Song lyric Sunday: Colours


For this week’s song lyric Sunday, they have given us the prompt of colour. My first thought was true colours by Cyndi Lauper, but I thought lots of people might choose that. So, I used the colour red (even though that isn’t really the proper translation). So I have chosen 99 Luftballons by Nene with the original German version.

While at a June 1982 concert by the Rolling Stones in West Berlin, Nena’s guitarist Carlo Karges noticed that balloons were being released. As he watched them move toward the horizon, he noticed them shifting and changing shapes, where they looked like strange spacecraft (referred to in the German lyrics as a “UFO”). He thought about what might happen if they floated over the Berlin Wall to the Soviet sector.[4][full citation needed]

Also cited by the band was a newspaper article from the Las Vegas Review-Journal about five local high school students in 1973 who played a prank to simulate a UFO by launching 99 (one was lost from the original 100) aluminized Mylar balloons attached with ribbons to a traffic flare. The red flame from the flare reflected by the balloons gave the appearance of a large pulsating red object floating over Red Rock Canyon outside the Las Vegas Valley in Nevada.[5]

A direct translation of the title is sometimes given as “Ninety-Nine Air Balloons”, but the song became known in English as “Ninety-Nine Red Balloons”.[6][7] The title “99 Red Balloons” almost scans correctly with the syllables falling in the right places within the rhythm of the first line of lyrics, although Neunundneunzig (99) has one syllable more than “ninety-nine”.

The lyrics of the original German version tell a story: 99 balloons are set free and are mistaken for UFOs, causing a general to send pilots to investigate. Finding nothing but balloons, the pilots put on a large show of fire power. The display of force worries the nations along the borders and the war ministers on each side bang the drums of conflict to grab power for themselves. In the end, a cataclysmic war results from the otherwise harmless flight of balloons and causes devastation on all sides without a victor, as indicated in the denouement of the song: “99 Jahre Krieg ließen keinen Platz für Sieger,” which means “99 years of war have left no place for winners.” The anti-war song finishes with the singer walking through the devastated ruins of the world and finding a balloon. The description of what happens in the final line of the piece is the same in German and English: “Denk’ an dich und lass’ ihn fliegen,” or “I think of you and let it go.”[8]

The lyrics of the original German version tell a story: 99 balloons are set free and are mistaken for UFOs, causing a general to send pilots to investigate. Finding nothing but balloons, the pilots put on a large show of fire power. The display of force worries the nations along the borders and the war ministers on each side bang the drums of conflict to grab power for themselves. In the end, a cataclysmic war results from the otherwise harmless flight of balloons and causes devastation on all sides without a victor, as indicated in the denouement of the song: “99 Jahre Krieg ließen keinen Platz für Sieger,” which means “99 years of war have left no place for winners.” The anti-war song finishes with the singer walking through the devastated ruins of the world and finding a balloon. The description of what happens in the final line of the piece is the same in German and English: “Denk’ an dich und lass’ ihn fliegen,” or “I think of you and let it go.”[8]

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5 thoughts on “Song lyric Sunday: Colours

  1. I do remember this song, but I had no idea that it was such a big success charting #1 in the UK and reaching #2 in the US. I found some English lyrics for it.
    You and I in a little toy shop
    Buy a bag of balloons with the money we’ve got
    Set them free at the break of dawn
    ‘Til one by one they were gone
    Back at base bugs in the software
    Flash the message: “something’s out there!”
    Floating in the summer sky
    Ninety-nine red balloons go by

    Ninety-nine red balloons
    Floating in the summer sky
    Panic bells, it’s red alert
    There’s something here from somewhere else
    The war machine springs to life
    Opens up one eager eye
    Focusing it on the sky
    Where ninety-nine red balloons go by

    Ninety-nine Decision Street
    Ninety-nine ministers meet
    To worry, worry, super scurry
    Call the troops out in a hurry
    This is what we’ve waited for
    This is it, boys, this is war
    The president is on the line
    As ninety-nine red balloons go by

    Ninety-nine knights of the air
    Ride super high-tech jet fighters
    Everyone’s a Super Hero
    Everyone’s a Captain Kirk
    With orders to identify
    To clarify and classify
    Scramble in the summer sky
    Ninety-nine red balloons go by

    As ninety-nine red balloons go by

    Ninety-nine dreams I have had
    In every one a red balloon
    It’s all over and I’m standing pretty
    In this dust that was a city
    If I could find a souvenir
    Just to prove the world was here
    And here is a red balloon
    I think of you, and let it go

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am glad you managed to find the English lyrics as I could only find German! I love the idea that a war could be started by something as well as a balloon. Shows how pointless it really is. Thank you for watching, commenting, and hosting.

      Liked by 1 person

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