Boy (album)

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This article is about the U2 album. For the album by Lena Philipsson, see Boy (Lena Philipsson album).
U2 Boy.png
Studio album by U2
Released 20 October 1980 (1980-10-20)
Recorded March–September 1980
Studio Windmill Lane Studios, Dublin
Genre Rock, post-punk
Length 42:52
Label Island
Producer Steve Lillywhite
U2 chronology
North American cover
Singles from Boy
  1. "A Day Without Me"
    Released: August 1980
  2. "I Will Follow"
    Released: October 1980

Boy is the debut album by Irish rock band U2. It was produced by Steve Lillywhite, and was released on 20 October 1980 on Island Records. Thematically, the album captures the thoughts and frustrations of adolescence.[1] It contains many songs from the band's 40-song catalogue at the time, including two tracks that were re-recorded from their original versions on the band's debut release, the EP Three. Boy was recorded from March–September 1980 at Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin; it was their first time at the studio, which became their chosen recording location during the 1980s. It was also their first time working with Lillywhite, who subsequently became a frequent producer for the band's recorded work.

Boy included U2's first hit single, "I Will Follow". The album's release was followed by the group's first tour of continental Europe and the United States, the Boy Tour.[2] The album received generally positive reviews from critics. It peaked at number 52 in the UK and number 63 in the US. In 2008, a remastered edition of Boy was released.

Recording and composition[edit]

Originally, Joy Division producer Martin Hannett (who also produced U2's "11 O'Clock Tick Tock" single) was penciled in to produce the album, but was too distraught after the suicide of Joy Division's lead singer Ian Curtis.[citation needed] Boy was recorded at Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin with Steve Lillywhite producing. Lillywhite had first come to prominence for his work on the 1978's debut single of Siouxsie and the Banshees, "Hong Kong Garden" which featured a peculiar hook played by a glockenspiel. U2, who listened to Siouxsie and the Banshees,[3] used Lillywhite's skills to add the distinctive glockenspiel part on "I Will Follow". The drums were recorded in the reception area of the recording studio due to Lillywhite's desire to achieve "this wonderful clattery sound".[4] They had to wait until the receptionist went home in the evenings as the phone rang through the day and even occasionally in the evening.[4]

Some of the songs, including "An Cat Dubh" and "The Ocean", were written and recorded at the studio. Many of the songs were taken from the band's 40-song repertoire at the time, including "Stories for Boys", "Out of Control" and "Twilight".[5]

Guitarist the Edge recorded all the songs using his natural stained Gibson Explorer.[6] He drew inspiration from music he was listening to at the time, including Television and Siouxsie and the Banshees.[7]


The album's theme is the psychological nature of the transition of adolescence from childhood to manhood, with lyrics and atmospheric music examining a dawn of sexuality ('An Cat Dubh'), the entry into adolescence ("Twilight"), mortality ('"Out of Control"), the exile from one's past enforced by the passage of time ("Into the Heart"), mental disturbance ("The Electric Co.") and youthful ambition ("The Ocean"). "I Will Follow" focused on the trauma of the early death of Bono's mother when he was a young teenager.

The album's lyrics possess several literary references, "Shadows and Tall Trees" taking its name from a chapter title in the dystopian William Golding novel Lord of the Flies, and "The Ocean" mentioning Oscar Wilde's novel The Picture of Dorian Grey.


Boy was originally released on October 20, 1980[citation needed]. The model boy on the cover is Peter Rowen (brother of Bono's friend, Guggi (Virgin Prunes).[8] He also appeared on the covers of Three, War, The Best of 1980–1990, the unreleased Even Better than the Early Stuff,[9] Early Demos and many singles.

The photographer, Hugo McGuiness, and the sleeve designer, Steve Averill (a friend of bassist Adam Clayton), went on to work on several more U2 album covers. The image was changed to a distorted picture of the band for the American and Canadian release, due to the record company's fears that the band would be accused of encouraging paedophilia.[10] Sandy Porter is credited as the photographer for the American cover. However, the photo of Rowen appeared on the inner sleeve of the album in the US and Canada. In 2008, the artwork of the remastered editions was standardised worldwide to that of the 1980 UK release.

In 2008, a remastered edition of the album was released, featuring remastered tracks, along with B-sides and rarities. Three different formats of the remaster were made available.


"A Day Without Me" and "I Will Follow" were released as singles. "I Will Follow" peaked at No. 20 on the Mainstream Rock charts, becoming a hit on college radio and established a buzz surrounding the group's debut. The album was preceded by Three, a three-song EP with different recordings of "Out of Control" and "Stories for Boys", as well as a song called "Boy/Girl".


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[11]
The A.V. Club A[12]
Chicago Tribune 2.5/4 stars[13]
Entertainment Weekly B[14]
Hot Press 11/12[15]
Pitchfork Media 8.3/10[16]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[17]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 4/5 stars[18]
Sounds 4.5/5 stars[19]
The Village Voice C+[20]

Boy peaked at number 63 on the Billboard 200, but after the success of U2's later material, it re-entered the American charts for a lengthier spell. It reached No. 52 in the UK. Despite criticisms of their live shows as predictable and Bono using "too much echo",[21] these early live shows nevertheless helped demonstrate U2's potential, as critics noted that Bono was a very "charismatic" and "passionate" showman, reminiscent of a young Rod Stewart.[21] Boy is the only U2 album from which every song (as well as every B-side) has been performed live at least once.

In the UK, the reviews were favorable. Paul Morley of NME said, "it's honest, direct and distinctive".[22] Sounds also praised U2's debut album and dubbed them "young poets of the year".[19] Melody Maker hailed it as a "rich" record. Reviewer Lyndyn Barber said that "Boy is more than just a collection of good tracks assembled in an arbitrary order", and that it had "youthful innocence and confusion".[23] The Guardian wrote that it was a "strong debut album", but that "it only needs slightly stronger melodies to be very impressive".[24] Time Out's critic Ian Birch hailed Boy as a "timely" album and said, "Firing off a tradition laid down by the like of Magazine, [Siouxsie and] the Banshees and Joy Division, U2 have injected their own brand of grace and sinewy spaciousness to create a romanticism exactly right for those who sport chunky riffs and mackintoshes".[25]

The album's sexual overtones led to its enthusiastic acceptance by gays in American gay clubs shortly after its release. Bono commented on this phenomenon, saying, "First of all we started out and made Boy, which is a sexual LP, and we changed the cover in America to stop any concern there might be about paedophilia and the like, because it was our first album. But import copies got in and, as you know, in America a lot of music is broken in gay clubs and so we had a gay audience, a lot of people who were convinced the music was specifically for them. So there was a misconception if you like."[26]

The album finished in 18th place on the "Best Albums" list from The Village Voice's 1981 Pazz & Jop critics' poll.[27] In 2003, the album was included at No. 417 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". The magazine wrote, "Too ingenuous for punk, too unironic for new wave, U2 arrived on Boy as big-time dreamers with the ambition to back it up."[28] In 2006, Uncut ranked the album at No. 59 on its list of the "100 Greatest Debut Albums".[29]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by U2. 

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "I Will Follow"   3:40
2. "Twilight"   4:22
3. "An Cat Dubh"   4:46
4. "Into the Heart"   3:27
5. "Out of Control"   4:12
Side two
No. Title Length
1. "Stories for Boys"   3:04
2. "The Ocean"   1:34
3. "A Day Without Me"   3:12
4. "Another Time, Another Place"   4:31
5. "The Electric Co."   4:47
6. "Shadows and Tall Trees" (contains brief instrumental on some copies) 5:13
Total length:

Early vinyl and some cassette copies of the album have an unlisted and untitled thirty-second instrumental sample of "Saturday Night", a song that would become "Fire" (on 1981's October album) at the very end of the album, after "Shadows and Tall Trees". This was dropped from most vinyl copies and all early CD versions. It was re-instated on the 2008 remastered editions of Boy and appeared in full for the first time as "Saturday Night" on the Deluxe Edition B-sides CD included with the 2008 remastered version of Boy. Until the remastered release of Boy, this thirty-second sample was thought to be "Fire."

Some pressings of the album, mostly in North America, indexed the track length of "An Cat Dubh" and "Into the Heart" at "6:21" and "1:53", respectively. The 2008 remastered edition of the album reinstated the original European lengths of 4:47 and 3:28. Early compact disc releases (identified by being West German-pressed and in a digipak) combined the two songs into a single track at 8:15, as did some US jewel-case versions (on the disc but not on the packaging).

2008 remastered edition[edit]

On April 9, 2008, confirmed that Boy, along with the band's other first three albums, October and War would be re-released as newly remastered versions.[30] The remastered album was released on July 21, 2008 in the UK, with the US version following it the next day. As with The Joshua Tree, the cover artwork has been standardised to the original UK release. The remaster of Boy was released in three different formats:[30]

  1. Standard format: A single CD with re-mastered audio and restored packaging. Includes a 16-page booklet featuring previously unseen photos, full lyrics and new liner notes by Paul Morley. The 11-tracks match the previous release of the album.
  2. Deluxe format: A standard CD (as above) and a bonus CD including b-sides, live tracks and rarities. Also includes a 32-page booklet with previously unseen photos, full lyrics, new liner notes by Paul Morley, and explanatory notes on the bonus material by the Edge.
  3. Vinyl format: A single album re-mastered version on 180 gram vinyl with restored packaging.

Bonus CD[edit]

All songs written and composed by U2. 

No. Title Original release Length
1. "I Will Follow" (Previously unreleased mix) Previously unreleased 3:38
2. "11 O'Clock Tick Tock" (Single version) "11 O'Clock Tick Tock" single 3:47
3. "Touch" (Single version) "11 O'Clock Tick Tock" single 3:26
4. "Speed of Life" (Instrumental) Previously unreleased outtake from "Boy" sessions 3:19
5. "Saturday Night" (Early version of "Fire") Previously unreleased outtake from "Boy" sessions 5:13
6. "Things to Make and Do"   "A Day Without Me" single 2:17
7. "Out of Control" (Single version) Three EP 3:53
8. "Boy-Girl" (Single version) Three EP 3:23
9. "Stories for Boys" (Single version) Three EP 2:42
10. "Another Day" (Single version) "Another Day" single 3:28
11. "Twilight (demo)" (Single version) "Another Day" single 4:35
12. "Boy-Girl" (Live at The Marquee, London, September 22, 1980) "I Will Follow" single 3:26
13. "11 O'Clock Tick Tock" (Live at The Marquee, London, September 22, 1980) Previously unreleased 4:59
14. "Cartoon World" (Live at The National Stadium, Dublin, February 26, 1980) Previously unreleased 4:20
Total length:


Charts and certifications[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Henke, James (19 February 1981). "U2: Here Comes the "Next Big Thing"". Rolling Stone (337). Archived from the original on 4 November 2007. Retrieved 6 September 2007. 
  2. ^ de la Parra (2003), pages 16, 17
  3. ^ McCormick, Neil (ed), (2006). U2 by U2. HarperCollins Publishers, pp. 56, 58 and 96
  4. ^ a b "U2's producer reveals studio secrets". BBC. 2008-07-18. Retrieved 2009-06-20. 
  5. ^ Martin, Gavin (1981-02-14). "Kings of the Celtic Fringe". NME.  Posted at "Kings of the Celtic Fringe". Retrieved 2007-11-05. 
  6. ^ Nolan, Tom (1982-05-01). "On the Edge of Success". U2 Magazine (3).  Posted at "On the Edge of Success". Retrieved 2007-11-06. 
  7. ^ Morley, Paul. Boy remastered 2008 Liner Notes, Mercury Records Ltd (London), ASIN: B0013LPS6Q
  8. ^ Interview with Peter Rowen
  9. ^ Stealing Hearts at a Travelling Show official U2 book, p. 101, 2003
  10. ^ U2: - History FAQ - Three to Under a Blood Red Sky
  11. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Boy – U2". AllMusic. Retrieved 28 December 2010. 
  12. ^ Hyden, Steven (28 July 2008). "U2". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 24 September 2015. 
  13. ^ Kot, Greg (6 September 1992). "You, Too, Can Hear The Best Of U2". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 3 December 2015. 
  14. ^ Wyman, Bill (29 November 1991). "U2's Discography". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 24 September 2015. 
  15. ^ Lynch, Declan (October 11, 1980). "Boy". Hot Press. 
  16. ^ Tangari, Joe (24 July 2008). "U2: Boy / October / War". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 30 December 2010. 
  17. ^ Cohen, Debra Rae (April 16, 1981). "Boy". Rolling Stone (341). Archived from the original on June 4, 2007. Retrieved May 15, 2005. 
  18. ^ Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian, eds. (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. Simon & Schuster. p. 833. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. 
  19. ^ a b Page, Betty (10 April 1980). "Young poets of the year [review]". Sounds. 
  20. ^ Christgau, Robert (March 30, 1981). "Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved June 20, 2012.  Revised from the originally published version at "U2: Boy – Consumer Album Guide". Retrieved December 30, 2010. 
  21. ^ a b Morse, Steve (1981-03-07). "A new sound under pressure". The Boston Globe. 
  22. ^ Morley Paul, Boy's own weepies [album review], NME, 25 October 1980
  23. ^ Barber, Lyndyn. "U2 Takes Us Over The Top" [album review]. Melody Maker. 4 October 1980
  24. ^ "Boy review". The Guardian. 12 November 1980
  25. ^ Birch, Ian. "Boy review". Time Out. 1 November 1980
  26. ^ "Bono Speaks". U2 Magazine (10). 1984-02-01.  Posted at "Bono Speaks". Retrieved 2007-11-07. 
  27. ^ "The 1981 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll". The Village Voice. 1980-02-01.  Posted at "The 1981 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll". Retrieved 2011-03-11. 
  28. ^ "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone (937). 2003-12-11. Archived from the original on 2009-04-21. Retrieved 2009-12-04. 
  29. ^ "100 Greatest Debut Albums". Uncut (111). August 2006. 
  30. ^ a b "Boy, October, War: Remastered". April 9, 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-09. 
  31. ^ "Search Results: Boy U2". RPM. 1981-05-30. Retrieved 2009-11-25. 
  32. ^ a b "Gold and Platinum Search: Boy". Music Canada. Retrieved 2011-08-29. 
  33. ^
  34. ^ BPI
  35. ^ a b c "U2: Charts and Awards". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-01-23.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Allmusic_Chart" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  36. ^ "Gold and Platinum Database Search". RIAA. Retrieved 2010-01-23.  Note: U2 must be searched manually.
  37. ^ "1ste Ultratop-hitquiz". Ultratop. Retrieved 2010-01-23.