“Games Without Frontiers” by Peter Gabriel (1980)

2 01 2009

Peter Gabriel was another pioneer of electronics in music—particularly the use of samplers.  Gabriel’s music makes your mind think and your body move.  His early work often explored the dark recesses of our psyches:  fear, loneliness, aggression, desperation.  You might enjoy his later music (starting, perhaps, with 1986’s “So”), where he explored more upbeat music laced with themes of human potential.  This is a crass oversimplification of his music, but I’m trying to give you some context.

In all of his music, Mr. Gabriel managed to put together some amazing sonic landscapes, remarkable due to the limits of the technology when he started.  He is one of my favorite musicians.

I think this song is about the futility and immaturity of unchecked nationalism.  The only sure result of such jingoism is violence, or at least the ability to convince people of the need for war.  The lyrics reference real historical figures, some pretty obscure, others pretty obvious, like Adolph Hitler and Enrico Mussolini:

“Suki plays with Leo, Sascha plays with Britt
Adolf builts a bonfire, Enrico plays with it”

And that’s Kate Bush singing the title in French (“Jeux sans frontieres“), a terrific bonus.


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