The United Nations has declared August 29 the International Day Against Nuclear Tests, "a day in which educational events, activities and messages aim to capture the world's attention and underscore the need for a unified attempt in preventing further nuclear weapons testing."
Anyone who ever had to do hide-under-your-desk disaster drills in grade school knows the spectre of nuclear disaster looming over people's heads is no joke. This fear of a nuclear apocalypse caused by politicians and war mongers was especially strong during the Cold War posturing that took place in the '60, '70s and '80s.
Musicians, naturally, channelled these anxieties into pointed, chilling and often awesome protest songs. So to mark the International Day Against Nuclear Tests we collected some of the best songs from that period.
Click the slideshow below to hear these songs and remember how you once assumed the world would be an irradiated wasteland by 2013.
Genesis "Land Of Confusion" 1986
The video for this song used the highly disturbing puppets from the British show "Spitting Image" to show world leaders like Ronald Reagan, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Mikhail Gorbachev and Muammar al-Gaddafi clowning around. The video ends with a befuddled Reagan accidentally launching a nuke.
Nena "99 Luftballons" (1983)
The song, which is about misunderstanding when balloons released in the air are misinterpreted as a nuclear attack, was recorded in German and English and hit number one in 11 different countries. Unfortunately, more people cared about the fact Nena didn't shave her armpits than the content of the song.
Sting "Russians" (1985)
In this anti-war song from "The Dream Of The Blue Turtles" Sting pleads for common sense, arguing shared biology, mutual love of children and any number of other basic bits of humanity to argue the Cold War was dumb.
Peter Gabriel "Games Without Frontiers" (1980)
A scathing critique of nationalism and war, this song from Gabriel's self-titled third solo album throws down by implying that all the in-fighting between powers throughout Europe is a childish game.
Bob Dylan "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" (1963)
This song from "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan" album is forever linked to the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 when Soviet Russia tried to place nuclear missiles in Cuba. For obvious reasons the U.S. didn't like the idea of deadly enemy missiles swimming distance away from them and this standoff is considered the closest the America and Soviet Russia ever came to open warfare.
Survivor "Burning Heart" (1985)
Hollywood had no problem capitalizing on Cold War hysteria and when Rocky Balboa had to fight the imposing Ivan Drago in "Rocky IV" Survivor were right there with this inspirational theme song. This "all or nothing" battle between "East and West" was a top 10 hit around the world. Oddly, the only country where it hit number one was in neutral Switzerland.
Frankie Goes To Hollywood "Two Tribes" (1984)
Although the song could be used in a broader context to represent any two warring parties in a conflict, the accompanying video to this song was unambiguous. It featured a wrestling match between then-President Ronald Reagan and then-Soviet leader Konstantin Chernenko while representatives from around the world watched.
Iron Maiden "2 Minutes To Midnight" (1984)
The first single off of Maiden's 1984 album "Powerslave," this song refers to the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doomsday_clock" target="_blank">Doomsday Clock</a>, the symbolic clock used by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to track how close humanity is to destroying itself. When Maiden made this song it was at three minutes to midnight. The lowest it's ever been — two minutes — occurred in 1953 during the testing of the H-bomb. Right now it's at five minutes to midnight.
Elton John "Nikita" (1985)
In this song Elton John has the hots for an East German border guard and he does all sorts of things to win her affection. Unfortunately, they never get together and John ends up passing his days looking at stalker-y photos he took of her in uniform.
Billy Joel "Leningrad" (1989)
By 1989, the Cold War was starting to thaw and Billy Joel's single from the album "Cold Front" reflected that. This song revolves around an understanding meet-up between Joel and a Russian circus clown named Viktor.
Scorpions "Wind Of Change" (1991)
German band Scorpions saw the East-West superpower posturing firsthand in their home country, so when <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glasnost" target="_blank">Glasnost</a> signaled the end of the Cold War, their inspirational power ballad about visiting Moscow was the perfect symbolic song for the new world.
Rush "Heresy" (1991)
Leave it to Canadian prog rockers Rush to provide the sober second thought to the end of the Cold War. With the fall of communism the band use the song to ask whether ruthless capitalism is any better. Ultimately, the band concludes that it's wrong for any people to suffer for political ideology.