99 Luftballons is probably the only music that I have bought for not entirely musical reasons, I was 23 and really old enough to know better…..but…
It wasn’t the only reason though – the song had a very clear anti-war message, which was slightly lost in translation with the English version, 99 Red Balloons. I was certainly aware of the differences as I recall the Guardian doing a piece on it. It was effectively a song about mistakes leading to nuclear war and was written against the backdrop of the Cold War and the nuclear re-armament of Europe. In Britain, this included the purchase of Trident, the basing of American Cruise Missiles at Greenham Common and the growth of CND, which I had supported since the late 1970s due to a fantastic article in the New Musical Express.
I bought the album expecting more of the same, it wasn’t though, and was quickly discarded and I probably didn’t listen to anything other than 99 Luftballons more than a couple of times. I no longer have the album; I assume that I must have traded it in for a pittance as a down-purchase on other second hand records at a small shop alongside a remote bit of Birmingham’s inner ring road.
Oddly, the song stayed in my subconscious, and it was one of the first tracks I bought electronically as I retraced my almost lost musical footsteps, it is one I still listen to a lot – it reminds me of Birmingham, particularly New Street where it was bought, and CND.