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.

Alphaville – “Forever Young” (1984)
“Forever Young” is another one of the big iconic ’80s songs on this list, and is also both one of the main Cold War examples and one of those songs that has lived on in the popular imagination in a way that erases its Cold War elements. When you think of those ’80s stereotypes, the nostalgia and the emotional proms and the thoughts of childhood and innocence, you think of songs like “Forever Young.” But this is a song that ends its first verse with “Hoping for the best/ But expecting the worst/ Are you gonna drop the bomb or not?” It’s worth noting that Alphaville are one of the German outfits on this list; once more, artists writing from the perspective of the symbolic center of the Cold War, with aggressors on each side. It’s a masterpiece from this milieu, its lyrics mingling further allusions to the threatening world surrounding them with thoughts on aging. Perhaps more than any other song here, it encapsulates the feeling of living a life day to day, with theoretically normal hopes and dreams, under the heavy shadow of the Cold War.

SOURCE: Stereogum 80s Songs About Nuclear Anxiety

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