Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Song a Year: 1986, Russians

There comes a point in every earnest wannabe angry-young-man's life when he decides the time has come to be political and think about issues affecting the nation and the world. By 1986 I certainly was thinking about the world most deeply, and it was influencing my music tastes. Sure INXS's Listen Like Thieves was a nice fun album, or possibly I could have gone for Mr Mister, or Peter Cetera, or Lionel Ritchie Dancing on the Ceiling, but when I went out, and for the first time ever bought a tape with my own money, it was Sting's Dream of the Blue Turtles that I chose.

The reason was based on the song "Russians", and the fact that a guy in my class told me it was great and that I had to buy it (and so I did: Grog the individual 0 - Peer Group Pressure 1).

Listening to "Russians" now seems impossibly quaint - can you really remember a time when we were worried either Russia or the USA might start a World War and use nuclear ICBMs to blow the crap out of each other and any other innocent nations who merely happened to have a secret listening post out in the middle of a desert somewhere?

It is hard to recall that in October of 1985 Reagan and Gorbachev met at Reykjavik to discuss nuclear disarmament - and what's more the world waited with interest to see what they decided - according to Wikipedia they "agreed in principle to eliminate all nuclear weapons in 10 years (by 1996)". Whew, glad it's now 2009 and we can celebrate 13 years of not having to worry about such weapons...

The song was accompanied by an equally earnest video - black and white, so you knew it must be very serious. At the time Sting was the go to guy for anyone wanting to be serious about world issues. Bono would quickly take his mantle, but in 1986 Sting was the singer you would most likely see sitting at a press conference next to some guy from the Amazon with a big disc in his bottom lip talking about deforestation or some such.

The lyrics refer somewhat incorrectly to a statement made by Nikita Kruschev that he made at the United Nations; Sting sings:

"Mister Kruschev says he will bury you/ I don't subscribe to that point of view/ Would be such an ignorant thing to do/If the Russians love their children too".

And while it sounds pretty sinister, what Kruschev was saying was that Communism will bury capitalism (yeah, ok not the greatest prediction), and not in a "we will kill all of you" kind of way, but bury you as in "outlive you" - the meaning of the phrase that is often used when talking to an elderly relative complaining about his ailments: "Oh Grandpa Simpson, you'll bury us all".

But still, minor issue. Sting was making a point that nuclear war was bad, and I was fully in earnest, serious agreement, and the rest of you frivolous people could go listen to Michael Hutchence "Kissin' the Dirt", or Falco rocking Amadeus, but in 1986, it was time to worry about the world (and be sure in the knowledge that one day you would be able to change it!).

(and by the way peer group pressure can still be good - the album was great)

No comments: