Short Story in a Song — “Party At Ground Zero”

It’s Friday, so let’s focus on an 80s party anthem. Or, at least, that’s what it seems on the surface. Lurking beneath this upbeat ska classic is a scathing indictment of Cold War politics and the continued threat of global nuclear war. Despite the heavy subject matter, in the end this is a positive plea for the next generation to choose a different path than their parents did.

Released in 1985, at the heights/depths of the Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher era, Fishbone states its case with a tongue-in-cheek opening salvo that makes it clear we’re all doomed. From there a narrative unfolds between young American soldiers, represented by “Johnny,” and young soviet soldiers, represented by “Ivan.” There is a never-ending war machine that needs more fodder and these are tomorrow’s heroes. The band pleads with Johnny and Ivan to party instead, because the seeds for world destruction have already been sewn and further fighting is pointless.

So, you know, start dancing before we all get turned into “pink vapor stew.” Wackado, wackado, wackado!

Read the full lyrics for Fishbone’s “Party At Ground Zero” right HERE.

More “Short Story in a Song” posts:

S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in LA.

Short Story in a Song — “Vacation”

This Go-Go’s hit has been on my mind since I wrote a short story inspired by it for an upcoming anthology. Having lived through the band’s meteoric rise in the 80s, I always thought of “Vacation” in terms of the kitschy waterskiing music video that got tons of play on MTV. Listening to this track with a crime writer’s ear, however, changed my mind about the possible meaning of the lyrics.

The narrator sets the story up in the first verse—she’s love sick and still reeling from a recent break up. My perception of those lyrics hadn’t changed much over the years, but things take a darker turn in the second verse. This is where our protagonist admits that she should have run after first meeting her ex. It might simply be an over-dramatization of their failed relationship, but it could also hint at something much darker. If so, it would explain why she has to “get away.” Does she simply need time to heal a broken heart, or does she fear for her safety?

I’m probably over thinking it, but it was a fun exercise to reimagine this new wave classic. The Go-Go’s-themed anthology featuring my short story is called “Murder-A-Go-Go’s.” It’s being edited by Holly West and published by Down & Out Books in early 2019. In the meantime, give the song another listen and decide for yourself.

Read the full  lyrics for the Go-Go’s “Vacation” HERE.

More “Short Story in a Song” posts:

S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in LA.

Interrogation—Leslie Bohem

IMG_2742Who: Leslie Bohem

What: A participant of the great Los Angeles Music Scare of the 1980s. After his burgeoning career in rock and roll stopped burgeoning, Les found a job writing screenplays about rock and roll musicians whose careers had stopped burgeoning. He’s written some movies and television including the miniseries, Taken, for which he won an Emmy. His novella, FLIGHT 505, was just published by UpperRubberBoot, and his new album, Moved to Duarte, will be up and out any minute.  He is currently producing his series, Shut Eye, for Hulu.

Where: Los Angeles

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited. Leslie Bohem guitar photo by Bonnie Perkinson.

I finished FLIGHT 505 in one sitting. How did you come up with this dark, funny and heartbreaking story? Why was 2015 the right time to tell it?

Well, first thanks. A lot.  I’d had a first chapter for a while—not the Chapter as it is now; a scene of Al, fixing bar games in a bar where he used to play.  And the story just sort of took off.

Why now? Honestly, I just finally got around to telling it. I think I had to get enough distance from my own days in music—and then, a few years ago, I began writing songs again, and that sort of brought me full circle.

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