99 Luftballons

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"99 Luftballons" /
"99 Red Balloons"
Single by Nena
from the album Nena and 99 Luftballons
Released 1983 (West Germany)
1984 (United Kingdom)
Format CD single
Recorded 1982
Genre Neue Deutsche Welle
Length 3:53
Label CBS Schallplatten
Writer(s) Uwe Fahrenkrog-Petersen (music)
Carlo Karges (German lyrics)
Kevin McAlea (English lyrics)
Certification
Nena singles chronology
"Nur geträumt"
(1982)
"99 Luftballons"
(1983)
"Leuchtturm"
(1983)
Music sample

"99 Luftballons" (German Neunundneunzig Luftballons, "99 balloons") is an anti-nuclear protest song by the German band Nena from their 1983 self-titled album. An English version titled "99 Red Balloons" written by Kevin McAlea was also released after widespread success of the original in Europe and Japan. The English version is not a direct translation of the German and contains a somewhat different set of lyrics.[1]

Background and writing[edit]

While at a June 1982 concert by the Rolling Stones in West Berlin, Nena's guitarist Carlo Karges noticed that balloons were being released. As 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.[2]

Etymology[edit]

The translation of the title is sometimes given as "Ninety-Nine Air Balloons"; however, "Ninety-Nine Balloons" is more correct.[3][4] A Luftballon is a colourful toy balloon, rather than a balloon for transport or research. The name is derived from Luft, German for "air", but the meaning of Luft as a noun does not qualify the type of balloon; however, as an adjective meaning "aerial" resulting in an understanding of "airborne balloons." The title "99 Red Balloons" almost scans correctly with the syllables falling in the right places within the rhythm of the first lines of lyrics, with "red" replacing "Luft"; the only difference is that neunundneunzig (99) has one syllable more than "ninety-nine".

Plot[edit]

A bag's worth of helium balloons are casually released by an anonymous civilian into the sky and are registered as missiles by a faulty East German early warning system; mistaken for an attack by NATO, it results in panic and eventually nuclear war.

"99 Red Balloons", the English version, adds a significant and poignant detail — that the song's narrator (along with the presumed listener) released the fateful balloons.[5]

Re-recordings and cover versions[edit]

There have been two re-recordings of the song released by Nena: a modern version in 2002 which was included on Nena feat. Nena (2002)[6] and a retro-sounding one in 2009,[7] the latter of which includes some verses recorded in French.

Angry Salad released a version of the song on their 1998 album Bizarre Gardening Accident. Their version also appears on their 1999 self-titled album. A cover of the song was recorded by the band Goldfinger in 2000 for the album Stomping Ground, and gained popularity after featuring in the film EuroTrip.[8]

South African band Southern Gypsey Queen released a cover of the song in 2011.[9]

Reception[edit]

American and Australian audiences preferred the original German version, which became one of the most successful non-English songs in US history[citation needed] when it topped the Cash Box Top 100 chart and reached no. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, behind "Jump" by Van Halen.[10] It was certified Gold by the RIAA.

The later-released English translation, "99 Red Balloons", topped the charts in the UK, Canada and Ireland.

VH1 Classic, an American cable television station, ran a charity event for Hurricane Katrina relief in 2006. Viewers who made donations were allowed to choose which music videos the station would play. One viewer donated $35,000 for the right to program an entire hour and requested continuous play of Nena's "99 Luftballons" and "99 Red Balloons" videos. The station broadcast the videos as requested from 2:00 to 3:00pm EST on 26 March 2006.[11]

Chart positions[edit]

German version[edit]

English version[edit]

2002 re-release[edit]

Chart (2002) Peak
position
Belgium (Ultratip Flanders)[54] 17
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[55] 82
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[56] 77
Order of precedence
Preceded by
"Jump" by Van Halen
Canadian CHUM number-one single
24 March 1984 – 31 March 1984 (2 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)" by Phil Collins
US Cash Box number-one single
10 March 1984 (1 week)
Succeeded by
"Girls Just Want to Have Fun" by Cyndi Lauper
Preceded by
"Girls Just Want to Have Fun" by Cyndi Lauper
Japanese Oricon International Chart number-one single
16 April 1984 – 23 April 1984 (2 weeks)
Australian Kent Music Report number-one single
2 April 1984 – 30 April 1984 (5 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Eat It" by "Weird Al" Yankovic
Irish Singles Chart number-one single
26 February 1984 – 18 March 1984 (4 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Hello" by Lionel Richie
Preceded by
"Relax" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood
UK Singles Chart number-one single
3 March 1984 – 17 March 1984 (3 weeks)
Preceded by
"Red Red Wine" by UB40
Canadian RPM number-one single
3 March 1984 – 10 March 1984 (2 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Jump" by Van Halen
Preceded by
"Major Tom (Völlig Losgelöst)" by Peter Schilling
Austrian number-one single
15 April 1983 (2 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Gel', du magst mi" by Ludwig Hirsch
German number-one single
28 March 1983 (1 week)
Succeeded by
"Too Shy" by Kajagoogoo
Swiss number-one single
20 April 1983 – 27 April 1983 (2 weeks)
Succeeded by
"L'Italiano" by Toto Cutugno
Preceded by
"Poi E" by Patea Maori Club
New Zealand number-one single
15 April 1984 (1 week)
Succeeded by
"Reggae Night" by Jimmy Cliff
Preceded by
"Radio Ga Ga" by Queen
Swedish number-one single
3 April 1984 – 1 May 1984 (3 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Street Dance" by Break Machine
Preceded by
"Too Shy" by Kajagoogoo
Belgian Ultratop 50 Flanders number-one single
16 April 1983 – 30 April 1983 (3 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Let's Dance" by David Bowie
Preceded by
"Fame" by Irene Cara
Belgian VRT Top 30 Flanders number-one single
9 April 1983 – 30 April 1983 (4 weeks)
Preceded by
"Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson
Eurochart Hot 100 number-one single
2 April 1983 – 30 April 1983 (5 weeks)
Preceded by
"Pa" by Doe Maar
Dutch Top 40 number-one single
26 March 1983 – 16 April 1983 (4 weeks)
Single Top 100 number-one single
26 March 1983 – 16 April 1983 (4 weeks)

In popular culture[edit]

The track was used in soundtracks for the movies Grosse Pointe Blank, Boogie Nights, The Wedding Singer, My Best Friend's Girl, Not Another Teen Movie, Watchmen, EuroTrip, Camille Rewinds, and Mr. Nobody. It also appeared in the video games Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec, Donkey Konga, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and Just Dance 2014.

See also[edit]

  • Stanislav Petrov, a Soviet early-warning system operator who in 1983 disregarded a false nuclear attack alarm (from shining clouds, rather than balloons) and may have prevented a nuclear war.
  • List of anti-war songs

References[edit]

  1. ^ "99 Red Balloons – interview with the writer, Kevin McAlea". Eighty-eightynine. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  2. ^ Rolling Stone, 15 March 1984
  3. ^ "The New English-German Dictionary: "Luftballon"". Retrieved 2 June 2007. "balloon -- der Luftballon" [dead link]
  4. ^ "The New English-German Dictionary: "Balloon"". Retrieved 2 June 2007. "balloon -- der Ballon, balloon -- der Luftballon" [dead link]
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Nena feat. Nena - 20 Jahre by Nena". iTunes DE Apple. Retrieved 27 June 2013. 
  7. ^ "99 Luftballons - Single by Nena". iTunes US Apple. Retrieved 27 June 2013. 
  8. ^ Phares, Heather. "Original Soundtrack – Eurotrip". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  9. ^ "Southern Gypsey Queen – "99 Red Balloons"". Rolling Stone South Africa. 15 November 2011. Retrieved 29 March 2014. 
  10. ^ "March 3, 1984 – The Hot 100". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. 3 March 1984. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  11. ^ VH1 Classic to Air the Classic 80s Music Video '99 Luftballons' for an Entire Hour on Sunday, 26 March. VH1 Classic. PR Newswire. 22 March 2006. Retrieved 28 March 2014. 
  12. ^ "Australia No. 1 hits -- 1980's". World Charts. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  13. ^ "Nena – 99 Luftballons – Austriancharts.at" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  14. ^ "Ultratop.be – Nena – 99 Luftballons" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  15. ^ (Dutch) "99 Luftballons – NENA". Top 30. Retrieved 17 July 2014. "Hoogste notering in de top 30 : 1" 
  16. ^ MusicSeek.info – UK, Eurochart, Billboard & Cashbox No.1 Hits at the Wayback Machine (archived 14 June 2006). MusicSeek.info. Retrieved 17 July 2014.
  17. ^ (French) "InfoDisc : Tous les Titres par Artiste". InfoDisc. Select "Nena" from the artist drop-down menu. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  18. ^ "Nena – 99 Luftballons". Officialcharts.de. GfK Entertainment. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  19. ^ a b (Italian) "I singoli più venduti del 1983". Hit Parade Italia. Creative Commons. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  20. ^ a b "Japan #1 IMPORT DISKS by Oricon Hot Singles". Oricon. 18.ocn.ne.jp. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  21. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Nena - 99 Luftballons search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  22. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Nena – 99 Luftballons" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 17 July 2014.
  23. ^ "Charts.org.nz – Nena – 99 Luftballons". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  24. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – Nena – 99 Luftballons". VG-lista. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  25. ^ (Polish) "99 LUFTBALLONS – Nena". LP3. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  26. ^ (Spanish) Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2. 
  27. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – Nena – 99 Luftballons". Singles Top 60. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
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  29. ^ "Nena Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Hot 100 for Nena. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  30. ^ "Nena – Awards". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 4 June 2013. 
  31. ^ CASH BOX Top 100 Singles – Week ending MARCH 10, 1984 at the Wayback Machine (archived 30 September 2012). Cash Box magazine. Retrieved 17 July 2014.
  32. ^ (German) "Jahreshitparade 1983". Austriancharts.at. Hung Medien. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  33. ^ (Dutch) "Jaaroverzichten 1983". Ultratop. Hung Medien. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  34. ^ (German) "Jahrescharts – 1983". Officialcharts.de. GfK Entertainment. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  35. ^ (Dutch) "Single Top 100 1983" (PDF). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  36. ^ (Dutch) "Jaaroverzichten – Single 1983". Single Top 100. Hung Medien. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  37. ^ (German) "Schweizer Jahreshitparade 1983". Hitparade.ch. Hung Medien. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  38. ^ "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – Top 100 End of Year AMR Charts – 1980s". Australian-charts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  39. ^ (French) "TOP – 1984". Top-france.fr. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  40. ^ "Top 100 Hits for 1984". The Longbored Surfer. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  41. ^ The CASH BOX Year-End Charts: 1984 at the Wayback Machine (archived 30 September 2012). Cash Box magazine. Retrieved 17 July 2014.
  42. ^ "French single certifications – Nena – 99 Luftballons" (in French). InfoDisc.  Select NENA and click OK
  43. ^ (French) "Les Singles en Or". InfoDisc. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  44. ^ "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Nena; '99 Luftballons')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie. 
  45. ^ "American single certifications – Nena – 99 Luft Ballons". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH
  46. ^ Chum Chart Archive – Nena at the Wayback Machine (archived 22 February 2006). CHUM. Retrieved 17 July 2014.
  47. ^ "RPM Top Singles." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 6 July 2011.
  48. ^ "The Irish Charts – All there is to know". Irishcharts.ie. Retrieved 6 July 2011. 
  49. ^ "Archive Chart" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved 17 July 2014.
  50. ^ "South African Rock Lists Website SA Charts 1969 – 1989 Acts (N)". Rock.co.za. Retrieved 21 June 2013. 
  51. ^ "Top Singles – Volume 41, No. 17, January 05 1985". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  52. ^ "Canadian single certifications – Nena – 99 Red Balloons". Music Canada. 
  53. ^ "British single certifications – Nena – 99 Red Balloons". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter 99 Red Balloons in the field Search. Select Title in the field Search by. Select single in the field By Format. Click Go
  54. ^ "Ultratop.be – Nena – 99 Luftballons [2002"] (in Dutch). Ultratip. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  55. ^ (Dutch) "Dutchcharts.nl – Nena – 99 Luftballons". Single Top 100. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  56. ^ "Nena – 99 Luftballons [2002 – swisscharts.com"]. Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 4 June 2013.