Songs Of Dread

It was great fun growing up in the 80s, what with the constant dread that either our senile old TelePrompter reader or their vodka-pickled Politburo hack would instantly render the Earth a cockroach kingdom. These idiot wingnuts now, they’re so worried that Ahmadenijad wants to usher in the Muslim rapture, but they conveniently forget that their Dear Leader Ronald Reagan spoke just as strongly of ushering in the Christian one — and Ronnie actually had the nukes to do it.

It’s a little harder for me to forget it. I was at just the right age for The Day After to fuck with my head real good. Thank God for Gorbachev, who promptly gave up nearly everything, which in turn convinced Reagan to shitcan the bent-on-holocaust-detente-destroying Richard Perle crew and cut a deal. Also, thank God that the price of oil precipitously dropped in the mid and late 80s, ensuring dire economic strais for the Soviet Union, which in turn pushed Gorbachev toward reform even more… But anyway, the point is that Gorbachev got through to Reagan; also, to quote Orwell from memory, no religious person believes in the existence of God quite like he believes in the existence of Australia. Once Gorbachev threw in the towel, Ronnie decided that earthly rather than celestial glory would be the best bet.

But until Gorbachev, things were very very very scary. The general dread’s reflected in art, of course. Here are some late period Cold War classics:

Rim-tapping by the drummer, the reverse-echo background harmonies in the chorus, the Steinberger (or clone) bass, the tinkly arpeggiated guitar lick, the horrible horrible keytar — all very 1986. This is the most polished Stranglers song I’ve ever heard; it’s over-produced as was the style at the time. But that’s a good thing, I think; their usual rawness would not have helped this particular song.

The studio version of this song is my favorite by them; alas, I could only find this live version. As a kid I hated the singer for his stupid gesticulating retardation in the “One Thing Leads To Another” video, but all was forgiven with this song. And really, they had some other good ones: “Secret Separation” is excellent and the extended cut of “Deeper and Deeper” is teh r0xx0r as well. Just don’t watch the singer too much.

I think these guys were Christian rock; if so, then …so what? They were Christian rock like Bono is Christian rock. Yes the song is a biblical metaphor, but then into the song the lyrics get very contemporary. This was always a favorite of mine; if you knew my first name, you’d know why. Their other hit, “Let The Day Begin,” I never liked, though YMMV.


Comments: 28


THE DAY AFTER can suck my balls.

Have you ever seen THREADS? Holy shit…I dreamed about flaming kittens for years after seeing that…


The singer of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club is the son of the singer of The Call. A little rock trivia for you all. The Call were apparently Christians, but the bands music was not really Christian Rock. Big difference. I can spot Christian Rock from a mile away, mainly because of how badly it blows.

The only thing worse than Christian Rock is Christian Rap.


Yeah, I think that might be the disconnect between the neocons and normal people.

I studied International Affairs for two years in the late 90s before changing majors. That was six years after the USSR went defunct…and still, the only thing the professors knew how to teach was Cold War. All the diplomatic knowledge of a multipolar world, say 1815-1945, had gone out the window and nobody was passing it on anymore, despite the fact that this, and How To Engage China, was what we needed now.

And these people advising Dubya in foreign policy — remember Condi Rice’s credentials are entirely academic — all they know is how to manage a two-sided world, and they think they can win that one. So I suspect that that’s the whole of what informs them when it comes to talking to Iran or North Korea: all they can do is parrot back forty-year-old tough talk and then when someone doesn’t bang a shoe on a table in response they just do it again.

But it is still an entirely intellectual exercise for them. Maybe they were on the inside during the 80s and maybe not; as far as I know, we were, apart from the occasional technological bloop, never actually as close to war as Reagan would have had us believe. So they think they know that all this brinksmanship will lead to US victory fast at no risk.

Meanwhile, we’re fucking scared that someone’s going to put a nuke on a freighter and send it to Baltimore.


The only thing worse than Christian Rock is Christian Rap.

Is one really worse than the other? They both suck equally, so sayeth the Lawd.


I don’t think there are any Russians
And there ain’t no Yanks
Just corporate criminals
Playing with tanks

Rings as true today as it did 20 years ago.

JK47 is spot-on — The Call may be composed of Christians, but it ain’t Christian Rock. Their “conversion” song (“What Happened To You”) is pleasing even to this hardcore secular humanist.

But, JK47, come on — Toby Mac rocks the First World!


…they conveniently forget that their Dear Leader Ronald Reagan spoke just as strongly of ushering in the Christian one — and Ronnie actually had the nukes to do it.

One of my favorite cracks about Reagan (I forget who said it):

“Reagan would never support the establishment of a state religion because that would mean he’d have to go to church on Sundays.”


How could you forget the most important Cold War song of all?

Kids today. Pah!


As someone who grew up during the 50s, I pretty much ignored the 80s. I had already firmly ensconsed myself in the counterculture after graduating from high school in 1967 (the “Summer of Love”), and by the time Reagan came along I didn’t much give a shit about the evil madmen that ruled the world.

The seeds of my cynicism had first taken root at age 14 with the JFK assassination, later well watered with the precious blood of my peers in Vietnam while I protested mightily. By the 80s my main concern was living my life and raising my children with as much personal freedom and autonomy as possible. I kept myself removed from the materialist culture at large, and concentrated on my personal creative pursuits.

Perhaps when your elementary school years were spent practising ducking under your school desk in the case of a nuclear bomb attack, your fear overload peaks early. Reagan simply disgusted me, fear never entered into it.


The early 60s were far scarier; I know that. But I wasn’t around then. I didnt mean this post to diminish what people had to live through back then.

Watchful — too obvious! I didnt link 99 luftballoons or Genesis’ land of confusion, either. and there’s actually a much better anti-nuke Stranglers song, but I didnt like it as much as always the sun


scarletwoman said,

June 20, 2006 at 1:40

As someone who grew up during the 50s, I pretty much ignored the 80s. I had already firmly ensconsed myself in the counterculture after graduating from high school in 1967 (the “Summer of Love�), and by the time Reagan came along I didn’t much give a shit about the evil madmen that ruled the world.

Oh sure, scarlet … everything was so much cooler in the 60s with Kruschev and Castro threatening to blow up the world, and us children of the 80s are just little pantywaists for being scared of stiffs like Reagan and Gorbachev.

Well, I think I speak for all children of the 80s when I say that YOU never had to grow up listening to Billy Idol. Take that!



Dear Retardo,

I did not in any way mean to impy that your post “diminish(ed) what people had to live through back then.” I guess I was just saying that, as someone from an earlier generation, I can’t quite relate.

My original intention was to post something about how I was totally unfamiliar with the music of the 80s, but I got kinda sidetracked on my trip down memory lane.

The 80s — as well as the last half of the 70s — was totally lost on me, music-wise. I was married to a muscian who was in a band that did nothing but original stuff. My immediate community was full of other musicians who were largely folk or blues or reggae oriented. I didn’t own a radio or TV.

I, myself, was making a living as a professional belly dancer, so pretty much all I listened to on my phonograph was Middle Eastern music.

Anyway, your post got me thinking about the 80s — and, in thinking about it, I realized that I just didn’t pay attention to much of anything that was happening outside my personal life.

Just one of those weird impulses to reply to something — I realize what I have to say is actually pretty irrelevant to your point. Sorry.



I’m SO sorry! If it had been up to me — and believe me, my generation TRIED — you would never have been subjected to the trauma of Billy Idol.

On the other hand, the first time I saw him on TV (which had to have been sometime in 1987-88, the first time I had a TV in my house in my adult life) I was utterly fascinated by his curled lip thing and kinda liked the song “White Wedding Day”.



No, no SW I didnt mean it that way, either. You’re not OT. You’re completely cool. I had worried when I saw your first comment that I’d offended you.


The singer of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club is the son of the singer of The Call.

Only of the singers. Robert Levon Been, who called himself Robert Turner for a while. The other singer is Peter Hayes, and he does more of the vocals on the newest album. Hayes was also a guitarist for the Brian Jonestown Massacre for while. And BRMC is really pretty good live if you ever get a chance to see them. I first saw them opening for the Charlatans UK, and because I was kind of in a Ride/Jesus and Mary Chain mood, I was hooked. Now when I listen, I hear more Spacemen 3 than anything.

True story, their last show in Chicago sold out, inexplicably, and I didn’t have tickets. So I waited for about 20 minutes in about 15 degree weather without a jacket, and some dude named Spike, who was their fourth member that night, let me if for free.

Just don’t watch the singer too much.

Cy Curnin now makes a living designing hats. Seriously.

As for the first vid, I’d never heard that song, or of that band, until recently, but it’s on “The Alternative” on VH-1 Classic All. The. Time. Almost as much as the Jam and the Sisters of Mercy.


I dunno, man. What you had, in a bi-polar world, was two superpowers that could not engage each other directly. So there were these nasty little “proxy wars” in which not-russians killed not-americans, russians killed not-americans and americans killed not-russians. The desparately important thing, learned under Truman at the shores of the Yalu River, is that russians do not ever kill americans and americans do not ever kill russians.

Which, predictably, brings us to me. At a point when children should be discovering love and sex and college and work and friends and fun, I was in a beautiful country thousands of miles from home with not-russians were trying pretty hard to kill me. Peace, when available, came from warm beer, a particularly, er, effective strain of cannabis, darvon and dexadrine from friendly corpsmen and pilots, and music. Oh man, it was the music that kept me sane. Not any of this arty doomsday rock, nope, that didn’t have a place in a combat zone. It was Tommy James, Creedence Clearwater and the Rolling Stones. The guys from the rich families had tape players, and got tapes in the mail. Those guys were the center of the party. Even today, if I listen to Crystal Blue Persuasion, my mind will fill in the sound of H&I fire in the background…



Man, is anyone elsed bummed to have missed that chance to enjoy the sweet, seductive cocktail of Nuclear Holocaust AND Muslim Rapture?


Retardo — Oh good grief! Allow me to lay it on the line here — I TOTALLY love you! Like you were one of my own sons (who are also utterly cool and smart and aware, btw).

Tired old hippie that I am, your posts gladden my heart and give me hope. I just wish my generation could have done more. I wish we could have prevented Reagan, and all the subsequent shit.

What happened in the 70s was the backlash — I think most of us really didn’t see how powerful all the undercurrents were; the MIC, the rise of the corporate-state collusion, the right-wing think tanks, and all.

We thought we had seeded the culture with the love of freedom, with enlightenment and expanded consciousness.

But the greater the Light, the greater the Shadow. The Elites set the economy to make it a greater struggle for the masses to survive. People had to dig in and put all their energy into survival. We children of the 50s and 60s were having our own children, we had to deal with feeding and sheltering and schooling them.

The focus shifted from the political to the personal. And while our attention was shifted, the monsters grew more powerful.

It’s hard and immensely saddening to me to see where we are today — after all the bright and hopeful energy that we experienced in the late 60s — “Make Love, Not War”.

I am so sorry for the children who came after, who had nothing but the rise of the right wing backlash as the ambient culture of their childhoods. There was a time — admittedly brief — where we thought that the tide of history had truly turned. Where truth and justice and freedom would prevail for once and for all.

I had no idea that we could have ever come to this sorry place in our culture where the forces of darkness would so strongly prevail. It truly breaks my heart, more than I can adequately express.

BUT, knowing that a younger generation is still willing to fight the great fight is something for which I am truly grateful — I definitely do not want to seem to diminish YOUR experience and perceptions. Becuase you have my utmost gratitude.


You can cut the love on this thread with a knife 🙂


Shorter Scarlet Woman (With Nothing but Love and Respect):

We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — the place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.
–Hunter S. Thompson
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas



I was always a bit of a hippie so The Dead’s “Throwing Stones” was an 80’s favorite. Its on YouTube but I don’t know how to post a link on here.



Laughing so hard I’m cryin’…



Kudos to the Threads reference. I think they aired that on TBS when I was in eight grade and it scared the shit out of me. Much, much, much more hardcore than The Day After ever thought of being.

As for music, I remember one remix of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Two Tribes” featured a British public service recording about dealing with nuclear war, with the phrase “Mine is the last voice you will ever hear…do not be alarmed” creeping me out pretty good.


That video by the Call is a classic. Thanks.


But Human League rules!


is that garth hudson on keys in the call vid? it looks like it.


Teenager in the 80’s, elementary school kid in the 70’s. I remember well when they gave up on the air raid drills in grade school, becuase it wouldn’t make an iota of difference whether you were huddled under your desk or not when the bombs came.

There was a poster/map showing what a single warhead would do to the Washington DC area. Where I lived was within the radius in which air would ignite. People on the beach in Ocean City, MD would be permenantly blinded if they were looking towards the blast. Of course there wasn’t just one bomb coming. There’s nothing quite like knowing that at any moment everyone you’ve ever met, everyone they’ve ever met, every single human on earth might be snuffed out of existence. Airplanes hijackings, ‘dirty bombs’, subway attacks, none of them packs quite the same horror.



Garth Hudson? That’s what I thought immediately on seeing the vid. I dunno, The Band had broken up by that time, so why not moonlight with some UK rockers?


Retardo, my guess is your first name is “Jericho.”


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