Playlist notes: Novas 4.2: Ghosts


The Intermission continues.

This was originally just a mood piece, but now finds its place in the main narrative between 0 “Tomorrow” and 1 “Radiant Energy”. Its just one cycle through a loop that has run many times, but it’s why Jack is so angry when we start 1. He’s just been experiencing this.

Novas 4.2: Ghosts

If I had only three more minutes, wouldn’t waste ’em regretting the past. I know with whom I’d like to spend it, holding tightly all through the blast.

01 Donovan – Split Wood Not Atoms (1980, Scotland) JACK

If I had only three more minutes
Wouldn't waste 'em regretting the past
I know with whom I'd like to spend it
Holding tightly all through the blast

If it happened in the garden
While some new seeds we were sowing
We would hold hands with the children
Watch the pretty mushroom growing
Watch the deadly mushroom growing

My love is white hot
And if the powers fought
That'd be our lot
But listen big shot
My love is white hot
Don't do it tonight
Split wood not atoms
Split wood not atoms
Split wood not atoms
Split wood not atoms

Put your toys down and listen close kids
Soon the sky will flash and shake
Though we know not quite what we did
The Lord giveth and the Lord take

And if it happened in the city
And I couldn't call or reach you
Think about me
Hold the feeling
Distance nor death can cut through
The bond between me and you

Jack has finally found love with Susan, and now the world is ending. He is not happy.

So like ‘I Wanna Be A Machine’ was for Machines, this is the song that jumpstarted this album. I think I came across it in the late 90s, and it made a deep impression. Fairly obscure, from Donovan’s German period, it’s just right in your face with the opposite of Machines: the raw fear of total destruction that was our lived experience of the 80s. So many artists from the late 70s began to pivot to the struggle against nuclear war and this is a perfect example of the result. It carries through the warmth and humanity I wanted but also that sheer terror of knowing a dark future we had no hope of changing.

Except we didn’t know the future. And that’s why Radiant Energy had to be a simulation.

02 Zingari – Everybody’s Waiting (1983, England) JACK

Everybody's waiting, waiting for something

Sometimes I sit down and I think to myself
"Is this all there is"
And sometimes I just sit down

Everybody's waiting, waiting for something
Everybody's waiting (chik-a-boom, chik-a-boom-boom-boom)
Everybody's waiting, waiting for someone
Waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting

Bill's joined the army, he's waiting for a war
Everyone's on strike, all wanting more
Now John's in the bathroom, he's washing his hair
The music isn't playing, but John don't care

Everybody's waiting, waiting for something
Everybody's waiting (chik-a-boom, chik-a-boom-boom-boom)
Everybody's waiting, waiting for someone
Everybody's waiting, I'm waiting for you
Waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting

On your marks, get set, go

Wait go, wait go, wait go
Stop start wait go, stop start wait go
Waiting, waiting, waiting

The king was in his coffeehouse
Counting out his money
The queen was in the parlour
Waiting for her honey
Now there's some guys in the mortuary
But not a word was said
They're not waiting
They're all dead

The quiet parts at the start of the simulation were the worst.

I managed to find the other Zingari song, “Echoes”! Look for it in Novas 3.3.

Could there be a war which was never fought, except in a generation’s minds? I think WWIII was such a war. Then the War on Terror was WW4. Here in 2019, I think we’re now three years into WW5, a very different set of alignments (UK-USA-Russia vs Europe). A hybrid war being fought partly in cyberspace.

03 Landscape – Einstein A Go Go (1981, England) JACK

Einstein a-go-go!
Einstein a-go-go!
Einstein a-go-go!

Bible says, we must pay
I am the judge for the Judgement Day
There'll be no warning, no alarm
I'll be the one to save

Einstein a-go-go!
Einstein a-go-go!

I've got facts, I know the truth
You're all corrupt, you're all depraved
A few devices around the place
I'll blow you all away

There's no place safe in the world
But things aren't right in the outside world
There's filth and vice in the world
I'll put things right

Einstein a-go-go!

You better watch out, you better beware
Albert said E equals MC squared

No, Jack is most certainly not enjoying himself.

Landscape was a jazz band, apparently! But it’s a pretty good entry in the anti-nuclear lineup.

04 The Kitchens – ‘A’ Bomb (1979, England) JACK

It's moving in the microscope
Life within a cell
No one else can see it
Only he can tell
He prostituted brilliance
In 1944
Einstein split the atom
Science was his whore

I am an A-bomb

Phone call in the evening
White House on the line
Why yes sir Mr President
Einstein's soaked in wine
There's lipstick on his collar
Silk stockings on the floor
They're flying over Tokyo tonight
Einstein locks the door

I am an A-bomb

Einstein's mind is dreaming
The chrysalis unwinds
A million blood-red locusts
Are swarming through his blinds
He's running through the bleakers on the
Screaming from the agony
Though it might be something more

I am an A-bomb

Raw, desperate lo-fi punk energy here and yep heard that one before too. I am starting to wonder just exactly how I managed to hear all these songs when our family really didn’t do pop culture at all. Like at ALL. Which is why these fragments shine so brightly in my memory. But I clearly remember not just this song but the album picture (not the A-side, ‘The Death of Rock and Roll’, just this one. A cassette mixtape, I think? Like of anti-nuclear songs? Something with a liner card.)

05 Fay Ray – Heatwave (1982, Wales) SUSAN

I drew my motor over, stopped by the road
We watch the city in its different glow
We watch the spotlights as they flash across the sky
We watch the people as they, they get ready to die

I didn't kill
I didn't fight
I'll never get home tonight
I didn't kill
I didn't hate
Doesn't matter, it's all too late

Everybody's waiting for the heatwave, heatwave
Everybody's waiting for the heatwave, heatwave

I watch the mushroom as it rises in a cloud
We see the heatwave but we hear no sound
They never told the truth
They gave us a lie
They never told us that we might have to die

The Fay Ray song I knew from my childhood. Perhaps from that same mystery tape.

06 Chalk Circle – This Mourning (1987, Canada) JACK


It's eleven o'clock and they talk again
About the eve of destruction and a new ray gun
For my defence
Oh, mend the fence
When my head hits the pillow
Am I looking up at ground zero
For heaven's sake
I am wide awake

Let morning come soon
This mourning makes me blue
Let morning come soon
This mourning makes me blue

Left in the dark with fear and blindness
Certainty has left me helpless
The most I ever dream
To see twilight again
If a man in the street can't get to sleep
Cause he's busy digging graves for counted sheep
Then you've blown him away
He won't see the day

Ok so if this was late 80s I don’t know how I heard it. Maybe wrapping into the early 90s, radio most likely. ‘Digging graves for counted sheep’ is the best image though.

07 Data – Fallout (1980, Norway/England) SUSAN, JACK and SKYWATCH

Whatcha gonna do now
Where you gonna go
You always had the answers
On your phone-in show
It's never gonna happen
Or so you did say
For no-one really wants it
But here we are today
With the fallout
It's fallout

You better run for shelter
And put yourself in a fallout suit
You better get yourself used to
Just living in a fallout suit
A satellite clockwork information
Is gonna give you the duration
Of the fallout

So whatcha gonna do now
Now that it's here
But listen to you talking
About the 'aftercare'
Living in boxes
Covered in lead
With three foot of concrete
To keep us from the dead

It's fallout

SKYWATCH wonders if its message is being received.

So I’ve talked about this song before and I think my memories of it must come from 80s radio.

08 Ultravox – Dancing With Tears In My Eyes (1984, England) JACK and SUSAN

Dancing with tears in my eyes
Weeping for the memory of a life gone by
Dancing with tears in my eyes
Living out a memory of a love that died

It's five and I'm driving home again
It's hard to believe that it's my last time
The man on the wireless cries again
It's over, it's over

Dancing with tears in my eyes
Weeping for the memory of a life gone by
Dancing with tears in my eyes
Living out a memory of a love that died

It's late and I'm with my love alone
We drink to forget the coming storm
We love to the sound of our favourite song
Over and over

Dancing with tears in my eyes..

It's time and we're in each other's arms
It's time but I don't think we really care

Right, the inevitable Ultravox, I guess it had to happen (and they will appear again) but here it is again in one of the best statements of that so strange emotion… the one that was my closest childhood companion, then I thought had gone for good, but now is back again in the 2010s. That sense of fatalism my GenX generation grew up with that we knew the future. That in a secret way the decision had already been made. The disaster had happened and we were just watching it unfold, trying to distract ourselves. Dancing with tears in our eyes. Callback to Donovan and the opening images.

And now we’re all feeling this fatalism again about AI, inequality and climate change.

Don’t necessarily trust that emotion is what I’m trying to say. Don’t necessarily believe it’s all been decided.

09 The Skeletons – Very Last Day (1981, USA) SKYWATCH

Everybody's gonna pray on the very last day
When they hear that bell ring the world away
Everybody's gonna pray to Heaven on the Judgement Day

Well you can sing about the great King David
And you can preach about the wisdom of Saul
But the judgement falls on all mankind
When the trumpet sounds the call

All equal and the same
When the lord will call your name
So get ready brother for that day

Cause everybody's gonna pray on the very last day
When they hear that bell ring the world away
Everybody's gonna pray to Heaven on the Judgement Day

The Lord has given and the Lord has known
The tale is told and the seed is sown
From dust we came and to dust we'll go
You know the Lord once told us so

So peace brother take a hand
Heed the meaning of the Lord's command
So get ready brother for that day

SKYWATCH may be an obsolete AI but it knows some things.

A cover of the 1963 original by Peter, Paul and Mary, but I needed this one for two reasons. One, yes, I heard it in the 80s (I remember that pink album inlay, but again, how? Mystery mixtape with photos is my guess) but… it’s just got something that the 1960s one doesn’t. Something raw and cyberpunk. Desperate and yet upbeat. Confronting the future even without hope. And musically climactic.

The theme of apocalypse is what powers the whole Novas project and I like this song because it doesn’t necessarily mean what you think it means. The bell that rings the world away might not be a bomb. If the world is a simulation, what does it mean for the simulation to end?

10 This Mortal Coil – I Come And Stand At Every Door (1991, England) SUSAN

I come and stand at every door
And no-one hears my silent prayer
I knock and yet remain unseen
For I am dead, for I am dead

I'm only seven although I died
In Hiroshima long ago
I'm seven now as I was then
When children die they do not grow

My hair was scorched by swirling flame
My eyes grew dim, my eyes grew blind
Death came and turned my bones to dust
And that was scattered by the wind

I need no fruit, I need no rice
I need no sweet, nor even bread
I ask for nothing for myself
For I am dead, for I am dead

All that I ask is that for peace
You fight today, you fight today
So that the children of this world
May live and grow and laugh and play

So 1991 is a bit late but this is definitely a song soaked in that pure essence of Cold War. Another cover, the song by Pete Seeger in 1961, but from a Turkish poem. This perfomance is perfect: ghostly, wispy, dissonant. Yet with a tiny sliver of hope.