Marking the 50th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday massacre, U2 bandmates The Edge and Bono have released an alternate version of ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’, a track that was first heard on the band’s seminal War album in 1983.
Larry Mullen Jr. doesn’t feature on this performance, so this rendition lacks the drum propulsion of the original, although it does hold the stop/start harmony strategy fans will recognise from the tune. Like every U2 song, the track is credited to all four members, but this effort is said to be almost entirely The Edge’s alone. By channelling his fear and self-loathing into a fiery piece of music, The Edge decided to aim the work at the conflict that was still going on in Northern Ireland during the 1980s.
U2 felt that they were the perfect band to comment about relations, considering that they themselves were a mixture of nationalities. Mullen Jr. grew up in a Catholic household in Ireland, while The Edge, who was the son of Protestant ex-pats, had a very different experience of Ireland. All were opposed to the war, and an exasperated Bono announced in 1988: “I’ve had enough of Irish Americans who haven’t been back to their country in twenty or thirty years come up to me and talk about the resistance, the revolution back home…and the glory of the revolution…and the glory of dying for the revolution. Fuck the revolution! They don’t talk about the glory of killing for the revolution. What’s the glory in taking a man from his bed and gunning him down in front of his wife and his children? Where’s the glory in that?”.
‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ references the massacre that occurred in 1972, as 13 protestors were shot dead by British soldiers who were situated in Derry. The incident caused many in mainland Britain to question the innocence of their country’s military. Paul McCartney’s ‘Give Ireland Back To The Irish’ was his response to the shootings, and it was a tune Kevin Rowland applauded in his interview with Far Out. “I remember hearing ‘Give Ireland Back to the Irish’ in a club,” he admitted in 2020. “I must have been seventeen. It was too fucking right of McCartney to release the song. Lennon was good for that too: ‘…Bloody Sunday’, ‘Luck of the Irish’.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron issued a public apology on behalf of his government for the killings in 1972. “Unjustified and unjustifiable means let’s not go on arguing about this, what happened was wrong, full stop, end of and let’s make a proper apology.”
“Sometimes with these sort of events politicians,” Cameron continued, “And I can be guilty of this – qualify the apology or shade around the edges. On this occasion, it needed to be absolutely direct and clear.”
Stream the new version of ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ below.