Return to A playlist for nuclear war (idea)

They're still there, you know.

22'000 to 30'000 nuclear weapons, kept in shape, new ones [nuclear proliferation|spreading] every [Confronting the Korean bomb|now and then]. After not killing ourselves in the Cold War, we've settled into complacency [induction|concluding] that the Russian Roulette is safe to play, instead of removing the bullets or stopping pulling the trigger. When [accidental nuclear war|a critical bug] obeys [Finagle's law] to the fullest, or the next idiot goes for a [Scorched Earth] policy, the means will be there.

The effects and actions involved were explored in great detail up to and during the 1980s, so you can count on your government to tell you how to [When the Wind Blows|die without too much fuss]. What couldn't be, and hasn't been, is the music it should be set to. There are plenty of [make love not war|peace-minded] songs, but most focus on issues that would just have become irrelevant, run after cash or simply don't work with mushroom clouds.

You can and should make modifications as befits your own tastes. A [nuclear war] is an important historical occasion and you'll only get full use out of this once. If you're in luck and have advance warning on a far-away [no more than fifty or sixty million killed, tops|limited exchange], you might want to consider some local flavor by downloading music from the affected regions and picking their tracks as they are eradicated. At the time of this writing, the best way is to do searches on "[ethnic]" and derivatives on a huge [Direct Connect] hub. If you live in a major population center in [Villages in Germany are three kilotons apart|Western Europe] or even [India], pick a track.

The playlist
[It's the End of the World as We Know It] (And I Feel Fine) - [R.E.M][|1]
Runtime 4:05
As [hodgepodge] once put it, this song is sensory overload: it piles vaguely cataclysmic images on top of each other at breakneck speed. This effect not only illustrates but feeds on the early states of shock and disbelief. The brutality of it all is kept somewhat unreal, but imminent.
It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.

Tentative - [System of a Down][|2]
Runtime 3:36
S.O.A.D. takes these matters very seriously, what with the [Armenian Genocide]. With their anti-war tracks they very definitely have something to say and [signal-to-noise ratio|are saying it]. Tentative is anger, rebellion, abject disgust. Among its screams are slower, sadder bits that segue into the next track.
Where you're going to the bottom
Do you hear us we are rotting?
We're going down in a spiral to the ground
No one, no one's gonna save us now
Where do you expect us to go when the bombs fall?

Time Is Running Out - [Muse][|3]
Runtime 4:08
This one is somewhat contested. It will set off a few [My Fascinatingly Detailed Teen Angst Bullshit Day Log - Part 1|teen angst bullshit] meters and may nominally be about the gaping void of despair that is [love], but works marvellously (and intentionally) with apocalypticity. The song's genuinely eerie tone has themes of [Against you I will fling myself, unvanquished and unyielding, O Death|hopeless defiance].
I won't let you bury it
I won't let you smother it
I won't let you murder it
Our time is running out
Our time is running out
How did it come to this?

[We'll Meet Again] - Ross Parker and Hughie Charles[|4]
Runtime 3:00

This 1939 classic of foolishness is indelibly linked to its use in [Dr. Strangelove] and has become a symbol of nuclear holocaust. Using it during one is evocative of half a dozen things at once. It mocks [Trinity test|those who released] this blight, it longs for better days, it's even a [fool's hope]. And let's face it: all banality aside, there are some things that [hanging onto humanity|you have to do].
So will you please say hello
To the folks that I know
Tell them I won't be long

Attack - [System of a Down][|5][PLEASE ignore the visuals.|*]
Runtime 3:06
Faster, louder and more desperate than Tentative, Attack climaxes anger and damnation of ourselves. The remaining playlist turns increasingly to the larger element of tragedy.
That if we fall
We all fall
And we fall alone

In the Year 2525 (Exordium & Terminus) - [Zager and Evans][|6]
Runtime 3:14
The embodiment of "one-hit wonder" has lately been getting mixed reviews. I admit to taking a liking to it after being blown away by an [Anime Music Video|AMV] [|7] [|8]. The song doesn't discuss nuclear war directly, but the theme of [better living through science|destruction through technology] is the same. It gives a moment for very important introspection: [cockroaches|where] do we, as a species, go from here?
In the year 9595
I'm kinda wonderin' if man is gonna be alive
He's taken everything this old Earth can give
And he ain't put back nothin', whoa-oh

Dies Irae - [Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart|Mozart][|9]
[You know it is going to be a strange day when you wake up dead|It says something] that returning to reality takes an apocalyptic track. [Mozart Requiem|Mozart's masterwork] brings some variety into the playlist.

Unless we all get used to [nuclear terrorism] in the meantime, the first blasts will be assumed to cause [MAD|massive escalation]. Unless the [Planetary Datalinks|information networks] have collapsed, and at least some of them will have, you could start finding out that the damage has been localized and [Global Thermonuclear War] averted. If this happens, feel free to turn your player off and [insanity sometimes is the sane response to a mad society|have the mental breakdown of your choice]. Maybe you can volunteer for the Red Cross.

The Sun Is Burning - [Simon and Garfunkel], performed by Luke Kelly[|10]
Runtime 3:35
In direct contrast to S.O.A.D., this song is slow, quiet, fatalistic and [sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind|incredibly painfu][bollocks|l]. It's resignation: it happened. Say what you want, do what you want, it happened. Rage is necessary but ultimately pointless.
Now the sun is sinking low
Children playin' know it's time to go
High above a spot appears
A little blossom blooms and then draws near
And the sun is sinking low

Now the sun has come to Earth

Canon in D Major - [Johann Pachelbel][|11]
Runtime varies; mine 6:26
The last moments have been among the most draining ones of your life. This slow, subtle and almost indescribably beautiful work of [baroque] classical music is [illusion|a moment of respite] - not to mention a horrible contrast, but that's unavoidable at this point. If your tastes run to the contrary, consider [Ladies and Gentlemen we are floating in Space] by Spiritualized.[|12] At this point, you should have some idea about the imminence of your death. If you're down to minutes, well, there's nothing wrong with enjoying some good music and remembering the [yesterday|good times]. If not, you're [hope is the thing with feathers|still alive] and, as such, doing well.

The Terminator Theme - [Terminator 2][|13]
Runtime 1:59
...and that's enough of that. Invert the delay between songs: have this track ram the last one. Turn up the the volume. Your grip on what is now more than likely to be the [dog-eat-dog|new reality] is one of the things you can least afford to lose. Sink into the violent, lamenting and relentless beat in preparation for the world that will be much the same.

Turn off the player. Your self-fulfillment in the face of disaster has been done succesfully, and those batteries will be needed.

While these songs did not end up on the playlist for various reasons, they are relevant and often intriguing.

B.Y.O.B. - System of a Down[|14]
Another strong song, though this one concentrates on criticism of the society that has failed when the playlist starts and has too much added fluff. The mile-a-minute repetition "Why don't presidents fight the war? Why do they always send the poor?" is practically [Finnish swearwords and curses|sonic rage] but doesn't salvage the whole.

Boom! - System of a Down[|15]
They just don't let up, as well as they shouldn't. Boom! is a rabid anti-war song that unfortunately concentrates on [The war against terrorism|Operation Blind Fury] and other contemporary issues, which will be insignificant the minute the real thing starts. [Michael Moore]'s demonstration movie for the song is extremely serious business, but also irrelevant here.

Christmas At Ground Zero - Weird Al[|16]
The freakmeister's demented carol sings about nuclear holocaust with downright maniacal cheerfulness. The video does one better by [The Atomic Cafe|mixing footage] of old civil defense and Christmas clips with nuclear explosions. While this is an achievement of sick humor, it's not something you want to hear on the end day.

We Will All Go Together When We Go - Tom Lehrer[|17]
Blows Weird Al out of the water. If you really think that your sense of humor can take this, go right ahead.

Two Suns In The Sunset - [Pink Floyd]
This has been strongly recommended, and if I could find it anywhere I might agree.

2 Minutes To Midnight - [Iron Maiden][|18]
The big men of [heavy metal] know their music, but to this particular layman their lyrics are just the rated-M-for-money kind of [Nightwish|pretentious] [Manowar|drivel] that is more abundant than [hydrogen bomb|hydrogen].

Gay Bar - Electric Six[|19]
No. Just... no.

[Maybe] - [The Inkspots|The Ink Spots][|20]
A foolishly optimistic mid-20th century song, and as such the slightly more restrained twin of We'll Meet Again. Maybe is known for its use in [Fallout] and can easily be swapped in for those who are more familiar with the game than [Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb|Dr. Strangelove].

[The Custodian] writes: Party at Ground Zero by Fishbone! Woo! :-)[|21]
[BookReader] writes: A playlist for nuclear war: [99 red balloons] might be a good addition.[|22]
[Junkill] writes: On 'Beyond the Mind's Eye' [Thomas Dolby] has a beautiful piece called 'Armageddon' wherein he counterpoints Latin poetry (custom written for the piece by some latin professor or something) with very funk-inspired sort of electronica. It is by far my favourite song for dancing on the edge of destruction![|23][The quality sucks.|*]

Second opinion
It turns out that Stylus Magazine did its own feature in 2004, [|Top Ten Songs of the Nuclear Apocalypse] by Peter Parrish. His playlist is subtler and more detached than mine, and [naturally|In my opinion] not as well suited for actual nuclear war, but picking [Edwin Starr] was a stroke of brilliance.

Sources and thanks
  • Wikipedia
  • [|DDR Overdrive]
  • [Douglas Hofstadter]
  • Everyone who made recommendations on [IRC], [Pelit] or [Keenspot] last spring. In particular matthlord, FerretBob, Kraggi, unlucky_days, Random_Sage and Atashi-Cloud. Thanks, guys.
Now that we're on the subject
  • [|The War Game], an infamous 1965 BBC "documentary" in the vein of [War of the Worlds] about nuclear war. Deemed too horrible and not shown for 20 years.
  • [|Threads], a 1984 BBC docudrama, moreso.