garner publicity, but the police let them play.

The video is directed by Meiert Avis and produced by Michael Hamlyn and Ben Dossett and goes on to win a Grammy Award for Best Performance Music Video. Hamlyn is almost arrested following a confrontation with the police, according to an interview with Uncut magazine. Avis later says that “getting busted was an integral part of the plan.”

Bass guitarist Adam Clayton later says, “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.”

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

The performance attracts about 1,000 people, not the 30,000 predicted in the radio clips at the beginning of the video. The audio is actually a studio recording, although the band plays four versions of the opening track hit from their 1987 album The Joshua Tree.

(From: “Flashback Monday: U2 Performs On A Roof In Downtown L.A.” by Sharon Knolle, LAist of Southern California Public Radio,, September 22, 2013)


Author: Jim Doyle

As a descendant of Joshua Doyle (b. 1775, Dublin, Ireland), I have a strong interest in Irish culture and history, which is the primary focus of this site. I am a Network Engineer at The Computer Hut, LLC, which is my salaried job. I am a member of the Irish Cultural Society of Arkansas, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization (2010-Present, President 2011-2017) and a commissioner on the City of Little Rock Arts+Culture Commission (2015-2020, 2021-Present, Chairman 2017-2018).

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