Song of the Day: U2’s “New Year’s Day”

U2 - War - front

New Year’s songs. This time of year always gets people talking about ‘New Year’s songs,’ and other songs with titles or stories that are about starting fresh, new beginnings, making changes, setting resolutions, and hopes, plans, wishes and dreams of better things to come in the new year.

Yesterday we posted a playlist featuring a selection of excellent New Year’s Day songs from The Walkmen, The Stills, The Kinks, The Hush Now, Regina Spektor, Trembling Bells and Bonnie Prince Billy, Death Cab For Cutie and many others.

Today, the focus turns to easily one of the best – if not, the best – alternative rock New Year’s songs ever recorded. That is, “New Year’s Day” from U2‘s 1983 album, War, the band’s third album, and the one that catapulted U2’s breakthrough success in the United States and around the world, and set the stage for the band to go on to become of the biggest bands of the 1980’s and one of the most popular in the history of rock.

The hit single, “New Year’s Day,” is also included on many Best Songs of All Time lists, and among U2’s most politically charged songs of their entire discography. For thirty years, it’s been an alternative song played on rock radio stations to honor the beginning of a new year.


“New Year’s Day”U2 from War (1983)

But it’s mainly a song about the Polish union workers movement, while “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” the biggest hit from War, is a protest song against the British massacre (known as ‘Bloody Sunday’) of Irish civilians in U2’s home country of Ireland. The album also contains another rather significant single, “Two Hearts Beat As One.”

The video above, shot in 1983, was not widely seen by most U2 fans until it appeared online some 12 or so years ago. The other video version of the song is the one most people are familiar with and which played on MTV regularly for months on end, at a time when the new music channel was just starting out, and coincidentally which bands like U2 helped popularize, and vice versa.

The famous album cover for War, featuring the anguished face of a boy with big, intense blue eyes, is one of the most recognized album covers of the post classic rock (1980 and on) era. The album cover for the “New Year’s Day” single release (back when vinyl 45″ singles were still mass produced) also featured the same kid.

Don’t miss our Best Indie Rock Songs playlist from yesterday, with songs from The Walkmen, Beach House, Camera Obscura, Death Cab For Cutie, The Stills, Trembling Bells with Bonnie Prince Billy, The Kinks, Regina Spektor, First Aid Kit and Stars in both MP3 and Spotify playlists.

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