This month marks the 30th anniversary of one of the 1980s best records and the pivot point for one of the world's greatest bands. February 1983 saw and heard the release of U2's third record, War, a record that heard them break into mainstream radio across the world and into the hearts and minds of audiences around the globe.
Upon its release, Bono said:
More than any other record, War is right for its time. It is a slap in the face against the snap, crackle and pop. Everyone else is getting more and more style-orientated, more and more slick. John Lennon was right about that kind of music; he called it 'wallpaper music.' Very pretty, very well designed, music to eat your breakfast to. 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.
From its dramatic cover of a young boy (the same boy who appeared on their debut) with a busted lip and angry face, straight away, U2 were not looking to hold anything back. Opening with the battle cry, "Sunday Bloody Sunday," War immediately raged in the listeners face. Produced by Steve Lillywhite and The Refugee, War was the record that would help make U2 a household name before their landmark performance at 1985's Live Aid. It was a record that would create anthems out of protest songs and deliver a message in music at a time when pop was not saying much. Songs like "New Years Day," and "Two Hearts Beat As One," soared on rock radio and heard a band, who only two records and two years prior were singing about holding onto their innocence while leaving Dublin thanks to 1980's Boy and 1981's October. War was a far different record, it was the record that would define the bands sound and style for the rest of the decade and the record U2 had to make in order to mature and advance their sound in their following studio albums, 1984's Unforgettable Fire, 1987's The Joshua Tree, and even 1991's Achtung Baby. It would hear the band expressing themselves not just in sound but in statements.
It took them three records to evolve into the band they wanted to be, but when the got there, U2 discovered lightning in a bottle. War was that lightning. From the album title to Bono's lyrics, War is a combative record by a band who was frustrated with the world around them and the world within them. Edge's guitar hooks sound like he is fighting over Larry Mullen and Adam Clayton's chomping rhythm section and Bono's voice. It is a record that had the members of the band looking for their own individual attention but at the same time coming together for the sake of success and song. War is also one of the smartest assembled records, from the driving force of "Like A Song," to the somber "Drowning Man," and the funky "The Refugee," and closing with "40," a song that actually is a Bible verse, it took the listener on an emotional ebb and flow. War would only be the beginning of U2's potential to do such a task for their audience.
War would go on to become U2's biggest breakthrough at that time; it would also spawn a live record, November '83's Under A Blood Red Sky, which was recorded at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado.
Thirty years later, War still storms in speakers and iPods around the world. It has become a classic record that reminds listeners that even in our darkest hour there is a light of hope. It is a record that defined a generation living in oppressed conditions in Europe and across the globe and its statements echo the same sentiments they do today as they did three decades ago.