New Year's Day

HT to Doug for sending along this piece on U2's "New Year's Day" from America. Quite thoughtful, including even some comments on an extended dance mix and a nice look at the progression of thought in the lyrics. People often identify an allusion to Revelation in the text, thus giving the song an eschatological framework, but Mark Stricherz here focuses much more directly on the situation in Poland (for example, taking the "red sky" part as having to do with violence as opposed to its usual U2 meaning of end-times). A plausible layer of meaning, no? The piece is marred a bit near the end by the author's framing his goal as attempting to decide whether the song is lyrically definite enough to be labeled Roman Catholic (he claims "Gloria" for example, can be so labeled), and the oft-repeated assumption that being Irish, everyone in U2 except Bono would have been raised in that denomination (which is, as readers here will be well aware, completely inaccurate.) But definitely worth a read, especially if you are one of those who plays the song every January first, as Stricherz says he does.

Walesa and his fellow anti-Communist union members suffered the fate alluded to in the traditional version of the song – repression (“All is quiet on New Year’s Day”) and violence (“Under a blood red sky”). The song’s protagonist is not naively optimistic about his situation. “Nothing changes on New Year’s Day” is his refrain. Yet he’s also not in despair. Against the backdrop of a bloody military crackdown, the singer pines for communion.

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