Michael KreponHoliday Season Contest

It’s that time of year – time for the annual ACW contest for best lyrical stanzas relating to the Bomb. There are two categories for this competition, as before: (1) A lyric about the Bomb that has been written and performed and, (2) your own adaptation of a lyric that has been written and performed. The usual prizes will be awarded in each category — copies of long-remaindered and long-forgotten books I have written or edited.

This is your chance, dear readers, to demonstrate the extent and depth of your play lists, not to mention your creative and poetic side. Entries from readers who have shied away from posting on ACW are especially welcome.

To help inspire entries, dwell on Randy Newman’s classic lyric from “Political Science,” a song that that has been nominated repeatedly:

No one likes us
I don’t know why.
We may not be perfect
But heaven knows we try.
But all around, even our old friends put us down.
Let’s drop the big one
And see what happens.

If this doesn’t get your juices flowing, here’s my offering for this holiday season – an adaptation of Neil Young’s monumental “Rockin’ in the Free World.” To those who have not committed these lyrics to memory, here’s one stanza and the refrain:

We got a thousand points of light
For the homeless man
We got a kinder, gentler
Machine gun hand
We got department stores
and toilet paper
Got styrofoam boxes
for the ozone layer
Got a man of the people,
Says keep hope alive
Got fuel to burn
Got roads to drive

Keep on rockin’ in the free world
Keep on rockin’ in the free world
Keep on rockin’ in the free world
Keep on rockin’ in the free world

I don’t mean to put ol’ Neil down, or to give offense, but here’s my adaptation:

We got five thousand nukes
for emergencies
We got a kinder, gentler
sense of urgency
Payin’ more for less
Like free agency
Got B-mods and stretch outs
for the laboratories
Gettin’ stiffed by Putin
No help in the lead
With no way to test
Slot machines to feed

Keep on rockin’ in the free world
Keep on rockin’ in the free world
Keep on rockin’ in the free world
Keep on rockin’ in the free world

Yes, it’s weak. I am counting on you, music-loving readers, to do better. Any lyric, any musical genre is in play. As before, the panel of judges will be me; The Polymath, Josh Pollack; The Total Package, Josh Krepon; and guest judge Tom Nichols.

I’ll post entries as they come in. We’ll decide on the winners after the holidays. May they be filled with happiness and good health for you and your families — and no use of chemical weapons.


  1. Nathan "Spooky" Wallace (History)

    michael, are you off your meds AGAIN?


    • krepon (History)

      Have been on serious meds since ’69.

  2. cd (History)

    Tom Lehrer’s “We Will All Go Together When We Go” is a perennial favourite for this, as are his “So Long Mom (I’m Off To Drop The Bomb) – A Song For World War III”, “The Wild West Is Where I Want To Be”, and “Who’s Next”.

  3. barron (History)

    The inimitable lyrics of Prince, whose 1981 album ‘Controversy’ criticized Ronald Reagan’s unwillingess to enter into arms control talks with the Soviets during his first term:

    Ronnie, talk to Russia before it’s too late
    Before it’s too late, before it’s too late
    Ronnie, talk to Russia before it’s too late
    Before they blow up the world

    Ronnie if you’re dead before I get to meet ya
    Before I get to meet ya
    Before I get to meet ya
    Ronnie if you’re dead before I get to meet ya
    Don’t say I didn’t warn ya

  4. ralph hutchison (History)

    Written for the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability’s DC Days in 2012:

    To the tune of When I Fall in Love

    When we drop our Bombs
    It will be forever
    Or we’ll never drop
    Our bombs

    In a scary world like this is
    Our destruction is mutually assured
    So we maintain nuclear stockpiles
    Much larger than we can afford

    When you launch your missiles
    We will launch completely
    Or we’ll never launch
    At all

    Cause the moment we can feel that
    You feel that way too
    Is when we drop the Bomb
    On you

    Instrumental bridge

    Cause the moment we can feel that
    You feel that way too
    Is when we drop the Bomb
    On you

  5. ralph hutchison (History)

    How about a little ditty for the National Ignition Facility,
    When we crank it up, it’s hotter than Summertime

    and the living is easy
    Lasers are jumpin’
    And the power is high
    Your lab is flush
    With government money
    So hush little darlin’
    Don’t you cry

    One of these mornings
    We’ll get ignition
    Or maybe not
    You never can tell
    But if we do it
    We’ll unleash the atom
    And hold in our hands
    the power of hell

  6. ralph hutchison (History)

    Be careful what you ask for:

    A little Western swing ditty for our National Nuclear Insecurity Complex
    To the tune of “Right or Wrong”

    Right or wrong We’ll always love you
    Though we promised to disarm
    Right or wrong we can not help it
    And we really don’t mean any harm…

    All along, we knew you’d do it
    Repay our loyalty with pain
    Still we opened up our checkbooks
    Flushed our money right down the drain

    Oh, right or wrong We’ll build more bomb plants
    Though we know it makes no sense
    We can’t help it, we’re addicted
    All in the name of some kind of defense

    U – P – F, or Kansas City
    C – M – R – R, or maybe MOX
    They’ll be big, high-tech and shiny
    Sparkly new, right out of the box

    Right or Wrong, We’ll always love you
    You’re our bombs We can’t forget
    ‘Til the day we have to use you
    Then we’ll wake with that same old regret

    All along, we knew you’d do it
    Repay our loyalty with pain
    Still we opened up our checkbooks
    Flushed our security right down the drain

  7. Charlotte Rae (History)

    They’re rioting in Syria
They’re starving in Spain

    There’s hurricanes from Florida
And Texas needs rain


The whole world is festering
    In unhappy pique
    The French hate the Germans

    The Germans hate the Greeks

Russians hate Chechens
    South Africans hate the Dutch
And we don’t like

    Anybody very much


But you should be tranquil
And thankful and proud
For man’s been endowed

    With a mushroom-shaped cloud


And we know for certain

    That some lovely day
    Someone will set the spark off

    And we will all be blown away

    From C.W. in Syria

    To nukes from Iran

    What nature doesn’t do to us
Will be done by our fellow man

  8. krepon (History)

    Love the creativity.

  9. Ghost of '83 (History)

    Picture yourself stranded on a planet
    that’s wired for destruction and ready to blow.
    Suddenly they have a new inspiration
    but what it means you do not know.

    Rockets with ray guns
    to shoot other rockets
    waiting for the glorious day!
    And they say they just want
    to protect you
    from their Bomb.
    Boom… Boom… Boom…

    Lasers in the Sky for Doomsday
    Lasers in the Sky for Doomsday
    Lasers in the Sky for Doomsday!
    Ohhh, ohhh…

    Follow them down to the white water fountains
    where marshmallow people feed roaches and flies.
    Somebody’s screaming, you answer too slowly
    a girl who got fire in her eyes.

    Ballistic antiballistic trajectory
    intercept booster and pay-load.
    Look for the girl with the fire in her eyes
    and she’s dead.

    Sam’s got a Diamond Initiative
    Strategic Defensive Initiative
    Sam’s got a Diamond In the sky!
    Ohhh, ohhh…

    Picture yourself as a maker of spaceships
    or picture yourself a man of the skies…
    Somebody’s cursing and pointing at you
    The girl who got fire in her eyes.

    Stalk Defenseless Innocents with Ray Gun
    Smash Dissent Internally with Ray Gun
    Silence Dawns In our time, with Ray Gun
    Ohhh, ohhh, ohhh ohhh ohhh!

  10. Keith N (History)

    Up above the sunny skies in south California
    There’s a wounded rocket flying high, heading homeward
    It came from a hollow, under a hill
    And soon there’ll be nobody left to kill
    In California

    Last night captain Black went dancing at the Whiskey A-Go-Go
    When a well-known groupie knocked him back, busted his ego
    Stoned out of his head, he crawled off to bed
    The following morning he went to the pad
    The missile was standing pointing to the skies of California

    The red balloon was flying high, watching the weather
    Captain Black was trying hard to get it together
    Immediate names came into his brain
    A rocket from China, a Russian plane
    He pushed the wrong button and soon there’ll be no place called

    From a track entitled “California” by Flash and the Pan

    • Tom Nichols (History)

      I thought I knew every nuke-themed song from the 80s there was. Clearly, I was wrong…

  11. Smith (History)

    Watchtower – Energetic Disassembly

    Match the code make no mistake, error could be fatal
    Turn the key… launch on warning…
    Sleek missles streak the sky with exhaust.. target awaits, the holocaust
    We have passed the point of no return.. can we afford to show remorse?

    …As death draws near, the population cowers
    Thirty minutes, away from the end of existence

    Heatflash – atomic disarray
    Millions perish in a single instant
    Chaos wrenched from all relation of time and space
    In the threshold of immence confusion
    Vaporized – atoms separate… the human form, under metamorphosis

    Hundreds of years of culture and civization
    Are flattened into a desolate wasteland

    Survivors… of nuclear destruction, live in a world cold and dark facing
    Prolonged death
    Those who met an immediate demise were saved from weeks of misery….

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