Sunday, and a Terrible Premonition

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.



  1. Whislt I agree with most of what you are saying… Just a tidbit… Don’t trust Wikipedia quite so much, secondly, the “concert” you are referring to was at “Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe Arizona” (now renamed).. during “The Joshua Tree” Tour which was being filmed for “Rattle and Hum”.
    The Red Rocks show that broke U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday” into the American Underground Music Scene was during their “War” Tour 1982-83 for their “Live at Red Rocks” recording.

    Just a little clarification… that’s all 🙂

  2. sassman said

    Thank you for that clarification.

    — the SASS Man

  3. U2 Fan said

    As Bono himself said, the song was never a rebel song. Indeed, I’ve ALWAYS recognised it as being an anti-war song. A call for the Irish troubles to end. It didn’t draw a parallel between the Irish revolutionaries and Jesus. Reread the lyrics. See the part “the battle’s just begun, to claim the victory Jesus won”. That refers to the Catholic and Protestant militarists trying to claim that Jesus is on their side – while in reality Jesus would have been opposed to the violence. In fact look at how the world has changed in just 2 decades. Then there were 2 Christian groups fighting over whose way was right. Now we have Moslem extremists attacking us. How petty those old minor differences seem now. Fortunately peace has now lasted long enough in Ulster that both sides now realise they are far better off living alongside each other in peace, rather than trying to kill each other. Hopefully peaceful times will now continue and prosperity will return.

    BTW: The Irish weren’t the only ones used as cannon fodder during World War One – all sides wasted their working classes in that meatgrinding waste of a war – English, Irish, French, German, Italian, Russian, etc, were all sacrificed in that moronic war. It seems to have been the Americans, arriving in the closing months, that had the sense to crawl along the ground, rather than slowly walking across it, in the face of machine guns. I guess they learned something from their own Civil War experience, with the trenches, barbed wire, gatling guns, and heavy cannon. Perhaps the US could have used its own U2 back in 1865?

    One final thing – the British Army was actually sent to Ulster in the late 1960s not to oppress, but rather to PROTECT the catholics. It was the IRA that started fighting and forced the army to fight back and restore the peace.

    • sassman said

      I don’t think I said it wasn’t an anti-war song. In fact, I meant to imply that “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” was about stopping the violence, including both war and terrorism. It’s just that stopping government-sponsored violence often requires a certain amount of rebellion–such as the type of passive rebellion advocated by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

      And you’re right about the cannon-fodder in World War I. More people died needlessly in six years than had ever died in war before PERIOD, and the fact became true again in the second world war. But then, Bono’s Irish–and the Irish have been facing a state of apathy and hate for longer than any other single race except for the Jews. I think you can understand if an Irish man is especially upset over the fate of the Irish soldiers. In fact, the record shows that Irish troops were given front-line duty in preference to English ones. But I digress….

      Of all types of violence, it has always been religious conflict that has been the most bitter. Who can say why the Brits REALLY went to Ulster in the first place…there are two sides to nearly every story. It ought to be enough just to lay down the weapons of war, and to try to live in peace.

      In the end, this is the message of “Sunday, Bloody Sunday.” Violence begets sorrow, death, continued violence and loss. If, instead, there could be peace and brotherhood, everyone will gain. There will be happiness, community, and love. Just…stop fighting. Could there be any message more simple? Bono didn’t think so. Neither do I.


      SASS has Spoken.

      –the SASS Man

  4. Bonjour, Polite to yoke you, I am alise

  5. Jim said

    Okay so I’m a bit late and thanks for all the clarification. As a U2 fan since ’81 (anybody ever seen video from U2 at Lorilei, Germany? Very strong). I had always misunderstood the Rattle and Hum version. Even though Bono says “today”, my brain always processed “on this day”, thinking Enniskillen was the 1972 event. This now clarifies his emotional outburst in Rattle and Hum vs his performancat at Red Rocks (but still emotional) years before. I later saw or read (to the effect, I’m not quoting) the reason they chose to perform it again is that, sadly, humankind will always create a “Sunday Bloody Sunday” for somebody. Therefore it will always be relevent. And recent history has proved this point. In “Rattle and Hum”, I think he said he would have to stop performing the song because as time goes by people be unable to relate to the song. Springsteen had similar concerns with “Born in the USA”. Fans pretty much took it s a pro USA anthem! Though the lyrics obviously have a different feel.

    • sassman said

      Yes, this post seems as timeless as the song itself.

      It’s too bad youTube’s decided to pull Copyright Loss and removed the clip from the site. We could all benefit from watching Bono’s agony one more time, I think.

      The truth is, we are still human. We all have much to learn. If it wasn’t for that reason, I may never have created a blog in the first place.


      — the SASS Man

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