U2 - War

You are here

Posted on Mon, 03/31/2014 - 2:49pm
by John MacMillan

Member since: Tue, 01/07/2014

Release Type

Studio Album

Release Year


Rate this release

Total votes: 128


Island Records


Album Overview

War is the third studio album by Irish rock band U2. It was produced by Steve Lillywhite, and was released on 28 February 1983 on Island Records. The album has come to be regarded as U2's first overtly political album, in part because of songs like "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "New Year's Day", as well as the title, which stems from the band's perception of the world at the time; Bono stated that "war seemed to be the motif for 1982."

U2 recorded the album from May–August 1982 at Windmill Lane Studios with Lillywhite producing, the group's third consecutive album made at the studio with the producer. While the central themes of their earlier albums Boy and October focused on adolescence and spirituality, respectively, War focused on both the physical aspects of warfare, and the emotional after-effects. Musically, it is also harsher than the band's previous releases. The album has been described as the record where the band "turned pacifism itself into a crusade."

War was a commercial success for the band, knocking Michael Jackson's Thriller from the top of the charts to become the band's first number-one album in the UK. It reached number 12 on the US and became their first gold-certified album there. While poorly received by British critics at the time of release, War has since gained critical acclaim. In 2012, the album was ranked number 223 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". The group supported the album with the War Tour through the end of 1983.


1Sunday Bloody Sunday4:38

Violin [Electric]: Steve Wickham


Vocals: The Edge

3New Year's Day5:38
4Like A Song...4:48
5Drowning Man4:12

Violin [Electric]: Steve Wickham

6The Refugee3:40

Mixed By: Steve Lillywhite
Producer: Bill Whelan

7Two Hearts Beat As One4:10
8Red Light4:09

Backing Vocals: Adriana Kaegi
Backing Vocals: Cheryl Poirier
Backing Vocals: Jessica Felton
Backing Vocals: Taryn Hagey


Backing Vocals: Adriana Kaegi
Backing Vocals: Cheryl Poirier
Backing Vocals: Jessica Felton
Backing Vocals: Taryn Hagey



U2 began recording War on 17 May 1982. The band took a break soon afterwards, as newlyweds Bono and Ali honeymooned in Jamaica. It has been noted that it was not a typical honeymoon, as Bono reportedly worked on the lyrics for the upcoming album. The lyrics to "New Year's Day" had its origins in a love song Bono wrote for his wife, but the song was reshaped and inspired by the Polish Solidarity movement.

The album's opener, "Sunday Bloody Sunday", an ardent protest song, stems from a guitar riff and lyric written by the Edge in 1982. Following an argument with his girlfriend, and a period of doubt in his own song-writing abilities, the Edge — "feeling depressed... channeled [his] fear and frustration and self-loathing into a piece of music." Early versions of the song opened with the line, "Don't talk to me about the rights of the IRA, UDA". After Bono had reworked the lyrics, the band recorded the song at Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin. The opening drum pattern soon developed into the song's hook. A local violinist, Steve Wickham, approached the Edge one morning at a bus stop and asked if U2 had any need for a violin on their next album. In the studio for only half a day, Wickham's electric violin became the final instrumental contribution to the song.

During the sessions for "Sunday Bloody Sunday", producer Steve Lillywhite encouraged drummer Larry Mullen, Jr. to use a click track, but Mullen was firmly against the idea. A chance meeting with Andy Newmark (of Sly & the Family Stone) — a drummer who used a click track religiously — changed Mullen's mind. Mullen used the click track to stay in time for other songs on the album. Mullen said of the album in a 1983 interview, "I think the drumming has always been pretty simple, I don't think it needs to be flashy. For War I use a click track, something I haven't used before, it's a way of keeping time in my headphones. When I listened to the music in time with the click track I knew I had to bring it down to the real basics. Hopefully for the next LP it will be more complicated, I'll move on. I think of it as a musical progression for myself because I learned a lot recording this album, just about my own style and that's what I wanted to do. I think there is a definite style on War where there isn't on the previous albums."

The studio version of "40" was recorded right at the end of the recording sessions for War. Bassist Adam Clayton had already left the studio, and the three remaining band members decided they didn't have a good song to end the album. Bono, the Edge, and Mullen Jr. quickly recorded the song with the Edge switching off to both the electric and bass guitar. Bono called the song "40" as he based the lyrics on Psalm 40. In live versions of the song, the Edge and Clayton switch roles, as Clayton plays guitar and Edge plays the bass.

Three of the tracks featured backing vocals by the Coconuts, of Kid Creole and the Coconuts. In the words of Steve Lillywhite, "they just happened to be in Dublin on tour, so we hung out with them and they came in and sang on "Surrender." So it was sort of random - this serious Irish rock band having the Coconuts on their album."

The album was titled War for several reasons; in 1982, Bono said that the album was called War because "War seemed to be the motif for 1982," adding that "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." The Edge said that "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."


The sound of War is arguably harsher than that of the band's other albums. A major reason for this is that the Edge uses far less delay and echo than in previous and subsequent works.

War opens with the protest song "Sunday Bloody Sunday". The song describes the horror felt by an observer of The Troubles in Northern Ireland, specifically Bloody Sunday (1972). Already a departure from the themes of innocence and spirituality displayed on the group's first two albums, "Sunday Bloody Sunday" introduces the album with a startling, military-esque drum beat by Larry Mullen, Jr., a fuming solo by the Edge that segues into staccato bursts reminiscent of machine gun fire, and pointed lyrical couplets such as: "And today the millions cry / We eat and drink while tomorrow they die." The album as a whole is more direct than the ambient October. Bono said in 1983,

"Sunday Bloody Sunday" is considered to be among the greatest political protest songs, and has remained a staple of U2's live concerts for 25 years.

"Seconds" is a song about nuclear proliferation, and the possibility that Armageddon could occur by an accident. The track contains a clip from the 1982 documentary Soldier Girls. The Edge sings the first two stanzas, making it one of the rare occasions on which he sings lead vocals.

In continuing the political motif of the album, "New Year's Day" is about the Polish solidarity movement. In 2004, Rolling Stone placed it as the 435th greatest song of all time. The song remains a staple of the band's live set, and is their third most frequently performed song behind "I Will Follow" and "Pride (In the Name of Love)".

"Like a Song…" was intended as a message to those who believed that the band was too worthy, sincere, and not "punk" enough. Bono speculated that the song's punk attitude would have made more sense in the 1950s and 1960s, as opposed to the "dressing up" of the genre in the early 1980s. "Like a Song…" was only played live once.

"Drowning Man" is the fifth track on the album. Its sound is a departure from the other tracks in War as it is a quiet, atmospheric song heavily influenced by the work of the Comsat Angels. It was never performed live, although there are also unconfirmed reports that it was performed at a concert in 1983.

Other songs concern topics such as prostitution ("Red Light") and love ("Two Hearts Beat as One").


The album was first released on 28 February 1983.

The boy on the cover is Peter Rowen (brother of Bono's friend, Guggi). He also appears on the covers of BoyThreeThe Best of 1980–1990Early Demos and many singles. Bono described the reasoning behind the cover: "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."

The original cassette release contains the entire album on each side.


In January 1983 (1983-01), "New Year's Day" was released internationally as the album's lead single. The single reached the top ten in the UK, and was the first release by the band to chart on the Billboard Hot 100. In March 1983, "Two Hearts Beat as One" and "Sunday Bloody Sunday" were released as singles in different regions. "Two Hearts Beat as One", a single in the US, UK, and Australia, reached number 18 on the UK Singles Chart; "Sunday Bloody Sunday", released in Germany and the Netherlands, reached number 3 on the Netherlands' charts. "40" was not released as a commercial single, but rather as a promotional single in Germany.


Upon its release, several reviews were negative in the UK. Gavin Martin of NME made a parallel between 1980's Boy and War, saying "where Boy shone and flowed War is dull and static, and where Boy propelled lucid pellets of fire and imagination War cranks out blank liberal awareness." Martin wrote that after the single "New Year's Day" (that he considered as "their finest single since "I Will Follow"), "the album declines quite dramatically". Martin concluded by calling War "another example of rock music's impotence and decay". Sounds shared a similar point of view, recognising that the two singles were "by far the strongest tracks" on War. "For the remainder, they are a (dejected sounding) mixture of the incomplete, the experimental (in the simplest sense) and the plain sub-standard." By contrast, in the US, Rolling Stone published a favourable review. Critic J.D. Considine said: "Generally, the album's musical strengths are largely the product of well-honed arrangements and carefully balanced dynamics. Even as the Edge spins increasingly sophisticated guitar lines, he maintains the minimalist bluntness that sparked Boy. And while bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. have swung to more dance-oriented rhythms, their songs hurtle along with the sort of brusque purposefulness more frequently associated with punk." Considine added: "the songs here stand up against anything on the Clash's London Calling in terms of sheer impact, and the fact that U2 can sweep the listener up in the same sort of enthusiastic romanticism that fuels the band's grand gestures is an impressive feat. For once, not having all the answers seems a bonus."

The album was a commercial success. War became U2's first number-one album in the UK, supplanting Michael Jackson's Thriller at the top of the charts. The album finished in 6th place on the "Best Albums" list from The Village Voice '​s 1983 Pazz & Jop critics' poll. In 1989, War was ranked number 40 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of "The 100 Greatest Albums of the '80s". In 2012, the album was ranked number 223 on Rolling Stone '​s list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". That same year, the album was listed at number 94 on Slant Magazine's "Best Albums of the 1980s."

War Tour

In support of the album, the band began touring on 1 December 1982. The first month of shows, referred to as the "Pre-War Tour", preceded the album's release and the bulk of the tour, and was meant to showcase and test the new songs in a live setting. The War Tour proper began on 26 February 1983 and lasted until 30 November of that year. In total, the band played 110 gigs to promote War. Performances often consisted of Bono waving white flags, a sight which became associated with the band after a memorable show at Red Rocks Amphitheatre was captured by the concert film Live at Red Rocks: Under a Blood Red Sky and shown on MTV. The band also released a live EP in 1983 entitled Under a Blood Red Sky (named after a lyric in "New Year's Day"), a compilation of live recordings from the War Tour.


  • Bono – lead vocals, additional guitar
  • The Edge – guitar, piano, lap steel, backing vocals, lead vocals on "Seconds," bass and guitar on "40"
  • Adam Clayton – bass, except on "40"
  • Larry Mullen, Jr. – drums

Additional musicians

  • Kenny Fradley – trumpet on "Red Light"
  • Steve Wickham – electric violin on "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "Drowning Man"
  • The Coconuts: Cheryl Poirier, Adriana Kaegi, Taryn Hagey, Jessica Felton – backing vocals on "Like A Song…", "Red Light", and "Surrender"


Design: Rapid Exteriors
Engineer: Paul Thomas
Management: Paul McGuinness
Mastered By: Phil Brown
Photography By [Band Photograph]: Anton Corbijn
Photography By [Cover]: Ian Finlay
Producer: Steve Lillywhite
Songwriter: U2


Recorded at Windmill Lake Studios, Dublin, Ireland. Mastered at Warner Bros. Recording Studio L.A. Larry Mullen Jr plays Yamaha drums. Island Records, Inc. Distributed by Atco Records, division of Atlantic Recording Corporation, a Warner Communications Company, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, New York 10019. ℗ © 1983 Island Records, Ltd. Printed in U.S.A. TM owned by Antilles Communications Ltd. RCA Music Service release.



War (U2 album) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia : taken from - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_(U2_album)