When U2 Released ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday,’ a Rebel Song That Wasn’t

There’s more to U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday” than meets the eye.

On the surface, the song addresses the “Bloody Sunday” of Jan. 30, 1972, when British soldiers opened fire on an unarmed crowd of civilian protesters in Derry, Northern Ireland, killing 26 people. The Irish Troubles had started in the late ’60s, and by 1972, U2’s members were old enough to remember the conflict they saw around them. “I was 11,'” Bono wrote in his 2022 memoir, Surrender. “And I still feel the nausea.”

But “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” released as a single on March 21, 1983, wasn’t intended to glorify the continuing violence taking place in Ireland, as some people believed. “It’s a very special song because it’s the first time that we ever really made a statement,” drummer Larry Mullen told Rolling Stone in 1983. He compared it to Bob Dylan’s “With God on Our Side,” another song about the morality of war.

“Sunday Bloody Sunday” starts with the Edge, who emphasized in the Rolling Stone interview that he didn’t want to take sides in the Troubles; he just wanted them to end. “All religion seems to do is divide,” he said.

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