Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Cold War Music Box - "Radio Free Europe"

How to best describe the state of the world in 1983…hmmmm…

Yeah this about covers it.
Yep - the early 80s a happy free wheeling partying time was had by all.  The USA initiated the Star Wars missile system, launched the Space Shuttle to get it there, invaded Grenada and has its Beirut embassy blown up. The USSR was under the Andropov leadership (Gorby was just a gleam in Yuri's eye), shot down a Korean civilian airliner and nearly launched a nuclear war by accident (Oooops!).  The UK had a relatively quiet year following the Falklands War in 1982 and given the upcoming Coal Strike and IRA campaigns in 1984.  But in 1983 even Canada felt scary given the global politics.

Just in case we weren't getting the point, US Network TV had not one but two made-for-TV movies featuring fake newscasts of nuclear events - Special Bulletin based on homegrown American nuclear terrorism and The Day After based on the good old fashioned WWIII scenario.  I remember watching Special Bulletin and thinking it was well done.

Music from this era was often either boppy no braincell required stuff or edgy and tense.  From the edgy and tense school we have REM's first album featuring the single "Radio Free Europe".  The song's title is a definite Cold War reference but don't try to get much from the lyrics, Michael Stipe meant them to be "complete babbling" and one critic commented that the album's was aptly titled "Murmer".  However, if it had jangling guitars, a punchy beat and indecipherable lyrics I was all over it in 1983.  This is essentially ground zero for indy rock and college radio.

I love this video taken from Letterman - his original late night show following Johnny Carson's show when Dave was young and edgy himself.  Note that REM are unheard of and that Stipe actually has hair (and a lot of it too)!

Radio Free Europe


  1. Cruel Summer by Bananarama! Just one of the many great tunes on FM radio that summer.

    Best Regards,


  2. Good boppy tune! Not Cold War per se, but it might make in on the music box once summer arrives