99 Red Balloons Analysis
This was one of the songs in the '80s to make a point about the brinkmanship and paranoia/hysteria surrounding the issue of war. The song talks about Nena and the listener buying 99 Balloons in a shop and letting them go, for fun. These balloons show up on the radar as unidentified objects and both sides scramble planes and go to full alert to counteract a perceived nuclear attack, when in fact it is the most childlike of things, a bunch of balloons.
This song was recorded in 1982, released in Germany in 1983 and in the United Kingdom in 1984. It appeared first as a single titled "99 Luftballons." The lyrics for the song were written by Nena's guitarist Carlo Karges and the music was composed by Uwe Fahrenkrog-Petersen , Nena's keyboardist. The song made it to the top spot in the UK charts and the second spot in the US.
The idea for the song came to Karges while Nena was playing at a Rolling Stones concert in Berlin. During the show Karges noticed that a number of balloons were being released. As he watched them fly away he noticed that they looked more like a space craft than a bunch of balloons. He then began to wonder what would happen if the clump of balloons drifted into communist east Germany.
The song was written during a period of escalating rhetoric and tension between the US and the Soviet Union. During this period the policy of detente, which had progressed under the Nixon and Carter administrations, was undermined by the stern anti-communist stance of Ronald Regan, who famously described the Soviet Union as an "evil empire." This was a drastic move away from the policy of cooperation that had resulted in the SALT I, SALT II, and Non-nuclear proliferation treaties. It is possible that part of the appeal of 99 Red Balloons was the way in which it captured the growing sense of danger in this period. In particular the deployment by the US of Pershing II missiles in west Germany led to a storm of protest in Europe during...