Boy (album)

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U2 Boy.png
Studio album by U2
Released 20 October 1980 (1980-10-20)
Recorded July–September 1980
Studio Windmill Lane Studios, Dublin
Genre Post-punk
Length 42:52
Label Island
Producer Steve Lillywhite
U2 chronology
North American cover
North American cover
Singles from Boy
  1. "A Day Without Me"
    Released: 18 August 1980
  2. "I Will Follow"
    Released: 24 October 1980

Boy is the debut studio album by Irish rock band U2. It was produced by Steve Lillywhite, and was released on 20 October 1980 on Island Records. 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.

The album was originally slated to be produced by Martin Hannett, who produced the band's first single for Island, "11 O'Clock Tick Tock", but he was ultimately replaced by Lillywhite. Boy was recorded from July–September 1980 at Dublin's Windmill Lane Studios, which became U2's chosen recording location during the 1980s. It was also their first time working with Lillywhite. He employed unorthodox production techniques, such as recording Mullen's drums in a stairwell, and recording smashed bottles and forks played against a spinning bicycle wheel.[1] The band found Lillywhite to be very encouraging and creative, and he subsequently became a frequent producer of their recorded work. Thematically, the lyrics reflected on adolescence, innocence, and the passage into adulthood,[2] themes represented on the album cover through the photo of a young boy's face.[1]

Boy received generally positive reviews and included U2's first single to receive airplay on US radio, "I Will Follow". It peaked at number 52 in the UK and number 63 in the US. The album's release was followed by the group's first tour of continental Europe and the US, the Boy Tour.[3] In 2003, the album was included at number 417 on Rolling Stone's list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". In 2008, a remastered edition of Boy was released.

Recording and composition[edit]

Steve Lillywhite produced the album, as well as the band's next two.

Originally, Boy was slated to be produced by Martin Hannett, who had produced U2's 1980 single "11 O'Clock Tick Tock" as well as the group Joy Division. However, after the suicide of Joy Division's lead singer Ian Curtis, Hannett was allegedly too distraught to work.[1] Producer Steve Lillywhite, who had produced other post-punk bands, was sent a copy of U2's first release U2-3 by Island Records to gauge his interest in producing their first album. After seeing them perform live, Lillywhite agreed to produce their single "A Day Without Me".[4] Although the song failed to chart,[5] the band had an enjoyable working experience with him and agreed to have him produce their debut studio album.[4]

Boy was recorded at Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin from July to September 1980.[5][6] 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,[7] used Lillywhite's skills to add the distinctive glockenspiel part on "I Will Follow". The drums were recorded in the stairwell of the studio's reception area due to Lillywhite's desire to achieve "this wonderful clattery sound".[8] 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.[8]

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".[9]

Guitarist the Edge recorded all the songs using his natural stained Gibson Explorer.[10] He drew inspiration from music he was listening to at the time, including Television and Siouxsie and the Banshees.[11]


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 20 October 1980.[12] The model boy on the cover is Peter Rowen (brother of Bono's friend, Guggi (Virgin Prunes).[13] He also appeared on the covers of Three, War, The Best of 1980–1990, the unreleased Even Better than the Early Stuff,[14] 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.[15] 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 on 18 August[16] and 24 October 1980[17] respectively. "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[18]
The Austin Chronicle 4/5 stars[19]
The A.V. Club A[20]
Chicago Tribune 2.5/4 stars[21]
Entertainment Weekly B[22]
Pitchfork 8.3/10[23]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[24]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 4/5 stars[25]
Sounds 4.5/5 stars[26]
The Village Voice C+[27]

The original releases of Boy sold nearly 200,000 copies.[28] The album 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 number 52 in the UK. Despite criticisms of their live shows as predictable and Bono using "too much echo",[29] 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.[29] Boy is one of only two U2 albums from which every song has been performed live at least once. Boy held this record individually until 2017 when the all songs from The Joshua Tree were performed live on the album's 30th anniversary tour. [30]

In the UK, the reviews were favourable. Paul Morley of NME praised the album as "honest, direct and distinctive",[31] while Betty Page of Sounds dubbed the band the "young poets of the year".[26] Melody Maker hailed it as a "rich" record, with reviewer Lyndyn Barber writing that "Boy is more than just a collection of good tracks assembled in an arbitrary order", and that it had "youthful innocence and confusion".[32] The Guardian wrote that it was a "strong debut album", but that "it only needs slightly stronger melodies to be very impressive".[33] 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".[34] Declan Lynch of Irish magazine Hot Press remarked that he found Boy "almost impossible to react negatively to".[35]

The album's sexual overtones led to its enthusiastic acceptance 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."[36]

The album finished in 18th place on the "Best Albums" list from The Village Voice's 1981 Pazz & Jop critics' poll.[37] In 2003, the album was included at number 417 on Rolling Stone'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."[38] In 2006, Uncut ranked the album at No. 59 on its list of the "100 Greatest Debut Albums".[39]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written 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: 42:52

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 9 April 2008 confirmed that Boy, along with the band's other first three albums, October and War would be re-released as newly remastered versions.[40] The remastered album was released on 21 July 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:[40]

  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 tracks written 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" (Single version) "Another Day" single 4:35
12. "Boy-Girl" (Live at The Marquee, London, 22 September 1980) "I Will Follow" single 3:26
13. "11 O'Clock Tick Tock" (Live at The Marquee, London, 22 September 1980) Previously unreleased 4:59
14. "Cartoon World" (Live at The National Stadium, Dublin, 26 February 1980) Previously unreleased 4:20
Total length: 52:26


U2[41][nb 1]

Additional performers[41][nb 1]




Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Australia (ARIA)[46] Gold 35,000^
Canada (Music Canada)[47] Platinum 100,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[48] Gold 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[49] Platinum 1,000,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b The Edge's backing vocals are uncredited in the liner notes but listed here based on his de facto primary role in the group. Lillywhite's glockenspiel is uncredited in the liner notes but listed here based on his and the band's accounts of the album's recording.


  1. ^ a b c McCormick (2006), pp. 96–100
  2. ^ Jobling (2014), p. 67
  3. ^ de la Parra (2003), pp. 16–17
  4. ^ a b Lillywhite, Steve (29 June 2005). "The U2 I Know". Hot Press. Vol. 29 no. 12. Retrieved 19 July 2017. 
  5. ^ a b McGee (2008), p. 32
  6. ^ Green, Jim (March 1982). "U2: Pluck of the Irish". Trouser Press. 
  7. ^ McCormick (2006), pp. 56, 58, 96
  8. ^ a b Savage, Mark (18 July 2008). "U2's producer reveals studio secrets". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 24 December 2016. 
  9. ^ Martin, Gavin (14 February 1981). "Kings of the Celtic Fringe". NME. 
  10. ^ Nolan, Tom (May 1982). "On the Edge of Success". U2 Magazine. No. 3. 
  11. ^ Morley, Paul. Boy remastered 2008 Liner Notes, Mercury Records Ltd (London), ASIN: B0013LPS6Q
  12. ^ "U2's 'Boy' at 35: Classic Track-by-Track Album Review". Retrieved 24 April 2017. 
  13. ^ "@U2 Interview: Peter Rowen". Retrieved 24 April 2017. 
  14. ^ Stealing Hearts at a Travelling Show official U2 book, p. 101, 2003
  15. ^ "U2: - History FAQ - Three to Under a Blood Red Sky". Retrieved 24 April 2017. 
  16. ^ Sams, Aaron; Kantas, Harry. "U2 – "A Day Without Me" Single". Retrieved 22 April 2016. 
  17. ^ Sams, Aaron; Kantas, Harry. "U2 – "I Will Follow" Single". Retrieved 24 October 2016. 
  18. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Boy – U2". AllMusic. Retrieved 28 December 2010. 
  19. ^ Moser, Margaret (30 March 2001). "Record Reviews – The U2 Catalog: Boy". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 7 February 2011. 
  20. ^ Hyden, Steven (28 July 2008). "U2". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 24 September 2015. 
  21. ^ Kot, Greg (6 September 1992). "You, Too, Can Hear The Best Of U2". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 3 December 2015. 
  22. ^ Wyman, Bill (29 November 1991). "U2's Discography". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 24 September 2015. 
  23. ^ Tangari, Joe (24 July 2008). "U2: Boy / October / War". Pitchfork. Retrieved 30 December 2010. 
  24. ^ Cohen, Debra Rae (16 April 1981). "Boy". Rolling Stone. No. 341. Archived from the original on 4 June 2007. Retrieved 15 May 2005. 
  25. ^ Considine, J. D.; Brackett, Nathan (2004). "U2". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian. The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. Simon & Schuster. pp. 833–34. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. 
  26. ^ a b Page, Betty (10 April 1980). "Young poets of the year". Sounds. 
  27. ^ Christgau, Robert (30 March 1981). "Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved 20 June 2012.  Revised from the originally published version at "U2: Boy – Consumer Album Guide". Retrieved 30 December 2010. 
  28. ^ Henke, James (9 June 1983). "Blessed Are the Peacemakers". Rolling Stone. No. 397. p. 13. 
  29. ^ a b Morse, Steve (7 March 1981). "A new sound under pressure". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 20 June 2012. 
  30. ^
  31. ^ Morley, Paul (25 October 1980). "Boy's own weepies". NME. 
  32. ^ Barber, Lyndyn (4 October 1980). "U2 Takes Us Over The Top". Melody Maker. 
  33. ^ "U2: Boy". The Guardian. 12 November 1980. 
  34. ^ Birch, Ian (1 November 1980). "U2: Boy". Time Out. 
  35. ^ Lynch, Declan (10–24 October 1980). "Boy". Hot Press. Vol. 4 no. 10. Retrieved 13 October 2011. 
  36. ^ "Bono Speaks". U2 Magazine. No. 10. February 1984. 
  37. ^ "The 1981 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll". The Village Voice. 1 February 1980. Retrieved 11 March 2011. 
  38. ^ "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. No. 937. 11 December 2003. Archived from the original on 21 April 2009. Retrieved 4 December 2009. 
  39. ^ "100 Greatest Debut Albums". Uncut. No. 111. August 2006. 
  40. ^ a b "Boy, October, War: Remastered". 9 April 2008. Retrieved 9 April 2008. 
  41. ^ a b c Boy (Vinyl). U2. Island Records. 1980. 
  42. ^ "Search Results: Boy U2". RPM. 30 May 1981. Retrieved 25 November 2009. 
  43. ^ "ChartArchive - The Chart Archive". Retrieved 24 April 2017. 
  44. ^ a b c "U2: Charts and Awards". Allmusic. Retrieved 23 January 2010. 
  45. ^ "1ste Ultratop-hitquiz". Ultratop. Retrieved 23 January 2010. 
  47. ^ "Canadian album certifications – U2 – Boy". Music Canada. 
  48. ^ "British album certifications – U2 – Boy". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter Boy in the search field and then press Enter.
  49. ^ "American album certifications – U2 – Boy". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH