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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sunday Bloody Sunday

First things first, I want to take the opportunity to wish all of you readers a very happy St. Patrick's Day. It's the day of the year in which we're all a little bit Irish, even if we really aren't. To get into the spirit of St. Patrick's Day, I've turned this entire blog entry green for today. And, hey, check out the themed logo for today as well!

Cool, huh? I was also made a banner picture for my own personal Facebook page, and I want to thank reader Katherine R. from Florida for taking the time out to make this special banner for me!

Very Irish looking, don't you think?

So, March 17 has been St. Patrick's Day for as long as I can remember, and decades before that as well. And, as long as I can remember, St. Patrick's Day has three major symbols...leprechauns, shamrocks, and green-tinted beverages.

Particularly those of the alcoholic variety.

Therefore, it's easy to forget that St. Patrick's Day is just more than Shamrock Shakes, green beer, Grasshoppers, and lime Jell-O shooters. For people who have Irish blood in them, St. Patrick's Day is a day in which they celebrate their Irish heritage.

And, in some cases, that Irish history has not been kind. One such incident occurred on January 30, 1972, in the community of Derry.

On that afternoon, a march was being held by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA), and during the march, the crowd was shot at by soldiers of the British Army. By the end of the day, thirteen people were dead (some as young as seventeen years of age), and a fourteenth would die some time later. Thirteen more were left injured in the melee. The shootings (later dubbed as “Bloody Sunday”) were a key event that displayed the turmoil that was going on in Northern Ireland at the time, and what was shocking about the event was the fact that many of those who were wounded and killed were shot in front of the public and the press – the latter having a field day with coverage of the deadly happenings.

Since “Bloody Sunday” took place 41 years ago, the British government launched two separate investigations into the matter, and the Widgery Tribunal declared that the British soldiers responsible for the shootings would not face any charges for the fourteen people who died on that day. And, this caused a lot of controversy in the eyes of the general public. In 1998, the Saville Inquiry re-investigated the events of January 30, 1972, and after a twelve-year investigation, it was revealed that because those who were shot were unarmed, it could lead to criminal investigations into the soldiers responsible for the attacks. The Saville Inquiry revealed that the shootings were unjustified, and British Prime Minister David Cameron issued a formal apology on behalf of the United Kingdom thirty-eight years after “Bloody Sunday”.

However, I'm sure a lot of people who were living in Ireland at the time won't ever forget what happened. Certainly not the families of John Duddy, Patrick Doherty, Bernard McGuigan, Hugh Gilmour, Kevin McElhinney, Michael Kelly, John Young, William Nash, Michael McDaid, James Wray, Gerald Donaghy, James McKinney, William McKinney, and John Johnston.

And, certainly not the featured band that we're spotlighting in the Sunday Jukebox for this week. Eleven years after the events of “Bloody Sunday”, in 1983, a band recorded a song about the tragedy, and it became one of the songs that helped catapult the band into mainstream success. And, wouldn't you know it? The band happens to be based out of Ireland!

Here's the song in question below. The discussion will follow afterwards.

SONG: Sunday Bloody Sunday
DATE RELEASED: March 11, 1983

It seems hard to believe, but in September 2012, U2 celebrated their thirty-sixth year of playing together as a band! Thirty-six years! Most bands don't last that long together. Heck, a lot of marriages these days don't see thirty-six years!

The date was September 25, 1976, and Larry Mullen Jr. (then fourteen) was interested in starting up a band. He posted a notice for all musicians interested in helping him form a band on his school's bulletin board, and six people responded.

Two of the six were Mullen's childhood friends, Peter Martin and Ivan McCormick, but both left the band after just a few weeks. Richard “Dik” Evans also became a member of the band along with his brother David “The Edge” Evans. Dik Evans stayed with the band until March of 1978, but “The Edge” remained, playing guitar. Adam Clayton also responded to the ad, and became the band's bass guitarist. As for the lead singer role, well, Mullen had intended to become the frontman (even naming his band “The Larry Mullen Band”), but when Paul Hewson (a.k.a. Bono) came in to audition, Mullen came to the realization that Bono had become the leader of the band, and with that, Mullen became the band's drummer and percussionist.

TRIVIA: Did you know that the band originally called themselves “The Hype” when they began performing? They changed their name to “U2” shortly before Dik Evans left the band, claiming that of the half-dozen suggestions given to them by a family friend of Adam Clayton, “U2” was the one they disliked the least!

Appropriately enough, U2 ended up getting the break they needed exactly thirty-five years ago today, on March 17, 1978. That was the date that they won a talent show in Limerick, Ireland. They won a cash prize, plus a recording session in which the band could record a demo tape to be sent to record label CBS Ireland. They recorded their demo two months later, secured a manager (Paul McGuinness), and by 1979, had began performing outside of Ireland. By the time the 1980s began, the band had secured a recording contract with Island Records, had released their first album, “Boy”, in October 1980, and the rest is history.

In their thirty-six years together as a band, U2 have released a dozen studio albums, sold 150 million records worldwide, and have won twenty-two Grammy Awards (the record for most Grammy Awards won by a single band). They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005, and are spokespeople for such organizations as Amnesty International, Product Red, and Music Rising.

PERSONAL CONFESSION: One of the very first albums I remember buying in my childhood was U2's 1991 album “Achtung Baby”. I bought it on cassette format, and I still have it!

Of course, we're not here to talk about “Achtung”. We're here to talk about “War”. The single that you heard above was the first single from the band's 1983 album “War”, and it was definitely one of the most political songs that the band ever released. The song's lyrics detailed the conflict within Northern Ireland, with the song title coming from that deadly day in January 1972. In an interview that Larry Mullen Jr. did in 1983, he spoke about the song's meaning;

We're into the politics of people, we're not into politics. Like you talk about Northern Ireland, 'Sunday Bloody Sunday,' people sort of think, 'Oh, that time when 13 Catholics were shot by British soldiers'; that's not what the song is about. That's an incident, the most famous incident in Northern Ireland and it's the strongest way of saying, 'How long? How long do we have to put up with this?' I don't care who's who - Catholics, Protestants, whatever. You know people are dying every single day through bitterness and hate, and we're saying why? What's the point? And you can move that into places like El Salvador and other similar situations - people dying. Let's forget the politics, let's stop shooting each other and sit around the table and talk about it... There are a lot of bands taking sides saying politics is crap, etc. Well, so what! The real battle is people dying, that's the real battle.”

I can't say that I disagree with that. And, Mullen was only twenty-one when he gave that interview! Very introspective.

The song itself was written slowly and gradually. The composition grew from a guitar riff that The Edge had come up with one day in 1982. He continued to work on the song while his bandmate Bono was on his honeymoon in Jamaica, and during this period, he ended up getting into an argument with his girlfriend, which left him feeling depressed, and doubtful of his own songwriting abilities.

He did what a lot of other artists have done when they were feeling angry, frustrated, and upset. He channeled those feelings into a piece of music. Those lyrics would become the blueprint for “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, and when Bono returned from his honeymoon, he rewrote some of the lyrics to fit the theme that The Edge had come up with in the original rough copy. The song was recorded at the Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin in late 1982.

TRIVIA: Believe it or not, the violin that you hear in the song was performed by Steve Wickham, who approached The Edge at an Irish bus stop asking him if the band needed a violinist for their new album! The bold move worked, and Wickham was brought into the studio for half a day to finish recording the song!

The song was first performed in December 1982 at a concert in Glasgow, Scotland, and shortly after that performance, the band was booked at a concert in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Belfast gig was one that made all four band members very nervous, and Bono had promised everybody in the venue that if they didn't like the song, they would never play it again.

So, what if I tell you that the song has been performed well over six hundred times by the band on each of their various tours since its initial release thirty years ago? I'd say that the response to the song was quite good.

That's a testament to the band performing it.

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