The Soviets and their nukes… On the other side there was Ronnie Reagan and his lover Thatcher ready to press that button… Ah the 80’s eh ? Good times.
I travelled to Moscow not long after the wall fell and met many Russians who I found out, unsurprisingly, that they didn’t want any of us dead. They too didn’t like this constant threat of nuclear war. The politicians and their constant posturing, all of us chuckled at the memories.
So the idea I had was to write something about that now infamous 1980’s anti-war song, as well as giving some mentions to other questionable tunes released on the same subject. With this I decided to ask via my @FootieAndMusic Twitter account for some suggestions of more war/anti war good or bad songs to add.
This is when the idea started to head south a bit quickly…
Turns out that there are many, many very decent songs done on the subject of war. (The majority against obviously). But that’s not going to stop me from my original mission ! I’ll still explore these weaker musical moments, but before that I will highlight the other submitted songs:
Jeremy S. the lead singer of Manchester band The Disappeared was first in with his suggestions for Edwin Starr – War and Barry McGuire – Eve Of Destruction and to a lesser extent:
U2 – Sunday Bloody Sunday. I say to a lesser extent because the lyrics do reference war, the song was actually about the troubles. But – the single did come from the album War.
Darren also pointed me towards a beautiful song which for the life of me I don’t know how I missed it now. I was there in the 1980’s. I thought I knew every anti-war song out there. But I didn’t and I’m thankful for him for telling me about The Faith Brothers – Easter Parade:
Continuing this thread it was Chris Ledger who told me that it wasn’t just the 80’s with some good anti-war songs, in the 90’s there was: Ocean Colour Scene – Profit In Peace and what’s this… in the Naughties there was Lee Ryan from the boyband Blue had a track on War Child album with the very listenable: Stand Up As People.
Hold on stop now. So many decent tunes. I’m about to give up on this now. You haven’t come here to read about these good efforts. Putting together a very nice song about the threat of war is easy enough, but doing a bad one… now that takes some talent…
Some more suggestions and now we are getting to the gritty:
– Fredorrarci reminded me about The Cranberries with their tanks and their bombs and their bombs and their guns… which was another song about the Troubles, but given a mention here because of that particular clumsy lyric.
– @damon_th takes us further down the path with “ohohohwhoah we’re in the army now …” Extra notes: Noddy Holder shouting the Sergeant’s line: “Stand up and fight !” I also noticed that Laibach covered this track on an album called NATO which had a war theme.
We are still in the sensible territory but slowly going into the silly – and to steer us over that cliff here’s Nick Dunmore with two suggestions, both of which tick that terrible decision category. First there’s TV’s Nick Knowles with An Eye For An Eye – and secondly there’s this from Alan Fletcher (Dr Karl Kennedy in Neighbours) with Perfectly Comfortable (about the war in Iraq):
Are you happy now world leaders ? You made a daytime TV and a soap star sing.
But we now get back to the 80’s, to our era of the red scare and of bands with bouffant hair who asked Are you going to drop the bomb or not ? That one like the Duran Duran song previously mentioned wasn’t actually about the subject of a holocaust, or was it ?
And so we come to the featured song – released in 1984 when the nuclear crisis was at it’s peak, as opposed to Culture Club, who were starting to decline. This single was from that difficult third album and although it sold well, the sales were disappointing compared to the first two. The band were pressured to release something to cash in on their success and the first single to be released from this album was also a cash in:
Despite the relative success of the single (it got to number 2 in the charts), the band have since disowned it.
So what inspired them to write this ? Why did they they release this song ? Was it because of another single released a few months earlier (May 1984) which stayed at the top of the charts for nine weeks ?
Frankie Goes To Hollywood, who had risen to notoriety thanks to producer Trevor Horn and DJ Mike Read, this single was the follow-up to the mega-selling Relax:
This song had everything. Partrick Allen and his voiceover from the Public Information Film. And in the video with a Ronald Reagan lookalike and Soviet Leader Chernenko (who in truth I didn’t recognise, because unlike Reagan this impersonator looked nothing like the real thing.) Both of them fighting each other one-on-one until the death. The spectators goading them on and betting on the outcome. The TV cameras, with Holly Johnson reporting live. This scene was perfect to me. If these people hate each other enough, if they want to destroy each other then do it this way. Kill yourselves, don’t include us in your pathetic games.
Ah but such pity it was fiction. Luckily for us the both sides held off and we can laugh about it now.