"New Year's Day" [04:17]
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There are two edits of this video. The most common, sometimes called the long version is 04:17 in length. It includes footage of the band at the end playing at night around a campfire. A second, shorter edit was made for MTV to cut the song down in time, and this version cuts from the guitar solo to the fade out with the band on horses editing out the footage of U2 playing at night around the camp fire. MTV aired this shorter version most often.
The video opens with an aerial shot of snowy woods in Sweden. The first thirty seconds of the video are letter boxed, before becoming a 4:3 ratio picture for the remainder of the video. We then see four figures on horseback with white flags in the snow, and then switch to a scene of U2 bundled up for the cold, performing in the snow with the white flag behind them. There are also aerial shots of the band performing in the snow. As the video progresses, the footage of the band in Sweden is inter cut with black and white footage of Russian soldiers on foot and in tank during World War II, including footage of explosions and tanks being fired. We return to footage of the band, and the sky behind them is now red. Whether this is due to a sunset or a special effect added by Avis is unclear, although he used similar techniques in U2’s video for “Gloria”. There are some special effects used in the video, one particular one features images of the horses running around overlayed on a closeup of white keyboard keys, while footage of the landscape is overlaid on the black keys. The video ends with footage of the band playing around a campfire at night. As mentioned previously, the shorter edit that MTV would often play cut out this footage at the end of the band playing around the campfire.
The video was shot at the town of Sälen, Sweden, and the band traveled by plane from Stockholm to Sälen on December 15, 1982. They then took a helicopter into a location near the ski resort in Sälen. Paul McGuinness and Anton Corbijn arrived after the band on a second trip of the helicopter. The footage shot that day includes the footage of the band in the snow, the aeriel shots of the area, and footage of the band around the campfire, which was still early in the day but dark due to Sweden’s long nights. The band returned to Stockholm and performed a show that evening. The footage of the people on horseback was shot the following day, December 16, 1982. U2 were not in attendance, and are not the riders on the horses.
Meiert Avis described the video on the promotional website for U218: “This video only really makes any sense at all in the context of the lyrics of the album version, “Gold is the reason for the wars we wage.” Making U2 videos is a challenge, because the way Bono writes lyrics, often involves stripping out all the specifics of the original inspiration. What’s left is poetic, universal and wide open to subjective projection. That’s why everyone can relate U2 songs to their own lives. However, the visual part of the brain is differently wired and continually looks for meaning and linear narrative to hook into. Good luck finding that with this video. Maybe a Kurosawa movie played in Dublin that year? The shoot was brutally cold. There are bottles of whiskey buried in the snow all around, some probably still there. The band eventually were carried away rigid, like Jack MacGowran in “Fearless Vampire Killers”, and so we had to find some Swedish girls to do the horse riding scenes. I wish they had put my “All I Want Is You” video on this DVD instead.”
Avis would also talk about the video in the book, “I Want My MTV”: “U2 wanted to be bigger than the Rolling Stones, and videos were a big part of how they set out to do it. We went to Sweden to make “New Year’s Day.” There was a director of photography named Sven Nykvist, who was Ingmar Bergman’s cameraman. We wanted to use him, he wasn’t well enough to shoot for us, so his camera operator shot “New Year’s Day.” We started in Stockholm and then went off looking for snow. We wanted big mountains, but Sweden’s fairly flat, so we went up toward Norway. U2 was in the middle of touring, and they couldn’t get insurance to cover them to ride horses in the video, so we got teenage girls to dress up as them and do their riding. You can’t tell it’s not them.” Paul McGuinness, U2’s former manager responded to Avis, “There are no members of U2 who can ride a horse. But in the end, it was a good little film. MTV was really quite a small organization, and you could get somebody to watch your video and have the pleasure of seeing it on the air a few hours later.”
Indeed there were four young women who were dressed up like the band for the horse riding scenes. Different stories have been told over the years as to why these ladies were used as stand ins. Avis himself gave contradictory stories, saying it was due to the band being frozen from shooting in the snow the day before, to the band not having any insurance to ride the horses. One story even said that it was because the horses indeed did not like The Edge.
The fact that it was cold is remembered by all the members of the band. Adam spoke about the video shoot, “We needed snow so the director suggested northern Sweden. It was very basic, us performing in the snow, just kind of wrapped up, so you couldn’t really see us. I think Bono sussed that to be in a video you had to look like yourself, so he wasn’t wearing wooly hats or anything. I don’t even think he was wearing thermal underwear, just the same clothes he had on when we got off the plane from Dublin.” The Edge also commented on the cold, “Bono’s mouth almost froze solid; if you watch him lip-syncing his mouth won’t quite work. But the video has an epic quality, there was something about that song that seemed to conjure up images of Dr Zhivago and European winterscapes. People always ask me: ‘Was it difficult riding the horse, in the video?’ And I have to tell them that was shot the day after we left. Apparently the four figures on horseback were all women, dressed similarly to ourselves.”
The video for “New Year’s Day” was released on “The Best of 1980 – 1990” video release, as well as on the “U218 Videos” video release.
As part of a refresh of the U2 YouTube channel, a 1080p version of the video was uploaded to YouTube on January 1, 2021.
Video Shooting Locations
Additional Screen Captures
- Director: Meiert Avis
- Production Company: Windmill Lane
- Producer: James Morris
- Director of Photography: Sven Nykvist