John Lennon: vocals, guitar
Adam Ippolito: piano, organ
Gary Van Scyoc: bass guitar
Stan Bronstein: saxophone
Richard Frank Jr: drums, percussion
Jim Keltner: drums
Some Time In New York City
Sunday Bloody Sunday was one of two songs on the Some Time In New York City album to be inspired by the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
The song was specifically about Bloody Sunday, which occurred in Derry on 30 January 1972. Twenty-six unarmed civil rights protesters and bystanders were shot by soldiers of the British Army. Fourteen men died as a result of the shootings, five of whom were shot in the back.
Sunday Bloody Sunday was the last song to be composed for Some Time In New York City. John Lennon had written ‘The Luck Of The Irish’ in late 1971, but felt compelled to write a more specific response following the massacre.
Most other people express themselves by shouting or playing football at the weekend. But me, here I am in New York and I hear about the 13 people shot dead in Ireland, and I react immediately. And being what I am, I react in four-to-the-bar with a guitar break in the middle.
Lennon took the liberty of identifying himself as a spokesman for the republican cause, with lines such as “You claim to be a majority/Well you know that it’s a lie/You’re really minority/On this sweet emerald isle/When Stormont bans our marches/They’ve got a lot to learn.” No matter that he had never lived in Ireland, and was newly settled in New York after leaving England for good.
Both Lennon and Paul McCartney sympathised with Irish republicanism. Liverpool had a strong Irish immigrant population, and both families had ancestors who emigrated to England from the country.
I’m a quarter Irish or half Irish or something, and long, long before the trouble started, I told Yoko that’s where we’re going to retire, and I took her to Ireland. We went around Ireland a bit and we stayed in Ireland and we had a sort of second honeymoon there. So I was completely involved in Ireland.
Lennon’s attitude to violent struggle remained uncertain in 1972. Four years previously, on ‘Revolution’ and ‘Revolution 1’, he was unsure whether to be counted in or out of destruction. By 1971, however, he opened ‘Power To The People’ with the lines “Say you want a revolution/We’d better get it on right away”.
In September 1971, four months prior to Bloody Sunday, Lennon explained his difficulty in reconciling pacifism with the violence of the Irish republican struggle.
I understand why they’re doing it, and if it’s a choice between the IRA or the British army, I’m with the IRA. But if it’s a choice between violence and non-violence, I’m with non-violence. So it’s a very delicate line… Our backing of the Irish people is done, really, through the Irish Civil Rights, which is not the IRA. Although I condemn violence, if two people are fighting, I’m probably gonna be on one side or the other, even though I’m against violence.
Lennon and Ono donated their royalties for Sunday Bloody Sunday and The Luck Of The Irish to the civil rights movement in Ireland and New York.
Sunday Bloody Sunday was one of Phil Spector’s densest productions on the album, with the Wall Of Sound used to its full effect to turn the song into a powerful rocker. It also featured a false ending which faded back in, a trick The Beatles had previously used on ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ and the stereo version of ‘Helter Skelter’.