By THE ENTHUSIAST
"New Year’s Day" was the first single released from U2’s third album, War. Though the lyrics are hardly torn from the headlines ("Under a blood red sky, a crowd has gathered -- black and white, arms entwined, the chosen few – the newspaper says it’s true, it’s true") the song is said to have been written about the Solidarity movement that was gaining strength at the time in Poland, though honestly they might just as well have been impressions of Agincourt or attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. It was the band’s first top-ten hit in the UK, and reached number 53 in the United States.
I Want My MTV
Readers of a certain age can attest that "New Year’s Day" was one of the first relentlessly repeated blockbusters on MTV, the music video cable channel that had launched just a year and a half earlier. Shots of the band tromping through the snow in Scandinavia seemed to play every time you switched over to the channel. Indeed this may not be an exaggeration; it’s entirely possible that MTV simply played "New Year’s Day" and nothing else from January 1983 to roughly mid-summer 1984.
Speaking of the video, you may recall that it begins with shots of the band on horseback galloping through the woods. Except it wasn’t the band at all. Director Meiert Avis hired four local girls to stand in for U2, swaddling the teenagers so thoroughly in coats and scarves that they easily passed for four Dublin boys loping by.
My Name Is Ozymandias, King Of Kings
"New Year’s Day" was recorded at Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin, which puts The Enthusiast in mind of an another act popular in the Irish capital. Some years ago The Enthusiast and Mrs. Enthusiast were ambling through Dublin when The Enthusiast happened to spot a blue metal sign almost completely covered in vines at the back of a vacant lot. Intrigued, The Enthusiast waded through the bramble and cleared the ivy away. The sign read: “Handel’s Messiah was first performed here on April 13th, 1742.” Nothing beside remains. Round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretch far away
We Can Break Through
"Nothing changes on New Year’s Day," Bono sings in one of the band’s bleaker lyrics. But, astonishingly, that simply wasn’t true. The communist government in Poland bowed to the demands of Lech Wałęsa’s Solidarity movement and declared the end of martial law on New Year’s Day 1983, just weeks after the band had finished recording the song. Wałęsa, formerly an electrician at the Gdańsk (née Lenin) Shipyard, would go on to become a Nobel laureate and the president of a newly democratic Poland. Sometimes, it turns out, everything changes on New Year’s Day.
Number twenty-nine in a series.
29 December 2020
The Enthusiast (email@example.com) is the pen name of critic Michael Collins. He reports back only on what’s good, never what’s bad. He is currently imbued with the holiday spirit.