Playlist Notes: Novas 5.3: The Wire Full Of Light Act 1

(previously: Mixtape of the Found Decade)

(previously: Novas 5.2)

It is an alternate 1980. A young New Wave musician and a soldier each find themselves trapped in a secret corporate-military battle against an unknown enemy.

This story takes place two years before Novas 1.

I hadn’t planned Novas 5 to be more than just a couple of side stories riffing on the Bond Theme and the images of pulp noir romance I loved from the more poppy side of the New Ave era. But the character of ‘Gloria’ from 5.1 kept nagging at me. What was her story? Was she in fact Susan, from a time before the Simulation? What was she running from? And what about Jack?

So this was the result: a full second trilogy. Two prequels, and a sequel, expanding and concluding the story of the Novas.

As always, given the weird interstitial and hypertextual nature of this whole project, I’m deeply indebted both to the bands themselves and to the wonderful people who put songs on Youtube, most especially the channel PlanetNamedDesire for highlighting tiny female-fronted New Wave and synthpop bands, without which Susan wouldn’t have found a voice.

Novas 5.3: The Wire Full Of Light

Act 1: War

Sometimes I really think I’m going crazy in the night. When I hide down in the covers and I won’t turn on the light. I think nothing’s gonna get to me. But then again it might.

01 Kim Carnes – Crazy In The Night (Barking At Airplanes) (1985, USA)

Sometimes I really think I'm going crazy in the night
When I hide down in the covers and I won't turn on the light
I think nothing's gonna get to me but then again it might
What can I do to keep from going crazy in the night?

I need a drink of water but I swallow hard instead
Cause it's hard to move a muscle when you're frozen in your bed
If I could make it to the phone before I die of fright
What can I do to keep from going crazy in the night?

(Sometimes she really thinks she's going crazy in the night
When she hides down in the covers and she won't turn on the light
She says nothing's gonna get to her but then again it might
What can she do to keep from going crazy in the night?)

There's a monster on my ceiling there's a monster on the wall
There are thousands in the closet now they're coming down the hall
I'm so hidden they can't find me but then again they might
What can I do to keep from going crazy in the night?

(Sometimes she really thinks she's going crazy in the night
When she hides down in the covers and she won't turn on the light
She says nothing's gonna get to her but then again it might
What can she do to keep from going crazy in the night)

And if I disappeared do you think they'd ever look?
Would I be headlines in the paper or the cover of the book?
Got to pull myself together I don't want to die of fright
What can I do to keep from going crazy in the night?

(Sometimes she really thinks she's going crazy in the night
When she hides down in the covers and she won't turn on the light
She says nothing's gonna get to her but then again it might
What can she do to keep from going crazy in the night?)

A spectre is haunting Susan.

This song was the spark. Carrying on from ‘Gloria’, I wanted something like ‘Bette Davis Eyes’ but that song is far too overplayed. ‘Crazy in the Night’ though had the perfect feeling of paranoia. The theme of fear began to develop, and with it the subtext of ‘alien invasion’ as seen from the 1980s, to add to the world war and machine themes of the Simulation.

Where 5.2 was about desire and how it can save us, I think the point of this one is about fear and how we process it; the things it does to us; how it can change us for good or bad. At a musical level, I wanted a sort of ‘lo-fi’ vibe, to compare with the highly digital soundscapes of the first Novas, because it’s a prequel, so the technology should feel more clunky. This is an origin story of sorts for Susan, Jack, the Company and the Simulation.

02 Player One – Space Invaders (1979, Australia)

Through dark sunken eyes
I see another pale sunrise
Surrounded by soldiers glued to their screens
Hold back the invaders their infernal machines

We fight to survive
Running to stay alive
Our bodies aching and tired, there's nowhere to hide
Our cover's been blown away

Space invaders (space invaders)
Space invaders (space invaders)
Space invaders (space invaders)
Space invaders (space invaders)

They're closing in on me
Dark forces cold and unseen
Oh my hip pocket nerve is aching again
I must go back in and fight it out to the end

Space invaders (space invaders)
Space invaders (space invaders)
Space invaders (space invaders)
Space invaders (space invaders)

A secret military unit is tracking UFO sightings.

One of the better videogame-themed songs from the 1970s-80s, I also think of it as the core musical motif here, slightly modifying the Bond progression which still frames all of Novas 5.

If you wanted, you could go watch some Gerry Anderson’s UFO (1970) about here to put your head in the appropriate kind of landscape for what might be happening offscreen, between the lines. I’d have used the UFO theme song! Which is beautifully Bondish. But that whole show is just several shades too dark for where I wanted to go, thematically.

03 Nuage – Give Me A Break (1983, England)

This drum inside of me is insatiable
Waiting for no man that's debatable

Give me a break
Oh can't you see it's give or take
I'm just holding on
Grabbing dreams that come along

Getting off the road
Ahead of all the the other folk
Biting the hand that fools
Fodder for the dog that drools
No time to relax
No time to read the fax
My patience on the line
Telling me I've missed the ride

Give me a break
Oh can't you see it's give or take
I'm just holding on
Grabbing dreams that come along

Love is calling
Love, love is calling
Oh, love is calling
Love, love is calling

Allow your heart to smile and laugh

People telling me
Ambitious souls are never free
If only they could know
The pain that sparks this dynamo

Give me a break
Oh can't you see it's give or take
I'm just holding on
Grabbing dreams that come along

Love is calling
Love, love is calling
Oh, love, love is calling
Love is calling
Love is calling
Love is calling
Love is calling
Love is calling
Love is calling

Susan struggles to get her music career on the road.

This is one of those weird songs I’m sure I heard back in the 1980s or early 90s, unless that’s a false memory. It seems to exist only on the 1983 compilation album ‘Dream Sequence’, from the 101 Club in London. Who was this band?

04 Ph.D – War Years (1981, Scotland/England)

Stand by your guns, children, ordered the general
Don't fire till I give the command
Shoot to kill I need no prisoners taken
And if they look in pity don't try to understand

War years
You're living in the war years

And I don't know what I'm doing here
But they said to make my stand
Freedom again was at stake
And the man beside me turns to me and smiles
Tells me his dreams
His baby's funny screams
The fear that he feels inside

War years
You're living in the war years

The battle's over
Lost friends I've never known
That I hope are in some better place
And all the generals sit underground
Talk of the glory
Of the hero's funny stories
Never of the lives that it breaks

War years
You're living in the war years
You're living in the war years
You're living in the war years

Jack returns from active military deployment and is recruited for a secret project.

Ph.D. was (Simon) Phillips, (Tony) Hymas, and (Jim) Diamond.

5 DA – Next To Nothing (1982, USA)

I've been eating next to nothing
On the road from place to place
My eyes won't close when I'm sleeping
And it's showing in my face

My face somehow looks different
Nowhere like my face
Sometimes it looks just like a mask on me

I've been scrambled like a puzzle
Someone's shaken me around
I've tried to put some things together
Some of the pieces can't be found

I've been eating next to nothing
(oh I don't like the taste)
Someone's shaken me around
(don't know who it is)
My face somehow looks different
Nowhere like my face
Something's happened to me
Something's happened to me
Somehow
Somehow

Susan’s paranoia worsens as she finds herself with gaps of missing time and a strange feeling that she is not herself.

A Chicago art-punk band , this amazing video is kind of what sold me on the song. That would be the band’s founder, Lorna Donley, as the girl on the train.

Lorna went on to be a librarian.

06 – The Warlord – Alpha And Omega (1981, England)

I am Alpha and Omega
A living void
Not humanoid

I am Alpha and Omega
Your asteroid
Will be destroyed

I am Alpha and Omega
I live in space
Not of your race

I am Alpha and Omega
Another time
Another place

Superpowers on either side
Behind the silent masses hide
Build your bombs and take a chance
And multiply and swarm like ants
You're like peoples everywhere
Who didn't take the time to care
Are now the victims of their lust
And float around in space as dust

I am Alpha and Omega
The present past
The first and last

I am Alpha and Omega
My power is vast
I'm coming fast

Alpha and Omega
Alpha and Omega
Alpha and Omega
Alpha and Omega

Susan’s mental state manifests as a visit from very grumpy alien.

The Warlord! Somehow I knew these songs, how? Novelty disco that must have seeped its way into the 80s. But anyway: discovering the Warlord trilogy made the backbone of this album.

Aliens are always disco in my soundscape. I don’t know why. I don’t make the rules. I think because they’re analog and a little pretentious and bombastic and take themselves a little too seriously.

The Warlord might also not be entirely what he seems.

07 – Hazel O’Connor – The Eighth Day (1980, England/Ireland)

In the beginning was the world
Man said, Let there be more light
Electric scenes,
a maze of beams
Neon bright to light our boring nights

On the second day he said, Let's have a gas
Hydrogen and co are of the past
Let's make some germs
We'll poison the worms
Man will never be surpassed

And he said, Behold what I have done
I've made a better world for everyone
Nobody laugh, nobody cry
A world without end
Forever and ever amen
Amen, amen

On the third we get green and blue pill pie
On the fourth we send rockets to the sky
On the fifth metal beasts and submarines
On the sixth man prepares his final dream

In our image let's make robots for our slaves
Imagine all the time that we could save
Computers, machines
The silicon dream
Seventh he retired from the scene

And he said, Behold what I have done
I've made a better world for everyone
Nobody laugh, nobody cry
A world without end
Forever and ever amen
Amen, amen

On the eighth day Machine just got upset
A problem Man had not foreseen as yet
No time for flight
A blinding light
Then nothing but a void
Forever night

He said, Behold what Man has done
There's not a world for anyone
Nobody laugh, nobody cry
World's at an end, everyone has died
Forever amen,
Amen, amen

Susan collapses at a show and is rushed away to a private Company’s medical facility… a Company who have been watching her for some time.

The Eighth Day comes from Breaking Glass, the 1980 punk-musical. Produced by Dodi Fayed! Hazel’s luminous robot costume in the film appears to predate Tron by two years.

Hazel O’Connor has had a long music career and is still performing songs from Breaking Glass.

To compare with the actual creation sequence from Genesis: First day is light, second day is ‘the firmament dividing waters from waters’, third is land/sea and food-bearing plants, fourth is sun moon and stars, fifth is sea monsters, sixth is mankind.

08 – President President – Rocket Town (1982?, England)

I left my depot
Early this morning and I drove out of town
They checked my papers
And my heartbeat stopped when the policeman phoned
Interrogation routine
You know what they'll ask and you know what to say
But this was so illegal
And my nerves gave out and I drove away

The barriers were up
But I broke them
Sirens sounded out
Cars came chasing
In Rocket Town
Rocket Town
Rocket Town
In Rocket Town

They call me B-9
Down at the base, I have a top secret pass
I make no weapon
And now I know the real reason why
In anger take me back
Up to the room with the silvery view
I set them up attack
Detonation-H never leaves a clue

The barriers were up
But I broke them
I found out the plot
I'm still shaking
Got to get far away
And dig out a hideaway
In Rocket Town
Rocket Town
Oh, Rocket Town
In Rocket Town

"In a government statement today, an official report has been made
on the incident at the Arcadium Weapons Plant. Sixteen top scientists
were killed in the blast, which devastated the southern state of..."

Rocket Town
Rocket Town
Rocket Town
Oh, Rocket Town

Jack finds himself in extremely deep trouble.

This is Martin Ansell’s band, formerly The Quarks (‘Mechanical’).

A song I’m sure I remember hearing once and forever afterwards being frustrated when I heard Michael W Smith’s 1983 bland and annoying evangelical Christian anthem Rocketown and went ‘no, that’s not it, that’s not it at all…’

End of Act 1