Guns in the Sky

 

guns in the sky
Screen shot of subliminal style flash from INXS’s “Guns in the Sky” video featuring Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is common knowledge that Michael wrote this song in an effort to call out Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” program, wherein the US government announced they were creating a system to put nuclear weapons in space. Subliminal flashes in the song’s official video, such as the photo of Reagan and Gorbachev above, and words like “SDI” (the Strategic Defense Initiate was an anti-ballistic nuclear missile program instituted by the Reagan administration in the 1980s), “USA”, “CCCP”, and “GUNS” reinforce this theme.

“SEE THE SOUND

IT CRASHES IN

ALL AROUND

IT GETS IN

NOW TAKE YOUR HANDS

AND RAISE THEM UP

INTO THE AIR

THAT’S ALL AROUND YA

NOW BRING THEM DOWN

LIKE A CLOCK AT TWO

SHAKE YOUR HEAD

YOUR KNOW WHAT TO DO

THEY WANNA PUT

GUNS IN THE SKY

SOMEONE OUT THERE

AIN’T GONNA LIKE IT

BUT IT COULD BE GOOD

MAKE US LOVE EACH OTHER

HAVE TO REALIZE

I OWN THE FUTURE

GUNS IN THE SKY, GUNS IN THE SKY, GUNS IN THE SKY, GUNS IN THE SKY, GUNS IN THE SKY

CHILD GROWS UP TO SEE

GUNS IN THE SKY

USED TO BE ON TV

WANNA CHANGE

FORGOT THE JOKE

IT’S GREAT TO SEE YOU

I’M RUNNING LATE

DA DA DA!

LOVE YOUR HAIR

DA DA DA!

LEND ME A TEN

DA DA DA!

I LOVE YOUR BIG HOUSE

DA DA DA!

COULD YOU SPARE A DIME

WELL I’M SICK OF IT

IT’S A LOAD OF SHIT

WE COULD STOP THE WORLD

AND LET OFF ALL THE FOOLS

AND LET THEM GO LIVE

WITH THEIR GUNS IN THE SKY

GUNS IN THE SKY, GUNS IN THE SKY, GUNS IN THE SKY, GUNS IN THE SKY, GUNS IN THE SKY, GUNS IN THE SKY, GUNS IN THE SKY, GUNS IN THE SKY, GUNS IN THE SKY”

The first line of this song, “See the sound,” conjures up the image of people being able to visually witness an overwhelming, all-encompassing and penetrating explosion, presumably nuclear given the title “Guns in the Sky” and the established theme of the prolific missiles and defense systems of the 1980’s Cold War. By directing us to witness what is happening, it’s almost as though Michael is making a prophecy, that if atomic weapons are deployed in our atmosphere, the suffering will be inescapable worldwide (“it crashes in, all around, it gets in”).

The next couplet is a command that we raise our hands into the air that’s all around us, a seeming call for uprising and claiming of our own space. And asking us to “bring our hands down like a clock at 2” evokes a person pretending to point a gun with their fingers, (as Michael gestures in the video), in another act of personal empowerment. Considering the song’s theme, the “clock at 2” could also be a reference to the doomsday clock, a symbol of worldwide catastrophe brought on by nuclear war, which was created by atomic scientists in response to increased tension and threats of the Cold War. (Coincidentally, as of this writing in January 2018 in the height of a newly established Cold War, the doomsday clock was moved to 2 minutes to midnight, which is the closest it has ever been to midnight, aka nuclear Armageddon). In Tina Hutchence’s book, Michael: The Lost Boy of Inxs, she notes that the “clock at 2” reference is symbolic of a peace sign hand gesture. 

The suggestion to “Shake your head” is Michael calling on us to say NO to this program, as it undoubtedly could have disastrous effects on humankind: “You know what to do.”

We are then again reminded of the elephant in the room, “They wanna put guns in the sky,” and that it’s surely going to have negative effects on people, “Someone out there ain’t gonna like it.”  But then Michael suggests that the terrible situation could, in a way “be good” in that it could lead to a new awakening and, “make us love each other.” The message comes across that perhaps this idea of putting nuclear weapons in space is so preposterous that it could actually create a sort of unity if we come together and protest it together, realizing that in an atomic war, there are no winners. The next line seems to reinforce that notion, as Michael reminds us that we “own the future” and do not need to let those in power decide our collective fate.

The imagery of a child growing up and seeing that “guns in the sky used to be on TV,” seems to be an illustration of how fiction-like our reality has become, emphasizing this transition into the surreal by evoking a child’s perspective, as in “we used to only imagine things like Star Wars, but now our children are seeing it in front of them.” In another possible meaning, this line is evoking the future, where this child ended up having a more promising life because the nuclear threat has somehow been diminished and is now a thing of the past, as in, “guns in the sky was this thing that used to be on tv,” which would imply it was a big fiction after all.

“Wanna change” may refer to the idea that many people claim they are against nuclear proliferation, but then they “forgot the joke” and fail to do anything about it as they become acclimated to the outrageous, and preoccupied with superficial thoughts and actions. The next several lines consist of random statements followed by the words “Da Da Da!” As would be explicitly repeated in the song “Communication” (and much of the band’s graphics) there is a reference to the Dada art movement here. The early 20th century proponents would stage absurd demonstrations in Vienna shouting nonsense like, “DADA!!” in order to hold a mirror up to the arbitrary society exposed by WWI. In an interview about this song, Michael noted that he intentionally wrote this part in reference to people’s greed, complacency and indifference toward the ever-expanding nuclear threat. It may be just a coincidence that the word “Da” means “Yes” in Russian, however it’s worth noticing the juxtaposition of the word YES in this part of the song referring to people’s tacit acceptance of the buildup of nuclear weapons and the implied NO in the initial verses of the song, as though people’s inane passivity is, in effect saying “yes, yes, yes,” even though they “wanna change.”

The meaning of the last several lines of the song are obvious, as Michael indicates that those in power, who are making dangerous decisions which could devastate the entire planet, need to go live with these weapons and leave the rest of us alone in peace.

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