Top 20 Political Songs: Sunday Bloody Sunday | U2 | 1983

March 29, 2010

By Ian K. Smith  Reposted from www.newstatesman.com

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On U2′s 1983 live album Under A Blood Red Sky, Bono proclaims to the Boston crowd at the beginning of track five:

“There’s been a lot of talk about this next song. Maybe too much talk. This song is not a rebel song. This song is Sunday Bloody Sunday”

From a band that defined stadium rock for the indie generation, this song was meant to be heard live. A staple of the U2 set list, its subject matter is the Bloody Sunday tragedy in Derry on 30th January 1972 where 27 protestors were shot by the British Army Parachute Regiment. Lord Saville’s report into the events is still to be published, and is subject to fresh delays until after the general election.

Built around a simple and memorable descending guitar riff, the lyric of ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ stays the right side of the balance between sentimentality and earnestness. Its melodic and instrumental repetition is relentless, and Bono handles the vocal with the same emotion that made The Joshua Tree a masterpiece.

Early versions of the song opened with the line “Don’t talk me about the rights of the IRA, UDA.” However, the band’s revision ensured a less aggressive tone, built around the question “How long must we sing this song?” Biblical allusions and corporate suffering leads to appeals for unity: “Tonight we can be as one”.

The first track on 1983′s War, ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ epitomised U2′s political turn — even if the band would try and move away from a literal reading of the album title or a limiting political stance. In the middle of the 1980s, invoking John Lennon’s criticism of inoffensive “wallpaper music” lining the charts, Bono staked a claim for music that meant “more”:

“Music can be more. Its possibilities are great. Music has changed me. It has the ability to change a generation. Look at what happened with Vietnam. Music changed a whole generation’s attitude towards war.”

Drink Up Buttercup absorb and reconstruct blissed out 1960s psychedelic rock

March 29, 2010

From the beginning of their debut album, Born and Thrown on a Hook, Drink Up Buttercup, hailing from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, make it quite clear what’s about to happen, warning, “Ask someone to feed your cat/Cause you won’t be back soon/Lock your windows, lock all your doors/And remember your seasickness pills” because “we’re going on a trip.” Oh yes, and a trip is just what Drink Up Buttercup provide, playing accessible psychedelic rock that combines nearly every great aspect of the genre from, say 1965-1975 or so, with a decidedly lo-fi edge.

The album’s overall sound cannot be summed 513XhX1W8HL._SL500_AA300_up in a simple phrase or two; each song truly sounds different from every other, making for an incredibly diverse listen that showcases the band’s immense versatility. But, throughout the process, several tropes return: tape manipulation, lush vocal overdubs, a tendency toward a demented carnivalesque atmosphere, and contrast between “dark” lyrical subject matter and raucous, radiant sonic reverberation.

Sitting back-to-back, “Doggy Head” and “Even Think” provide two turbulent, foot-stomping anthems to the record; “Even Think” then flawlessly flows into “Gods and Gentlemen,” where the (inevitable and yet still somewhat taboo) comparisons to the Beatles become most essential, due simply to the similarities in vocal harmonics and stylings between the two bands.

But, Drink Up Buttercup are as comfortable in songs on the opposite end of the spectrum, ones that don’t include distortion-ridden guitars or heavy, bluesy riffs, as seen with “Lovers Play Dead” and “Pink Sunshine.” On “Lovers Play Dead,” the band trades in their thunderous drums for a tambourine and other various percussion; where there were electric guitars, only an acoustic guitar and piano currently stand.

In just under 40 minutes, Drink Up Buttercup manage to form a lysergic, hallucinogenic amalgamation of 1960s/1970s psychedelic rock with their own decidedly modern, lo-fi twist that feels like it would be the soundtrack to a deranged fairground or boardwalk. Born and Thrown on a Hook is only the band’s debut—one that already displays a multifaceted sound that is an absolute joy to listen to—and with any luck, they’ll aspire to make their next work just as enthralling as this.—Cassie Traun, Editor

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Meet U2’s ‘War’ child

March 25, 2010

To millions of U2 fans, Peter Rowen is the child whose mournful face stares out from the covers of “Boy” and “War.” Now, 30 years since he modeled for the iconic images, he still attracts attention.

Peter grew up in Dublin, where his older brother Guggi befriended Bono, when he was still known as Paul Hewson.

“Bono [came] over to our house quite a bit,” Rowen says. “My eldest brother, Clive, says Bono used to eat us out of jam sandwiches! I remember Bono and [his wife] Ali coming, much later, for Sunday dinner.”

U2 first had Rowen photographed in 1979 for the EP “Three.” He later appeared on the European version of “Boy” and the breakthrough third album, 1983’s “War.”

“For the ‘War’ shoot, I went to photographer Ian Finlay’s house in Dun Laoghaire [a seaside suburb of Dublin], where his wife made soup, which I didn’t like. When we returned to town, Bono was driving and came close to running into the back of another car!

“One of my older brothers who lived in London at the time said he thought it was cool to see posters of me everywhere. I’d get phone calls from girls in America. How they got my family’s number, I don’t know.”

When he was 21, Rowen became a photographer. In 2001, a newspaper asked him to cover a U2 concert at Slane Castle.

“I was in the pit with all the press photographers. The band wouldn’t have known I was there. At one point, Bono was lying on the stage right in front of me, which was kinda funny. Not long later, I bumped into The Edge at a nightclub and told him about that assignment. He asked to see some of the pictures and, after doing so, sent me a note saying they were really good.

“The [band is] well aware I was the child in their photos, but it’s [never] cropped up in conversation. The connection I had with them was when I was a child. I know them to say hi and they are always nice to me. They’re older than me, so I would never have hung around with them.

“Some of my brothers and friends have got more mileage out of it than I ever have. The biggest buzz I get out of it is having my 10-year-old daughter thinking it’s cool.

“The funny thing is, I never used it for pulling the birds. I would have felt an idiot trying to use it as a chat-up line. It’s a bit cringey, you know: ‘I was on the U2 album covers.’ ‘Were you? So what!’

“Technically, they’re very simple pictures, but they’re powerful. What’s important about a picture is atmosphere and feeling. I gather the whole idea of “Boy” was the innocence of youth. “War” shows a much more disturbed-looking child, and I guess shows what the world can do to a child — a loss of innocence.”

To millions of U2 fans, Peter Rowen is the child whose mournful face stares out from the covers of “Boy” and “War.” Now, 30 years since he modeled for the iconic images, he still attracts attention.

Peter grew up in Dublin, where his older brother Guggi befriended Bono, when he was still known as Paul Hewson.

“Bono [came] over to our house quite a bit,” Rowen says. “My eldest brother, Clive, says Bono used to eat us out of jam sandwiches! I remember Bono and [his wife] Ali coming, much later, for Sunday dinner.”

U2 first had Rowen photographed in 1979 for the EP “Three.” He later appeared on the European version of “Boy” and the breakthrough third album, 1983’s “War.”

Peter Rowen in 1983 and now (inset).

Peter Rowen in 1983 and now (inset).