An annoying notion often flung around since the late 80s is that U2 didn’t have a hit single until New Year’s Day in 1983 or even Pride in 1984. Granted, the goalposts changed considerably for them through the 80s and the success of The Joshua Tree inevitably dwarfed any early achievements.
However, if you’re particularly fond of these early achievements you tend to resent them being misremembered/labeled incorrectly e.g. Fire, their 6th single released in Aug 1981 was a hit. It reached no. 35 in the UK charts, they appeared on Top of the Pops, ah c'mon lads is that not a hit?
I was watching the show in my cousins’ house in Enniscorthy and when they appeared I remember being excited and aware of its significance – that it was the first hit single by a new Irish band since the Rats or Lizzy. The Rats had been appearing on TOTP since 77 which seemed a lifetime ago to me (cos it nearly was). There was more to it- of which I was barely aware - they operated from Ireland and were distinct. Here they were on Top of the Pops – result.
I already knew I Will Follow and Out of Control from the radio, Boy was floating around on a reel to reel tape that summer and October was snapped up by my brother in, um, October .
Fire was shuffly and mildly explosive - not a classic song but punctuated by several distinct moments that could define their sound. For a ten year old Irish music nerd it was ground zero.
In my mind when Gloria, the next single came out, they were elevated to great heights. In reality they weren’t – Gloria stalled at 55 and October got middling reviews. I was blissfully unaware of this as my media filters were mostly Irish – RTE bigged them up continually (correctly). In 1982 BP Fallon did a 2 parter of his BP Fallon Orchestra on them on Radio 2, I thought ooh, they’re getting big now. Gloria and Fire were unofficial anthems to young teenagers at discos throughout Ireland for the bones of the 80s. You did a kind of backwards roundabout feet together bumpy bop to it and I'll still drag it out when I need the heat. Gloria remained prominent in their set till the late 80s but Fire died out much sooner. All spent with nowhere to grow -there was no trace of it on their 80s singles compilation in 1998- talk about too much perspective, boys.