I Will Follow

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"I Will Follow"
UK/Irish cover
Single by U2
from the album Boy
Released24 October 1980[1]
RecordedJuly–September 1980
StudioWindmill Lane Studios (Dublin)
Producer(s)Steve Lillywhite
U2 1980s singles chronology
"A Day Without Me"
"I Will Follow"
U2 2000s singles chronology
"I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight"
"I Will Follow (live from Glastonbury)"
"Blow Your House Down"
Music video
"I Will Follow" on YouTube

"I Will Follow" is a song by rock band U2. It is the opening track from their debut album, Boy, and it was released as the album's second single in October 1980. Lead singer Bono wrote the lyrics to "I Will Follow" in tribute to his mother, who died when he was 14 years old.

"I Will Follow" is the only song that U2 have performed on every tour since they released their first album. The song was U2's first music video, directed by Meiert Avis in Dublin, Ireland. The song was issued five times, first in 1981 on a 7" vinyl in Ireland, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, second on the same format in the United States and Canada, third in the Netherlands in 1982 with a track from 1981's October, in 1983 with a live version of the song, and finally in 2011 with a live version of the song recorded at the 2011 Glastonbury Festival.


"I Will Follow" was written three weeks before U2 began recording Boy.[3] During early rehearsals of the song, the group frequently had loud arguments, as lead vocalist Bono was struggling to convey the aggression for the guitar riff that he was envisioning. Frustrated, he took the Edge's guitar from him and "hammer[ed] away" on the two-stringed chord the Edge had created to show his bandmates the urgency he wanted.[4][5] Bono said, "It was literally coming out of a kind of rage, the sound of a nail being hammered into your frontal lobe".[4] Bono has said that he wrote the lyrics from the perspective of his mother Iris, who died in 1974 when he was 14 years old, and that they were about the unconditional love a mother has for her child.[5] The song features a glockenspiel to provide what Bono called "underlying instrumental coloring"; it was added at his suggestion, and was played during the Boy recording sessions by him and the Edge.[6] For the middle eight section of the song, producer Steve Lillywhite recorded the sounds of silverware rubbing against the spokes of a spinning wheel on an upturned bicycle, as well as Bono smashing bottles.[4][7]


"I Will Follow" had a second single release as a live version in the Netherlands and Germany in 1982, and a third release in the United States in 1983, taken from the Under a Blood Red Sky album. It appeared on both the compilation album and video collection The Best of 1980–1990, and in some countries, on the U218 Singles compilation.

The song is included in the 2015 music video game Rock Band 4 as a playable track.[8]

Live performances[edit]

It is the band's most frequently performed song with over 800 performances. It has been performed at every concert of The Joshua Tree, PopMart Tour and the Innocence + Experience Tour[9] It has been played extensively on every tour with the exception of the Zoo TV Tour, where it was performed infrequently, and was part of the acoustic set, and the U2 360° Tour, where it wasn't played until the third leg.

The song appears on the live recordings/films Under a Blood Red Sky, U2 Live at Red Rocks: Under a Blood Red Sky, Live from the Point Depot, PopMart: Live from Mexico City, Elevation 2001: Live from Boston, Live from Boston 1981, Live from Paris, and U22. It also appears on Vertigo 05: Live from Milan, the bonus DVD that is included with the U218 Singles compilation and as a bonus track for UK/Australia releases of the CD.

U2 performed the song on the BBC2 television show The Old Grey Whistle Test in 1981. The performance was later released on DVD on a compilation of performances from the show.[10]

Reception and legacy[edit]

In 2005, Blender ranked the song at number 214 on its list "The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born". The magazine wrote, "The first song on U2's first album introduced the guitar sound that would define their work. [...] The arena-ready clarion call also established Bono's trademark lyrical earnestness, one of the reasons the song remains a fan favorite and a staple of the band's recent tours."[11]

Formats and track listings[edit]

7" Ireland, UK, Australia, and New Zealand release
1."I Will Follow"3:37
2."Boy-Girl" (Live from the Marquee Club, London, England, September 22, 1980 (1980-09-22))3:24
7" Canada and US release
1."I Will Follow"3:37
2."Out of Control" (Live at Paradise Rock Club, Boston, Massachusetts, March 6, 1981 (1981-03-06))4:25
The Netherlands release
1."I Will Follow" (Live at 't Heem, Hattem, the Netherlands, May 14, 1982 (1982-05-14))3:51
1983 release
1."I Will Follow" (Live from West Germany, August 20, 1983 (1983-08-20))3:40
2."Two Hearts Beat as One" (Import mix)3:42
2011 Glastonbury release
1."I Will Follow" (Live at Glastonbury Festival 2011, Somerset, England, June 24, 2011 (2011-06-24))4:01


  • The Netherlands release was recorded for the Veronica TV concert series Countdown, and was reissued in Germany in 1983. The cover of the Canadian and U.S. releases feature the same image as the North American release of Boy. The 1983 release was in a generic red sleeve with no cover artwork.



1981 release[edit]

Chart (1981) Position
Australia (Kent Music Report)[13] 71
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[14] 34
US Billboard Top Tracks 20

1982 release[edit]

Chart (1982) Position
Netherlands Top 40 12

1983 release[edit]

Chart (1984) Position
US Billboard Hot 100[15] 81

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Sams, Aaron; Kantas, Harry. "U2 – "I Will Follow" Single". U2songs.com. Retrieved 24 October 2016.
  2. ^ "U2's 25 Best Songs: Critic's Picks". www.billboard.com.
  3. ^ "Bono in San Antonio". U2 Magazine. No. 3. May 1982. Archived from the original on 9 December 2020. Retrieved 9 December 2020 – via atu2.com.
  4. ^ a b c McCormick (2006), pp. 96–101
  5. ^ a b Stokes (2005), pp. 9–10
  6. ^ Green, Jim (March 1982). "U2: Pluck of the Irish". Trouser Press. Archived from the original on 9 December 2020. Retrieved 9 December 2020 – via atu2.com.
  7. ^ "'BONO WAS BREAKING BOTTLES IN THE BACK..'". U2.com. Live Nation Entertainment. 25 October 2005. Retrieved 9 December 2020.
  8. ^ Snider, Mike (September 28, 2015). "'Rock Band 4' gets U2 as music video game rivalry reboots". USA Today. Gannett Company. Retrieved September 28, 2015.
  9. ^ "I Will Follow Performances". Retrieved 2007-11-05.
  10. ^ The Old Grey Whistle Test (DVD). Warner Home Video. 2003.
  11. ^ "The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born". Blender (41). October 2005. Archived from the original on December 28, 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-02.
  12. ^ O'Riordan, Rocky (interviewer) (26 November 2020). Boy: The 40th Anniversary Special (Radio broadcast). U2 X-Radio: Sirius XM.
  13. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 317. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  14. ^ "U2 – I Will Follow". Top 40 Singles.
  15. ^ "U2 – Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved 6 February 2014.


External links[edit]