Sunday Bloody Sunday (song)

Sunday Bloody Sunday (song)

Infobox Single
Name = Sunday Bloody Sunday

Artist = U2
from Album = War
Released = March 1983
Written by = U2
Format = 7" vinyl, 12" vinyl, CD single
Recorded =
Genre = Rock, post-punk
Length = 4:42
Label = Island
Producer = Steve Lillywhite
Chart position =
* #3 (Dutch Top 40)cite web|url=|title=Dutch Top 40 for Week 43, 1985|last=nl icon Radio 10 Gold|accessdate=2006-12-16]
* #7 (US Mainstream Rock)cite news|title=Mainstream Rock Tracks|publisher=Billboard|date=October 16, 1983]
Last single = "Two Hearts Beat As One"
This single = "Sunday Bloody Sunday"
Next single = "40"
Misc = Extra album cover
Upper caption = Alternate Cover
Background = khaki

Lower caption = Japan cover
Extra tracklisting
Album = War
Type = studio
prev_track =
prev_no =
this_track = "Sunday Bloody Sunday"
track_no = 1
next_track = "Seconds"
next_no = 2
Extra tracklisting
Album = Under a Blood Red Sky
Type = live
prev_track = "Party Girl"
prev_no = 4
this_track = "Sunday Bloody Sunday"
track_no = 5
next_track = "The Electric Co."
next_no = 6
Extra tracklisting
Album = The Best of 1980-1990
Type = greatest
prev_track = "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"
prev_no = 4
this_track = "Sunday Bloody Sunday"
track_no = 5
next_track = "Bad" (Edit)
next_no = 6
Extra tracklisting
Album = U218 Singles
Type = greatest
prev_track = "Sweetest Thing"
prev_no = 10
this_track = "Sunday Bloody Sunday"
track_no = 11
next_track = "One"
next_no = 12

"Sunday Bloody Sunday" is the opening track and third single from U2's 1983 album, "War". The song is noted for its militaristic drumbeat, simple but harsh guitar, and melodic harmonies.cite news|first=Robert|last=Hillburn|date=2004-08-08|url=|title=The Songwriters - U2 - 'Where Craft Ends and Spirit Begins'|publisher=Los Angeles Times|accessdate=2006-10-22] One of U2's most overtly political songs, its lyrics describe the horror felt by an observer of The Troubles in Northern Ireland.

The single was released in March 1983 in Germany and The Netherlands only; "Two Hearts Beat As One" was released instead in other territories.cite web|url=|title=U2 Discography - Sunday Bloody Sunday Single||accessdate=2006-10-22] Along with "New Year's Day", the song helped U2 reach a wider listening audience. It was generally well-received by critics on the album's release.cite news|first=Liam|last=Mackey|date=1983-02-18|url=|title=Review of "War"|publisher=Hot Press|accessdate=2006-10-22] cite web|last=Sullivan|first=Denise|url=|title=Song Review: "Sunday Bloody Sunday"|publisher=Allmusic|accessdate=2006-10-22]

The song has remained a staple of U2's live concerts.cite web||url=|title=U2 on Tour - played songs: Sunday Bloody Sunday|accessdate=2006-10-22] During its earliest performances, the song created controversy. Bono reasserted the song's anti-hate, anti-sectarian-violence message to his audience for many years. Today, it is considered one of U2's signature songs, being one of the band's most performed songs. Critics rate it among the best political protest songs,cite video|people=VH1 Editors|year=2004|title=VH1's 25 Greatest Political Protest Songs|url=|medium=Television series|publisher=VH1 television] and it has been covered by over a dozen artists.cite web||url=|title=U2 Cover Songs Discography|accessdate=2006-10-22] It was named the 268th greatest song by "Rolling Stone" on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Background, writing, and recording

"Sunday Bloody Sunday" grew from a guitar riff and lyric written by The Edge in 1982. While newlyweds Bono and Ali Hewson honeymooned in Jamaica, The Edge worked in Ireland on music for the band's upcoming album. 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."cite book|last=U2|authorlink=U2|coauthors=McCormick, N.|title=U2 by U2|date=2006-09-26|publisher=Harper Collins Publishers|location=New York|id=ISBN 0-06-077675-7|pages=135–139] This early draft did not yet have a title or chorus melody, but did contain a structural outline and theme. After Bono had reworked the lyrics, the band recorded the song at Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin. During the sessions, 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. 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.

Drummer Mullen said of the song in 1983:

"We're into the politics of people, we're not into politics. Like you talk about Northern Ireland, 'Sunday Bloody Sunday,' people sort of think, 'Oh, that time when 13 Catholics were shot by British soldiers'; that's not what the song is about. That's an incident, the most famous incident in Northern Ireland and it's the strongest way of saying, 'How long? How long do we have to put up with this?' I don't care who's who - Catholics, Protestants, whatever. You know people are dying every single day through bitterness and hate, and we're saying why? What's the point? And you can move that into places like El Salvador and other similar situations - people dying. Let's forget the politics, let's stop shooting each other and sit around the table and talk about it. It's like when we first started with Boy, an album about growing up, then you had October, a spiritual album. During those two albums we were thrown across the world into different countries and suddenly we had to grow up. People were throwing money on the stage during the times of Bobby Sands in Northern Ireland. So we had to think about Northern Ireland, and then there's nuclear war and solidarity. All these things we became really aware of so we wrote about them. They honestly affected us, they hurt, badly. A lot of people say to us, 'how can you write about Northern Ireland when you don't live there?' And you were saying about the Undertones, a band who actually said to us, 'what right do you have?' Well, the bombs don't go off in Dublin but they're made there and we feel as Irishmen we've got the right to say something. There are very few bands that say, 'why don't you just put down the guns?' there are a lot of bands taking sides saying politics is crap, etc. Well, so what! The real battle is people dying, that's the real battle. Politics and music I find very hard to distinguish, where do you draw the line?cite web |url= |title=Larry Mullen Interview |publisher=White Lucy |date=April 1, 1983 |accessdate=2007-11-06]

Musical structure and lyrics

The studio version of the song opens with a militaristic drumbeat and electric violin part, both at a medium tempo, in a 4/4 time. The aggressive snare drum rhythm closely resembles a beat used to keep a military band in step. The distinctive drum sound was achieved by recording Mullen's drumwork at the base of a staircase, producing a more natural reverb. It is followed by The Edge's repetitive arpeggios (see notation at left), which establish the minor chord territory of the piece. As the song progresses, the lyrics and guitar become more furious. The guitar riff has been described as the "bone-crushing arena-rock riff of the decade" by "Rolling Stone".cite news|last=Connelly|first=Christopher|date=1984-01-19|url =|title=Rolling Stone: Under A Blood Red Sky Review|publisher=Rolling Stone|accessdate=2006-10-22] A bass drum kick on every beat provides the musical foundation until the first chorus, when Adam Clayton's bass guitar enters.

In contrast to the violent nature of the verses, the emergence of major chords creates a feeling of hope during Bono's "How long, how long must we sing this song?" refrain. During the chorus, The Edge's backing vocals further develop this tread, using a harmonic imitative echo. The snare drum is absent from this section, and the guitar parts are muted. This part of the song deviates musically from the raw aggression seen in the song's verses and gives the song a more uplifting structure. Bono once commented that "love is…a central theme" of "Sunday Bloody Sunday"cite news|first=Tristam|last=Lozaw|date=1984-06-01|url=|title=Love, Devotion & Surrender|publisher=U2 Magazine|accessdate=2006-10-22]

The band have said the lyrics refer to the events of both Bloody Sunday (1972) and Bloody Sunday (1920), but are not specifically about either event.cite video|people=U2, Rona Elliot (interviewer)|title= [ U2: The Rona Elliot Interview] |medium = Online download|publisher = NBC via iTunes Store|date=1987-09-11|accessdate=2006-10-22] The song takes the standpoint of someone horrified by the cycle of violence in the province. Bono rewrote The Edges's initial lyrics, attempting to contrast the two events with Easter Sunday, but he has said that the band was too inexperienced at the time to fully realise that goal, noting that "it was a song whose eloquence lay in its harmonic power rather than its verbal strength."

Early versions opened with the line "Don't talk to me about the rights of the IRA, UDA". U2's bassist, Adam Clayton, recalls that better judgment led to the removal of such a politically charged line, and that the song's "viewpoint became very humane and non-sectarian…which, is the only responsible position."cite book|first=Niall|last=Stokes|authorlink=|coauthors=|title=Into The Heart: The Story Behind Every U2 Song|date=1996|publisher=Harper Collins Publishers|location=Australia|id=ISBN 0-7322-6036-1|pages=37–39] The chosen opening line "I can't believe the news today" crystallises the prevailing response, especially among young people, to the violence in Northern Ireland during the 1970s and 1980s. In successive stanzas, however, the lyrics appear to disown that anger and place the song in a religious context—paraphrasing text from Matthew ("mother's children; brothers, sisters torn apart") and bringing a twist to 1 Corinthians ("we eat and drink while tomorrow they die"). The song finishes with a call for the Irish to stop fighting each other, and "claim the victory Jesus won…on [a] Sunday bloody Sunday."


U2 was aware when they decided to record "Sunday Bloody Sunday" that its lyrics could be misinterpreted as sectarian, and possibly jeopardize their personal lives. Some of The Edge's original lyrics explicitly spoke out against violent rebels, but were omitted in order to protect the group. Even without these lyrics, some listeners still considered it to be a rebel song—even one which glorifies the events of the two Bloody Sundays to which the lyrics refer.cite book|last=Flanagan|first=Bill|title=U2 at the End of the World|pages=385|publisher=Dell Publishing|location=New York|id=ISBN 0-385-31154-0|date=1996-09-01]

Commercially, the single had its biggest impact in The Netherlands, where it reached number 3 on the national charts. In the U.S., the song gained significant album oriented rock radio airplay, and together with the earlier "New Year's Day" helped exposed U2 to a mainstream American rock audience.

Critical reaction to the song was mostly positive. In the Irish magazine "Hot Press", Liam Mackey wrote that "Sunday Bloody Sunday" "takes the widescreen view…a powerful riff and machine-gun drumming [is] crisscrossed by skipping violin." Denise Sullivan commented for "Allmusic" that Mullen's opening drumwork "helps set the tone for the unforgiving, take-no-prisoners feel of the song, as well as for the rest of the album." In 2004, "Rolling Stone" ranked "Sunday Bloody Sunday" 268th on its list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.cite web|last=Editors|first="Rolling Stone"|title=Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time — #268|url=|accessdate = 2006-10-22]

Live performances

"Sunday Bloody Sunday" has been performed more than 600 times by U2. It was first heard by a live audience in December 1982 in Glasgow, Scotland, on a twenty-one show "Pre-War Tour." The band were particularly nervous about playing the song in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Upon introducing the song there at the Maysfield Leisure Centre , Bono promised to "never play it again" if the crowd didn't like it. The crowd overwhelmingly enjoyed the song; The Edge recalls that "the place went nuts, it drew a really positive reaction.", also saying that "We thought a lot about the song before we played it in Belfast and Bono told the audience that if they didn't like it then we'd never play it again. Out of the 3,000 people in the hall about three walked out. I think that says a lot about the audience's trust in us." [cite book | last = U2 Limited | title = U2 by U2 | publisher = HarperCollins"Publishers" | date = 2006 | location = London | pages = 179| id = ISBN 0-00-719668-7] The band remained apprehensive, however. Even by the song's sixth performance, Bono was introducing the song with the statement "This is "not" a rebel song."cite book|title=U2 Live: A Concert Documentary|last=de la Parra|first=Pimm Jal|publisher=Omnibus Press|id=ISBN 0-7119-9198-7|date=March 1995] [cite web |url= |title=War & Peace |author=Adrian Thrills |last=Thrills |first=Adrian |accessdate=2007-11-07 |publisher=NME |date=February 26, 1983]

Throughout 1983's War Tour, Bono continued to reassure audiences that "This song is not a rebel song, this song is 'Sunday Bloody Sunday'"U2. "Under a Blood Red Sky". Island Records. Compact disc, 1983.] highlighting the non-partisan intentions of the lyrics. The live performances on this tour featured a routine during which Bono would set a white flag in the front of the stage while the band vamped three chords—B minor, D major, and G major. (though the band traditionally tune their instruments down a half step so the chords are B flat minor, D flat and G Flat). As the band vamped, Bono would sing "no more!" with the audience.cite video|people = U2, Gavin Taylor (director)|title= [ Under a Blood Red Sky] |medium = VHS|publisher= RCA / Columbia Video|date = 1983] These performances were highly effective with U2's audience (at the time, U2 was most popular as a college rock act). In the Unforgettable Fire Tour of 1984 and 1985, "Sunday Bloody Sunday" continued to be a prominent midpoint of each U2 concert—as did the "no more!" interlude. Along with an epic performance of "Bad," the song was performed at Live Aid in July 1985.

As U2 reached new levels of fame in 1987 with "The Joshua Tree", "Sunday Bloody Sunday" continued to be a focal point of concerts. Some performances featured slower, more contemplative versions of the song; other concerts saw the wilder, more violent version. This tour marked the first time "Sunday Bloody Sunday" was played in Northern Ireland since 1982, and it has not been performed there since.

The 1988 rockumentary "Rattle and Hum" includes a particularly renowned version of the song, recorded on 8 November 1987 at the McNichols Arena in Denver, Colorado. [cite book |last= Chatterton|first= Mark|title= U2 The Complete Encyclopedia|year= 2001|publisher= Firefly Publishing|location= London] On this version Bono's mid-song rant angrily and emphatically condemns the Remembrance Day Bombing that had occurred earlier that same day in the Northern Irish town of Enniskillen:

After the Joshua Tree Tour, Bono was heard saying the band might never play the song again, because the song was "made real" with the performance in Denver, and it could never be matched again.cite news|first=Liam|last=Mackey|date=1998-12-01|url=|title=I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For - Part 1|publisher=Hot Press|accessdate=2006-10-22] Following their original intent, "Sunday Bloody Sunday" was not played during any of the forty-seven shows on the Lovetown Tour in 1989. The song reappeared for a brief period during the Zoo TV Tour, and late during the second half of PopMart Tour (1997–1998), U2 played an emotional concert in war-ravaged Sarajevo that included a solo performance of the song by The Edge. "Sunday Bloody Sunday" was subsequently played live in this style until the end of the tour in March 1998.

"Sunday Bloody Sunday" was played at every concert on the 2001 Elevation and 2005–2006 Vertigo tours. Performances in 2001 frequently included parts of Bob Marley's "Get Up, Stand Up" and "Johnny Was". A memorable mid-song message referencing the Omagh bombing of 1998 ("Turn this song into a prayer!") is captured on the live DVD "". In concerts in New York City after the September 11, 2001 attacks, the "no more!" interlude was replaced by Bono holding an American flag.cite news|first=Isaac|last=Guzman|date=2001-10-26|title=No Bombast, but U2 Bands Together with N.Y.|publisher=New York Daily News]

"Sunday Bloody Sunday" was used during the The Vertigo Tour of 2005 and 2006, as one of many politically driven songs performed during the middle part of the band's set. Bono extended the "no more!" interlude to explain a headband he had donned in the previous song.cite video|people = U2, Hamish Hamilton (director) |title = [ Vertigo 2005: U2 Live from Chicago] |medium = DVD|publisher = Island / Interscope Video|date = 2005] The headband depicted the word "coexist" (written to depict a crescent, a Star of David, and a Christian cross). The Coexist symbol is trademarked in the United States by an LLP in Indiana, [cite web|url=|title=Can't We All Just Coexist?|last=Hutchinson|first=Kevin|accessdate=2006-12-16] and the original artwork was created in 2001 by a Polish artist. [cite web|url=|title=pl icon Jerozolimie|accessdate=2006-12-16] As with the 2001 shows, the Vertigo tour saw the song applied to subjects further afield than The Troubles in Northern Island. During 2006 Australian shows, in Brisbane, Bono asked for Australian Terrorism suspect David Hicks to be brought home and tried under Australian laws. In subsequent Australian concerts he dedicated the song to the victims of the 2002 Bali Bombings—88 of the fatalities were Australians—lamenting 'This is your song now!'. [ [ U2 Concert, Sydney 11 Nov 2006] .]

Music video

Although a promotional music video had not been produced for the original release, the band used footage from a 5 June 1983 live performance to promote the song. "Under a Blood Red Sky", directed by Gavin Taylor, displays Bono's use of a white flag during performances of the song. The video highlights the intensity and emotion felt by many audience members during U2's concerts, while the rainy, torch-lit setting in Colorado's Red Rocks Amphitheatre further adds to the atmosphere. In 2004, "Rolling Stone" cited the performance as one of fifty moments that changed the history of rock and roll, and noted that " [t] he sight of Bono singing the anti-violence anthem 'Sunday Bloody Sunday' while waving a white flag through crimson mist (created by a combination of wet weather, hot lights and the illumination of those crags) became the defining image of U2's warrior-rock spirit and—shown in heavy rotation on MTV—broke the band nationwide."cite news|last=Cave|first=Damien, et. al|date=2004-06-24|title=U2's Gamble at Red Rocks|publisher=Rolling Stone|page=146]

Track listings

"Sunday Bloody Sunday" was commercially released throughout most of Europe in support of U2's album "War". Its cover art is the same as that of "Two Hearts Beat As One" except on the Japan release.

Version 1

#"Sunday Bloody Sunday" – 4:34
#"Endless Deep" – 2:58

This was the most common version, released as a 7" vinyl in Germany and The Netherlands. The B-side to this single is unusual in that it is one of the few songs that features bassist Adam Clayton singing.

Version 2

#"Sunday Bloody Sunday" – 4:34
#"Two Hearts Beat as One (7" Edit) – 3:52

This was a less common 7" vinyl released as an alternate to the previous version.

Version 3

#"Sunday Bloody Sunday" – 4:34
#"Red Light" – 4:03

This was the Japan 7" vinyl with an alternate B-side and different cover art.

Version 4

#"Sunday Bloody Sunday" (Album Version) – 4:34
#"Two Hearts Beat As One" (US Remix) – 5:40
#"New Year's Day" (US Remix) – 4:30

This version was released as a 12" vinyl in several European countries, and later as a CD single in Austria.

Other releases

The album version of "Sunday Bloody Sunday" was originally included on "War", but it can also be heard on a number of promotional releases, and is on "The Best of 1980-1990" and "U218 Singles". Several live versions have been released; the video available on "Under a Blood Red Sky" is from a performance in June 1983, but the audio CD version is from a performance in August 1983. Audio from the Sarajevo concert of 1997 is featured as a b-side on 1997's single "If God Will Send His Angels." The song appears on "Rattle and Hum", ', ', ',', "U2 3D" and in the closing credits of the 2002 TV film Bloody Sunday.cite web||url=| - U2 Discography - By Song U2 Discography|accessdate=2006-10-22] cite web||url=| - U2 Discography - U2 Video and DVD Releases|accessdate=2006-10-22]

Cover versions

"Sunday Bloody Sunday" has been covered by over a dozen different artists, spanning several musical styles. The song is frequently among the tracks recorded for U2 tribute albums.
*Irish songwriter and performer Phil Coulter's 1990 cover version, featured on the album "Recollections", distinctly contrasts U2's original with many lush instrumental effects and soft piano melody.
*Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine recorded a version of the song for their 2005 album "Aperitif for Destruction". Their mambo version of the song parodied U2's use of the Spanish language on their 2004 single "Vertigo."
*In 2005, New York-based DJ "RX" created a music video that cuts together footage and audio taken from U.S. President George W. Bush's speeches to create the illusion that he was singing the song.cite web|last=Sutherland|first=Benjamin|title=DJ's: Cuttin' Up C-Span|url=|publication=Newsweek|date=2005-10-17|accessdate= 2006-12-15]
*An orchestral version of "Sunday Bloody Sunday" was covered by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on their 1999 album "".
*This song has also been covered by the band Pillar for the U2 cover album, "" as well as the Special Edition of "Where Do We Go from Here". This song in particular has a hard rock sound and a vocal distortion.
*The Orange County hardcore band Ignite covered it on their 2006 album "Our Darkest Days".
*"Sunday Bloody Sunday" was covered by the Australian punk rock trio The Living End. The version was released on a bonus disc that came with some versions of their 2004 album, "From Here On In".
*The starting drum beat is covered by Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers on their live album "Live in Hyde Park". Also, in 2006 John Frusciante began covering the song on guitar and vocals, along with the help of Smith on drums.
*Metalcore band Evergreen Terrace also covered the song on their debut full-length album, "Losing All Hope Is Freedom", in 2001.
*The pop punk band Paramore covered on "Sunday Bloody Sunday" on the B-Side of their 2007 vinyl single "Misery Business".
*In 1999, industrial band Electric Hellfire Club covered "Sunday Bloody Sunday" on the U2 tribute album "". This version is often mistakenly attributed to KMFDM.Fact|date=December 2007
*Saul Williams covered the song on his 2007 album "The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust!" and released it as a single in 2008.
*Boston punk rock band The Ducky Boys covered the song on while on tour with Dropkick Murphys in 2004.
*Daughtry recently began covering the song and has recorded versions of it on Yahoo! Music and NapsterLive.
*Funeral for a Friend covered the song on their 2005 single Monsters.
*Christian metal band Echo Hollow covered the song for the 1998 album "The Mother of all Tribute Albums".
*Dutch Hardcore House band Masters of Ceremony sampled the song in their production "Bottoms up".
*Finnish humppa and humour band Eläkeläiset covered the song for the 1999 album Humppaorgiat with the name "Humppamestaruus".

Chart positions


General References



External links

* [ Live performance history] — lists all concerts at which "Sunday Bloody Sunday" is known to have been performed.
* [ Lyrics]

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