New Year's Day (song)

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"New Year's Day"

UK cover (double 7" vinyl)
Single by U2
from the album War
Released 1 January 1983
Format 7" vinyl, 12" vinyl, CD
Recorded 1982, Windmill Lane Studios, Dublin
Genre Rock, post-punk
Length 5:36 (album version)
3:53 (radio edit)
Label Island
Producer(s) Steve Lillywhite
U2 singles chronology
"A Celebration"
(1982)
"New Year's Day"
(1983)
"Two Hearts Beat as One"
(1983)
War track listing
"Seconds"
(2)
"New Year's Day"
(3)
"Like a Song..."
(4)
Alternative covers
France cover (12" vinyl)
Japan cover

"New Year's Day" is a song by rock band U2. It is on their 1983 album War and it was released as the album's lead single in January 1983. Written about the Polish Solidarity movement, "New Year's Day" is driven by Adam Clayton's distinctive bassline and The Edge's piano and guitar playing. It was the band's first UK hit single, peaking at #10 on the singles chart, #11 on the Dutch Top 40 and charting on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States for the first time in their career. In 2010, Rolling Stone magazine placed the single at #435 on their list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time".[1] This song was also included in the Pitchfork 500.[2]

Writing and composition[edit]

The lyric had its origins in a love song from Bono to his wife,[3] but was subsequently reshaped and inspired by the Polish Solidarity movement.[4] The bass part stemmed from bassist Adam Clayton trying to figure out what the chords to the Visage song "Fade to Grey" were.[5]

In 1983, Bono said of the song, "It would be stupid to start drawing up battle lines, but I think the fact that 'New Year's Day' made the Top Ten indicated a disillusionment among record buyers. I don't think 'New Year's Day' was a pop single, certainly not in the way that Mickie Most might define a pop single as something that lasts three minutes and three weeks in the chart. I don't think we could have written that kind of song."[6]

Live performances[edit]

"New Year's Day" is U2's fifth most frequently performed live song,[7] with The Edge switching back and forth between piano and guitar during the song. It has been a standard on every U2 tour since its debut on 1 December 1982 at the first show of the War Tour's Pre-Tour. During the 1980s, The Edge used a Fender Stratocaster to perform this song, along with a keyboard. During the 1990s and 2000s (decade), he has alternated between a Gibson Les Paul Custom and Les Paul Standard. The Les Paul the Edge used to write this song was sold for charity. Up until the Elevation Tour, Clayton normally used a chorus effect on his bass guitar for this song live. In the Top of the Pops performance, Bono is seen playing guitar.

"New Year's Day" has appeared on many of U2's concert video releases including 1983's U2 Live at Red Rocks: Under a Blood Red Sky, Zoo TV: Live from Sydney, PopMart: Live from Mexico City, U2 Go Home: Live from Slane Castle, Vertigo 2005: Live from Chicago, Live from Paris, and U2 3D.

The B-side of "New Year's Day", "Treasure (Whatever Happened to Pete the Chop?)", was never performed live. However, an early version known simply as "Pete the Chop" was played at some concerts in 1980.[8]

During the Vertigo Tour at Silesian Stadium in Poland a quite remarkable example of fan action occurred. During New Year's Day, the lower sections of the crowd waved red coloured items while other sections waved white, creating the Polish flag and stunning the band.[9] This was repeated during the U2 360° Tour at the same venue.[10][11][12]

Track listings[edit]

Music video[edit]

The music video features the band performing in the snow.

The video was one of their first to see heavy rotation on MTV. It was filmed in Sälen, Sweden in December 1982 and directed by Meiert Avis. The band only appeared in the performance scenes of the video as it was filmed in the dead of the Swedish winter. U2 guitarist Edge revealed in the official U2 biography that the four people riding on horseback in the video that appeared to be the four U2 members were in fact four Swedish teenage girls disguised as the members of U2 riding on horseback with masks over their faces. This was done as the band were frozen from shooting the video in sub-freezing temperatures the day before. Their biography states that Bono refused to wear any headgear despite the cold weather and had a lot of trouble mouthing the lyrics.[citation needed] The video also features footage of Soviet troops advancing in winter during World War II.

The video made its debut UK television broadcast on Friday 31 December 1982, on the Channel 4 music programme, 'The Tube'.[citation needed]

U2 allowed free-of-charge use of this song in a spot prepared by the European Commission. This clip published on YouTube shows a transformation of Poland in last 20 years mixed with short scenes from today’s Warsaw seen from a perspective of a 20-year-old woman.[13]

Chart positions[edit]