Tag Archives: Nena

Top 10 Protest or Socially Conscious Songs from the ‘80s – 99 Luftballoons by Nena

99 Luftballoons by Nena

by Robert Mishou

There are not many hits in the ’80s that were not in the English language, but there are two pretty big hits that were in German. Falco’s Rock Me Amadeus hit #1 in March of 1986 (the only song in German to hit this height). A bit earlier, in 1984, a German song hit #2 (it was kept out of the #1 spot by Van Halen’s Jump) entitled 99 Luftballoons by the band Nena. This song was a clear protest against war and our over eagerness to use weapons to solve problems. The English translation of this song did not chart in the Billboard charts at all and it did change the song’s basic situation, so, having lived in Germany for six years and being married to a lovely woman who teaches German in high school, I am going to use lyrics here from the original version, translated by that beautiful teacher.

The conflict in this song centers around the sighting of ninety-nine balloons flying through the air that are mistaken for UFOs. In a panic, the leader of the military sends out fighter jets and raises the alarm. The song continues:

Neunundneunzig Düsenflieger (Ninety-nine jet aircraft)
Jeder war ein großer Krieger (Everyone was a great warrior)
Hielten sich für Captain Kirk (Thought they were Captain Kirk)
Das gab ein großes Feuerwerk (That sent big fireworks)
Die Nachbarn haben nichts gerafft (the Neighbours did not understand this)
Und fühlten sich gleich angemacht (And felt immediately)
Dabei schoss man am Horizont (They shot at the horizon)
Auf neunundneunzig Luftballons (At ninety nine balloons)

Clearly, the government has overreacted and started a war over a complete misinterpretation of what was seen in the sky. Those government officials thought they were smart and, supposedly in the best interest of the people, aggressively attacked those ninety-nine balloons. The warning comes in the last, somber verse:

Neunundneunzig Luftballons (Ninety nine balloons)
Neunundneunzig jahre Krieg (Ninety-nine years of war)
Ließen keinen Platz für Sieger (There was no room for winners)
Kriegsminister gibt’s nicht mehr (There is no more war minister)
Und auch keine Düsenflieger (And also no jet airplanes)
Heute zieh ich meine Runden (Today I make my rounds)
Seh die Welt in Trümmern liegen (See the world in ruins)
Hab ‘n Luftballon gefunden (Found a balloon)
Denk an dich und lass ihn fliegen (Think of you and let it fly)

Like Russians by Sting coming later, this song expounds on the dangers of nuclear war. In Neunundneunzig Luftballons the destruction comes from a mistake, a misinterpretation – of seeing a danger where there is none and reacting in a fatalistic manner.

Top 40 Songs This Week – April 14, 1984: Songs 30-21

Welcome back to this week’s Top 40 Countdown! If you missed yesterday’s songs, you can always go ahead and check them out. There were some classics songs yesterday, and we get more of the same today. What were you doing this week in 1984? I was heading down the home stretch of junior high school, and getting ready for high school. Cable TV was still new in our area. I had my MTV for less than a year at this point. So, there were a lot of changes and transitions at this point in my life. And by this point, music had pretty much transitioned from the soft pop and disco sound of the late ’70s/early ’80s to the classic ’80s sound. Let’s continue the countdown, and see what was popluar this week of April 14, 1984…

30. “A Fine Fine Day” by Tony Carey


We begin today’s list of songs with a pleasant surprise for me. I had never heard of Tony Carey before. It turns out that he was the keyboard player for the rock band Rainbow for a short time in the mid-to-late ’70s. After he left Rainbow, Carey embarked on a solo career. That career did not exactly take off, but he had a pretty good hit with this song.

29. “The Longest Time” by Billy Joel

This fun, doo-wop song was the fourth single released from Billy Joel’s classic album, An Innocent Man. A lot of his songs from that album got overplayed, but this was one that I never really grew tired of. I also enjoyed the video. It did fool me though. I had never known, until in recent years, that it is actually Billy Joel singing all the lead and backing vocals on this track.

28. “99 Luftballons” by Nena

This is classic ’80s! It was an anti-war protest song by the band from Germany. The original German version was such a huge success that an English version was also created (“99 Red Balloons“). I believe that the German version still got most of the airplay in the U.S. One thing I know for sure is that “Captain Kirk” are about the only words I understand in either version.

27. “The Language of Love” by Dan Fogelberg

Dan Fogelberg is best known for his soft rock hits in the early ’80s (“Longer“, “Leader of the Band“, and “Same Old Lang Syne“). But this was my introduction to him, and it is my favorite of all his songs. I always just felt that this was a bright, upbeat tune.

26. “Leave It” by Yes

This is an interesting song and video by the prog-rock band, Yes. There is nothing wrong with your screen. The video was shot upside down, and was one of the first music videos to use computer-generated imagery.

25. “The Authority Song” by John Cougar Mellencamp

This is a classic by John Cougar Mellencamp. This is off of his 1983 album, Uh-Huh, which was the first album in which he used his real last name, going from being known as John Cougar to John Cougar Mellencamp.

24. “Got a Hold On Me” by Christine McVie

This is Fleetwood Mac’s keyboardist/vocalist Christine McVie’s biggest solo hit. This is probably my favorite song of the day. Christine McVie is very good and very underrated.

“Don’t Waste Your Time” by Yarbrough & Peoples

We’ll take a break for a minute, and check out a song that debuted this week. This one is “Don’t Waste Your Time” by the R&B duo of Yarbrough & Peoples. I had never heard this song before. It’s not a bad song. But, I chose it so you could check out a V-E-R-Y young Ice-T towards the beginning of the video, driving the Mercedes.

On with the countdown….

23. “Come Back and Stay” by Paul Young

This was another pleasant surprise for me. I don’t remember this song at all. It kind of has a pop-rock-new-wavey feel to it.

22. “Head Over Heels” by The Go-Go’s

Another classic tune by a classic band.

21. “Don’t Answer Me” by Alan Parsons Project

We’ll finish up today’s list with a cool song and video. The video tells it’s story through a comic book. Alan Parsons was known as being more prog-rock, but this song has more of a pop-rock Wall of Sound style. Yet another ’80s classic.

I hope you guys are enjoying this week’s countdown. Let me know what you think so far, as we are halfway through. Tomorrow, we will be back to continue the countdown, and we will have Long Distance Dedication.