I was listening to music today. One of my favorite songs happens to be U2’s “Sunday, Bloody Sunday”, and it played. But I’ve never really gotten into the story behind the song–how it came to be. So I checked it out on Wikipedia. Here is the Wikipedia article I read … it originally refers to two incidents in Northern Ireland, one in 1972, and another in 1920, both called “Bloody Sunday,” in which people were killed in clashes with British authorities over the status of Irish Autonomy. The song tries link the sacrifices of these people to the death and resurrection of Jesus, which also took place on a Sunday.
But it was a specific version of the song that really caught my attention … and that Wikipedia article sealed the deal: their song, written in the early 1980s, was bizarrely apocalyptic, a pseudo-prophetic riff that would explode right under the hands of Bono on a Sunday very much like those others … on November 8, 1987. U2 was scheduled to play at Red Rocks in Denver, Colorado. Back in Ireland, it was “Remembrance Day.” In both places, it is a day Rock & Roll will never forget.
The foundation for the Remembrance Day Bombing lay in part of the factionalization of the IRA and other Irish revolutionary forces. One such faction, the Provisional Irish Republican Army, a left-wing faction of the IRA, had intended the bombing as an apparent protest against the British government using Irish nationals as cannon fodder during war. The bombing not only backfired, but it so marginalized the IRA even in the eyes of the Irish, that the “revolution” fizzled over the next few years to virtually nothing, and the rish have mostly enjoyed a lasting peace for many years.
But in November, 1987, all Bono knew was, the song that he’d been singing for half a decade was now front page news. “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” was today, and he had a concert appearance that night. Opening up before a massive crowd at Denver, Colorado’s “Red Rocks” ampitheatre, Bono introduced his and the Edge’s famous piece:
“Well here we are, the Irish in America
The Irish have been coming to america for years
Going back to the great famaine,
When the Irish were on the run from starvation
And a British government that couldn’t care less
Right up to today you know,
There are more Irish inmmigrants here in America today than ever
Some illegal, some legel
A lot of them are just running from, high unemployment
Some run from the troubles in Northern Ireland
From the hatred of the h-blocks, and torture
Others from wild acts of terrorism
Like we had today in a town called Inniskillin
Where 11 people lie dead many more injured
On a sunday bloody sunday…”
And then he went into the most powerful rendition of Sunday, Bloody Sunday ever recorded, a song that made it onto the Rattle And Hum album and CD, and has become a mainstay of classic rock on the airwaves ever since. Who can forget Bono’s powerful, pleading, almost agonized scream of “Fuck the revolution!” or the cheer that arose from the crowd that gathered to hear that very song. Fuck the revolution indeed. These events were so powerful, and the performance so stunning, that Bono couldn’t bear to play the song again, and it would be another ten years before it began to reappeasr in their live performances.
Until I read that article in Wikipedia, I knew none of this. I knew I had the lyrics from the Denver performance – I’d tucked these away in the Lyrics3 tag of my copy of the song, complete with the opening passage, which does not appear on the Rattle And Hum audio CD. But I never knew how that the song had become so dramatically real, so spectacularly NOW for these people–until today. Today, I listened to the song again, from a new perspective … and I wept.
And then I went looking for the video. It’s not too hard to find–from Google I made my way to a link to the file using BitTorrent, and I started to download the DVD of Rattle And Hum–all 4.3 GB of it–but that wasn’t what I wanted. I just wanted that 1987 performance of “Sunday, Bloody Sunday.” But after a bit of searching, I found it on YouTube; and I embedded it here:
In fact, after little tweaking and digging throu my cache, I snatched it from YouTube, and tucked it away forever with the rest of my ill-begotten pirate gains. (I won’t tell you how I did that, though, because, first of all, I support YouTube, and second, it’s illegal, wrong, and a pretty dirty thing to do when I can just embed the YouTube player right here, neh? But if you know how to poke around in your browser’s temporary file storage, you probably don’t need me to help you steal streamed video content anyway.)
And now, I’ve watched and listened to “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” more than a dozen times. I’ve cried out with Bono when he screams “Fuck the revolution”; I’ve nodded in agreement when he says “Where’s the glory in” killing and injuring innocent people who’s only crime was to commemerate their participation in two world wars, and the sacrifices of their people. And I have reaffirmed my own stance that there are good, valid reasons to fight–and there are plenty of reasons to fight and kill that are neither good nor valid.
When British oppression leads to harship and suffering, as it did in Ireland in the 1920s, anbd again in 1972, and also as it did on our own shores in the events leading up to July 4, 1776, fighting is probably good if it ends the oppression and the suffering. But when violence begets only more suffering and death, whether from terrorism, poor coordination and planning, or just a false sense of what’s right and valid, then that violence is invalid and wrong.
In short, I’m talking here about the opression of the Palestinians by Israel, the war in Iraq, and the violence in Northern Ireland. Next to nothing has come from the violence, and in each case, great strides have been achieved through negotiation and good faith cooperation. As Bono sang, “No more – No more – Wipe your tears away.” This violence has got to end. Sunday, Bloody Sunday should ALWAYS be a memory–not some horrific pseudo-premonition, as this song ultimately became, under the tutelage of Edge, Bono, and the men of U2. “Wipe your bloodshot eyes”–it’s time to end this.
SASS has Spoken.