I fondly remember that one.
..the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls
Somewhere between your heart and mine
There's a window that I can't see through
There's a wall so high it reaches the sky .....
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“Berlin Top Ten” by Dickie Goodman
In 1961, Goodman made his next Cold War song, “Berlin Top Ten,” again a commentary on government-policed radio. The song begins with disc jockey Happy Hans Kaput playing a snippet of the supposed number one song in East Berlin, “Don’t Fence Me In.” This is undoubtedly a commentary on the Berlin Wall, which had just begun to “fence in” East Berlin when the song was released. (The Berlin Wall actually surrounded West Berlin.) Happy Hans is then machine-gunned by the “secret police” and replaced by Boris the Spinner, “the people’s disc jockey.” After a few more news announcements and song snippets, the sound of marching soldiers and machine guns are heard once again. This time it is Boris’s turn to face the secret police and he signs off with a snippet of “I’ll Never Smile Again” by the Platters.
The secret police mentioned twice in the song is either the KGB, the Soviet intelligence agency/military police, or the Stasi, the East Berlin equivalent. Both are considered to be among the most repressive and invasive state agencies in modern history. The song comically portrays how East Berlin radio was controlled by these two organizations. Dickie Goodman grew up listening to American radio during its “Golden Age” (1920s–1950s), before the ascendancy of television. He knew and worked with many American disc jockeys and radio personalities, and garnered airplay for his songs by hawking them around to radio stations. Thus it is fitting that he would create a song like “Berlin Top Ten,” which, although comical, shows the plight of radio disc jockeys in countries where broadcast freedom is denied.
The song is also remarkable for its pertinence to the construction of the Berlin Wall. The border between West Berlin and East Berlin was closed on the night of August 12, 1961, by means of a barbed-wire fence. A few days later, cement blocks began to be put into place. Goodman conceived the song, recorded it, and released it a little over two months later on October 23, 1961. At the time, Goodman could not have known the pervasive impact the Wall would have on world politics for the next almost thirty years. Nor could he have known how prescient his song was. Although it wasn’t a hit, only reaching number 116 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart, the song’s use of “Don’t Fence Me In” helped to establish it as an emblematic commentary on the Berlin Wall.
These three novelty songs show how popular music can capture historical moments and comment on them as they are unfolding. The farfetched scenarios in the last two songs (“secret police” gunning down disc jockeys on the air) show that Goodman understood that the United States was prone to exaggerate the extent to which Soviet media was controlled. Yet at the same time, these songs clearly contributed to U.S. fears of communist countries during the Cold War.
Pink Floyd springs to mind.
Fire to my soul demon hunter