Picking up the threads the day after the war game

Climate change?  meh.  Back in my day you had a proper grown-up threat to the survival of the human race – nuclear war.  There was none of this “it’s happening, oh no it isn’t” nonsense.  Everybody (apart from maybe President Raygun in his more senior moments) agreed that nukes were A VERY BAD THING so obviously the solution was to built silos full of them and point them at the other side, just in case.  This was known as ‘deterrence’; or insanity to use the colloquial term.  It’s now known that at the height of the last phase of the cold war in 1983, tension and paranoia got so bad that there were several war scares where fingers itched, Mr Burns style above the big red button.  It was no coincidence that the period 1980-84 saw the subject of nuclear war rising up pop’s agenda and helping shift units in huge numbers to frightened teens.  Armaggedon might have provided welcome relief from exposure to Enola Gay, Two Tribes, 99 Red Balloons, Dancing With Tears In My Eyes etc. but what about some of these forgotten postcards from the edge?  WARNING:  This post contains 80’s fashions.  Do not leave the shelter of the 21st century until told it is safe to do so.

U2 – Seconds

Sung (on album) by the Edge these are great lyrics about nuclear powerplay, before the preachiness got out of hand.

Iron Maiden – Seven Minutes to Midnight

Even arch metalheads Iron Maiden feared the power of rock would not be sufficient to deflect showers of SS20s but figured they would try anyway.  No I’m not being sarky it raaaawwks!

Rush – Distant Early Warning

You’ve only got four minutes, would you spend it listening to Rush negotiate a modal mock symphony on the futility of war in 12/8 time?  Actually they keep it relatively straight here but even so can I boil an egg instead?

The Fixx – Stand Or Fall

The Fixx were the great hopes of big label MCA in the early 80s but their career went nowhere, despite having a large amount of money thrown at them, most of which they seem to have spent on knitwear.  This is typical new romantics meet plutonium.

Kate Bush – Breathing

The queen bee laments the destruction of the hive in typically powerful style.  I’m sure this was banned by the BBC, though if on the grounds that the video looked like something David Bowie would turn down as too cheap and weird then I don’t blame them.

Queen – Hammer To Fall

First ver Maiden then Queen weighed in with this searingly heavy cry against the threat of annihilation.  Actually I think it was Brian’s turn for single that month and he wanted to cut loose with his fireplace guitar, before we were all turned to ashes.

Men At Work – It’s A Mistake

I loved this record when it came out but I was fifteen and didn’t want to die.  Today it seems hopelessly jaunty but hey everyone deals with doom in their own way.

Paul Hardcastle – Forty Years

Earnest Paul and his wet look perm were late to the party (he did a whole album “No Winners” on the subject of nukes in 1988) and this is really just 19 part 2.  Still fact packed primer on the cold war balance of terror or what?

XTC – This World Over

All these songs appeared in within a few years of each other and strongly reflect their times.  The pounding Linn drum on this track has always irritated me but the melody and sentiments are haunting.  The final line “the end of dreams” sends a shiver down my spine.  Here, who left the fucking fallout shelter door open again!

This Mortal Coil – I Come And Stand At Every Door

This folk tune inspired by Hiroshima was popularised by the Byrds who included it on their Fifth Dimension album.  Gothsters TMC dug it out again to extra spooky effect.  Not requiring light or heat to survive, goths would have had an unfair advantage in a nuclear winter.

Honourable Mentions:

Freshies – Wrap Up The Rockets.  Herky jerky power pop protest.  Funny, and if you didn’t laugh you’d cry.

Scars – Your Attention Please.  A poem about incoming atomic attack set to ponderous Joy Division-ish music.  Recited in a thick Scottish accent – get tae where?  The cupboard under the stairs?

Fischer Z – Cruise Missiles.  Another bitter rant inspred by the upping of the ante, the arrival of US Cruise and Pershing missiles in Europe to carry tactical nukes and start a war at the drop of a helmet.

The Beat – Dream Home In NZ.  The Birmingham ska boys sing of escaping the insanity of the arms race to take refuge in the first country to go nuclear free; New Zealand.  Possibly ironic.

The Ruts – It Was Cold.  Epic track from their first album and prescient song about the violence, hunger and social breakdown that would accompany ‘victory’.


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