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Boy is the debut album from Irishmarker rock band U2, released October 20, 1980. Produced by Steve Lillywhite, the album received generally positive reviews. Common themes among the album's songs are the thoughts and frustrations of adolescence. The album included the band's first United Kingdom hit single, "I Will Follow". Boy's release was followed by U2's first tour of continental Europe and the United States. Despite being unpolished, these early live performances demonstrated U2's potential. In 2003, it was ranked #417 in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Recording and composition

Originally, Joy Division producer Martin Hannett (who also produced U2's "11 O'Clock Tick Tock" single) was supposed to produce U2's debut album, but was too distraught after the suicide of Ian Curtis. Boy was recorded at Windmill Lane Studiosmarker in Dublinmarker with Steve Lillywhite producing. The young man first came to fame with his work on the 1978's debut single of Siouxsie & the Banshees, "Hong Kong Garden" which featured a peculiar hook played by a glockenspiel. U2, who later started to listen to Siouxsie & the Banshees, used Lillywhite's skills to add the distinctive glockenspiel part on "I Will Follow".

Some of the songs, including "An Cat Dubh" and "The Ocean", were written and recorded in the studio. Many of the songs were taken from the band's 40-song repertoire at the time, including "Stories for Boys", "Out of Control", and "Twilight". The Edge recorded all the songs using his natural stained Gibson Explorer.

Much of the album's lyrics focus on thoughts and frustrations of childhood. Some songs, including "I Will Follow", focus on the death of Bono's mother when he was 14. "I Will Follow" was also widely perceived as a religious song affirming the band's Christian faith, though this was not confirmed until 2007 in an NME interview. The album also has overtones of sexuality.

The final track on the album, "Shadows and Tall Trees", gives a nod to William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies; it shares its name with a chapter from the book.


Boy was originally released on October 20, 1980.

The boy on the cover is Peter Rowan (brother of Bono's friend, Guggi (Virgin Prunes), and now a renowned Irish photographer). He also appears on the covers of Three, War, The Best of 1980–1990, and Early Demos. The photographer, Hugo McGuiness, and the sleeve designer, Steve Averill (a friend of bassist Adam Clayton), went on to work on several more U2 album covers. The image was changed to a distorted picture of the band for the American and Canadian release, due to the record company's fears that the band would be accused of pedophilia. Sandy Porter is credited as the photographer for the American cover. However, the photo of Rowan appeared on the inner sleeve of the album in the US and Canada. In 2008, the artwork of the remastered editions was standardised worldwide to that of the 1980 UK release.

In 2008, a remastered edition of the album was released, featuring remastered tracks, along with B-sides and rarities. Three different formats of the remaster were made available.


"A Day Without Me" and "I Will Follow" were released as singles. "I Will Follow" peaked at #20 on the Mainstream Rock charts, becoming a hit on college radio and established a buzz surrounding the group's debut. The album was preceded by Three, a three-song EP with different recordings of "Out of Control" and "Stories for Boys", as well as a song called "Boy/Girl".


Boy's highest position on the Billboard 200 was #63, but after the success of U2's later material, it re-entered the American charts for a lengthier spell. In the United Kingdommarker it reached #52. Despite criticisms of their live shows as predictable and Bono using "too much echo", these early live shows nevertheless helped demonstrate U2's potential, as critics noted that Bono was a very "charismatic" and "passionate" showman, reminiscent of a young Rod Stewart. Boy is the only U2 album from which every song (as well as every B-side) has been performed live at least once.

In 2003, the album was ranked number 417 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

The album's sexual overtones led to its enthusiastic acceptance in American gay clubs shortly after its release. Bono commented on this phenomenon, saying, "First of all we started out and made Boy, which is a sexual LP, and we changed the cover in America to stop any concern there might be about paedophilia and the like, because it was our first album. But import copies got in and, as you know, in America a lot of music is broken in gay clubs and so we had a gay audience, a lot of people who were convinced the music was specifically for them. So there was a misconception if you like."

Track listing

Early vinyl and some cassette copies of the album have an unlisted and untitled thirty-second instrumental sample of the demo "Saturday Night", a song that would become "Fire" (on 1981's October album) at the very end of the album, after "Shadows and Tall Trees." This was dropped from most vinyl copies and all early CD versions. It was re-instated on the 2008 remastered editions of Boy and appeared in full for the first time as "Saturday Night" on the Deluxe Edition B-sides CD included with the 2008 remastered version of Boy. Until the remastered release of Boy, this thirty-second sample was thought to be "Fire."

Some pressings of the album, mostly in North America, indexed the track length of "An Cat Dubh" and "Into the Heart" at "6:21" and "1:53", respectively. The 2008 remastered edition of the album reinstated the original European lengths of 4:47 and 3:28. Early compact disc releases (identified by being West German-pressed and in a digipak) combined the two songs into a single track at 8:14.

2008 remastered edition

On April 9, 2008, confirmed that Boy, along with the band's other first three albums, October and War would be re-released as newly remastered versions. The remastered album was released on in the UK, with the U.S. version following it the next day. As with The Joshua Tree, the cover artwork has been standardised to the original UK release. The remaster of Boy was released in three different formats:

  1. Standard format: A single CD with re-mastered audio and restored packaging. Includes a 16 page booklet featuring previously unseen photos, full lyrics and new liner notes by Paul Morley. The 11-tracks match the previous release of the album.
  2. Deluxe format: A standard CD (as above) and a bonus CD including b-sides, live tracks and rarities. Also includes a 32 page booklet with previously unseen photos, full lyrics, new liner notes by Paul Morley, and explanatory notes on the bonus material by The Edge.
  3. Vinyl format: A single album re-mastered version on 180gram vinyl with restored packaging.

Bonus CD (2008 Remix Deluxe Edition)


Chart positions and sales


Country Peak
Certification Sales
Canada 12 Platinum 100,000+
United Kingdom 52 Gold 100,000+
United States 63 Platinum 1,000,000+


Year Single Chart Peak
1981 "I Will Follow" Billboard Mainstream Rock 20
1984 "I Will Follow" The Billboard Hot 100 81

See also


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