Zeitgeist Flashback

So last night, I'm driving to work, listening to the radio station that plays all kinds of pop and rock music. I'm almost there and I hear a song that takes me back a quarter-century: "99 Red Balloons," the 1984 English version of the song by the German singer Nena. (Here is the German version; if you prefer the English, click the link above.)

I first heard the German version "99 Luftballons" back in 1983 when I was in Germany. It kind of tapped into the fearful zeitgeist of the mid-80s, when all the Europeans were afraid that Ronald Reagan's forceful, confrontational style was going to trigger a nuclear war with the Russians. Fortunately, that didn't happen, and we can look back on the angsty feelings of the time with a bit of a smile. Things weren't really that bad.

There were other songs that were popular during the 1983-85 period that also captured the fearful nature of the times: Men At Work's song "It's A Mistake," from 1983; several of the songs on Frankie Goes To Hollywood's Welcome to the Pleasuredome album from 1984, especially "Two Tribes" and their cover of "War"; and the piece de resistance, Sting's funereal "Russians" from 1985, a dreary dirge of a song.

Note that none of the artists listed above were Americans; Men At Work were Australians, and Sting and Frankie Goes To Hollywood were British. I think that most Americans weren't quite so fearful as the Europeans were of the Russians. In the end, the good guys won, the Soviet Union disappeared, and the nukes stayed in their silos.