I admit, for the longest time, I figued Nena and her lyracists we’re simply narrow minded peaceniks. Their signature song "99 Luftballons" is certainly full of common Cold War imagery. But something hit met the other day, they’re actually brilliant marketers or savy capitalists…probably both.
The original German version is really just a hazy hippie poem with a fun melody and a beat you can dance to. It has it’s run on the charts in original form, gobbled up by the myopic protest crowd, but appearently, someone thought they could do better. Then, genius! Rewrite it as a tribute to the dedicated, vigalent and, at the time much maligned, members of our armed forces.
Despite the drowning blare of the white flaggers, most Americans truely appriciated the threat of communist aggression in the world. Definately a viable market and clearly, the American version was created with that intent. It’s quite obvious when you look at lyrics that we’re all familiar with alongside a direct German to English translation.
First, the original balloons weren’t red. They were just balloons. Few would legitimately think childern’s balloons would provoke a full military response, but make them commie red and now you have a threat. Exactly what our forces were trained to fight.
The description of the ‘machine’ springing to life is simply exactly how it’s supposed to be. Vigilent, watchful personnel trained to keep an eye on our enemies and be ready for what they hope will never happen. Yes, true warriors do wait for the war. Better to fight it out and win than live with the threat.
But the clearest evidence that this is a tribute, or at lease a compliment, is the association of our troops with Captain Kirk. The Trekker explanation: Kirk is not a Klingon. For everyone else: Even the casual fan knows that Capt. James T. Kirk is not a trigger happy, shoot first space cowboy, as much of the rest of the song is meant to imply. Rather the contrary, Kirk’s mission was primarily of peace and exploration. Many episodes featured the Enterprise crew working hard, risking life and career, to avoid a real fight but safe in the knowledge that, should it be necessary, they were ready.
So, Nena, thanks for the recognition. I promise I won’t let the secret out.