New year's day - U2 - 80sneverend - New year, new life

New year, new life

U2 – New Year’s Day

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
#U2 #NewYearsDay

When a song has a title like this, it is destined to become the New Year’s song of the 80s, a bit like Last Christmas, but a week later, let’s say. And just as Last Christmas is not the classic Christmas song, New Year’s Day is not a song to wish everyone a happy new year. New Year’s Day was released in mid-January 1983, and was the single that preceded the release of War, U2’s third album.

At the time U2 had naturally gained some popularity in Ireland and the UK, but it the album War began to bring their fame to the rest of Europe. In fact this song was U2’s first hit to enter the top ten in Europe, and also the American charts, albeit in lower positions. It must be said, however, that even if they weren’t very famous, U2 were already very serious in the lyrics of their songs, and above all very focused on the historical and political evolution throughout Europe.

New Year’s Day was born as a love song written by Bono for his recently married wife Ali. During the writing and creation, however, the song was modified and also took inspiration from the events of the time. In particular, Poland, which at the time was naturally part of the communist world, was experiencing a period of great tension.

In fact, starting from 1980, the activities of the famous union Solidarność, a word that means “solidarity” in Polish, had begun to put the regime in difficulty, with activities that were never violent but always of protest, strike and opposition, supported by almost ten million members. The following year, general Jaruzelski (a name known to dinosaurs who listened to the news of the 1980s) centralized power with a military coup, instituted martial law, suspended the union’s activities by law and ordered to arrest the president, Lech Wałęsa.

And this is precisely what Bono must have thought, according to an old interview: that while he and his wife could live their love peacefully, Wałęsa’s wife could not do so, due to the growing restrictions and above all the arrest of her husband.

The lyrics of the song, although not explicit, hope for a silent crowd with entwined arms who learn from the newspapers that people can be together again; on this, Bono and his companions were real prophets because, when they recorded the song in the last months of 1982, they could not imagine that on New Year’s Day 1983 General Jaruzelski would cancel martial law, thus allowing the activities of Solidarność and setting Wałęsa free.

So the song came out a few days after the expressed wish had already become reality, even though there was still a lot to do for freedom in Poland and for the Solidarność trade union, before being able to see Wałęsa as president of the republic and to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall and of the communist regimes which occurred at the end of the 80s, and which was evoked in the beautiful Wind of Change by the Scorpions.

Musically, the song was recorded quite quickly. In an interview, U2 recalled how the bass line was born from some attempts by bassist Adam Clayton to replicate the bass of Visage’s Fade to Grey during one of the soundchecks.

The video for New Year’s Day is very particular; to recall the cold lands of Poland and perhaps also the freezing of democracy, U2 decided to set it in a place with a lot of snow, and chose Stockholm. Of course, we know that the weather in the 80s, just like today, absolutely did not like to be dictated or predicted, so during the filming period in Stockholm there was very little snow.

U2, together with director Meiert Avis, the Irishman who would direct almost all of their great videos as well as several videos of Bruce Springsteen, the Thompson Twins and many others, thus decided to move a little further inland, precisely to Sälen and Mora, near the border with Norway, the cities where the most important ski marathon in the world starts and ends, and there they were finally able to shoot the video, on 15 December 1982.

In Sälen, they found snow and a fantastic mountain scenario for their video, but they also found it very cold, so U2 had to film the scenes in which they sing the song well covered. Bono, however, refused to wear a hat, he wanted to have a free head and hair, but due to the cold he had several difficulties in simulating the playback of the song: he was probably shaking from the cold!

In the opening scenes we see four people riding between snow and trees: everything suggests that they are U2, but in fact they were stunt doubles, specifically local girls who knew how to move on horseback in that climate. In fact, U2 were not expert riders, and being between one stage and another of their tour, they decided that it was too risky to ride in those conditions without experience.

The images of U2 singing in the snow and the four people on horseback with white flags are interspersed with old images of Soviet army soldiers.

In short, with New Year’s Day not only did change the course of 1983 for U2, but even their whole career changed, and began that climb that would then be supported by other huge successes, starting with Sunday Bloody Sunday and Pride (In the Name of Love). New Year’s Day still remains one of the songs most loved by U2 fans, and one of the most performed in the group’s concerts. Furthermore, the title of their first major concert film, U2 Live at Red Rocks: Under a Blood Red Sky, was taken from a verse of this song.

If it is true that the beginning of a new year can lead to the beginning of a new life, 1983 with New Year’s Day had truly brought new and infinite opportunities to U2, who were then able to seize them and to build their incredible and eternal career.

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