The Song U2 Stopped Playing Live Because It “Influenced” a Murderer

Whenever this writer breaks down why a particular artist or band has stopped performing a particular song live, it usually comes down to a couple of different things. The sentimentality of the song may be too difficult to handle. The artist might just be sick of playing it live. The band in question may be caught in a bitter legal battle with their label. Rarely, ever, does a band stop playing a song because it influenced a brutal murder. Unfortunately, that was the case for the famed rock band U2 temporarily shelving “Exit”.

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It’s worth noting that none of the band’s members have explicitly said that they didn’t perform “Exit” for a while because of the infamous murderer who cited the song as his inspiration for a brutal crime. However, the murder occurred in 1989, two years after the song was released. They played it often in those two years, then didn’t play it nearly as much after 1989 until U2’s 2017 tour in which they played The Joshua Tree in full. That’s a long time to not make such a hit song part of your regular setlist.

The Murder Inspired By U2’s “Exit”

“Exit” is definitely one of the darker songs by U2. Originally a simple jam instrumental song, the track was broken down into a shorter play time and some dark lyrics about a serial killer were added in. Bono’s lyrics were inspired by the Normal Mailer novel The Executioner’s Song.

They got the vibe across a little too well, apparently. Murderer Robert John Bardo said that “Exit” influenced his actions in the brutal murder of actress Rebecca Schaeffer in 1989.

The 19-year-old Bardo shot and killed Schaeffer in West Hollywood in her home after three years of stalking. He spent years writing to her before traveling to Los Angeles to stalk her at the studio where she was filming My Sister Sam. He was arrested and charged after the murder. During the trial, he said that he was inspired to kill Schaeffer after hearing the song “Exit” by U2, which was played during the hearing. His lawyers tried to use that element to plead mental insanity, which did not work. Bardo is currently still incarcerated.

In a 2008 radio interview with Phantom FM, former U2 manager Paul McGuinness said that “Exit” had been “tainted” after Bardo’s trial. He suggested that the band stopped playing the song for so long because of the murder.

It’s unfortunate, because “Exit” is a really good song. Luckily, the band has since started performing it semi-regularly in the last couple of decades.

Photo by Chung Sung-Jun

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