Michael KreponGuest Judge Lyrical Prompt

Tom Nichols is a professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College, the man who stands perpetual watch at The War Room and a five-time Jeopardy! champion. Tom is also a guest judge in this year’s ACW contest for best lyric (existing or adapted) about the Bomb.

To help prompt new entries, I’ve asked Tom to suggest a few of his favorite lyrics. Here they are:

Over the past year, I’ve been teaching a course on Cold War culture, and my students have done some great sleuthing. Of course, it’s no surprise that Roger Waters of Pink Floyd was a big worrier about nuclear weapons, and during 1983 (the annis horribilis that was worse than we knew with things like the Able Archer scare), Waters wrote a song called “Two Suns in the Sunset:”

I suffer premonitions,
confirm suspicions,
of the holocaust to come;
The rusty wire that holds the cork
that keeps the anger in
gives way
and suddenly it’s day again;
The sun is in the east,
even though the day is done.
Two suns in the sunset — could be the human race is run.

I think I may have mentioned this one last year, but I’m bringing it up not only because it’s a great one, but because for nearly forty years I never realized that the Steely Dan song “King of the World” was about nuclear war; specifically, it’s a song by a guy in a shelter broadcasting to the wasteland looking for other survivors:

Hello one and all
Was it you I used to know
Can’t you hear me call

 

Comments

  1. JohnLopresti (History)

    I suppose mention of Steely Dan was the final incentive to add a few rather classical and bent verses to this year’s competition. It’s my first year reading the ACW site, and I have learned a lot; but not how to plagiarize good music, yet. See below

    There is an anonymously auithored Old English canticle about Springtime, which Ezra Pound parodied in his “Ancient Music”, to which I have set lyrics about Iran with allusions to Syria and beyond.

    Another few stanzas came to mind from a church hymn lyricizing about farming, with the title “For Peace and Plenty, which I duly have modified to reflect tensions in the Persian Gulf with oblique references to matters like the UN security council panel of experts reports regarding sanctions on N Korea surreptitious trade in arms components.

    Here, then are the two transmogrified verses.

    First Ezra Pound’s Parody of the old English cannon:

    Ancient Music
    http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/m_r/pound/additional.htm
    Winter is icummen in,
    Lhude sing Goddamm.
    Raineth drop and staineth slop,
    And how the wind doth ramm!
    Sing: Goddamm.
    Skiddeth bus and sloppeth us,
    An ague hath my ham.
    Freezeth river, turneth liver,
    Damn you, sing: Goddamm.
    Goddamm, Goddamm, ’tis why I am, Goddamm,
    So ‘gainst the winter’s balm.
    Sing goddamm, damm, sing Goddamm.
    Sing goddamm, sing goddamm, DAMM.
    A parody of the Anglo-Saxon poem, Cuckoo Song

    My double parody of Pound’s:

    IAEA is icummen in,
    Lhude sing Goddamm.
    Raineth Unha and staineth scud,
    And how the wind doth ramm in Parchin!
    Sing: Goddamm.
    Skiddeth treaty and slippeth fuge,
    An ague hath my ham.
    Freezeth politics, turneth rhetoric,
    Damn you, sing: Goddamm.
    Goddamm, Goddamm, ’tis why I am, Goddamm,
    So ‘gainst the winter’s spam.
    Sing goddamm, damm, sing Goddamm.
    Sing goddamm, sing goddamm, DAMM.

    The hymnal verses I leave to the reader to locate thru an online search.

    For Peace and Plenty
    Fanny S. Knowlton

    For sewing and reaping, for cold and for heat,
    For the sweet of the flow’rs and the gold of the wheat;
    for ships in the harbor, for sails on the sea,
    O Father in heaven, our songs rise to thee.

    For waking and sleeping, for blessings to be,
    We children would offer our praises to thee;
    For God is our Father and bends from above,
    To keep the round world in the smild of his love

    (Margaret E. Sangster. by permission of Milton Bradley Co. from Nature songs for Children.)

    My visiou, from an ACW perspective, of the outcome of that pious sentiment:

    For Peace and Plenty
    Fanny S. Knowlton

    For bombing and zapping, lives we don’t see,
    For the sweet of the flow’rs and the national treasury;
    for ships in the harbor, for sails on the sea,
    O Being in heaven, our songs rise to Thee.

    For waking and sleeping, for arms trade to be,
    We children would offer bombed civilizations to Thee;
    For Being is our origin and soon to be our guide,
    To hold the round world in the smirk of our guile.

  2. Amina Afzal (History)

    Here’s the nuclear version of the 1977 number “We will rock you” by Queen.

    Little boy did make a great noise
    Radiation on the street, falling debris
    Explosions and bangs
    them poor Japs
    Wreaking havoc all over the place

    You did you did rock us
    You did you did shock us

    Buddy you’re a young fat man
    Droppin in the street , there was no other way
    You got blood on yo’ face
    You big disgrace
    Leavin your mark all over the place

    You did you did rock us
    You did you did shock us

    We’re young and old men
    Pleadin’ with our eyes gonna make peace some day

    You got blood on your face
    You big disgrace
    Somebody better put you back in your place

    We will we will ban you
    We will we will ban you

  3. JP (History)

    I thought I’d put my weekend to good use by crafting an entry.
    I’ve gone with a more modern song than most.

    Sung to the tune of MTV’s 2012 Song of the Year – Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen…

    Bay of pigs didn’t go well
    Now you’re talking to Fidel
    October’s gonna be hell
    And now you’re on your way

    My U2 sees what you’ve done
    Cooperating Cubans
    Ships full of nuclear weapons
    I’m getting in your way!

    Your stare was holdin’
    Blockade, I aint foldin’
    Newport News, still upholdin’
    Where you think you’re goin’ baby?

    Hey, that was real close
    And this is crazy
    Here’s a red phone
    So call me, maybe?

    And all the hawks tried
    To convince me
    To take down Cuba
    So call me, maybe?

    Hey, that was real close
    And this is crazy
    Here’s a red phone
    So call me, maybe?

    Let’s not annihilate
    Each other baby
    Here’s a red phone
    So call me, maybe?

    You took your time with the call
    We had to decode it all
    You sounded emotional
    But still I’m in your way

    U2s are up in the air
    You shot one down, I don’t care
    Your nukes aint goin’ nowhere
    And still I’m in your way

    Your stare was holdin’
    Second letter, we’re ignorin’
    Deals done, we’re withdrawin’
    Take the bomb back home baby!

    Hey, that was real close
    And this is crazy
    Here’s a red phone
    So call me, maybe?

    And all the hawks tried
    To convince me
    To take down Cuba
    So call me, maybe?

    Hey, that was real close
    And this is crazy
    Here’s a red phone
    So call me, maybe?

    Let’s not annihilate
    Each other baby
    Here’s a red phone
    So call me, maybe?

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