New Year's Day was the first single released from the War album. It also appeared on U2's EP and video for Under A Blood Red Sky and the Best of 1980-1990/B-sides compilation. The cover of the single features Peter Rowan who is the brother of Derek 'Guggi' Rowan. Rowan appeared on the cover of several albums and singles.
Polish dissident and Solidarity union leader Lech Walesa inspired the song. New Year's Day was one of three songs from the upcoming album premiered in Glasgow on December 1, 1982 when Bono informed the crowd that the single would be available in stores on New Year's Day. However, the song ended prematurely due to feedback from Edge's amplifier. U2 played the song for the first time in Belfast on December 20th stressing that it's not a rebel song.
A live version, recorded at the Rockpalast '83 concert in Lorelei, Germany on August 20, 1983 appears on the EP Under A Blood Red Sky.