For the past five weeks we here at WMMCM have been exploring the wonders of Roter käse, or Red Cheese, for yours and our listening enjoyment. And now, it’s time to end it all. As we know, all good things must come to an end and now seems like as good a time as any to finish up Roter käse while we are still sane.
There is one rather large bit of Roter käse out there that we’ve not touched on yet; and since we feel the need to end with a bang, what could be better than Nena and her pre-apocalyptic pop ballad “99 Red Balloons?”
You did note that I said pre-apocalyptic right? Nena was born in 1960 in the city of Hagen in what was then West Germany which also happened to be the center focus of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. One can be forgiven for being a bit of a cynic having grown up in such a time and place. And “99 Red Balloons” is a bit cynical.
It’s also fairly dumb.
“You and I in a little toy shop buy a bag of balloons
With the money we’ve got. Set them free at the break of dawn
‘Til one by one, they were gone. Back at base, bugs in the software
Flash the message “Something’s out there” floating in the summer sky
99 red balloons go by.”
The idea that two children releasing a bunch of balloons off into the morning sky accidentally starting World War Three is somewhat well beyond plausible. But it does make for a pretty catchy dance record.
“Sie sind falsch!” Well, what do you know. OK Tank, what am I – incorrect – about? (It’s about time I hear from Tank, my head banging hound. We did name this category in his honor after all.)
“Sie haben es alle falsch!” Alright. I ask Tank how can I have it all wrong? I mean the words in the last verse say, “It’s all over and I’m standin’ pretty. In this dust that was a city.” And there’s all that stuff about scrambling fighter jets and everyone being either a “Silver Hero” or “Captain Kirk.” What am I missing?
“Das ist nicht, was sie sagt.” So I ask, OK then, what does she say? It seems pretty clear to me.
“Sie sagt, “Hast Du etwas Zeit fuer mich Dann singe ich ein Lied fuer Dich Von 99 Luftballons.’” Well, that clears it up.
Alright Tank, so in the English version you have two little kids who start World War Three with their unauthorized balloon release and in the original German you have a narrator telling the story of how 99 balloons confused the most sophisticated radar systems the world had known up to that time as well as all the “Captain Kirk” fighter pilots who somehow confused a bunch of balloons for a nuclear attack?
“Sie verstehe nicht …” You’re right. I don’t understand. I’m only going by what the words say. It was 1983 and tensions were high between the US and the Soviet Union. I can understand why a young German band might want to write a song like this. I just don’t think it makes any sense.
“Sie verstehe nicht! Es war ein stolzer Moment für Deutsche Musik!” I’ll give you that it was a proud moment. German music haddn’t really gotten much exposure to English and American audiences. There’s only so far you can go with Klause Nomi after all. “Kläuse Nomi ist Gott!” Calm down, you know I love Klause Nomi. Lighten up would you?
“Nena ist auch heute noch hits!” We’ll yes, she is still having hits. In Europe, not here. “Sie sind ein grausamer mann.” No, I’m not cruel. I’m just telling it like it is. Nena had her one big hit that crossed over to England and the US. And oddly enough the English language version didn’t do as well as the original German version. MTV only rarely played the English version after people heard the German one. “Das ist, weil es klingt besser in Deutsch!”
I have to agree with you there. Every time I hear Nena’s English version I have to chuckle a little when she gets to the part in the verse when she sings, “To worry, worry, super-scurry. Call the troops out in a hurry.” I mean she can barely get through it with all that worry, scurry, hurry and the “w” thing going on. So it is better in German. It also has the benefit of the listener not being able to tell how silly the lyrics are.
“Sie wissen nichts über die feinheiten der Deutschen Musik!” That’s a bit rich coming from someone who loves Medieval Metal. Is there anything subtle about Medieval Metal? “Nein! Es ist nichts entweder dezent über Nena!” Again, I have to agree with you a bit here. There is nothing subtle about Nena either. “Die slap bass, die keyboards!” Well, yes Tank. It’s about as 1983 as a song can be. It even has the unnecessarily large snare drum thing going on through the whole song.
“Ich mag nicht mehr du. Ich bin weg!” Well, Tank has left the building. He’s a bit upset with me as he takes his music very seriously. I just wish he had better taste sometimes.
So, as we travel onward from Roter käse to parts – mostly – unknown, our next serise will start right where we have ended, here with Nena and her apocalyptic balloons. Yes our new obsession is with apocalyptic rock. Four Horsemen, Nuclear weapons, perhaps a fantastically successful alien invasion or two and all the joys that go along with threatened and occasionally real destruction.
“Tore der Edamer!” What was that? I thought you left? Oh, good one there Tank.
So it shall be I suppose. We here at WMMCM are off to the Gates of Edam for a few weeks. Danke! Tank!