U2 - Sunday Bloody Sunday

"Sunday Bloody Sunday" is a song from the U2 third album "War," released in 1983.


Story behind the song

There are two Bloody Sundays in Irish history. The first occurred in 1920 when British troops fired into the crowd at a football match in Dublin revenging the assassination of British undercover agents. The second was on January 30, 1972, when British paratroopers opened fire on a group of unarmed civil rights protesters in the Northern Irish town of Derry, killing 14, including seven teenagers. [1] [2]

"Sunday Bloody Sunday" started from a guitar riff and lyrics written by the Edge in 1982, who worked in Ireland on music for the band's upcoming album, while Bono and his wife Ali Hewson were in Jamaica spending their honeymoon. It was a dark period for the Edge, following an argument with his girlfriend, when he doubted in his own songwriting abilities.

This early version didn't have a title or chorus melody but had a structural outline and theme.

The direct stimulus for the lyrics was a contact with IRA supporters in New York City. As a promotional trick, U2 manager Paul McGuinness had made arrangements for the band to appear in the 1982 St. Patrick's Day parade. However, he later discovered that there was a possibility that Bobby Sands, an IRA hunger striker who had starved to death the previous year, would be the parade's honorary marshal. McGuinness and U2 members mutually agreed to withdraw from the parade as they felt that the IRA would continue the fighting in Northern Ireland. McGuinness met with one of the parade's organizers in a New York bar to cancel U2 performance but ended up in an ardent debate about the IRA. McGuinness later recalled, "He kept telling me to keep my voice down. The place was full of New York policemen - Irish cops - and he thought I was going to get us killed." [3]

The band referred the lyrics to the events of both Bloody Sundays. The song takes the standpoint of a person, who is frightened by the age of violence in the province. Bono rewrote the Edge's initial lyrics, contrasting these events with Easter Sunday, but he admitted that U2 were too young at the time to fully realize that goal, remarking that "it was a song whose eloquence lay in its harmonic power rather than its verbal strength." [4]

Bono also recalled that a record company boss, who supervised the recording sessions, insisted on dropping the "bloody", as he thought that it won't work on the radio. But U2 turned down that recommendation. [2]

U2 recorded the song at Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin. During the sessions, producer Steve Lillywhite insisted on using a click track, but drummer Larry Mullen, Jr. was against it. But after meeting with Andy Newmark of Sly & the Family Stone, who scrupulously used a click track, he changed his mind. [4] The opening drum pattern soon evolved into the song's hook.

A local violinist, Steve Wickham, asked the Edge one morning at a bus stop if U2 needed for a violin on their next album. Electric violin part was recorded in the studio for half a day and became the final instrumental contribution to the song. [4]

Music videos

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Lyrics video for the album version of the song.

Official music video

U2 used footage from a live performance on June 5, 1983, filmed for the concert film "U2 Live at Red Rocks: Under a Blood Red Sky" for the promotional video of the song. The video was directed by Gavin Taylor. The video highlights the power and excitement of the audience during U2's concerts. In 2004, Rolling Stone mentioned the performance as one "50 Moments that Changed the History of Rock and Roll" and admitted that "the sight of Bono singing the anti-violence anthem 'Sunday Bloody Sunday' while waving a white flag through a crimson mist, became the defining image of U2's warrior-rock spirit." [5]

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Live version

The song is a staple of U2's live concerts.

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Black-and-white footage of the live performance at Denver's McNichols Sports Arena on November 1987, filmed for rockumentary "Rattle and Hum."

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Live at Glastonbury Festival on June 24, 2011.

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Live in Paris on December 6, 2015.

Famous covers

The song was covered many times by various artists.

Pillar covered this in 2004 for the album "Where Do We Go from Here".

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Lisa Bresnan covered this song in 2005 for the album "Even Better Than the Real Thing Vol. 3."

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Paramore made an acoustic cover of the song in 2007 for "Misery Business Vinyl 2".

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In 2008, the song was covered for "Strung Out On U2: The String Quartet Tribute."

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Gear and settings


The Edge

The Edge used his famous black 1973 Fender Stratocaster.

Adam Clayton

Adam used two Ibanez Musician basses, one with an active pre-amp built in, and the other standard. [6]

Adam Clayton with Ibanez Musician basses

Amps and effects

The Edge

The Edge used his 1964 Vox AC30TB to record every single U2 album and used it for every single concert.

He also used the following stuff:

The Edge guitar rig in 1983

The Edge guitar rig in 1983. Click to view the full image

Adam Clayton

Adam Clayton used an Ampeg SVT-400T head with 8x10 bass enclosure. [6]

Ampeg SVT-400T 400 watt bass head

Amp settings

  • Gain - 1.5
  • Treble - 7
  • Mids - 5
  • Bass - 3
  • Reverb - 8.5


Guitars: half step down tuning (Eb Ab Db Gb Bb Eb).

Bass: half step down tuning (Eb Ab Db Gb).

Song key

The song is written in the key of B flat minor.


"Sunday Bloody Sunday" is based on the use of arpeggios, chord/power chord strumming, and natural harmonics. Also, you need a good left-hand muting technique for achieving the correct rhythm pattern.

Song breakdown

The song has the following structure:

Intro - Verse 1 - Chorus 1 - Interlude - Verse 2 - Chorus 2 - Bridge 1 - Chorus 3 - Solo - Bridge 2 - Chorus 4 - Interlude - Verse 3 - Chorus 4

Note, that many parts of the song often blended with each other in a way you can't exactly define, where one part ends and the next one starts.

The intro starts with a drum beat, then the Edge enters with the notable arpeggio riff, based around some simple triads. [7]

Then there goes a couple of transition chords, followed by the main rhythm riff, which contains a B minor barre chord, D major barre chord, and G major barre chord. The right-hand rhythm is the first thing you should get used to for playing this riff because it's the basis of the song's sound. Focus on just playing one chord at first and then apply that rhythm to the rest of the chords. [7]

At the end of the riff, The Edge also slides the G major chord up to an A major chord very quickly. This move happens a lot in the first half of the song whenever this riff is played, but not often in the second half of the song. [7]

Actually, the verse is a combination of these riffs. [7]

There are also several harmonic riffs that happen mostly in choruses the song. Let these harmonics ring together as much as possible. [7]

The specific feature of the solo is that The Edge is always accompanying a melody note with an adjacent open string. Depending on what notes are being played, the open drone string that goes along with each melody note can be either the G B or E strings. [7]

Guitar lessons

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Guitar lesson from GuitarJams Youtube Channel by Marty Schwartz.

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Guitar lesson from GuitarLessons365Song Youtube Channel by Carl Brown.

Bass cover with tabs

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  1. SongFacts.com "'Sunday Bloody Sunday' by U2"
  2. 1 2 Rolling Stone "Bono Remembers the Real 'Bloody Sunday'"
  3. Henke, James (June 9, 1983).'Blessed Are the Peacemakers'. Rolling Stone (397): 11–14.
  4. 1 2 3 McCormick (2006), pp. 135–139
  5. Cave, Damien; et al. (24 June 2004). "U2's Gamble at Red Rocks". Rolling Stone: 146.
  6. 1 2 u2-atomic-adam.tripod.com "U2 - Atomic: Adam. 1981>1982 era - gear"
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 GuitarLessons365Song Youtube channel "Sunday Bloody Sunday Guitar Lesson - U2"