In Atomic Tunes we write much about nuclear weapons, the Berlin Wall, and bomb shelters. In this article we analyze three Cold War music videos about those subjects. Music videos have been created since the early 20th century, but did not gain widespread appeal until the early 1980s. With MTV, which started broadcasting on August 1, 1981, music videos washed into the music business like a tidal wave. Suddenly, musicians spent as much time in front of movie cameras as they did on concert stages or in recording studios. We have found several Cold War music videos that contain unforgettable images and clarify an opinion or perspective that might be vague in the lyrics. On political themes in music videos Anne Johnston Wadsworth and Lynda Lee Kaid write, “Before videos, an artist or group might compose a song to express a political viewpoint, but the basic interpretation was largely left to the listener. … In addition … the lyrics may not be understood by the listeners. But with videos, lyrics are interpreted for audiences through the visuals, providing, in some instances, a new message to the song." Oftentimes, a band’s video would express sharper and more critical views of Cold War events than their music or lyrics would. While lyrics and music allow listeners to visualize the song in their mind’s eye, a music video interprets a song in more concrete terms.
Don’t Push that Red Button!!!
One of the most iconic images or symbols of the Cold War was the “red button,” that if pushed would launch nuclear weapons. Thomas Hine writes, “The imagery of the push button went far beyond the household during the Populuxe years [the 1950s and 1960s]. It was strongly tied to the military’s use of computers and the replacement of manned bombers by guided missiles. … The President of the United States was widely viewed as having a push button on or in his desk that would trigger atomic war as surely and inexorably as a housewife could activate her dishwasher. And in the Kremlin there was another push button, with just about the same power."
The dreaded button of doom continued to be an iconic image of the Cold War into the 1980s. It appears in the videos for Donald Fagen’s “New Frontier” (at 1:16-1:22 discussed below) and Jethro Tull’s “Fylingdale Flyer” (at 2:31 as a red telephone instead of a button). In the video to Ultravox’s “Dancing with Tears in My Eyes” (1984), a scientist in a nuclear power plant pushes a red button (at 0:44) when the computer system indicates a meltdown and imminent explosion. The button also makes an appearance at the end of Genesis’s video for “Land of Confusion” (1986), which is populated with caricature puppets of world leaders and celebrities from the British satirical show Spitting Image. The video recounts a strange dream Ronald Reagan has in which he appears as Superman and then a cowboy trying to save the world. He is thirsty when he wakes up from the dream, so he reaches to a panel by his bed to ring for a nurse to bring him a drink of water. The panel has two red buttons labelled “NURSE” and “NUKE.” He presses the wrong button.
The “finger on the button” is such a powerful image because catastrophic death and destruction can be caused by such a simple and commonplace act. Of course, there is no such thing as a single button that can launch a nuclear weapon. For a glimpse into the complex protocol involved in such an operation, see an official explanation in this footnote (which actually alludes to Genesis’s “Land of Confusion” video and Reagan pressing the “NUKE” button). Yet the possibility always exists that a weapon could be launched by accident or by subterfuge, resulting in the loss of life that could number into the millions, simply due to human or computer error. The button is a symbol, albeit an oversimplified symbol, of this undeniable fact. The best of the “red button” videos is Men at Work’s “It’s a Mistake,” which is analyzed in detail below.
Men at Work were an Australian rock band best known for their Billboard number one hits “Who Can It Be Now?” and “Down Under,” both of which were on their first album Business as Usual (1982). Their second album Cargo from 1983 also had two hits, “Overkill” and “It’s a Mistake,” which peaked respectively at number three and number six on the Billboard chart. The lyrics for “It’s a Mistake” are a bit vague, but express the opinion of a soldier questioning the nuclear politics of power-hungry military elite: generals will be eager to advance military weaponry, but if catastrophe happens they will deny their culpability by saying it was a mistake or that the other side was the aggressor. The video, directed by Tony Stevens, makes what is vague in the lyrics clear; it is about the nuclear brinkmanship between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. and the obsolescence of foot soldiers in a nuclear war.
Some rock musicians were not keen on music videos. They did them as an obligation to their record companies and let video directors take the upper hand in their creation. But most performers were delighted with MTV and saw videos as an opportunity to present themselves and their music in a fresh light. Men at Work took great interest in their videos, especially “It’s a Mistake,” where all the band members appear and play multiple roles as kids, soldiers, and generals. When Men at Work appeared on American Bandstand in 1982, lead singer Colin Hay told Dick Clark, “We script our own videos,” so the video is the band’s own visual interpretation of the song. View the video here.
The timings and song sections below track the significant elements in the video.
0:00-0:18 - Introduction
Stop motion animation of soldier action figures and red toy tanks moving about on a desert battlefield.
0:18-0:46 - Verse 1
The five band members, dressed as kids, play at being soldiers with plastic toy rifles. A general beckons them into a tent, where other generals are partying.
0:46-1:03 - Pre-chorus 1
Four of the band members pose as various “men at work”: an executive (Greg Ham) in an office answers a phone call, an anti-nuke protestor (John Rees) hold a sign that reads “one nuclear bomb can ruin your whole day,” a road construction worker (Jerry Speiser) digs with a pick, a doctor (Ron Strykert) wraps a bandage around the ankle of a young boy.
1:03-1:21 - Chorus 1
The four civilians’ work uniforms transform into military uniforms and they are shown on a desert battlefield. In addition, their “props” change: the executive’s office telephone turns into a military field telephone, the protestor’s anti-nuke sign turns into a rifle, the construction worker’s pick turns into a rifle, and the doctor’s bandage turns into a military medic’s bag. They each have a look of astonishment on their face as they and their props change. Each band member lip-synchs the line “It’s a Mistake” as they transform into military personnel.
1:21-1:40 - Verse 2
The soldiers walk through a forest battlefield.
1:40-1:57 - Pre-chorus 2
The soldiers are beaten by old ladies with umbrellas.
1:57-2:16 - Chorus 2
The soldiers face the camera and lip-synch “It’s a Mistake.”
2:16-2:34 - Verse 3
An American and a Soviet military commander stand face to face over a world map and maneuver plastic soldiers and tanks. They both sweep away the figures from the map with their arms.
2:34-2:51 - Pre-chorus 3
A reserved Soviet general is shown on a TV set. A portrait of Vladimir Lenin can be seen on the wall. A cocky American general is shown on the TV and the portrait on the wall changes, possibly to Ronald Reagan.
2:51-3:11 - Chorus 3
Soldiers walk down a dirt road and lip-synch “It’s a Mistake.” Two memorial wreaths are shown side-by-side on the ground, presumably placed on the recently-dug graves of a Soviet and an American soldier. Each wreath is wrapped in a banner which says “It’s a Mistake” in Russian (это ошибка) and in English.
3:11-3:46 - Guitar solo
Ron Strykert plays a Fender Telecaster standing on rocks using his guitar seemingly to defy the fiery winds blowing at him.
3:46-4:32 - Chorus 4
Band members pose as military personnel in American and Soviet nuclear missile command bunkers. The American general (Colin Hay), screams “It’s a Mistake” repeatedly into a telephone. The Soviet general (Jerry Speiser) on the other end of the line shows alarm as he hears the message. The American general accidentally (?) opens the protective lid on a large red button and snuffs out his cigar on the button instead of in the nearby ashtray. His horrified expression shows that he has just launched nuclear missiles at the Soviet Union. The Soviet general and his assistant shut their eyes and plug their ears with their fingers, anticipating the detonation.
Each section of the video is tailored to each section of the song (the introduction, the verses, the pre-choruses, the choruses, and the guitar solo). The sections are discreet and form their own narrative, yet are unified by the overarching anti-nuclear theme. The introduction sets up the first theme of the song, the view that war is a game for generals. The action figures give the impression that soldiers are merely toys that generals unfeelingly move about. Verse 1 provides a different perspective on this with the band acting like young boys playing at war. A general beckons the boys into a tent where other generals drink and party in a tent safely behind the front lines. Pre-chorus 1 and Chorus 1 present a second theme, the militarization of society, with the band members posing as ordinary civilians being transformed like magic into soldiers. The apprehension the band members feel when forced into military life is echoed when each lip-synchs the chorus, “It’s a Mistake.” Verse 2 and Pre-chorus 2 show the soldiers walking through a forest about to meet the foe, but all they meet are old ladies who pummel them with umbrellas. Perhaps this expresses the view that the soldiers are being sent out to fight an enemy that is not very powerful, that the Soviets are not as much of a threat as the U.S. military makes them out to be. Verse 3 highlights another theme of the video, the contrast between conventional and nuclear weapons. The American and Soviet generals are shown moving toy troops and tanks closer to each other on a world map, indicating field maneuvers in conventional warfare. The generals then swipe all the figures from the map in an instant, suggesting the destructive scale of nuclear weapons. Of this scene, Oliver Lindner writes, “On the one hand, it indicates the trial of strength between the powers or the potential casualties inherent in conventional warfare. On the other hand, it also signifies the futility of troop combat operations and, as a logical consequence, the possibility of a rush to weapons of mass destruction.” The most poignant shot in the video comes at the end of Chorus 3, where two memorial wreaths with “It’s a Mistake” in Russian and English are shown sitting side by side on the ground. Here the cost of war in human lives on both sides is the “mistake.”
The climax of the video takes place during the final chorus after the guitar solo. The band members, playing U.S. and Soviet generals and their assistants in missile control bunkers, act out an accidental launch of a nuclear missile. The “mistake” happens when the U.S. general (Colin Hay) nervously drums his fingers on the control panel, accidentally opens the safety lid covering a large red button, and unfortunately snuffs out his cigar on the red button, instead of in the nearby ashtray. Quick shots are used to show the careless action of the U.S. general and the panicked reaction of the Soviet general and his assistant (Jerry Speiser and Greg Ham). The guitar solo and the final chorus are trapped in a descending chromatic progression, with bass player John Rees sounding out the pitches B, A#, A, G#. Descending chromatic progressions (often called “lament bass”) have musically signified sorrow, doom, and death since the Renaissance and Baroque eras. Here it generates a feeling of dread, of being trapped in an irresolvable dilemma. After three cycles of B, A#, A, G#, the progression continues to descend (F#, E, D#, C#, B) and slow in tempo. The video ends with the U.S. general slowly raising his offending hand to his mouth. The expression of shock and horror in his eyes reflects his realization that he, his cigar, and that cursed red button, have started a nuclear war.
The message of the video can be neatly summarized by considering who sings the choruses to “It’s a Mistake.” The first three choruses are sung by civilians and soldiers, warning of the dangers and consequences of nuclear weaponry. Interestingly, the memorial wreaths seen at the end of Chorus 3 join in and silently sing “It’s a Mistake” with the text on their banners. It is only in the last chorus that the general sees the consequences of nuclear brinkmanship, and the possibility of an accidental launching, and sings “It’s a Mistake.” Ordinary civilians and soldiers see nuclear weapons as a threat to human life while military elite see them as status symbols.
The theme of the song and video is also reflected in the cover sleeve of the 45 single. The drawing depicts Soviet and American generals shaking hands while holding red buttons behind their backs. The forced, devious grins on their faces indicate that they are more interested in pressing the red buttons than in making peace. Behind them stand their respective stockpiles of nuclear missiles. The military cap the American general is wearing bears the U.S. coat of arms (also called the Great Seal or the President’s Seal) which is a bald eagle clutching a 13 leaf olive branch in one talon, symbolizing peace, and 13 arrows in its other talon, symbolizing war. Yet on the single sleeve, the eagle is drawn with a nuclear missile in each talon. The Ramones played a similar prank with the Great Seal on the back cover illustrations of their second and third albums Leave Home and Rocket to Russia (both from 1977), discussed in chapter 8 of Atomic Tunes.
Elton’s Cold War Romance Hits a Wall
The Soviet Union was a mysterious land to most Americans and Britons during the Cold War. The women of the Soviet Union were even more of a mystery. A common theme in popular music has been the quest of a man for an uninterested or unattainable woman, and his resultant unrequited love. This theme, which can be traced back to medieval traditions of courtly love, was given a new twist in the Cold War era where the mysterious, unattainable woman was behind the Iron Curtain.
In “Nikita” (1985) by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, the protagonist of the song is attracted to a female East German or Soviet border guard at the Berlin Wall. The Iron Curtain was a subject of interest to Elton, since he played several concerts throughout the 1970s and 1980s in West Berlin and was one of the few popular musicians to play in the Soviet Union, which he did in May 1979. On the cover of the 45 single, the two Ns in Elton John’s name and the N in Nikita are shown as the Cyrillic letter I, which looks like a backwards N to Westerners. Thus “ELTOИ JOHИ” and “ИIKITA” make the words look part English and part Russian, capturing in typescript the song’s wish for a cross-cultural romance. Cross-culturalism is also conveyed in Elton’s clothes on the sleeve since he is wearing a brash, snazzy suit jacket, emblematic of European fashion in the 1980s, and a simple white cap bearing a red star, a symbol on the Soviet flag and a universal icon of communism.
The music video for the song was directed by Ken Russell, who directed the 1975 film adaptation of the Who’s album Tommy, which starred Elton as the Pinball Wizard. The song’s form is verse-chorus with a synthesizer solo after the second chorus. The form of the video closely follows the form of the song. It begins with Elton sitting in a car photographing Nikita, a female border guard at the Berlin Wall. During the first verse and chorus, the video shows Elton charming Nikita and her allowing him to cross the border. During the second verse and chorus, he attempts to cross again but a male guard sends Nikita away and refuses to let him enter. The synthesizer solo shows a daydream that Nikita has of spending time with Elton, slow dancing with him, attending a football (soccer) match with him, playing chess, and bowling. The final chorus shows Elton glumly viewing the pictures he has taken of her. They are intrigued by each other, but their circumstances prevent any meaningful interaction. The timings and song sections below track the significant elements in the video.
0:00-1:10 - First verse and chorus
Soldiers goose step in front of the Berlin Wall. Elton is taking photographs of Nikita, an attractive female border guard. He is sitting in a red convertible Bentley, wearing a red/black Watford Football Club coat and a red-banded straw boater hat.
Elton’s car pulls up to the border crossing and is stopped. Nikita checks his passport and lets him through with a slight smirk.
1:44-2:12 - Second verse and chorus
At night in an elevated surveillance booth, Nikita sees Elton standing inside a red heart which he has drawn in the snow. She smiles as she looks at him through the surveillance camera.
Elton again arrives at the border crossing and shows Nikita his passport. Nikita smiles and attempts to speak to him.
A surly male border guard walks up and abruptly dismisses Nikita. She salutes him and walks away. The male guard refuses to let Elton pass the gate. As his car backs up, he waves to Nikita, who stands with a despondent look on her face in the guardhouse doorway.
3:01-3:26 - Synthesizer solo
Daydream sequence: Nikita slow-dances with Elton in a dark club. Eschewing her drab guard uniform, she is wearing makeup and is dressed as fancifully as Elton.
At a football match dressed in Watford colors, Elton and Nikita cheer as Watford scores a goal. Elton is wearing the massive Doc Marten boots that he wore in the film adaptation of Tommy.
Elton and Nikita play chess. Nikita takes Elton’s black queen with her white queen. She places his black queen on the brim of his hat.
Elton is standing in a lane in a bowling alley. A double exposure is used to show Nikita (dressed in red) emerging from Elton’s body and rolling the ball. End of daydream sequence.
3:46-4:31 - Final chorus
The view of Nikita in the guardhouse doorway returns, yet it is a photograph that Elton has taken. Elton sits glumly in a chair, using a slide projector to view the pictures he has taken of her.
Nikita is shown at the Wall with the soldiers goose stepping in front of her.
The use of the color red is a vital element in the video. As with the typescript and Elton’s clothes on the 45 single sleeve, red in the video is a symbol of Elton’s infatuation with Nikita, and his interest in her world. He is dressed in red, sits in a red car, and draws a red heart around himself in the snow. Additionally, Nikita is in a red dress as she emerges from Elton’s body in the bowling alley scene. Although they meet face to face at the Wall, they might as well be from different planets. The Iron Curtain prevents them from forming a relationship and Nikita remains as much a mystery to Elton as the Soviet Union does to the Western world.
Bomb Shelters: The Ultimate Make-Out Pads
Singer and keyboardist Donald Fagen began writing songs with Walter Becker when they met as undergrads at Bard College in 1967 in New York. After a move to Brooklyn and little success trying to get Brill Building artists to record their sardonic songs, they were discovered by producer Gary Katz from ABC Records. He convinced them to move to California, form a group, and record the songs themselves. As Steely Dan, they released seven albums, had several high-charting singles, and sold millions of records. Fagen and Becker broke up in 1981 and pursued solo careers, but reformed Steely Dan in 1993.
Donald Fagen’s first solo album, The Nightfly from 1982, is a concept album about growing up in 1950s and 1960s suburban America. It holds a unique place in Cold War music in that it brings to life simultaneously the two periods when nuclear fear was at its peak: the late 1950s/early 1960s and the early/mid 1980s. On the inside sleeve of the LP, Fagen included a note indicating the theme of the album: “The songs on this album represent certain fantasies that might have been entertained by a young man growing up in the remote suburbs of a northeastern city during the late fifties and early sixties, i.e., one of my general height, weight and build. - D.F.” Fagen, who was born in January 1948, would have been roughly between the ages of ten and fifteen during the period the album depicts. Ted Gioia, in his review of The Nightfly Trilogy writes, “While other works try to evoke the old days by focusing on sock hops and malt shops—think Happy Days or Grease—Fagen understands that these were the most superficial aspects of the era. After the Kennedy assassination, America lost its innocence. We became a cynical nation. What we lost after the Zapruder moment was not our past. It was our future. The Nightfly recaptures that very element, in all its elusiveness. These are songs about the future we lost back in the past, and in that convoluted way resonate with tragedy behind their happy, optimistic facade.”
Two songs in particular, “I.G.Y.” and “New Frontier,” portray life during the Cold War in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The lyrics of “New Frontier” depict a bomb shelter not as a protective bunker to wait out nuclear war, but as a great place for a neighborhood party, a “summer smoker underground.” Fagen said, “This actually was based on a true story that I heard about, some kids who, when their parents go away for the weekend, they use the fallout shelter to have a party. … Of course, the fallout shelters probably would have been useless in the case of living in them anyway, so at least you could have a party.”
The lyrics make some slight references to impending doom, but focus mostly on the protagonist’s desire to drink beer, do the limbo, and meet a woman that reminds him of actress Tuesday Weld. After they hook up, share their admiration for jazz great Dave Brubeck, and pretend that a nuclear war actually took place, they exit the bomb shelter as if they are Adam and Eve in a new frontier. The title of the song is a reference to John F. Kennedy’s “New Frontier” acceptance speech as the Democratic candidate in the 1960 United States presidential election, when he famously said “We stand today on the edge of a New Frontier—the frontier of the 1960s, the frontier of unknown opportunities and perils, the frontier of unfilled hopes and unfilled threats. ... Some would say that those struggles are all over, that all the horizons have been explored, that all the battles have been won. That there is no longer an American frontier. ... And we stand today on the edge of a new frontier, the frontier of unknown opportunities and perils. ... Beyond that frontier are uncharted areas of science and space, unsolved problems of peace and war, unconquered problems of ignorance and prejudice, unanswered questions of poverty and surplus. ... I'm asking each of you to be pioneers towards that New Frontier.” Robert J. Toth, noting how the song gives a lighthearted twist to the speech, writes that Fagen’s “New Frontier” is a “metaphor for the mysteries of sex and adulthood.”
Just as the song is striking in its combination of bright music and sarcastic lyrics, so the music video made for it presents a haunting contrast between optimistic and pessimistic images. Scenes showing the excitement of a young couple’s blooming love and idyllic life in the 1950s are juxtaposed with animated images of Soviet nuclear missiles and mushroom clouds. British film directors Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel of Cucumber Studios in England were hired to make the video. Although Fagen did not appear in it, and even distanced himself from it, the video augments the Cold War setting of the song. It opens with young lovers leaving a party and jumping into a car. The young man turns on the car stereo and the music of “New Frontier” begins. An animated pattern of red squares is momentarily shown. The viewer quickly realizes that the red squares are houses arranged in a grid-like pattern, a bird’s eye view of a seemingly-endless suburban sprawl. The animation ends and the lovers are shown driving through the suburbs to a fallout shelter. As they are climbing inside, the narrative is interrupted again by animation depicting a massive red hand, with the Soviet hammer and sickle symbol emblazoned on it, pressing a button. A red rocket, bearing both “CCCP” and the hammer and sickle symbol, takes off, apparently on its way to detonate over the network of suburban houses (and our young couple) shown previously. The animation ends and the lovers are shown in the shelter wooing, dancing to Dave Brubeck, flipping through a survival manual, and getting over their shyness. The two young lovers view the fallout shelter as a place to get intimate without being disturbed, rather than a place to survive a nuclear war. Like the bomb shelter novelty songs “Fallout Filly” and “Fallout Shelter” covered in chapter four of Atomic Tunes, the video portrays a fallout shelter as the ultimate make-out pad. The timings, narrative flow, and important visual elements in the video are described below.
Young lovers leave a party and drive off in a 1950s era Buick.
Animation shows a bird’s-eye view of suburban houses and streets.
Lovers drive to a backyard bomb shelter and climb inside.
Animation shows a red Soviet finger pressing a button which launches a nuclear missile.
Lovers kiss, listen to Dave Brubeck, read survival manual.
Animation shows an atomic bomb descending, exploding, and producing a mushroom cloud. Man loses hair.
Lovers smoke cigarettes and drink to relax.
Animation shows a male stick figure wooing a female stick figure.
Man touches his index finger to the lady’s index finger, a reference to the “Creation of Man” section of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel fresco depicting God’s creation of Adam. Lovers dance, as do their respective animated stick figures. Dave Brubeck and his bandmates are animated.
Animation shows a Picasso-esque dismembered sunbather. Sunbather is morphed into S. Neil Fujita’s abstract painting on the cover of Brubeck’s 1959 Time Out album.
Lovers continue to woo and recline in each other’s arms.
Animation shows a red rocket flying over suburban homes.
Woman leaves man, who has fallen asleep in the shelter.
Animation shows an American general strutting, Soviet missiles menacing him, a mushroom cloud billowing, and a family climbing into a fallout shelter.
Man wakes up, climbs out of the shelter and sees someone in a gas mask and hazmat suit. It turns out to be his lover. She takes the gas mask off and they embrace. Video ends with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament’s “peace” symbol.
Dave Brubeck is mentioned in the lyrics of the song, but Morton and Jankel of Cucumber Studios make him a recurring symbolic element throughout the video. The lovers dance to Brubeck’s music, he and his three bandmates are animated onscreen, and the cover of his 1959 album Time Out is shown twice. Most obviously, the young man with his horn-rimmed glasses looks much like Brubeck in the late 1950s. Thus, the video fleshes out the lyrical reference, giving it new layers of meaning and alluding to the jazz pianists’ role in the Cold War. Fagen was a big fan of Brubeck’s music.
In the spring of 1958, Brubeck was asked to be a cultural ambassador by the U.S. State Department. The Dave Brubeck Quartet traveled to cities in England, Western Europe, Poland, Turkey, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq. Rumors were spread that the Brubeck Quartet may travel to the Soviet Union and play in Moscow, but this never materialized. Nevertheless, they did play several concerts in Poland, a country behind the Iron Curtain, and Iraq, which in 1958 signed a treaty with the Soviet Union to trade oil for weapons. Brubeck saw in his jazz quartet a model and symbol of democracy, in that each member was encouraged to play in his own manner and had ample opportunities for soloing. In addition, Brubeck’s quartet was racially integrated, with African American Eugene Wright playing upright bass. Just before Brubeck travelled to Europe in 1958 he said, “Jazz represents America in so many ways. Take freedom for example. In jazz you have freedom of expression within the structure of the musical form. In the United States we have individual freedom within the structure of the Constitution.”
Thus in the video, the emphasis placed on Brubeck in a bomb shelter adds irony to an already ironic song. Brubeck’s jazz is used as a symbol of freedom, yet the couple listens to his music in what amounts to a prison cell underground. Brubeck hoped his music would play a part in the cultural communication between the superpowers, but in the video all it can do is bring together two lovers. His music can bring two people together underground, but not two nations above ground. Yet, the video ends on a bright note. When the young man discovers that his mate is missing from the shelter, he climbs up the ladder, opens the door, and sees someone wearing a gas mask and hazmat suit. It turns out to be his girlfriend. The blue skies above them show that nuclear war did not occur. After the lovers embrace, the video ends with the logo of Britain’s Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, commonly known as the “peace” symbol. Although the danger of nuclear war was a false alarm and the couple emerges to a sunny day, the video has planted in the viewer’s mind the reality that it may not be a false alarm next time.
 Anne Johnston Wadsworth and Lynda Lee Kaid, “Political Themes and Images in Music Videos,” in Politics in Familiar Contexts: Projecting Politics through Popular Media, ed. Robert L. Savage and Dan Nimmo (Norwood, New Jersey: Ablex Publishing Corporation, 1990), 160-161.
 Thomas Hine, Populuxe (Woodstock, N.Y.: The Overlook Press, 2007), 128, 133.
 Jason Wiese, “The Myth of the Big Red Button: How the ICBM Force Maintains Positive
Control, Nuclear Surety.” Air Force Global Strike Command website. http://www.afgsc.af.mil/News/Features/Display/tabid/2652/Article/629957/the-mythof-the-big-red-button-how-the-icbm-force-maintains-positive-control-nu.aspx
 Colin Hay, from “Dick Clark Interviews Men at Work - American Bandstand 1982.” YouTube video, 2:05. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6irWveHiXY
 This scene may have been inspired by two Monty Python sketches. In the “Batley Townswomen’s Guild Presents the Battle of Pearl Harbour” sketch, old ladies “reenact” the Battle of Pearl Harbor by whacking each other with purses and wrestling in the mud. In the “Hell’s Grannies” sketch, a town is terrorized by surly, pugnacious grandmothers. The sketches are in the episodes “The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Goes to the Bathroom” and “Full Frontal Nudity” from Monty Python’s Flying Circus, season 1, 1969. Lead singer and songwriter Colin Hay mentions his enthusiasm for Monty Python in Gino Vivinetto’s interview “Off-duty from Men at Work,” St. Petersburg Times (April 26, 2001).
 Oliver Lindner, “‘Two Tribes’: The Cold War in Music Videos of the Mid-1980s.” In Between Fear and Freedom: Cultural Representations of the Cold War, ed. Kathleen Starck (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars, 2010), 129.
 Perhaps the general intentionally opened the safety lid and intentionally snuffed out his cigar on the button. The video cleverly leaves his actions ambiguous, allowing the viewer to wonder if the missile launch was perhaps not a “mistake” at all.
 The descending progression, and the mood it projects, is best exemplified in the ground bass of Dido’s aria “When I Am Laid in Earth” in Henry Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas from 1688.
 Some examples would be “Cold, Cold Heart” by Hank Williams (1951), “For No One” by the Beatles (1966), “Layla” by Derek and the Dominos (1970), “The Flame” by Cheap Trick (1988), “Creep” by Radiohead (1992), “She’s So High” by Tal Bachman (1999), and “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt (2004).
 Nikita’s face is shown just before the sequence begins, implying that it is her daydream. Yet at the end of the daydream, Elton is shown viewing the pictures he has taken of her, implying that the daydream could also have been his.
 Donald Fagen, The Nightfly. Warner Bros. Records 1-23696, 1982, LP.
 Ted Gioia, “The Nightfly Revisited.” The Jazz.com Blog. February 17, 2008. http://steelydanreader.com/2008/02/17/the-nightfly-revisited/
 Donald Fagen, in Ben Sidran’s Talking Jazz: An Illustrated Oral History (San Francisco: Pomegranate Artbooks, 1992), 190.
 Robert J. Toth, “The Nightfly Still Lives at 25,” The Wall Street Journal (January 9, 2008).
 Sweet, Steely Dan: Reelin’ in the Years, 208.
 Stephen A. Crist, “Jazz as Democracy? Dave Brubeck and Cold War Politics,” Journal of Musicology 26, no. 2 (2009): 147-148.
 Dave Brubeck, in Russ Wilson’s “Brubeck Quartet Off for Poland,” Oakland Tribune, February 2, 1958 (Brubeck Collection, 1.E. 1a.8), quoted in Stephen A. Crist’s, “Jazz as Democracy?: 162.
Joanna & Tim
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