Games Without Frontiers (song)
|"Games Without Frontiers"|
|Single by Peter Gabriel|
|from the album Peter Gabriel|
|B-side||"Start/I Don't Remember" (UK), "Lead A Normal Life" (USA)|
|Released||9 February 1980|
|Genre||Progressive rock, New Wave|
|Peter Gabriel singles chronology|
The single became Gabriel's first Top 10 hit in the United Kingdom, peaking at No.4, and - tied with 1986's Sledgehammer - his highest-charting song in the United Kingdom; it peaked at No.48 in the United States. The B-side to the single was two tracks combined into one: "Start" and "I Don't Remember".
"Games Without Frontiers" was also officially licensed as the title music for the Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC computer game, The Race Against Time, which in turn was the official game of the charity event Sport Aid '88.
Title and lyrics
The song's title and lyrics refer to a long-running TV show in the 1960s and 1970s, broadcast in several European countries, in which teams of residents representing a town or city in one of the participating countries would compete on an outdoor track of games of skill while frequently dressed in bizarre costumes. While some games were simple races, others allowed one team to obstruct another. In most countries, the title of the show was 'Games without frontiers' (e.g. Jeux Sans Frontières in France, "Spel zonder grenzen", in the Netherlands, "Spiel ohne Grenzen" in West-Germany); the phrase "jeux sans frontières" is repeated frequently in the lyrics (often misheard as "she's so popular"). The title of the British version, It's A Knockout, also appears in the song. With its counterpart, the Eurovision Song Contest, this show can be regarded as a deliberate attempt to show the TV audience how competitions between countries in the then-nascent European Community could be lighthearted and build a sense of community.
The lyrics ostensibly make fun of the game show and the idea behind it, but the inclusion of non-European names makes it clear that a wider meaning is intended. One interpretation is to regard the lyrics as portraying the game as a metaphor for international relations in general, and hence, a critique of nationalism and war, which in that light appear as childish and silly. The tag line of the song, "Games without frontiers, war without tears" is a comment on the sublimation of the rivalries within Europe, caused by centuries of war, in a meaningless and stupid game.
Other names mentioned have led to historical or political identifications: The line "Adolf builds a bonfire, Enrico plays with it." might refer to Adolf Hitler's beginning of the Second World War in 1939 and Enrico Fermi's nuclear reactor, which enabled the development of nuclear weapons by the United States at the end of that war. The line "Sacha plays with Britt" might refer to the Soviet Union, as Sacha is a Russian short form for Alexander, and Britain cooperating during the Second World War. Chiang Ching, another name mentioned, may refer to the wife of Chairman Mao, a leader of China's Cultural Revolution, or to Chiang Ching-kuo, the then-president of Taiwan.
The album version of the song includes the line "Whistling tunes we piss on the goons in the jungle" after the second verse and before the second chorus. This was replaced for the single release with a more radio-friendly repeat of the line "Whistling tunes we're kissing baboons in the jungle" from the first chorus. The BBC also censored the video and removed the words "we piss on the goons in the jungle". The whistling is performed by Gabriel himself, along with producers Steve Lillywhite and Hugh Padgham.
The song also appeared in the season one finale of the TV series The Americans (episode 13, "The Colonel"), playing over the end of the episode.
- Peter Gabriel – vocals, synth, whistles
- David Rhodes – guitar
- Jerry Marotta – drums, percussion
- Larry Fast – synth, synth bass
- Kate Bush – backing vocals
- Steve Lillywhite – whistles
- Hugh Padgham – whistles
This song features the PAiA Electronics Programmable Drum Set, widely considered the first programmable drum machine. (It is not the Roland CR-78, used by many of Gabriel's former Genesis bandmates on both Genesis and solo albums.) It also features the Moog Model 15 small analog modular system for many of the synthesizer sounds and was one of the first singles to feature the Fairlight CMI sampler, of which Gabriel was an early exponent. A Sequential Circuits Prophet 5 polyphonic synthesiser is also said to have featured on the song.
7" UK single (1980)
- "Games Without Frontiers"
- "Start/I Don't Remember" (non-album version—alternate recording)
7" US & Canadian single (1980)
- "Games Without Frontiers" (3:47)
- "Lead A Normal Life" (3:42)
7" US single (1980)
- "Games Without Frontiers (Mono)" (3:45)
- "Games Without Frontiers (Stereo)" (3:45)
12" UK single (1983)
- "Games Without Frontiers"
- "Schnappschuss (Ein Familienfoto)"
7" German single (1980)
- "Spiel Ohne Grenzen (Games Without Frontiers)" (4:07)
- "Jetzt Kommt Die Flut (Here Comes The Flood)" (4:57)
- "Peter Gabriel - Games Without Frontiers". ultratop.be. Retrieved 2012-01-06.
- Hewitt, Alan (2000). Opening The Musical Box: A Genesis Chronicle. Firefly. p. 142. ISBN 9780946719303. "censored by the BBC because of its use of children's dolls"
- "Eventmedia". Espneventmedia.com. 2009-01-23. Retrieved 2012-01-06.