Four Minute Warning (song)

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"Four Minute Warning"
Four Minute Warning Single Cover.jpg
Single by Mark Owen
from the album In Your Own Time
B-side "Live If You Try"
"Jaywalker"
Released 4 August 2003[1]
Format CD Single
Recorded 2002-2003
Genre Pop rock
Length 4:05
Label Island
Writer(s) Gary Barlow
Eliot Kennedy
Mark Owen [2]
Producer(s) Henry Priestman
Mark Owen singles chronology
"I Am What I Am"
(1997)
"Four Minute Warning"
(2003)
"Alone Without You"
(2003)

"Four Minute Warning" is the first single to be released from Take That band member Mark Owen's second solo studio album, In Your Own Time. The single was released on 4 August 2003.[1] The single peaked at #4 on the UK Singles Chart,[3] making it his third UK top 10 single. It sold over 80,000 copies in the UK. It was Owen's first single to be released on Island Records, after he was dropped from RCA in September 1997.

Synopsis[edit]

The song is based on the Four-minute warning, a public alert system conceived by the British government during the Cold War (1953–1992), which was based on the estimated time it would take an ICBM from detection to reach its target. Owen's lyrics, on one level, depict people in denial of their own demise and the political circumstances that cause it. On the other, it gives the listener the impression of the shattered dreams of a group of people caught up in a nuclear strike on an unnamed British city. They also give a snapshot of the society through the people Owen portrays, while at the same time narrating the period between the UKWMO issuing a warning and the impact in real time (Owen's song is slightly over four minutes long). This is done with a countdown in the lyrics akin to Crass's song They've got a bomb, which appears on their album The Feeding Of The 5000. Each time the chorus is repeated, one minute is removed from the countdown. The lyrics near the end of the song provocatively ask the listener what would they do if such a warning was given, provoking listeners to empathise with the characters. The Chorus is an allusion to Peter Donaldson's warning message.

Video[edit]

Like the lyrics, the video is a snap shot of British society at the time of the conflict. It juxtaposes the characters actions of denial with subsequent mass panic as an attack is imminent, while Owen walks through a British city whose streets become deserted. It is littered with subtle references to British cold war propaganda films, such as the infamous Protect and Survive series. The video sublty refers to the rising and falling note of the air attack sirens in the opening shots, which was the official warning of imminent attack since World War II (The Protect and Survive Public information films, The Warnings and Action After Warnings illustrate this). A discarded newspaper with the Headline "Four Minute Warning" being blown across the streets refers to Sound An Alarm (1971), a film commissioned by the Home Office's United Kingdom Warning and Monitoring Organisation to illustrate their role. In Sound an Alarm, we see a headline "War imminent?" on an advertisement for a newspaper being blown across the street, only for it to get stuck on the grille of a character's car. While it refers to propaganda films, it could also be seen to refer to the concept of nuclear winter through the darkening skies over the city (though these could also be references to the BBC Drama Threads by implicitly suggesting mushroom clouds)

Track listing[edit]

UK Promo Single
  1. "Four Minute Warning" [Shanghai Surprise Mix] - 6:44
  2. "Four Minute Warning" [Full Length Version] - 6:47
UK CD Single
  1. "Four Minute Warning" - 4:07
  2. "Live If You Try" - 3:51
  3. "Jaywalker" - 3:48
  4. "Four Minute Warning" [Video] - 4:12

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (2003) Peak
Position
Europe Hot 100[4] 17
Ireland (IRMA)[5] 37
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[6] 52
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[7] 2
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[3] 4

References[edit]