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Album: WarReleased: 1983
This was the last song written for the album. They had already used an extra week of studio time and needed one more song in a hurry, so Bono opened a bible, read from Psalm 40 of Psalms of David, and they put it to music.
The last song on War
, it invokes the first track, "Sunday Bloody Sunday
," with the refrain "How long must we sing this song."
At a concert in Chicago on April 29, 1987, Bono said: "This is a song that when we were being thrown out of the studio... we spent ten minutes writing this next song, ten minutes recording it, ten minutes mixing it, ten minutes playing it back, and that's nothing to do with why it's called '40.'"
U2's bass player Adam Clayton was not available when they recorded this, so The Edge played both guitar and bass.
U2 closed most of their concerts in the '80s with this. They did so on many of their 2005 shows as well.
Dave Stewart of Eurythmics had his first encounter with Bono when the U2 lead singer pulled Stewart on stage during a show in Ireland's Phoenix Park in 1983. He handed Stewart a microphone and had him join in on the song. Stewart recounts in The Dave Stewart Songbook
, "I was mortified - not knowing the lyrics, I stood there frozen, staring out at a sea of Irish faces. Since then I have been lucky enough to become a friend of the band and their families, and I must say they are all real, down-to-earth, caring individuals."
Producer Steve Lillywhite on the slapdash recording session: "We had to leave the studio at seven in the morning 'cause there was this other band that were starting then. It was incredible - Bono was singing 'New Year's Day
' with this other band waiting outside! We'd not even started mixing it yet. Bono was doing the vocal while we were doing the mixing, and we got out by seven. 'New Year's Day' was mixed in ten minutes."