U2: War: The Singles

Original Story by Aaron J. Sams (2018-03-01)

War was released on February 28, 1983. But the first taste of U2’s third album came with the release of first single “New Years Day” on January 10, 1983. “New Year’s Day” was released around the world on 7-inch and 12-inch. A CD single would also be released, but not for many years, eventually seeing light in the early 1990s.

The sleeve for “New Year’s Day” in most regions featured Peter Rowen, the boy pictured on the sleeve of Boy and War as well. On the cover he is holding a flag pole and looking at the camera with mouth slightly opened. The text on the front cover varied from grey to black, to red and orange. A few sleeves used different images. In Japan the cover of War was used, a 12-inch in France had a unique photo of the band, and the 12-inch in Portugal zoomed out on the photo of Rowen allowing us to see more of the overall photo.

The single did well in the charts, reaching #36 in Australia, #41 in the airplay charts in Canada (but failing to reach the sales charts), #2 in Ireland, #32 in New Zealand, and #10 in the UK Official charts. In the USA the song reached #53 in the Hot 100, #28 in the Rock Albums, and #2 in the Rock Top Tracks. In most cases these were the highest positions U2 had obtained to date, and the single was considered a success. “New Year’s Day” was kept from the top of the Irish charts by “Down Under” by Men at Work, preventing U2 from getting their first number one single with this release.

“New Year’s Day” has received many accolades over the years. In Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, it was ranked at #427 in December 2004, and at #435 in April 2010. Pitchfork also lists the song as part of their “500 Greatest Songs from Punk to Present” and the song was featured on John Peel’s Festive 50 in 1983. “New Year’s Day” also finished well in the Hot Press yearly awards, being listed at #2 for best single and #2 for best video.

The next single from War was released on March 21, just three weeks after the album. The song in most regions was “Two Hearts Beat As One.” This single was released worldwide, but not in The Netherlands, Germany, Spain, or Brazil, where “Sunday Bloody Sunday” was the second single instead. Japan released both singles. The single was released in 7-inch and 12-inch formats. No CD single was ever issued for “Two Hearts Beat As One.”

The single sleeve was a callback to the Boy album cover, with Peter Rowen standing with his hands behind his head. A red bar was used above the photo of Rowen for titles and other text, except in France where yellow was used instead.

The single didn’t do as well as “New Year’s Day” in the charts. In Australia the song reached #53 on the ARIA Charts. The song failed to chart in Canada and the USA. In New Zealand “Two Hearts Beat As One” reached #16, and it achieved that same number in the UK Official Charts. In Ireland the song reached #2, the same as “New Year’s Day.” This time it was David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” that prevented U2 from taking the top spot for the first time. (“Pride” would also miss the #1 spot in Ireland, and the first song that did chart at #1 at home was 1985’s “The Unforgettable Fire”).

“Two Hearts Beat as One” has few accolades, although it was ranked the #5 single of 1983 by Rip It Up magazine, placing it on a chart which didn’t include “New Year’s Day.”

In The Netherlands, Germany, Spain, and Brazil, “Sunday Bloody Sunday” was War‘s second single. That release used the same cover as “Two Hearts Beat as One” featuring Rowen. The song was also released in Japan, where a series of band photos was used instead to distinguish it from the “Two Hearts Beat as One” single. Unlike “Two Hearts,” “Sunday Bloody Sunday” was issued on CD in the early 1990s.

For a single that wasn’t widely released, “Sunday Bloody Sunday” has a number of impressive awards. On the Rolling Stone list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time it placed at #268 in December 2004 and at #272 in April 2010. The song is also listed on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame list of the “500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll” and was listed at #18 on the 40 Best Tracks of the 1980s by Q Magazine in 2006.

Those three songs were the only singles originally planned for the album. Then on August 20, 1983, U2 performed at the Rockpalast summer festival at the Loreley Ampitheatre in St. Goarshausen, Germany. The festival had been organized by the television station WDR and televised in Germany. The band’s strong performance at the festival garnered a lot of positive press for U2, and they were urged to capitalize on that press by releasing something quickly in Germany.

Accordingly, a commercial single was prepared for War‘s final track, “40.” The release was pressed exclusively for the German market. It contained a slight edit of the album track, and the b-side was “Two Hearts Beat As One,” which had not been issued as a single in Germany. The front of the sleeve featured a promotional note that read “Die Entdeckung der Loreley ’83” which translates to “The Discovery of Loreley ’83.” The single was rushed into production and was released in Germany on August 29, 1983. On the cover, the song is titled, “>40< (How Long).” The single failed to chart in Germany but it helped cement that country’s affection for U2, a feeling that continues to this day.

One interesting release in 1983 was a cassette single issued in Japan titled “For You.” This release featured a unique cover with a photo of the band, and featured a generous seven tracks collected from both the “New Year’s Day” and “Two Hearts Beat As One” single releases. The format was a bit of a novelty at that time, and we believe it is the earliest cassette single of U2’s career, as the cassette format for “Three” did not appear until 1985.

There was another single issued in 1983, one final release for the USA market to support Under a Blood Red Sky. The live version of “I Will Follow” was released to radio and commercially, with a special edit for radio that reduced the crowd noise that could be heard on the track. “I Will Follow (Live)” reached #81 on the Billboard Hot 100.

If you are interested in more information about any of these releases, including track listings, alternate covers, and other variations, we suggest a visit to our discography for the entries related to War:

We’ve also published a couple of other articles celebrating the 35th anniversary of War:

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