Playlist Notes: Novas 1: Radiant Energy Act 1

(previously: Novas Overture)

The Overture is complete. The curtain rises.

It is an alternate 1982. The Cold War is about to get extremely hot.

Novas 1: Radiant Energy

Act 1: Ground

The simple notions of this damned nation. There’s word’s on the page, still. But where’s all the rage gone?

01 The Sound – All Fall Down (1982, England)

The simple notions of this damned nation
There's words on the page still. But where's all the rage gone?
All fall down, all fall down
All fall down, all fall down

Dance in the streets, sing ring a ring o' roses
Their disease is complete with a pocketful of poses
All fall down, all fall down
All fall down, all fall down

Pack of cards, den of thieves
Safe as houses until the breeze
Let's watch it all fall down, all fall down
Just watch it all fall down, all fall down

Don't turn the clock back. Break its hands off!
Two minutes to midnight. Are you ready to collapse?
Ready to all fall down.

Our male lead, Jack, is not happy with the world situation. News broadcasts play.

I can’t deal with a whole lot of The Sound but the detuned nursery rhyme intensity of this one is unique. I was coming off ‘Tomorrow’ where I’d already ended the world once so I felt it just needed a really dark hit of strong black coffee to start with.

I have a weird memory that I can’t quite place of… having to deal with the lyrics of this song in a high school English exam?

02 Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Radio Waves (1983, England)

From the transmitter
To the receiver
Across the ether
Out of your speaker

Radio waves are alive
Radio waves are alive
Machines are living too
Working for me and you

From the transmitter to the receiver
Across the either out of your speaker
To the Baltic fleet and Atlantic fleet
Faster than the breeze over stormy seas

Radio waves are alive
Radio waves are alive
Machines are living too
Working for me and you

To America and Albania
Over Reagan's head, under Moscow's bend
To the Warsaw Pact and the NATO pact
Down this cul-de-sac, never turning back

The planet on the brink of war. Fleets of aircraft carriers, radar domes, flights of bombers on high alert. Generals cluster over tactical displays.

Oh, OMD, nerdiest of the nerd bands. Dazzle Ships was the album that almost broke them but it’s now generally seen as their greatest album. It’s the only one that seems to work for me.

03 Martha and the Muffins – Echo Beach (1980, Canada)

I know it's out of fashion and a trifle uncool
But I can't help it, I'm a romantic fool
It's a habit of mine to watch the sun go down
On Echo Beach I watch the sun go down

From nine to five I have to spend my time at work
My job is very boring I'm an office clerk
The only thing that helps me pass the time away
Is knowing I'll be back at Echo Beach someday

On silent summer evening the sky's alive with lights
A building in the distance, surrealistic sight
On Echo Beach waves make the only sound
On Echo Beach there's not a soul around

Echo Beach, faraway in time

Our female lead, Susan, is alone. There is an innocence about her, and something a little stylized and off-key about the City she lives in. We only see maybe one block of it, from the beach to the city core, including a university campus and a music venue.

The Muffins! I like them a lot. I think Echo Beach was kind of my key back into this whole musical universe.

04 Spoons – Nova Heart (1982, Canada)

Architects of the world
I walk your streets and live in your towns
Temporarily
Architects of the world
You've served us well until now
But soon we'll be, we'll be on our own

And I'll sleep, sleep in your nova heart
As things come apart
I'll hide, hide in your nova heart
At ease with the thought
That this nova won't burn out

Gentlemen of the world
I read your books and look at your art
Hesitantly
Gentlemen of the world
You want to educate our young
But soon they'll be, they'll be on their own

And I'll sleep, sleep in your nova heart
At ease with the thought
That this nova won't burn out

Susan meets Jack, a New Wave singer who seem to have some strange insight into the universe. She joins his band, the Novas.

Perhaps the key song for this entire project. When the Canadian New Wave was on fire it was on fire.

05 Heaven 17 – Lets All Make A Bomb (1981, England)

And as the low aggress the high
All you can do is sit and cry
You've only got yourself to blame
Don't try to stop me, it's too late
My mind's made up, this job won't wait
There's nothing left for me to say

Hey! There's no need to debate
It's time to designate your fate
Take the M out of MAD
Let's all make a bomb

Take one hundred scientists or more
Place in a room and lock the door
Let them confer for half their lives
Unlock the door, go in and see
What they have made for you and me
A brand new toy to idolize

Hey! There's no need to debate
It's time to designate your fate
Take the M out of MAD
Let's all make a bomb

Although the war has just begun
Ignore the sirens, let's have fun
Put on your best, go out in style
Although our future's looking black
We'll go downtown and join the pack
Let's celebrate and vaporize

The world outside the nightclub is spiralling closer into war.

Heaven 17 were previously part of Human League, that might be why they sound familiar.

06 Industry – State of the Nation (1983, USA)

I see them marching off to war
They're looking so heroic
I'm told they won't be gone for long
But that's a lie and they know it

Ten thousand gone they won't return
Never to be seen again
Strategic games are all we learn
In the end

And they say
Don't you worry about the situation
(a message from the telephone)
They're out there fighting for the state of the nation
(and waiting for the chance to come home)
They'll always have to fight the alien nation
(and realise they're fighting alone)

When nightmare memories fade to dust
We'll get back on our feet again
This war has nothing to do with us
But somehow we're so involved in it

Susan and Jack discover that their phone calls seem to be monitored.

I think this band is pretty much only remembered for this one song. Had two albums, but gone by 1984.

07 Dollar – Videotheque (1982, England)

When the VJ shoots the beam
I take my partner from the screen
And hold her close
I hold her close
One more chance to make it right
Holding hands in black and white
I'll meet you there
I'll meet you there

Leave my mind back in my room
Maybe I will blow it soon
And fall in love

At the Videotheque (the Videotheque)
We can dance forever
At the Videotheque (the Videotheque)
We control it all
At the Videotheque (the Videotheque)
Ghosts are only lovers on the screen

Only pictures on the wall
They don't mean a thing at all
And I don't care
When the visions start to form
The same illusion takes us all
And you are there
And you are there

Slowly senses leaving me
Once the two are in 3D
We play the game

Susan and Jack perform at the Videotheque, a virtual reality parlour, as three-dimensional black and white images.

You might think this is a Buggles song and that’s because it is. Trevor Horn wrote and produced. His mix of techno-nostalgia shows through on Age of Plastic, Dollar, and Yes’ Fly From There, which he finished and rereleased in 2011. Jon Anderson’s work turns up a lot in my personal sonic dreamscape and so does Trevor Horn’s so it’s not really surprising that they hung out together.

08 The Electronic Circus – Direct Lines (1981, England)

Cast your eyes towards the east or west
And watch for lines above your head
Can't say it worries me now he said
For it may never come

But I see direct lines
See direct lines across the sky
And I see direct lines
See direct lines across the sky

Laws won't help you now
No voice nor rights
No governing body
Women and children first
And each man for himself

But I see direct lines
See direct lines across the sky
And I see direct lines
See direct lines across the sky

The dance is interrupted by the sound of air raid sirens.

Susan steps out of the back door of the Videotheque and stops, looking up to the sky. Above her we see the trails of multiple incoming missiles. But something stranger: grid lines appearing across the sky.

The Electronic Circus was Chris Payne, keyboard player for Gary Numan. He’s rebooted his band as of 2015.

End of Act 1