There are two Bloody Sundays in Irish history. The first was in 1920 when British troops fired into the crowd at a football match in Dublin in retaliation for the killing of British undercover agents. The second was on January 30, 1972, when British paratroopers killed 13 Irish citizens at a civil rights protest in Derry, Northern Ireland. The song is more about the second Bloody Sunday.
Céire - Dublin, Ireland
The lyrics are a nonpartisan condemnation of the historic bloodshed in Ireland - politics is not something you want to discuss in Ireland. Bono's lyrics in the song are more about interpersonal struggles than about the actual Bloody Sunday events.
Bono used to introduce this at concerts by saying, "This is not a rebel song."
U2 has played several times at Croke Park, the site of the 1920 Bloody Sunday in Dublin. They first performed there in 1985 on the Unforgettable Fire tour.
Bono started writing this with political lyrics condemning the Irish Republican Army (the IRA), a militant group dedicated to getting British troops out of Northern Ireland. He changed them to point out the atrocities of war without taking sides.
Following "New Year's Day
" and "Two Hearts Beat As One
," this was the third single from War
, the third U2 album and the one that made them a household name, at least in households where musically aware young people lived. None of these songs were huge hits, but they all earned some airplay and energized the band's live shows, which were still at theaters and similar-sized outdoor venues at this point. Word-of-mouth helped them snowball into bona fide superstars by the end of the decade.
Bono was trying to contrast the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre with Easter Sunday, a peaceful day Protestants and Catholics both celebrate.
While performing this, Bono would wave a white flag as a call for peace. This became an enduring image thanks to the music video, which was taken from a live performance that's part of their Live at Red Rocks: Under a Blood Red Sky concert film. The concert took place June 5, 1983 at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado. Directed by Gavin Taylor, it captures the live energy of the band as they fight through the wind and rain to deliver a high-energy performance. At this time, U2 liked their videos shot outdoors in a natural setting.
The version on the live album Under A Blood Red Sky was recorded at the Rockpalast festival in Germany on August 20, 1983.
Larry Mullen's drums were recorded in a staircase of their Dublin recording studio. Producer Steve Lillywhite was trying to get a full sound with a natural echo.
Steve Wickham, who went on to join The Waterboys, played the electric fiddle on this track.
This took on new meaning as the conflict in Northern Ireland continued through the '90s.
U2 recorded this in Denver for their Rattle And Hum movie on November 8, 1987. This was the same day as the Enniskillen massacre, where 13 people in Northern Ireland were killed by a bomb detonated by the Irish Republican Army (the IRA). Angered by these events, U2 gave a very emotional performance.
War was the third and final U2 album produced by Steve Lillywhite, who rarely worked with artists on more than two albums but made an exception here. Lillywhite had only been producing for a few years when he started working with U2, which helped in that he was close to their age and didn't try to fit them into conventional strictures.
In 2003, The Edge inducted The Clash into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In his speech, he said, "There is no doubt in my mind that "Sunday Bloody Sunday" wouldn't - and couldn't - have been written if not for The Clash."
A live version of this song plays during the end credits of the 2002 movie Bloody Sunday
, which is a documentary-style drama recreating the events of January 30,1972 in Derry, Ireland. It stars James Nesbitt (you may remember him as "Pig Finn" from Waking Ned Devine
) as a local Member of Parliament who is involved with the Civil Rights Movement.
Jet - Seatown, ST