Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Discuss: Songs for the Apocalypse

Doug: Since most of us were in high school and/or college in the 1980s, I'm sure we can have discourse on favorite popular songs that spoke of the fear (real or imagined, spun from propaganda or personal agendas) that was precipitated from the presidency of Ronald Reagan. "Ronnie's got a new gun", indeed -- that "tired old man that we elected King", sang Don Henley. I got my BA at the same school Reagan got his -- I was front/center to his presidency. So here's to "The Wild, Wild West" by the Escape Club, "Two Tribes" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and "Land of Confusion" by Genesis. What are some memorable songs from that era? And hey -- we sure don't want to open up a political can o' worms, because that's not what we do here. But some of those sorts of tunes did make you want to tap your feet, huh?


dbutler16 said...

99 Luftballons (or 99 Air Balloons, if you must) is my apocalypse song of choice. I'm a New Wave baby in addition to being a Bronze Age baby, so I'll take some Nena with my Armageddon, thank you.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Two thousand zero zero Party over oops out of time!!!

The Prowler (just punched a higher floor).

Murray said...

The king of the top of the apocalyptic pyramid has to be "Eve of Destruction" by Barry McGuire. One certainly doesn't tap toes to that gravelly litany of why the world is doomed (DOOMED), but it got plenty of air play and my college roommate kept playing it. And playing it.

I did enjoy "In the Year 2525" by Zager and Evans when it came on the radio, but these gents didn't have a great optimism for our future as they counted up thru the future years.

Doug said...

If you want to trip back to the Silver Age, then Marvin Gaye's songs "What's Going On" and "Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology)" fit today's request nicely.

By the way, if I haven't already said it, and I don't think I have -- if Motown: The Musical comes near your town, you must see it. Fantastic production. We saw it in Chicago about a month ago and cannot wait to see it again.

Oh, yeah -- the Temptations "Ball of Confusion" isn't really an apocalyptic song, but it certainly speaks to the sorts of situations that could bring it on.


J.A. Morris said...

Okay, it wasn't a single, but does anyone Remember 'Ronnie Talk To Russia' by Prince. Not the best lyrics ever, but you've gotta love the "new wave" keyboards:,_Talk_To_Russia/

I didn't care much for "Frankie", most "political" music I listened to was more underground stuff like Dead Kennedys. 'In God We Trust, Inc.' was excellent.

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SteveDoesComics said...

The ones that first leap to my mind are:

Enola Gay by OMD, easily the most insanely catchy song about nuclear devastation ever written.

Going Underground by the Jam, a magnificently contemptuous rant about the whole situation.

Breathing by Kate Bush. A song about nuclear war told from the viewpoint of an unborn baby in the womb.

and Dominion by the Sisters of Mercy. "Stuck inside of Memphis with a mobile home, singing, 'Mother Russia, rain down down down.'"

Anonymous said...

Yeah like Dbutler16 I'd include 99 Luftballons; catchy beat - until you read the lyrics. At first hearing (I don't speak German!) you'd think it's just another catchy pop song .... then you read the lyrics and realize there's a whole other meaning hidden behind the music.

I'd also include Springsteen's Born in the USA, Don Henley's the End of the Innocence, and Everybody wants to Rule the World by Tears for Fears. Not necessarily end of the world songs, but songs which touched on oppression and struggle.

- Mike 'wait - is the end of the world here already? Doug, you've been holding out on us!' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Garett said...

It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine! My band played this REM song for a Mayan end of the world party in 2012. The lyrics are all over the place, but everyone can sing along on the chorus about the end of the world. : )

Murray said... could I have forgotten "Armageddon" by Prism? That was a tune I still have in my playlists. A rockin', bouncy number about the beginning of WW III.

What other song has an overture of building power guitars and pilot-control tower chatter, ending with "This is not an exercise. Repeat, this is not an exercise"

Anonymous said...


An ill wind comes arising
Across the cities of the plain
There's no swimming in the heavy water
No singing in the acid rain
Red alert
Red alert

Really sets the mood if you're ready the old compound for the apocalypse.......

The Prowler (has to help his mother stand up straight).

PS: Wouldn't it be cool if your number code was 666!!!!

J.A. Morris said...

I like both version, but I always preferred the German version '99 Red Balloons'. Maybe it was the "novelty" of it.

Speaking of that song, Reno hardcore band did a nice cover of it back in 1985.

Dr. Oyola said...

J.A. OF COURSE, I know "Ronnie Talk to Russia" - an example of Prince's weird reactionary bent (along with "America" off of Around the World in a Day - something that changed later.

I have always thought of Talking Heads "Life During Wartime" as an apocalypse song, and "Nothing (but Flowers)" as a POST-apocalyptic song.

Let's not forget REM "It's the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine)"

david_b said...


I'm shocked, I'm shocked. No mention of Sting's 'Russians' off his incredible Blue Turtles album.

Great great lyrics, Sting felt the only remaining hope for the world was that the "Russians love their children too" . Somber, relentlessly driving home the frail hope.

I will say that the genre of these 'warning songs' played it self out by the time Billy Joel came out with 'We Didn't Start The Fire'. If not a shark-jump, definitely a minnow-leap.

Anonymous said...

Prowler, no surprise here. If you see me post an early comment it can mean only one of two things, either 1)it's a holiday or 2)I'm on vacation.

Forgot to mention I'm on vacation these days!

- Mike 'filling all my waking hours with comics' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Pat Henry said...

...Anything by Joy Division...

david_b said...

Obvisiously one of the most researched/examined song on the Apocalypse has been Don McLean's 'American Pie'.. Both an expose on America's current space race, relating to war as some football game, Don brought it home with a sad, lingering reflection marking some future date as the now well-coined phrase, 'the day the music died'.

I do happen to be home today myself. Terrible terrible bronchitis-like cold for the last week. My throat actually closed last night, nearly choking me twice. Sure put the fear of God in this Zumvembie, let me tell you. Both doc visits concluded with them telling me to stay on the meds and drink lots of water. Oy.

Anonymous said...

Prowler - Neil Peart. Good call. Tom

Edo Bosnar said...

Oh, man, David, that sounds pretty nasty. Hope you get better soon.
As for McLean's "American Pie", I'd never heard the post-apocalyptic interpretation; I know McLean himself is notoriously tight-lipped about the song's meaning, but it was always my impression that it was sort of a running commentary on the way pop culture and music were changing from the '50s to the '60s. And I think even McLean himself basically acknowledged that "the day the music died" is a reference to the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper.

Otherwise, there's some pretty good songs mentioned here; I can't be too original, here, as the first ones I thought of were "99 Luftballoons" and "1999."

Anonymous said...

Sigue Sigue Sputnik!
An army buddy of mine had it. Ya kinda have to listen to it...I can't explain it.
Also, Jesus Jones. M.P.

Anonymous said...

There was this song called "Morning Dew" by a Canadian folk singer named Bonnie Dobson, who said the cryptic, haunting lyrics are about the last man and woman on Earth after a nuclear holocaust. (thanks, Wikipedia!)
Anyhoo, I've heard several versions of it. Robert Plant and Devo put out some pretty good versions. My favorite is Nazareth, which you can find on the You Tubes. The guitars are bong-rattling bombastic. Check it out and rock out. Peace.

david_b said...

Edo, thanks for the comments. You're right about Don's intent, but just google apocalypse and 'American Pie', it's been pretty popular for decades.

Thanks to Mr. McLean's refusal to offer any lyric explanations, conspiracy types have always runa away with this stuff.

The best for me..? 'Messiah' by the late great Larry Norman, the grandfather of christian rock who recorded his first albums with none other than George Martin himself.

Fred W. Hill said...

My favorite is Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Two Tribes", particularly the "throw your dead bodies on the dance floor" mix as described by a DJ for San Francisco's "Live 105" alternative radio station where I first heard it in the mid-80s. I still have it on a cassette tape I recorded off that station nearly 30 years ago. I loved those eerie, wordless vocals in the song and it has an intensity similar to the Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again," another of my all time pop/rock faves. Great late night angst music.

Karen said...

In reference to the Reagan era, how about 'Bonzo goes to Bitburg' (aka 'My Brain is Hanging Upside Down') by the Ramones. Never known as a thinking man's band -not by a longshot! - this was a really solid effort by the group and a rather scathing commentary on Reagan's decision to visit a cemetery in Germany that held the graves of WWII era German soldiers, including SS troops. It was a strange decision on a trip that was supposed to honor the victims of the Nazis, and this song calls him out on it.

Teresa said...

This was a toe tapper:
"The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades" by Timbuk3.

I have always been and always will be a Pink Floyd fan. The Final Cut is my favorite.

"Two Suns in the Sunset" Pink Floyd from The Final Cut.

This part of the song always sticks with me:
"The sun is in the east
Even though the day is done.
Two suns in the sunset
Could be the human race is run."

Edo Bosnar said...

This is a bit off topic, but since "Two Tribes" has gotten so much (justifiable, in my view) love in this thread, I have to say: Welcome to the Pleasuredome is in its entirety is simply an awesome album. I loved it back when it came out and still do. It's a quintessentially '80s album, but (to me, anyway) it still sounds so fresh, unlike so much of the music that I liked back then.

B Smith said...

"Dancing With Tears In My Eyes" by Ultravox might fit the bill.

Redartz said...

Adam and the Ants did a song called "Los Rancheros". Not specifically apocalyptic, but it leans prophetic:
"Time's coming when a new breed say, welcome tomorrow instead of yesterday."
Plus, it has some appropriately Reaganesque Western guitar and bullet ricochets!

Fred W. Hill said...

Hi, Karen, regarding "Bonzo Goes to Bitburg", really one of the Ramones' best, and considering that during the 1980 campaign Bonzo gave a pro-states right speech at Philadelphia, Mississippi, where 3 civil rights workers were murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan, including the sheriff, I don't have particularly fond regards for our 40th Commander-in-Chief.
Oh, and I'm a Pink Floyd fan too, Teresa, from their 1st foray with Sid Barrett at the helm to their latter material, including The Final Cut, even if it was really a Roger Waters solo lp in all but name. Contemplative and angry, with one hard rocker in "Not Now, John" (a reference to the then recently slain John Lennon???).

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