Five songs about the Cold War

By Matt Neal
Updated November 7 2012 - 2:38pm, first published November 12 2009 - 3:51am

In case you missed it, the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall - the symbolic end of the Cold War - occurred last week.Songwriters have always loved penning a good political anthem and with the stand-off between the East and West dragging on since before the birth of rock 'n' roll it's no surprise that the Cold War and even the Berlin Wall have formed the basis for plenty of songs.Here's a list of five of the most intriguing songs about the hostilities between the USSR and the USA - some are good (XTC) and some are bad (Hasselhoff), but they at least tell an interesting story.(Note: Yes, I've left out Pink Floyd's mega-album The Wall. It's not actually about the Berlin Wall though. That was just a metaphor for mental walls relating to isolation, depression and the invisible curtain between an artist and his audience.)Living Through Another Cuba - XTC (1980)RUSSIA-US tensions were heating up again when XTC put together their album Black Sea - the Russians had invaded Afghanistan and the threat of nuclear war loomed once more. XTC honcho Andy Partridge penned this ode about England's atomic fears (sample lyric: we are piggy in the middle while war is polishing his drum and peace plays second fiddle) by referencing the Cuban Missile Crisis. Partridge gets the year wrong (the Carribean nuclear stand-off happened in '62, not '61) but his clever wordplay hits home, particularly when he notes that while "Russia and America are at each other's throats... just (get) on your knees and pray, and while you're down there, kiss your arse goodbye". War was obviously on the band's mind at this time - Black Sea also features the wonderful military kiss-off Generals & Majors and the comic book-inspired Sgt Rock.The sound on this live clip of XTC playing Living In Another Cuba isn't the best, but you get the idea:Wind Of Change - Scorpions (1990)AFTER many years as Germany's hair-metal supremos with their sleaze-rock and power ballads, Scorpions finally got serious on this track, which became the unofficial anthem for the re-unification of Germany. Inspired by a gig in Moscow in 1989, the band were amazed to find such love among a communist Russian crowd for a West German rock band. As the political tide changed and the wall came down, Scorpions' strident song of freedom was in the right place at the time. It references the Moskva River and Moscow's Gorky Park but it struck a serious chord with the German people and is said to be the biggest selling single in the country's history - one in about 15 Germans are believed to have owned a copy.Universal Music won't let us embed this clip, but you can watch it here in all it's mega-'80s hair glory99 Luftballons - Nena (1983)A HIT in German and then later English as 99 Red Balloons, this song tells the story of two kids who let 99 balloons into the air on the western side of the Berlin Wall. When the balloons float over the wall and are mistaken for a UFO sparking a nuclear catastrophe. It was an innocently wonderful take on the East-West furore (although the English version is said to be more satirical) and proved to be Nena's only international hit. It has become a popular song of hope, backed with bouncey, poppy hooks.Looking For Freedom - David Hasselhoff (1989)THERE'S a story around Berlin that many years after the wall came down, The Hoff went to museum at former East-West border crossing Checkpoint Charlie and asked for a plaque to be put up honouring his contribution to bringing down the Iron Curtain. After all, just prior to the wall coming down, Hasselholf's song Looking For Freedom was a massive hit in West Germany, topping the charts for two months. It's tale of a rich young man lamenting that the one thing he didn't have was freedom, helped affirm the funny-'cos-it's-true joke that Hasselhoff's music is only big in Germany. Oh, and he didn't get the plaque, but did get one saying he'd visited.This clip of The Hoff singing his song at the Berlin Wall is pretty funny... especially the light-up jacket and the bit where a firecracker misses him by centimetres.Nikita - Elton John (1985)IT'S not just the film clip, in which Sir Elton secretly takes photo of a German border guard because he's in love with her. But it's not just the video - the song's mentions of tin soldiers, gazing through the wire and standing near "the wall" make sure you get the point. While being enamoured with a guard was nice, the fact that Elton was actually still in the closet at the time didn't escape lyricist Bernie Taupin - Nikita is actually a boy's name in Russia.Nice hair, Elton.

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