"New Year's Day" - U2


Track Listing:

Background Information

Released in January, 1983, “New Year’s Day” was U2’s first single from the War album, which would hit shops the following month. The song was inspired by the Solidarity movement in Poland. The single was released around the world on 7-inch vinyl, with pressings in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Guatemala, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, UK and USA. A 12-inch vinyl was also released throughout Europe, in Japan, and eventually, in Canada. In the early 90s, a CD version of the 12-inch was released in Austria. On most versions of the single, the sleeve featured a photo of Peter Rowan (the same boy pictured on the Boy and War sleeves). While the full image depicts Rowan holding a flag, on most versions of the sleeve the flag is cropped out. The sleeve text ranges from red to orange to variations of black and grey, depending on the format and territory. The Japan 7-inch sleeve featured the War cover image instead, with text along the side. A 12-inch pressed in France had a unique photo of the band surrounded by a black border on the sleeve, rather than a photo of Rowan. Finally, the 12-inch in Portugal used the photo of Rowan, but less cropped than in other territories, revealing more details of the original image.

The single was U2’s first to chart on the Billboard Hot 100. It received significant airplay around the world and charted in many regions. It was kept out of the number one position in Ireland by the song “Down Under” by Men at Work and peaked at #2 at home. The 7-inch single featured a shortened version of the song, running 3:53. The longer album version, at 5:35, was used on the 12-inch single. A different edit of the track, running 3:40, was used for the 7-inch in France. Yet another edit, running 4:16 and labeled the “Special Version,” was released on the Japanese 7-inch single. The 7-inch was backed in most regions with “Treasure (Whatever Happened to Pete the Chop?)” on the B-side. Pete the Chop was reportedly a friend of a friend of the band who once requested that a song be written about him, and so U2 delivered with a tune simply titled “Pete the Chop.” When considering it for release, however, the band determined that it was too “poppy,” and chose to re-record and rearrange it completely, resulting in the version that appeared as a B-side to “New Year’s Day” with the added title “Treasure.”

To fill out the 12-inch singles in most regions, the band chose songs from a live appearance at the Rock Werchter Festival in Werchter, Belgium, during The October Tour. Three songs were released, including “Fire,” “I Threw a Brick Through a Window,” and “A Day Without Me.” On the eventual CD release, “I Threw a Brick” and “A Day Without Me” were mixed together as one track. “Treasure” was also included on the 12-inch single. The live tracks were also released on a second 7-inch as part of a 7-inch double-pack in the UK, and later on the Austrian CD single. A 12-inch in France, released at the same time that “Two Hearts Beat as One” was released in that country and featuring a very different sleeve (see above), would feature the Francois Kervorkian remixes of “New Year’s Day” and “Two Hearts Beat as One.”

The Meiert Avis-directed video for “New Year’s Day” was filmed on location in Sweden. It depicts the band performing on a snowy landscape, interspersed with clips of four riders on horseback in the same setting. Although dressed with their faces covered to appear as if they are the members of U2, these “horsemen” are actually four teenage girls. The band was still frozen as a result of shooting the performance clips in the snow the day before, so they enlisted the four teens to stand in for them on the horses. The clip also incorporates archival footage of Soviet troops in winter. Two versions of the video were produced. The longer clip includes extra footage of the band performing around a camp fire at night. The shorter version cuts from the guitar solo directly to the fade-out with the riders on horses, eliminating the footage of U2 playing at night. The video was one of U2’s earliest to get extensive play on US and Canadian television. The shorter clip is the version with which most viewers are familiar, as it was frequently played on MTV. However, the long version is featured on both The Best of 1980-1990 VHS and U2: 18 Videos DVD.

“New Year’s Day” made its live debut on December 1, 1982 in Glasgow, Scotland, a month before the single release and well in advance of the War album. The song has been a staple of live performances ever since, appearing regularly on The War Tour, The Unforgettable Fire Tour, The Conspiracy of Hope Tour, The Joshua Tree Tour, The Lovetown Tour, The Zoo TV Tour, The PopMart Tour, The Elevation Tour, and The Vertigo Tour. During The U2360° Tour, the song debuted in Dublin, Ireland (midway through the first leg), but only appeared at a handful of shows throughout the remainder of the tour. During 2015’s Innocence and Experience Tour the song was performed at just three concerts. On The Joshua Tree 2017 tour, “New Year’s Day” was performed during every show. “Treasure” has never been performed live, although the earlier song “Pete the Chop” was part of U2’s early set lists.

“New Year’s Day” has appeared on many releases, including The Best of 1980-1990 and 18 Singles compilations. “Treasure” was not included on any other releases until the 2008 remaster of the War album, where it featured on the deluxe edition. (The live b-sides from Werchter, “Fire” and “I Threw a Brick Through a Window/A Day Without Me,” were also included on this release.) The “US Remix” of “New Year’s Day” was featured on the “Two Hearts Beat as One” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday” singles. Remixes by Ferry Corsten were developed for a possible release to celebrate New Year’s 2000, but the idea was scrapped at the time. However, the “Ferry Corsten Extended Vocal Mix” and the “Ferry Corsten Vocal Radio Mix” would finally see release almost a decade later on the deluxe reissue of War. Many live versions of the song have been issued, including a version from August 20, 1983 in West Germany on Under a Blood Red Sky; a version from Paris, France on July 4, 1987 on Live from Paris; a version from Dublin, Ireland on December 31, 1989 on the Love: Live from the Point Depot section of The Complete U2 release on iTunes; a November 27, 1993 performance from Sydney, Australia on the Zoo TV Live fan club album (which was itself based on the Zoo TV Live from Sydney video); a performance from December 3, 1997 in Mexico City on the Hasta La Vista Baby! fan club album (and the Popmart: Live from Mexico City video); and a September 1, 2001 performance in Dublin, Ireland on the U2 Go Home: Live from Slane Castle fan club album (as well as the DVD of the same name). In 2011, members of the U2 Fan Club were given the opportunity to vote on 46 live tracks recorded during The U2360° Tour, with the top 22 songs to be included on a live album, U22. “New Year’s Day” was one of these choices. In the end, however, the song did not receive enough votes to appear on the final live compilation. The following year, the Edge picked his favorite tracks from the remaining 46 live tracks, and “New Year’s Day” recorded in Dublin, Ireland on July 27, 2009 was included on From the Ground Up: Edge’s Picks.

Liner Notes

New Year’s Day: Produced by Steve Lillywhite. Recorded at Windmill Lane Studios, Dublin.
Treasure (Whatever Happened to Pete the Chop): Produced by Steve Lillywhite. Recorded at Windmill Lane Studios, Dublin.
New Year’s Day (Long Version): Produced by Steve Lillywhite. Recorded at Windmill Lane Studios, Dublin.
New Year’s Day (US Remix): Re-mixed by Francois Kervorkian at Sigma Sound NYC. Re-Mix engineer: John Potoker. Produced by Steve Lillywhite.
Two Hearts Beat as One (Club Version): Re-mixed by Francois Kervorkian at Sigma Sound NYC. Remix engineer: John Potoker. Assisted by Glenn Rosenstein. Produced by Steve Lillwhite.
Live tracks mixed by Steve Lillywhite, assisted by Andy Lyden. Recorded live in Werchter, Belgium, July 1982 by I.D. TV and Film productions, Amsterdam. Produced by Harry de Winter. Taken from soundtrack to TV special “U2 Live at Werchter” Available through I.D. TV and Film Productions.


Photography by Ian Finlay. Make Up Guggi.

Recognition and Awards

  • #427 on 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (Rolling Stone, December 2004)
  • #435 on 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (Rolling Stone, April 2010)
  • Listed on 500 Greatest Songs from Punk to Present (Pitchfork, 2007)
  • #41 on John Peel’s Festive Fifty (1983)
  • #2 Best Single, 1983 Awards (Hot Press, Spring 1984)
  • #2 Best Video, 1983 Awards (Hot Press, Spring 1984)
  • #9 Best Single, 1983 Awards (Sounds Magazine, 1983)
  • #7 on Top 50 Favorite Songs Listeners Poll (RTE Radio 2, Christmas 1983)
  • #4 on Favorite Songs, Worldwide Poll of U2 Fans (U2 Magazine, Issue 12, 1984)
  • #6 Best Single, NME Music Poll (NME 1984)

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