U2 - War

The third studio album from the Irish band U2 is certainly their most popular : it marked the real lift-off of their career. Beyond the impressive quality of the music, the artwork has marked spirits, and interestingly, if they were using a children's photography for the second time, this particular image became much more iconic, and for good reasons.

Gatefold (Front+Back)
Back Cover (Version with background grey typography)

The design of the cover was from Steve Averill, while the pictures of the band inside and on the labels where from the famous photographer Anton Corbijn.

Gatefold (Inside Left & Right)

But, just like for the cover of U2's first album "Boy", the front cover was an image of Peter Rowen, the little brother of one of Bono's friend, Guggi Rowen.

Peter Rowen on the cover of U2's "Boy" LP, three years ago.
But this time, the contrast between the title and the mix of pride and innocence that the boy was showing on the picture made it completely different, and so much more relevant...
As much as the strength of the black & white treatment (slightly more contrasted than on the "Boy" cover), the framing was also playing its part : the tight cropping was focusing the attention on the intense eye contact.
The final touch was brought by the newspaper-like bold typography, its color (blood red), and its arrangement that conveyed a sense of urgency, subtlely reinforced by the red lines.

With this album, the band had toned down the religious influences (flagrants in their second album "October", that had a terribly boring cover artwork). 
But they had swaped it for an overtly political tone: a song like "Sunday Bloody Sunday" or the anthemic "New Year's Day" were setting the tone for the whole album : showing the state of war that Bono felt was reigning on 1982, and expressing its effects on the souls and spirits of the people.
Questionned about the rational behind this cover, he explained : "Instead of putting tanks and guns on the cover, we've put a child's face. War can also be a mental thing, an emotional thing between loves. It doesn't have to be a physical thing."

To be complete about this release, it has to be said that the American release had a completely different cover, some well-intentioned spirits having thought that such a striking picture of a boy might encourage pedophilia... How clever, isn't it ?


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