Bono's lyric was inspired by his mother, who died in 1974 when he was 14. Bono calls it "a song about unconditional love."
The love he refers to is between a mother and a child, how no matter what the child does, the mother will still love him. There is a biblical component to the song as well, as it's an analog to the love of God as expressed in Romans 8:39: "In neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God."
This was the first song on the first U2 album. It was released as a single at the same time as the album Boy.
This song is an example of what would become The Edge's distinctive guitar style. He felt he could play only a few notes, but make it work by finding the right ones.
The spiritual themes in the lyrics were typical of early U2. Bono, The Edge, and Larry Mullen were members of a devout Christian group.
U2's first music video was for this song. Directed by Meiert Avis, is shows the band performing the song in front of a giant image of the album cover. It's one of those unfortunate early '80s videos that used green screen before it could produce a clean key, so there are some ugly edges on the band, who are superimposed in front of the image.
For sound effects, bottles were thrown on the floor and bicycle wheels were spun and hit with bottles and knives.
Bill - Johnstown, PA
A glockenspiel, which is a percussion instrument similar to a xylophone, was used on this track.
A concert favorite, this appears on their live album Under A Blood Red Sky.
Bono sings the lyrics from a mother's point of view. "I know that's mad but I have done it a few times," he says. "But if you step out of that for a second and think it's a song about my own mother, it becomes a suicide note - 'If you leave me, I'm coming after you.' This is mind-blowing to me looking back. What drugs were we on? None!"
"'I Will Follow' came out of a screaming argument in the rehearsal room," Bono recalls in the book U2 by U2. "I remember trying to make a sound I heard in my head, and taking Edge's guitar from him and hammering away. It was literally coming out of a kind of rage, the sound of a nail being hammered into your frontal lobe."
What happened to the boy on the album cover? His name is Peter Rowen and he is the younger brother of Bono's friend, Guggi, a one-time member of the goth/post-punk band The Virgin Prunes. Peter also appeared on several other of U2's release covers and is now a renowned Irish photographer.
The Replacements recorded an answer song to this called "Kids Don't Follow" on their 1982 album Stink.
Collective Soul played this at Woodstock '99. Other groups who played it from time to time include Third Eye Blind and Hootie & the Blowfish.
Bertrand - Paris, France