U2 War: Heart-Racing, Mind-Blowing, Life-Changing


Does seeing this image stir anything inside of you?  If you were an adolescent in the early 80s and in touch with modern music, it probably does.
For me, it conjures up memories of Guess jeans, Pac-Man and first dances.   
The Outsiders, War Games, Return of the Jedi, Valley Girl and Risky Business.  The Police, Men at Work, Michael Jackson, Dexys Midnight Runners, Duran Duran, Thomas Dolby, David Bowie, Prince, The Pretenders, The Clash, Adam Ant, Rick Springfield, and Def Leppard.  
And U2.
Thirty years ago today, in February of 1983, U2 released their third studio album, “War,” featuring the singles “New Year’s Day,” “Two Hearts Beat as One” and “Sunday, Bloody Sunday.” 
People were ditching their cassette tapes in favor of this crazy new thing called a Compact Disc. “War” was the first CD I ever bought.  I saved up my allowance and instead of spending it on lip gloss and nail polish, like most of my friends, I talked my mother into making the now-familiar trek up to Sound Warehouse.  There I plunked down my $14.99 plus tax for my first CD by an Irish rock band with a funny name. 
It would become one of my favorite albums of all time.
Upon return, I ran back to my room, hastily unwrapped my new package and slid the CD into my brand new Pioneer CD player.  The military-style drum beat of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” filled the air, and then the harsh guitar riff by The Edge.  I adjusted the levels on my Technics equalizer to even out the bass and treble. 
As I sat on my pastel-colored canopy bed in my room covered with posters of Duran Duran, David Bowie, Paul Young and ponies, I listened to the lyrics and tried to understand what they meant.  For a young, white girl living a pretty sheltered life, the images of war, modern war, were largely unknown to me outside of a textbook. 
Other than the Iran hostages and the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan on the 6 o’clock news, politics and social injustices were not on my radar.  Current events, for me, consisted mainly of Princess Diana’s wedding, the launch of the space shuttle Columbia and Luke and Laura’s wedding on General Hospital.
I can't believe the news today
Oh, I can't close my eyes
And make it go away
How long...
How long must we sing this song
How long, how long...
'cause tonight...we can be as one
Tonight...

Broken bottles under children's feet
Bodies strewn across the dead end street
But I won't heed the battle call
It puts my back up
Puts my back up against the wall

Sunday, Bloody Sunday
That was pretty earthshattering stuff for my naïve, little ears.  Broken bottles under children’s feet?  Bodies strewn?  Could this be real?  These images scratched at the door of my closed-minded young brain.

And the battle's just begun
There's many lost, but tell me who has won
The trench is dug within our hearts
And mothers, children, brothers, sisters
Torn apart

Sunday, Bloody Sunday



That album, and that song, in particular, jolted me off of Planet Jennifer and jarred me into the reality of suffering in the world. My self-absorbed assumption that my problems were all-important seemed embarrassing and ludicrous.  I spent hours listening to that song, deciphering its code, as well as each song on that album.

New Year’s Day introduced me to the Polish solidarity movement.  Seconds warned me of the spread of nuclear weapons.  Two Hearts Beat As One stirred feelings of puppy love and dedication towards my first big crush.  40 (based on Psalm 40) stirred me to identify with Bono and his Irish Catholic roots, softening me to my plaid, Catholic schoolgirl’s skirt.
Thirty years later, I still appreciate the effect this work of music had on my growing mind back then.  It opened up a new world of thinking to me, opposite from the “don’t rock the boat” mentality I was being fed by my parents. 

It planted the seed of independent thought and the knowledge that it’s possible to protest things with which I would not agree. 
And every time I listen to it, even now, with kids strapped in car seats and goldfish crackers on the floorboards, I feel that familiar swell of wonder and rebellion rise up in me.  I can disagree.  I can make my voice heard.  I don’t have to go along.  And as much as I want my children to mind me, I hope they absorb some of this sentiment.
So for Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, Jr., this album took them to the top of the charts and garnered critical acclaim.  But they’ll never know the ripple effects their music had on millions of young minds across the world, myself included.
Happy 30th Anniversary, guys, and thank you for giving us what we needed.
 

Comments

  1. Wow...thirty years. It is hard to believe we are that old. Seems like yesterday. Great post.

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    1. Thanks! I know, we are super old :) And I'm pretty sure I am older than you!

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  2. Holy smokes, has it really been 30 years? Amazing.

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    1. Thirty years goes by fast, doesn't it?!

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  3. I love this post b/c we must be almost exactly the same age! Such a good trip down memory lane. And Argo was so much better for those of us that remember the Iran hostage crisis! I heart you!

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    1. Aw, thanks, Stacie! Nice to know you are a fellow old-timer! :)

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  4. I graduated from high school (not Catholic, but we did wear plaid uniform skirts) in 1986 and this post rocked me straight back to those years. Not a trip I was looking to take, but wonderful nonetheless; thank you.

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    1. Thank, Louise! Sometimes I miss the plaid skirts. It was nice to not have to think about what to wear everyday. Must be why I wear the same sweatpants all the time.

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  5. Love this album! I can't believe it's 30 year old. That makes me feel old...

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    1. It is a great album, isn't it? Thanks for reading.

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  6. 30 years? Really? I remember when that album came out... And you are right, it is brilliant. Way ahead of its time back then and still relevant now.

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    1. It's hard to remember back that far, but I do rememnber the effect it had on me.

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  7. Yeah I remember when I started actually hearing the lyrics in U2's earlier songs; it was heavy.

    On a lighter note: you had a CD player in '83?? Whoa!

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    1. You got me. My husband busted me after I posted it. I didn't buy the CD until 1985 when CD players came out. It WAS my first CD. I was just a little behind the times, which is still true to this day! That's what 30 years will do your brain...

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    2. Totally did not mean to bust you. I was just impressed that you had a CD player in the 80s. I feel like I didn't get one until the 90s!

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    3. My husband has decided he's going to be my editor now, ha! And BTW, I tried to comment on your blog but was not able. Never done Bikram yoga, but definitely running scared like a little girl! :)

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    4. Wait, why couldn't you comment? What happened?

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    5. It was weird...an empty box came up to comment in, but it wouldn't let me type in it, and there was no where to enter my name, email address, etc., and no publish button. It could be a problem on my end, maybe.

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    6. Oh boo :(

      And I don't blame you for not wanting to try Bikram yoga :P

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  8. I wish I could say that U2 made me more aware, but it didn't. In fact, while I like the album, I didn't own it - and I never really knew the words. My first 45 was Billy Squier's "Stroke Me" if that tells you anything. I didn't have a CD player until the mid-90s. I'm slow.

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  9. 30 years. I was in my sophomore year of college. It's funny. So much of what you listed there, place me right there at that place in time. But the U2 songs -- like Sunday, Bloody Sunday just makes me think of U2 and great music. It is really timeless. Enjoyed reading.

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  10. Ahh . . . love this post! Nice to know others for whom music is so important, and read their thoughts regarding music and how it has affected their lives. I just posted my first music interview (pertaining to sleep) with Kristin Hersh. Remember Throwing Muses? They're still going strong. I'm enjoying your work. Cheers!

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  11. My parents (please don't hate me) raised me on amazing music...like U2. Thanks to them I NEVER listened to boy bands. Full disclosure: I am 31. I graduated from high school in 1999.

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