U2 marched forth and found the perfect expression of their power and passion with the stark martial rhythms, stirring emotional anthems, and fiery political protest of this magnificent tour de force. After the mixed reviews of their sophomore album 'October' the band was determined to create something special. The band went into the studio with producer Steve Lillywhite who had produced 'October' and their debut 'Boy'.
Adam: "We wanted something that was more abrasive, a bit more in-your-face, more street rather than stadium. I think because of the way we were performing, people were already beginning to get a whiff of stadium off the band, of those big gestures. I guess it was an attempt to underplay it."
Bono got married shortly after the sessions began, and continued to work on lyrics during his honeymoon in Jamaica. When he returned to Dublin the sessions resumed in earnest at Windmill Lane Studios with Bono on lead vocals, and additional guitar; The Edge on guitar, piano, lap steel, backing vocals, lead vocals on "Seconds," and bass and rhythm guitar on "40"; Adam Clayton on bass and lead guitar on "40"; Larry Mullen Jr. on drums. The sessions also included Kenny Fradley on trumpet on "Red Light"; Steve Wickham on electric violin on "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "Drowning Man"; and The Coconuts: Cheryl Poirier, Adriana Kaegi, Taryn Hagey, Jessica Felton on backing vocals on "Like A Song...", "Red Light", and "Surrender".
Edge: "One morning, on my way to rehersal, I was standing at a bus stop with my guitar. A guy came over carrying a violin case. He was probably about nineteen. He said, 'You're from U2. Have you ever thought about having violin on your album?' Three days later Steve Wickham was in Windmill Lane with his violin. I think it was his first recording session but he was absolutely fantastic to have around because his energy was so positive. He was only in the studio for half a day, but we did 'Sunday, Bloody Sunday' and 'Drowning Man'."
Adam: "Kid Creole and the Coconuts were seasoned New York musicians who were in town. We invited the trumpet player down to work on a song called 'Red Light'. We thought it might freshen up the sound of the band."
Bono: "The singers came too. Three Coconuts. They were so hot. Everyone started to perspire, the temperature in the studio was at an all time high. We had the studio lit red for effect, and one Coconut took her top off and sang in what looked like a ballerina's bra. The boys from Ireland had difficulty breathing."
Edge: "On the last day of our session, we worked all through the night; it's six in the morning, but we still felt we were a song short. And then, to our horror, the next session arrives. It's a band called Minor Detail and they are booked into the studio at eight o'clock. They arrived early just to hover about and get ready for their eight o'clock start. And we were saying, 'But we haven't finished our album. You know, we've been in here for the last eight weeks. This is our last morning. You're starting at eight? You're kidding! Can you give us some more time?' They weren't hearing it. We had two hours and that was it. So we said, 'OK, we've got one more song to do. What's it going to be?' There was another number we had worked up and eventually abandoned. It had a great bass hook but a slightly unwieldy arrangement with lots of strange sections and time changes; but we had failed to pull it together as a coherent song. Someone said, 'Let's dig out that tune and see what we can do with it.' We decided to chop out the bits that weren't working - literally; so Steve did some very quick multi-track edits and took out any section that just didn't seem to be part of the main idea. So then we had this slightly unusual piece of music and we said, 'OK, what are we going to do with it?' Bono said, 'Let's do a psalm.' Opened up the Bible and found Psalm 40. 'This is it. Let's do it.' And within forty minutes we had worked out the last few elements for the tune, Bono had sung it, and we mixed it. And literally, after finishing the mix, we walked out through the door and the next band walked in."
Larry: "The songs, rather than meandering, seemed to be a little more concise. Edge had taken on the role of musical director, and Steve Lillywhite knew the form and seemed more assured as a producer; which is not to say it was easy...We knew there was something special there. We felt we had finished the songs and done as much on the album as we could possibly do. There was a sense that we'd achieved what we'd set out to achieve."
Bono: "War seemed to be the motif for 1982. Everywhere you looked, from the Falklands to the Middle East and South Africa, there was war. By calling the album War we're giving people a slap in the face and at the same time getting away from the cosy image a lot of people have of U2."
Edge: "It's a heavy title. It's blunt. It's not something that's safe, so it could backfire. It's the sort of subject matter that people can really take a dislike to. But we wanted to take a more dangerous course, fly a bit closer to the wind, so I think the title is appropriate. 'October' and 'Boy' both had a key to the songs in the title and this one is no different. Not all the songs are about war, but it's a good general heading."
Bono: "A lot of the songs on our last album were quite abstract, but 'War' is intentionally more direct, more specific. But you can still take the title on a lot of different levels. We're not only interested in the physical aspects of war. The emotional effects are just as important, 'the trenches dug within our hearts.' People have become numb to violence. Watching the television, it's hard to tell the difference between fact and fiction. One minute you see something being shot on The Professionals, and the next you see someone falling through a window after being shot on the news. One is fiction and one is real life, but we're becoming so used to the fiction that we become numb to the real thing. 'War' could be the story of a broken home, a family at war. Instead of putting tanks and guns on the cover, we've put a child's face. 'War' can also be a mental thing, an emotional thing between loves. It doesn't have to be a physical thing...You have to have hope. Rock music can be a very powerful medium and if you use that to offer something positive then it can be very uplifting. If you use your songs to convey bitterness and hate, a blackness seems to descend over everything. I don't like music unless it has a healing effect. I don't like it when people leave concerts still feeling edgy. I want people to leave our concerts feeling positive, a bit more free. Things might look very gloomy, but there is always hope. I think there is a need to develop a new political language to get over what is happening...I'm frightened, yes, but I'm not cynical or pessimistic about the future and a lot of that must come down to my beliefs. It is my belief in God that enables me to get up in the morning and face the world. I believe that there is a reason and a logic to everything. If I didn't believe that and thought that everything was simply down to chance, then I'd be really afraid. I wouldn't cross the road for fear of being run over...'War' is not a negative LP. I mean, I'm in love and there is a lot of love on the album. A song like 'New Year's Day' might be about war and struggle, but it is also about love. It is about having the faith to break through and survive against all odds. Love is a very powerful thing. There's nothing more radical than two people loving each other. When I talk about love I'm thinking of an unselfish love. Emotions can be bought and sold just like anything else, but I think real love is about giving and not expecting anything in return...I think that love stands out when set against struggle. That's probably the power of the record in a nutshell. The album is about the struggle for love, not about war in the negative sense. I would be failing in this interview if I made War sound like a gloomy album, because it's not. I hope it's an uplifting record. Some love songs devalue the meaning of the word. Disco bands turn it into a cliché by tearing it down until it means nothing. The power of love is always more striking when set against realism than when set against escapism."
'War' stormed its way to number fifty-nine in Germany, twenty-six in Finland, sixteen in Ireland, fifteen in Norway, twelve in the US, nine in Australia, five in New Zealand, four in Canada and France, three in the Netherlands, two in Sweden, and became their first number one album in the UK, making its debut in the top spot and upsetting Michael Jackson's 'Thriller'. It was their first gold album in the US, and broke the band on college and mainstream rock radio.
"Sunday Bloody Sunday" 4:38
hit number fourteen in Belgium, seven on the US hot mainstream rock tracks chart, and number three in the Netherlands.
"New Year's Day" 5:38
went to number fifty-three on the US hot 100, thirty-six in Australia, thirty-two in New Zealand, seventeen in Sweden, eleven in the Netherlands, ten in the UK, nine in Norway, and number two in Ireland and on the US hot mainstream rock tracks chart.
U2 New Years Day by Celtiemama
"Two Hearts Beat as One" 4:00
went to number one hundred and one on the US hot 100, fifty-three in Australia, eighteen in the UK, sixteen in New Zealand, and number twelve on the US hot mainstream rock tracks chart.
"Surrender" did not chart.
All tracks written by U2.
1. "Sunday Bloody Sunday" 4:38
2. "Seconds" 3:09
3. "New Year's Day" 5:38
4. "Like a Song…" 4:48
5. "Drowning Man" 4:12
6. "The Refugee" (produced by Bill Whelan) 3:40
7. "Two Hearts Beat as One" 4:00
8. "Red Light" 3:46
9. "Surrender" 5:34
10. "40" 2:36
Treasure (Whatever Happened To Pete The Chop)*
Angels Too Tied To The Ground
'War' tour in Boston:
00:00 Out Of Control
09:30 An Cat Dubh
13:50 Into The Heart
21:37 Two Hearts Beat As One / Let's Twist Again (snippet)
30:09 Sunday Bloody Sunday
35:37 The Cry
36:12 The Electric Co. / Send In The Clowns (snippet)
41:43 I Fall Down
47:11 New Year's Day
56:47 I Threw A Brick Through A Window
01:00:39 A Day Without Me
01:03:57 Party Girl
01:07:10 11 O'Clock Tick Tock / Drowning Man (snippet)
01:11:56 I Will Follow