The hit song was an English version from the original “99 Luftballons”
In 1984 German New Wave band Nena score a surprising No.1 on the UK singles charts with “99 Red Balloons”
As a New Wave German band who sung German, Nena had very little chances to breakthrough the U.S and U.K music markets, but surprisingly, in 1984 they entered the story of Pop music, and delivered one of the 1980’s most memorable songs worldwide. “99 Red Balloons”, originally released in 1983 as “99 Luftballons”, was first included on their self-titled debut album “Nena”. The song was not meant to be destined to the international music market, but when it started to hit the airwaves in the U.S and the U.K in it’s original version, Nena re-recorded the song in English with lyrics by Kevin McAlea, although that version is not a direct translation of the German original and contains lyrics with a somewhat different meaning. The original German lyrics were inspired by an event in 1982, when while attending a Rolling Stones concert in West Berlin, Nena’s guitarist Carlo Karges noticed that balloons were being released and 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. This later gave the song a political meaning, given the Soviet and German political tensions at the time. Curiously, American and Australian audiences preferred the original German version, which became a very successful non English-language song, topping charts in both countries, reaching No. 1 on the Cash Box chart, Kent Music Report, and No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, behind “Jump” by Van Halen On March 3, 1984, “99 Red Balloons” started a three week run at No.1 on the UK singles chart, a rare achievement by a German band. The music video for the song was originally made for the Dutch music programm TopPop and was shot in a Dutch military training camp, the band performing the song on a stage in front of a backdrop of fires and explosions provided by the Dutch Army. Despite continuing to score hits in Germany and Austria such as “Leuchtturm” and “Irgendwie, irgendwo, irgendwann”, after “99 Red Balloons” Nena were categorized worldwide as “one hit wonders”.
Watch Nena performing “99 Red Balloons” live in 1983
Look back at the 1984 music video for “99 Luftballons” by Nena
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