New Year’s Day – U2

The true meaning of this song, often played during New Year's Eve parties because of its name, will surprise you.

New Year’s Day is a song by Irish rock band U2. It is included in their 1983 album War and it was released as the album’s lead single in January 1983.

Notably, this was U2’s first UK Top 10, their first single to chart in America and the first U2 video to get heavy airplay on MTV. In other words, it was an “instant pop hit” of its time and changed their career forever. Moreover, in 2010 Rolling Stone magazine placed the single at #435 on their list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

This is one of the songs people are used to listen in a bar around the end of the year, thinking it is really appropriate because of its name. No one can blame them for this, but the real meaning of this song will surprise you.

It originally started out as a love song, which Bono, U2 leading singer, intended to dedicate to his then-new-wife Ali Hewson (35 years ago). It was subsequently reshaped and inspired by the Polish “Solidarity” movement (Solidarność) and its persecuted leader, Lech Walesa.

Embed from Getty Images

Solidarity is a Polish labour union that was founded in 1980. It was the first trade union in a “Warsaw Pact country” that was not controlled by a communist party. In the 1980s, Solidarity was a broad anti-bureaucratic social movement, that used the methods of civil resistance to advance the causes of workers’ rights and social change. The government attempted to destroy the union by imposing martial law and using political repression. But in the end it was forced to negotiate with Solidarity. The round table talks between the government and the Solidarity-led opposition, eventually led to semi-free elections in 1989. By the end of August, a Solidarity-led coalition government was formed. In December 1990, Walesa was elected President of Poland.

Embed from Getty Images

So, when U2 were recording the song, Walesa, together with the other leaders of the movement, was in jail. Bono told Rolling Stones that he made up its lyrics on the spot, as he often does.

We improvise, and the things that came out, I let them come out. I must have been thinking about Lech Walesa being interned. Then, when we’d recorded the song, they announced that martial law would be lifted in Poland on New Year’s Day. Incredible.

And indeed, martial law was lifted in Poland in 1983. It lasted till July 1983 being officially suspended on 18 December 1982, so not exactly on New Year’s Day; but still this incredible coincidence gives this wonderful song an even more powerful meaning.

Reading the lyrics, the statement about the growing movement of people clamoring for freedom and justice throughout Eastern Europe in the early 1980s becomes clear.

Under a blood red sky
A crowd has gathered in black and white
Arms entwined, the chosen few
The newspapers says, says
Say it’s true it’s true
And we can break through
Though torn in two
We can be one

The themes of understanding in a time of global unrest were a focal point for the album “War”, the title of which was in fact inspired by the various worldwide conflicts at the time. 

Yeah
All is quiet on New Year’s Day
A world in white gets underway
I want to be with you
Be with you night and day
Nothing changes on New Year’s Day
On New Year’s Day

I will be with you again
I will be with you again

Under a blood red sky
A crowd has gathered in black and white
Arms entwined, the chosen few
The newspapers says, says
Say it’s true it’s true
And we can break through
Though torn in two
We can be one

I, I will begin again
I, I will begin again

I will be with you again
I will be with you again
I will be with you again
I will be with you again

Categories
Sounds from the Bucket
Marco Principia

Born in Rome, his beloved city. Graduated with honors in Political Science and International Relations at Università degli Studi "Roma Tre". Currently employed at CIES - ONLUS as Fundraising Manager. Huge fan of A.S. Roma.
No Comment

Leave a Reply

*

*

RELATED POSTS