“We knew there was something special there.” That’s how the drummer Larry Mullen Jr described the War album on the “U2 By U2” book. And he was right. One of the most iconic albums of the band is turning 40, and some songs are so powerful that they’re still in the list of fans’ favorites and playing out there.
“Personally, politically and musically, U2 would declare their independence. Loud, angry and demanding, the War album and tour would see U2 triumph,” said Niall Stokes on the “U2: The Stories Behind Every U2 Song”.
It’s incredible to think that the members of U2 were in the early 20’s when they created these songs. The sound of the band and the lyrics are very characteristics since those days. Politics, love and spirituality, three basic elements of U2’s career, are very present in this album. I could write an essay about each song of War. Don’t worry, I won’t. My intention is only to celebrate this great album. So, I’ll choose three songs that I think represent very well the U2 themes.
“Sunday Bloody Sunday”
Maybe that’s the most famous U2 song. It’s inspired by the massacre that occurred in Northern Ireland, in 1972, when 14 innocent people died. The military drum beat is so good; it’s like a Larry’s brand. This marching style was developed when he played in the Artane Boys Band and in the Post Office Workers Band, when he was a kid. I need to say that in my teenage years I used this part as my ringtone.
The song became an anthem when played live. There are several moments I could recall that turned to some of the most important of U2’s career. Such as, the memorable show Live at Red Rocks, the historic concert at Live Aid, the powerful speech that Bono made during Rattle and Hum, or Innocence and Experience tours with the stage illuminated with the colors of Ireland’s flag.
“Two Hearts Beat As One”
Some people say Paul McGuinness was U2’s fifth member, and I agree. And what about Ali Hewson? She’s probably the muse. I can’t imagine how the band would be without her. Not only for being a supporter to Bono and the rest of the boys, but there are so many songs dedicated to her. I’m afraid to say that most of the romantic songs of the band are inspired by her. Love songs could be silly and cheesy, but that’s not the case.
The video was filmed outside the Basilica of Sacré-Couer de Montmartre in Paris — “the city of love” — with scenes featuring Peter Rowen, the boy from the cover of Boy, War, The Best Of 1980–1990.
For a long time, U2 has been called a “Christian group”. Personally, I think U2 is more than that. However, it’s very clear the band has a religious side. Adam Clayton was the only one who didn’t join Shalom — charismatic community. Bono and The Edge mainly questioned their faith versus the rock and roll lifestyle, and the band almost broke up during “October” time. So, it’s inevitable to say that spirituality has a big role in their work, and many songs have biblical references.
The lyrics are lifted from Psalm 40. Like a prayer, the How long must we sing this song? part from “Sunday Bloody Sunday” is repeated here in the final track of the album. During some tours, this song was chosen to be played at the end of the shows. In a cathartic way, the audience starts to sing the chorus while the members of the band are leaving the stage, one by one, until Larry is the only one left. After all, it’s the “Larry Mullen Band,” right?His final drum solo means a goodbye, but at the same time it links the band and the fans into an endless connection, since the people continue to sing it even without U2. A very emotional way to finish the shows, and this incredible album.
By Fernanda Bottini
Massive U2 fan who writes about the Irish group for about 20 years