Since my head is still spinning with the release of the first single from Songs of Experience, I thought that today I’d focus on another lead single. We’re going all the way back to 1980 here, and the release of the lead single from U2’s very first album. The song was titled “A Day Without Me”, and unlike many other singles that U2 has released, it has kind of faded into obscurity. If it had been me, I’d have chosen “I Will Follow” as the first single from Boy, but I suppose that “A Day Without Me” makes a kind of sense in retrospect. It’s probably the poppiest song on an album that’s full of post-punk rockers, and therefore the most radio-friendly and accessible to the average listener. Although the song failed to make much of an impact on charts around the world, it did bring about one important development in the story of U2. “A Day Without Me” was the first song that Carter Alan played on WBCN radio in Boston. From that airplay sprang a dedicated fan base in Boston, so much so that an enthusiastic crowd greeted the otherwise unknown band when they first performed in that city in the same year.
I stated earlier that “A Day Without Me” was the poppiest song on Boy, and I stand by that statement. the verses feature a catchy melody sung by Bono and are backed by a casual drum beat and gently echoing guitar, designed to please the every-day radio listener. There is a beautiful, soaring guitar solo during the song, and the main guitar riff is earnestly epic, just as listeners would come to expect from U2. In that way, the song served as a good introduction to the band, and so was an appropriate first taste for those outside of the UK. As far as the lyrics go, I have a theory. Just a couple of years ago, Bono confessed that “I Will Follow” was a song about suicide, detailing the young singer’s plans to follow his mother into the afterlife. I believe that “A Day Without Me” was written with the same thoughts and feelings in mind. There are several references to “the world I left behind”, and the last line that Bono sings is “shed a tear and then let go. There’s a mournful quality to the song in general – not quite a funeral dirge, but a little melancholy, as would befit a song about killing oneself.
Oddly enough for a song that was deemed important enough to be the band’s first to be released outside of the UK, “A Day Without Me” hasn’t seen a great deal of live performances, even in the early days. It was played at less than half the shows on the Boy Tour of 1980-1981, and the same is true of the following excursion, the October Tour that started in 1981 and ended in 1982. The song was played at a greater percentage of shows on the War Tour than any other tour, but following that it was played at a handful of shows on the Unforgettable Fire Tour before being dropped altogether. It’s true that the song isn’t real high energy, like “Out of Control” or “I Will Follow”, both of which have received stage time up through the current decade, but I think that “A Day Without Me” would make a nice change for the band some time. It would have fit in perfectly on the first legs of the Innocence + Experience Tour, but alas, the band didn’t see fit to resurrect the song then. Who knows, though, what surprises tours might hold. Maybe “A Day Without Me” will surprise us all at a U2 show coming soon.