"This was the best punk rock band ever, because they actually invented something."
-- Bono, on the Ramones
30 Years of War: War Releases Through the Years
February 22, 2013
U2 released War and Under A Blood Red Sky in 1983. It is difficult to believe it has been 30 years since I became hooked on Under A Blood Red Sky. It still feels like yesterday. I didn't start collecting U2 until later in life, so I discovered the collectibles from 1983 a few years later and had fun tracking them down.
Most remember that "New Year's Day" and "Sunday Bloody Sunday" were released as singles, because those are available on CD and not difficult to find. But in regions such as the UK, Australia and North America, the singles were actually "New Year's Day" and "Two Hearts Beat As One." "Sunday Bloody Sunday" was only released in a handful of European countries (as well as in Brazil). The cover for "Two Hearts Beat As One" and "Sunday Bloody Sunday" used the same image, and the B-sides were similar for both.
Japan saw releases of both "Two Hearts Beat As One" and "Sunday Bloody Sunday" as singles, and for this reason "Red Light" appeared as the B-side on "Sunday Bloody Sunday." They also needed a new image for the cover in Japan.
Two other lesser-known singles were also issued in 1983. "40" was issued in Germany to capitalize on positive press the band received after performing an energetic set at the Loreley Festival. The single was titled "40 (How Long)" and paired with "Two Hearts Beat As One" as a B-side. The cover was an image of U2 standing on a beach. The back cover featured a promotion of the first three albums.
"I Will Follow" was also released at the end of 1983. This was the live version of "I Will Follow" from the Loreley Festival that was used on the album Under A Blood Red Sky. It was also released commercially in the US, in a generic record label sleeve. It, too, was backed with "Two Hearts Beat As One" as a B-Side.
One sign that the record label was starting to pay more attention to U2 was the issue of their first unique promotional recording. In the past, the label had released promotional copies of singles. In 1983 they issued "A Dialogue With U2." This was used to promote Under A Blood Red Sky and contained the live tracks from the album interspersed with interview segments with Trevor Dann. The promo was pressed in a unique sleeve that was white with the titles over a gray bar. The sleeves were individually numbered, and the release is said to be limited to 1,000 copies.
Many will recognize one of the items from this era because it was sold on tour. Bono would often wave a white flag during concerts. You could purchase your own white flag, although this one was printed with the words "U2" and "War" in red. The flag was 17.5 inches by 11 inches. It came with a display pole 31 inches in length and was capped with a gold plastic pointed flag tip.
The War tour also saw the first tour programs produced. These included two smaller books, one generic and covering all dates and one covering the dates from March 1983. An additional tour book produced for the Japanese tour was the size of a record album.
One of my personal favorite items came by way of Cap'n Crunch or Crunch Berries cereal. In early 1984, the cereal brands had a special promotion. Inside each box was one free rock sticker. Four bands were featured: Duran Duran, The Rolling Stones, The Thompson Twins and U2. The U2 sticker was the logo taken from Red Rocks, with a silhouette of Bono singing while holding the flag, a red "U2" in the background. Each box showed the four stickers on the outside. The stickers were just over two-inches square and came in a sealed plastic wrapper. The sticker has a copyright listed as 1984 to Forty Seconds Inc., the precursor to Not Us Ltd., which the band uses today.
A number of War-related promotional items have been produced in more recent years. I covered a few of these in a similar article that I wrote for the October album, as many of the items were used to promote the remasters of Boy, October, and War in 2008. An additional pin set done up to promote those remasters differed from the collection that was available for sale. Released in advance of the album, the set included three pins, each featuring one of the albums. Both War and Boy were printed with the cover image of the album, while October contained the album logo.
Those 2008 remasters were not the first alternative release of the War album. In 1996, the company Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs (MFSL) did a pressing of the album. MFSL produced CDs with gold instead of aluminum, and used the original master tapes during the recording process. The result was a beautiful-sounding master with alternate versions of songs. "Seconds" is longer and features an extended section of the "Soldier Girls" sample. "Like A Song" is also extended.
The Joshua Tree and The Unforgettable Fire also received the MFSL treatment but the differences on those releases were far less noticeable than on War. All three are now out of print and becoming more difficult to find.
All manner of collectibles have been released since the initial release of War. In 1991, to promote their stores, Virgin Megastores gave out Rubik's Cubes featuring their logo on one side and famous album covers on the others. The War album cover is featured on one side of the cube. Other artists featured on the cube included Def Leppard and The Police.
In 1990, Propaganda offered for sale a set of sew-on patches including patches for Rattle And Hum, the War tour and the LoveTown tour. The War tour patch was black and red with the white flag.
Also, for those interested in reading about U2 in another format, Rock N Roll Comics produced a two part series on U2 and the first issue covers the founding of the band, through the release of Under A Blood Red Sky.
This doesn't begin to cover the posters, lithographs, pins, T-shirts and more that are made available with each passing year. Just recently Live Nation offered both a War coffee mug and a War fridge magnet. Under A Blood Red Sky also got the mug and magnet treatment. This shows that there are still collectibles to be produced even 30 years later.
Under A Blood Red Sky also had a few different releases. U2 had included a snippet of "Send In The Clowns" on original pressings of the album without obtaining the proper permissions, and were eventually required to remove those from later pressings. You can, however, find the longer version of "The Electric Co." containing the snippet on some early CD pressings, most notably on early pressings from the UK, Germany and Australia. With some investigative work you can find a copy of one of these releases relatively easily. Under A Blood Red Sky was due for release at the same time as the other three albums in 2008, but was pushed back to the fall due to additional work required to release the DVD portion of that remastered package. This remastered edition edited additional material out of "The Electric Co."
(c) @U2/Sams, 2013.