Some Music Reflecting the 1980s

I’m feeling a bit nostalgic, so I thought I’d post some songs from my youth. Most people think of the 1980s as being a greedy materialistic time, but I remember a lot of political activism at that time. It was the time of protests against nuclear weapons and apartheid, churches offering sanctuary to refugees of Central America, and an awareness of the struggles of poor communities in the inner cities and the farming communities. I did not think Reagan was a good President and am always surprised at how many people look fondly at his presidency. I thought he was personally a very kind and gracious man, but I’ve never liked Reagan’s politics, and the passage of time hasn’t changed my mind. Reagan ignored the AIDS crisis because it affected the gay community, he funded an illegal war in Central America that we’re still feeling the effects of, and his economic policies devastated the working class and the poor. The musicians of the 1980s commented on our worries about the state of the nation and the state of the world. Here are just a sample of the many songs from the 1980s that talked about the politics of the times.

TALKING ABOUT A REVOLUTION
Performed by Tracy Chapman

Don’t you know
They’re talkin’ about a revolution?
It sounds like a whisper
Don’t you know
They’re talkin’ about a revolution?
It sounds like a whisper

While they’re standing in the welfare lines
Crying at the doorsteps of those armies of salvation
Wasting time in the unemployment lines
Sitting around waiting for a promotion

Don’t you know
They’re talkin’ about a revolution?
It sounds like a whisper

Poor people gonna rise up
And get their share
Poor people gonna rise up
And take what’s theirs

Don’t you know?
You better run, run
Run, run, run, run, run, run
Run, run, run, run

Oh I said, you better
Run, run, run, run
Run, run, run, run
Run, run, run, run, run

As finally the tables are starting to turn
Talkin’ ’bout a revolution, oh no
Talkin’ ’bout a revolution, oh

While they’re standing in the welfare lines
Crying at the doorsteps of those armies of salvation
Wasting time in unemployment lines
Sitting around waiting for a promotion

Don’t you know
You’re talking about a revolution?
It sounds like a whisper

And finally the tables are starting to turn
Talking about a revolution
As finally the tables are starting to turn
Talkin’ ’bout a revolution, oh no
Talkin’ ’bout a revolution, oh no
Talkin’ ’bout a revolution, oh no

THE WALLS CAME DOWN
Performed by the Call
Well they blew the horns
And the walls came down
They’d all been warned
And the walls came down
They just stood there laughing
They’re not laughing anymore
The walls came down
Sanctuary fades
congregation splits
Nightly military raids
The congregation splits
It’s a song of assassins
Ringin’ in your ears
We got terrorist thinking
Playing on fears
Well they blew the horns
And the walls came down
They’d all been warned
But the walls came down
I don’t think there are any Russians
And there ain’t no Yanks
Just corporate criminals
playin’ with tanks

VOICES CARRY
Performed by Til Tuesday

I’m in the dark, I’d like to read his mind
But I’m frightened of the things I might find
Oh, there must be something he’s thinking of
To tear him away
When I tell him that I’m falling in love
Why does he say

Hush, hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Hush, hush, keep it down now, voices carry

I try so hard not to get upset
Because I know all the trouble I’ll get
Oh, he tells me tears are something to hide
And something to fear
And I try so hard to keep it inside
So no one can hear

Hush, hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Hush, hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Hush, hush, keep it down now, voices carry

Oh, he wants me, but only part of the time
He wants me if he can keep me in line

Hush, hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Hush, hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Oh, hush, hush, shut up now, voices carry
Oh, hush, hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Oh, hush hush, darling, she might overhear
Oh no, voices carry

He said shut up
He said shut up
Oh God, can’t you keep it down, voices carry

Oh, voices carry
I wish he would let me talk

GHOST TOWN
Performed by The Specials

This town (town) is coming like a ghost town
All the clubs have been closed down
This place (town) is coming like a ghost town
Bands won’t play no more
Too much fighting on the dance floor
(A-la-la …)
Do you remember the good old days before the ghost town?
We danced and sang as the music played in any boomtown
This town (town) is coming like a ghost town
Why must the youth fight against themselves?
Government leaving the youth on the shelf
This place (town) is coming like a ghost town
No job to be found in this country
Can’t go on no more
The people getting angry
(A-la-la …)
This town is coming like a ghost town
This town is coming like a ghost town
This town is coming like a ghost town
This town is coming like a ghost town

911 IS A JOKE
Performed by Public Enemy

Hit me
Going going gone
Now I dialed 911 a long time ago
Don’t you see how late they’re reactin’
They only come and they come when they wanna
So get the morgue embalm the goner
They don’t care ’cause they stay paid anyway
They teach ya like an ace they can’t be betrayed
I know you stumble with no use people
If your life is on the line they you’re dead today
Late comings with the late comin’ stretcher
That’s a body bag in disguise y’all betcha
I call ’em body snatchers quick they come to fetch ya?
With an autopsy ambulance just to dissect ya
They are the kings ’cause they swing amputation
Lose your arms, your legs to them it’s compilation
I can prove it to you watch the rotation
It all adds up to a funky situation
So get up get, get get down
911 is a joke in yo town
Get up, get, get, get down
Late 911 wears the late crown

911 is a joke

Everyday they don’t never come correct
You can ask my man right here with the broken neck
He’s a witness to the job never bein’ done
He would’ve been in full in 8 9-11
Was a joke ’cause they always jokin’
They the token to your life when it’s croakin’
They need to be in a pawn shop on a
911 is a joke we don’t want ’em
I call a cab ’cause a cab will come quicker
The doctors huddle up and call a flea flicker
The reason that I say that ’cause they
Flick you off like fleas
They be laughin’ at ya while you’re crawlin’ on your knees
And to the strength so go the length
Thinkin’ you are first when you really are tenth
You better wake up and smell the real flavor
Cause 911 is a fake life saver

So get up, get, get get down
911 is a joke in yo town
Get up, get, get, get down
Late 911 wears the late crown

Ow, ow 911 is a joke

MY HOMETOWN
Performed by Bruce Springsteen

I was eight years old and running with a dime in my hand
Into the bus stop to pick up a paper for my old man
I’d sit on his lap in that big old Buick and steer as we drove through town
He’d tousle my hair and say son take a good look around this is your hometown
This is your hometown
This is your hometown
This is your hometown

In ’65 tension was running high at my high school
There was a lot of fights between the black and white
There was nothing you could do
Two cars at a light on a Saturday night in the back seat there was a gun
Words were passed in a shotgun blast
Troubled times had come to my hometown
My hometown
My hometown
My hometown

Now Main Street’s whitewashed windows and vacant stores
Seems like there ain’t nobody wants to come down here no more
They’re closing down the textile mill across the railroad tracks
Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they ain’t coming back to your hometown
Your hometown
Your hometown
Your hometown

Last night me and Kate we laid in bed
Talking about getting out
Packing up our bags maybe heading south
I’m thirty-five we got a boy of our own now
Last night I sat him up behind the wheel and said son take a good look around
This is your hometown

MOTHERS OF THE DISAPPEARED
Performed by U2

Midnight, our sons and daughters
Were cut down and taken from us
Hear their heartbeat
We hear their heartbeat

In the wind we hear their laughter
In the rain we see their tears
Hear their heartbeat
We hear their heartbeat

Night hangs like a prisoner
Stretched over, black and blue
Hear their heartbeat
We hear their heartbeat

In the trees our sons stand naked
Through the walls our daughters cry
See their tears in the rainfall

99 RED BALLOONS
Performed by Nena

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.

99 red balloons.
floating in the summer sky.
Panic bells, it’s red alert.
There’s something here from somewhere else.
The war machine springs to life.
Opens up one eager eye.
Focusing it on the sky.
Where 99 red balloons go by.

99 Decision Street.
99 ministers meet.
To worry, worry, super-scurry.
Call the troops out in a hurry.
This is what we’ve waited for.
This is it boys, this is war.
The president is on the line
As 99 red balloons go by.

99 Knights of the air
Ride super-high-tech jet fighters
Everyone’s a superhero.
Everyone’s a Captain Kirk.
With orders to identify.
To clarify and classify.
Scramble in the summer sky.
As 99 red balloons go by.

99 dreams I have had.
In every one a red balloon.
It’s all over and I’m standing pretty.
In this dust that was a city.
If I could find a souvenier.
Just to prove the world was here.
And here is a red balloon
I think of you and let it go.

THE WAR SONG
Performed by Culture Club

War war is stupid and people are stupid
And love means nothing in some strange quarters
War war is stupid and people are stupid
And I heard them banging on hearts and fingers
War!

People fill the world with narrow confidence
Like a child at birth, a man with no defence
What’s mine’s my own, I won’t give it to you
No matter what you say, no matter what you do

Now we’re fighting in our hearts
Fighting in the streets
Won’t somebody help me?

War war is stupid and people are stupid
And love means nothing in some strange quarters
War war is stupid and people are stupid
And I heard them banging on hearts and fingers
War!

Man is far behind in the search of something new
Like a Philistine, we’re burning witches too
This world of hate must be designed for you
It matters what you say, it matters what you do

Now we’re fighting in our hearts
Fighting in the streets
Won’t somebody help me?

War war is stupid and people are stupid
And love means nothing in some strange quarters
War war is stupid and people are stupid
And I heard them banging on hearts and fingers
War! War! War!

After the bird has flown
He walked ten thousand miles back home
You can’t do that to me, no, you can’t do that to me
You can’t do that to me, no, you can’t do that to me

War!

In this heart of mine, I’ll find a place for you
For black or white, for grown-up children too

Now we’re fighting in our hearts
Fighting in the streets
Won’t somebody help me?

War war is stupid and people are stupid
And love means nothing in some strange quarters
War war is stupid and people are stupid
And I heard them banging on hearts and fingers

No more war
say no more war
say war
Senso hant-ai
Senso hant-ai
Say no more war

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About angelolopez

I’ve wanted to be an artist all my life. Since I was a child I’ve drawn on any scrap of paper I could get a hold of. When I went to San Jose State University, I became more exposed to the works of the great fine artists and illustrators. My college paintings were heavily influenced by the humorous illustrations of Peter De Seve, an illustrator for the New Yorker magazine. I also fell under the spell of the great muralists of the 1930s, especially Thomas Hart Benton and Diego Rivera. I graduated with a degree in Illustration. Since my time in college, my goal has been to be a successful children’s book illustrator. I’ve illustrated 3 books: Two Moms the Zark and Me by Johnny Valentine in 1993; Night Travelers by Sue Hill in 1994; and Cherubic Children’s New Classic Story Book Volume 2 for Cherubic Press in 1998. I’ve painted murals for Lester Shields Elementary School in San Jose, the Berryessa branch of the San Jose Public Library, and Grace Community Church in Los Altos. I’ve had a few illustrations published in South Bay Accent Magazine and I will have an illustration published in the January/February issue of Tikkun magazine.
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