"New Year's Day" is a song by Irish rock band U2. It is the third track on their 1983 album War and was released as the album's lead single in January 1983. With lyrics written about the Polish Solidarity movement, "New Year's Day" is driven by Adam Clayton's distinctive bassline and the Edge's piano and guitar playing. It was the band's first UK hit single, peaking at number 10, and was also their first international hit, reaching for number 9 in Norway, number 11 on the Dutch Top 40, number 17 in Sweden, and number 53 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States.
The lyric had its origins in a love song from Bono to his wife, but was subsequently reshaped and inspired by the Polish Solidarity movement. The bassline stemmed from bassist Adam Clayton trying to figure out the chords to the Visage song "Fade to Grey" during a soundcheck.
In 1983, Bono said of the song, "It would be stupid to start drawing up battle lines, but I think the fact that 'New Year's Day' made the Top Ten indicated a disillusionment among record buyers. I don't think 'New Year's Day' was a pop single, certainly not in the way that Mickie Most might define a pop single as something that lasts three minutes and three weeks in the chart. I don't think we could have written that kind of song."
"New Year's Day" is U2's seventh most frequently performed live song, with the Edge switching back and forth between piano and guitar during the song. It has been a standard on every U2 tour since its debut on 1 December 1982 at the first show of the War Tour's Pre-Tour, however the recent Innocence + Experience tour only featured three performances of the song for the entire tour. During the 1980s, the Edge used a Fender Stratocaster to perform this song, along with a Yamaha CP70 electric grand piano. During the 1990s and 2000s (decade), he has alternated between a Gibson Les Paul Custom and Les Paul Standard. The Les Paul the Edge used to write this song was sold for charity. Up until the Elevation Tour, Clayton normally used a chorus effect on his bass guitar for this song live. In the Top of the Pops performance, Bono is seen playing guitar.
The B-side of "New Year's Day", "Treasure (Whatever Happened to Pete the Chop?)", was never performed live. However, an early version known simply as "Pete the Chop" was played at some concerts in 1980.
During the Vertigo Tour at Silesian Stadium in Poland a quite remarkable example of fan action occurred. During "New Year's Day", the lower sections of the crowd waved red coloured items while other sections waved white, creating the Polish flag and stunning the band. This was repeated during the U2 360° Tour at the same venue.
The video was one of their first to see heavy rotation on MTV. It was filmed in Sälen, Sweden in December 1982 and directed by Meiert Avis. The band only appeared in the performance scenes of the video as it was filmed in the dead of the Swedish winter. U2 guitarist Edge revealed in the official U2 biography that the four people riding on horseback in the video that appeared to be the four U2 members were in fact four Swedish teenage girls disguised as the members of U2 riding on horseback with masks over their faces. This was done as the band were frozen from shooting the video in sub-freezing temperatures the day before. Their biography states that Bono refused to wear any headgear despite the cold weather and had a lot of trouble mouthing the lyrics. The video also features footage of Soviet troops advancing in winter during World War II.
U2 allowed free-of-charge use of this song in a spot prepared by the European Commission. This clip published on YouTube shows a transformation of Poland in the last 20 years mixed with short scenes from today's Warsaw seen from a perspective of a 20-year-old woman.
In 2001, dance act Musique released a remix of the song, "New Year's Dub". The remix charted in some European countries, including in the UK and in Ireland, where it peaked at no. 15 and no. 13, respectively. It also charted in Australia, where it peaked at no. 74.