Michael KreponAtomic Playlist and Lyric Contest Winners

This year’s contest elicited fewer entries than in the past, but they were of extremely high quality. Our semi-distinguished panel of judges pays homage to “barron” for remembering Prince’s lyrical plea to Ronald Reagan. “Ghost of ‘83” impressed with his or her riff on “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” We thank Kim Gilligan for a late entry reminding us of this lyric in “Raven’s Child” by John Denver: “With nuclear warheads and lasers in heaven, fear does the choosing between right and wrong.” We tip our caps to Ralph Hutchison for his creative output – no less than three entries — especially his ode to the National Ignition Facility at Livermore. “Keith N” displayed serious creative chops by adapting Flash and the Pan’s “California.” John Lopresti continues to amaze with his musical and poetic breadth. He may well be the only ACW reader who can turn Ezra Pound’s verse into a contest entry. Kudos to Amina Afzal for her variation on Queen’s “We Will Rock You.”

Entries for best previous lyric about the Bomb were thin this year, perhaps because so many choice stanzas were nominated in previous years. Consequently, both winners in this year’s competition are in the “Best Adapted Lyric” category.

To help readers of ACW with their atomic playlists, Judge Tom Nichols has kindly provided the following “Music for a Rainy Day of Fallout,” developed over the past few years by his students, along with chestnuts from his own record collection:

Peace in Our Time, Big Country
Forty Years, Joe Jackson
Generals and Majors, XTC
Evil Empire, Joe Jackson
Overkill, Men at Work
It’s a Mistake, Men at Work
Russians, Sting
The Envoy, Warren Zevon
It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine), R.E.M.
Eve of Destruction, Barry McGuire
Two Suns in the Sunset, Pink Floyd
King of The World, Steely Dan
The Arrival of the Bomb and Count Down, Goldfinger (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
1999, Prince
Ronnie Talk to Russia, Prince
Had a Dream (Sleeping With The Enemy), Roger Hodgson
Prince of Darkness, Indigo Girls
Land of Confusion, Genesis
Before the Deluge, Jackson Browne
World War III, Dos Gringos
Political Science, Randy Newman
Ivan Meets G.I. Joe, The Clash
Red Skies, The Fixx
Pop Goes the World, Men Without Hats
Lovers in a Dangerous Time, Bruce Cockburn
Leningrad, Billy Joel
Everyday is Like Sunday, Morrissey
Shout, Tears For Fears (actually written as a protest against the Pershings/GLCMs)
Who’s Next?, Tom Lehrer
Two Tribes (For the Victims of Ravishment), Including the Last Voice, Frankie Goes to Hollywood
Give Blood, Pete Townshend
James Bond Averts World War Three, You Only Live Twice (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
99 Luftballoons, Nena

After due deliberation, and despite the stiffness of the competition, the jury awards the 2012 Palme d’Or to “Charlotte Rae” for this variation of Sheldon Harnick’s “Rioting in Africa (The Merry Minuet),” released by The Kingston Trio in 1959:

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

In this 50th anniversary year of the Cuban missile crisis, the judges award a second grand prize to “JP” for his or her re-write 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?

Sincere thanks to all contestants. Charlotte Rae and JP: please contact me (krepon@stimson.org) to let me know what inscription you would like in your book prize.

It’s probably time to switch things up for the next year-end contest. What would be playful and new? Please send me your ideas.


  1. Kingston (History)

    As my colleague Usha Sahay has already pointed out via Twitter, if JP’s Cuban Missile Crisis-themed rewrite of “Call Me Maybe” did indeed come in 2nd place, something went seriously wrong in the judging process. A virtuoso adapatation. JP, Nukes of Hazard salutes you!

    • Jonah Speaks (History)

      I agree. Second place prize winner truly inspired. Who knew that a song about a women crazy in love with a man she barely knows is actually a metaphor for the Cuban missile crisis? The re-write makes more sense than the original.

      Of course, there was no “red phone.” I believe the hot-line idea pre-dated the Cuban missile crisis, but was never implemented until afterwards. Also, Hollywood aside, the hot line is neither red nor a telephone.

      The Indians and Pakistanis have a hot line, but they never use it during crisis. (Does merely talking imply weakness???) At least the Americans and Russians had enough sense to talk to each other, despite the 12-hour communication gap. If the crisis had picked up speed, though, it’s easy to imagine many booms being delivered before the latest peace offer could arrive.

      So call me, maybe?

  2. arrigo (History)

    How about advertising jingles for the A Q Khan network?

    “Handgrenade: 10”
    “Mortar round: 100”
    “Cluster drop: 1000”
    “VX drop: 10000”

    (fade to a mushroom cloud)

    “For everything else there’s A Q Khan”

    Too cynical?

  3. krepon (History)

    Austin Pettyjohn adds this great ballard to Tom Nichols’ playlist:



  4. Charlotte Rae (History)

    After due consideration, karaoke experimentation, and much bouncing, I feel I must concede the Palm d’Or to JP for “Call Me Maybe.” While the “Merry Minuet” is broadly contemporary, the adaption is slight, whereas JPs is by far the more talented creation.

    • krepon (History)

      Our panel of judges have been judged harshly this time around.
      You are still entitled to a book.

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