Saturday, 13 September 2008

It's the bomb...

... the bomb, the bomb, the bomb, the bomb, the bomb, the bomb that will bring us together. (But only if it's not love.)

Garethwyn talked about how this week's slightly queasy anxiety over the powering-up of the Large Hadron Colliders at CERN (vague disquiet mixed with childish snickering at the fact that it looked a bit like "Large Hardon") made him think of the video for Midge Ure's Dancing With Tears In My Eyes, the doomy scenario of Ure travelling home, on the eve of global destruction, to die with his wife. I vividly remember that video and that early '80s preoccupation with nuclear warfare. In particular, I recall being traumatised by a 1984 television drama, Threads.

And - eek! - here it is online:

Threads scared the bejesus out of Teenage Me. Even now, watching it two decades later, I'm feeling a distant echo of that sphincter-tightening terror. For a good bit of my adolescence, I really thought events would unfold exactly as depicted. I'm half-listening to the long, slow build-up (when we're introduced to the main characters - working class boy shacks up with middle class girl - and hear news reports of escalating US/USSR tension). Haven't got to the scene with the mushroom cloud over Sheffield and I might not watch that far. I am Teh Scarred!!1

(I'm intrigued, though, by the '70s-hangover brownness that's still evident in those early '80s interiors. And loving Lesley Judd as the newsreader.)

Anyway, I was also thinking about how the theme of apocalypse pervaded 1980s pop. Aside from obvious stuff like Blondie's Atomic and Frankie's Two Tribes ("when you hear the air attack warning, you and your family must take cover at once..."), lots of songs referenced bombs and war. One of the first singles I ever bought with my own money was Nena's 99 Red Balloons, about setting off global military defences via the medium of, er, balloons. Then there was La Bush's Breathing ("chips of plutonium are twinkling in every lung") and the Smiths (Ask) and of course Morrissey's Armageddon-calling Everyday Is Like Sunday. And even Culture Club, Gawd bless 'em, with The War Song:

I remember having the piss taken out of me for liking this; the repetitious lyrics were much-derided but they're incredibly catchy - and there's a subtler poetry to lines like "and love means nothing in some strange quarter" and "I heard the banging of hearts and fingers". I thought so, anyway.

There must be more of this doom-mongering '80s stuff. I wonder if there's enough for it to constitute an actual genre?

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