A Song A Day in May: 80s Nuclear War Anxiety

The Music I listened to and loved in the 80s had an influence on me, it’s undeniable. Along with the books I read, the television shows and movies I watched, the people I met, they all helped shape create the foundation of who I am today. Would I be me today if I hadn’t seen “The Day After” at a young age and had a near-obsession level of paranoia over my skin getting peeled off in a nuclear blast? Who’s to say? Did the artists of the music I listen to and their speaking out on political and social matters shape me? Absolutely.

I stumbled across Stereogum‘s list of 80s songs about nuclear war and it was nostalgia on full volume for me. Their list included songs I may not have realized at the time were as political as they were, but now with adult eyes and 30+ years of hindsight, I am grateful that they are. I hope you enjoy some of them as much as I do.

XTC – “Living Through Another Cuba” (1980)
Like “Enola Gay,” XTC’s “Living Through Another Cuba” is another ’80s track that looks to past atomic era events to illuminate their current moment, this time the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Choosing one of the most precipitous chapters of the Cold War was an effective choice and leads up to a later lyric. When Andy Partridge sings “Russia and America are at each other’s throats,” it highlights another common thread amongst ’80s nuclear anxiety songs, especially those sung by British (or at least non-American bands): the idea that here the rest of the world was, stuck on edge in between two superpowers toeing closer to a confrontation that could yield global destruction. Soon after, Partridge barks “If we get through this lot alright/ We’re due for a replay, 1998.” He might’ve been 20 years early on that one and missed one of the primary players, but he turned out to be dead-on about the cyclical nature of people losing their damn minds.

SOURCE: Stereogum 80s Songs About Nuclear Anxiety

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