You and I in a little toy shop
Buy a bag of balloons with the money we've got
Set them free at the break of dawn
'Til one by one they were gone
Back at base bugs in the software
Flash the message "something's out there!"
Floating in the summer sky
Ninety-nine red balloons go by

Ninety-nine red balloons
Floating in the summer sky
Panic bells, it's red alert
There's something here from somewhere else
The war machine springs to life
Opens up one eager eye
Focusing it on the sky
Where ninety-nine red balloons go by

Ninety-nine decision street
Ninety-nine ministers meet
To worry, worry, super scurry
Call the troops out in a hurry
This is what we've waited for
This is it, boys, this is war
The president is on the line
As ninety-nine red balloons go by

Ninety-nine knights of the air
Ride super high-tech jet fighters
Everyone's a super hero
Everyone's a captain Kirk
With orders to identify
To clarify and classify
Scramble in the summer sky
Ninety-nine red balloons go by

As ninety-nine red balloons go by

Ninety-nine dreams I have had
In every one a red balloon
It's all over and I'm standing pretty
In this dust that was a city
If I could find a souvenir
Just to prove the world was here
And here is a red balloon
I think of you, and let it go

Lyrics submitted by ups_and_downs

99 Red Balloons Lyrics as written by Carlo Karges Joern-uwe Fahrenkrog-petersen

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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99 Red Balloons song meanings
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  • +9
    General Comment
    I don't know why we're comparing both versions here, but I happen to like the message of this song. To me it's all about paranoia of the cold war. A simple thing like a pack of red balloons becomes a threat and the defenses going to extremes about it. In the end, she says that she had 99 dreams, but they were all destroyed because of the war, exept for 1. That dream involves "you". Even though war can destroy many things, it cannot destroy love.
    priestpiloton November 24, 2006   Link
  • +7
    General Comment
    actually i believe its for people who know the version of this song that is english. just because people don't speak german doesnt mean they are stupid. why should people know every language? and why do people have to critisise other people? and did Nena not sing an english version herself? yes i believe she did. so whos the stupid person now, ignorant C U Next Thursday
    neurotic_chickon May 08, 2005   Link
  • +2
    My Opinion
    The German version is more effective because, unlike the English translation (by one of Kate Bush's songwriters, not the band itself), it's a fantasy story that only allegorically refers to the Cold War. In the German version, a general decides to shoot down the balloons in a big show of patriotism. All of the neighboring countries misinterpret it, diplomacy fails, and the world is embroiled in 99 years of everyone-against-everyone warfare. That's obviously not something that could happen in real-life 1983, but it makes you consider the threat of living in a world poised on the edge of war. In the English version, the balloons trigger a faulty Soviet early-warning system, which leads to a minutes-long nuclear war between the US and USSR. That's exactly the kind of thing everyone woke up worrying about in 1984 (in fact, it almost happened in September 1983, although nobody in the west knew that at the time). It's clearly criticizing the Kremlin for being on a hair-trigger, and Reagan for putting them there. There's no universality, and no imagination; as the band put it, it's "too blatant" and "too strident".
    falcotronon September 06, 2016   Link
  • +1
    General Comment
    "neurotic chick" is quite right - the song was re-recorded with the above lyrics after the German version was shown on British TV and became a surprise hit. As "Rodman1977" correctly pointed out, it IS a bad translation (as far as being a literal translation of the German lyric is concerned), but it's what British pop fans in the 1980s heard, know and continue to interpret. Several of my friends at the time commented on how significant it was that they were RED balloons (= the perceived Communist threat). I pointed out that the original song said nothing about their colour and that the word "red" had probably been simply added to make the lyrics scan (German "Luftballon" = English "balloon"). That deflated them.
    butterfingersbeckon June 05, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Comment
    personally, i think that the english version of the song manages to convey far more meaning than that of the German one. At the end of the english song you are left with an actual discription of the destruction and it shows that two little children were the two innocents who caused the war.
    ianwoolseyon September 15, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Comment
    U cant make a song that is a direct translation from a song in a different language. In case you didnt notice something that rhymes and sounds good in german doesnt in english
    Dools_1171on December 12, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Comment
    yea robomatt.. like anyone is gonna believe THAT
    fantastic toasteron March 30, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General Comment
    Okay, so we've established that this is about the Cold War. Hopefully I'm not pointing out the obvious/ repeating another user/ completely misguided, but- This pretty much about people freaking out over nothing (Second Red Scare, anyone?) and becoming so paranoid they end up destroying themselves in their attempt to destroy their "enemy." (I suggest reading the script/ watching the episode "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street" of the X-Files, which I happened to see around the first time I heard the song. It's pretty much a different take on the same exact concept.)
    Wikitikion May 04, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General Comment
    Here's what the band has to say about the translation (which was done by Kevin McAlea, one of Kate Bush's songwriters, hired by the label) back at the time. Carlo (who wrote most of the original lyrics): "It's a completely different story, not my song". Uwe (who wrote the music and helped with the lyrics): "It was a mistake: The song loses something in translation and even sounds silly". However, after hearing Seven Seconds' punk cover: "This is the band that was meant to perform this version, not us. We couldn't be that super-earnest. We're not 16." Nena: "It's far too blatant and strident. We're not a protest band". She also doesn't like her own performance on the English version, saying it was too cute and not rock & roll enough. So, they don't actually hate it, but they don't think it's really the same song, and they don't think it fits them. Which is why they've never played it live (nor has Nena as a solo artist), even in the UK, even when they translate do the English versions of other songs, like "Irgendwie, irgendwo, irgendwann".
    falcotronon September 06, 2016   Link
  • +1
    Song Meaning
    I first heard this song in 7th grade German class. Our teacher played it to us, and it haunted me for a long time. He told us a story with it- The song is about how, when Germany separated into two, they would only let letters that had read a censored go to the people on the other sides. If people said 'im safe and happy' in their letter, then the people who went through the letters might black that out because they didn't want the people on their side of the wall thinking the other side was better. People started realizing that their family on the other side of the wall(because yes there was a giant-ass wall between the two sides of Germany) wernt getting their full messeges, and started to come up with other ways to communicate. The song tells a story of how someone sent up a bunch of balloons to try and communicate to their family members on the other side that they were safe. Unfortunetly, some sensors from the other half of Germany picked up the balloons, and thought, 'oh my gosh their sending bombs over!' and started a full out freakin war. Everyone was notified of it, and a ton of fighters were sent up, and everyone was bombing each other, the people were in a panic. No one knows exactly what caused this, and everyones confused, and the military from one side thinks theyre helping because no one knows who started it and theyre all like 'yay progress!' but all like 'wait whats going on'. Finally, the war ends, and everything is a mess, and everything is destroyed, INCLUDING parts of the wall! After years and years, families are reuniting, friends are seeing eachother again. So, yeah. Thats what my middle school German teacher told us. Dont know it thats correct, but hey, there ya go. My guess is that 'balloons' is a metaphor for hope, and she kept sending hope out but her hope caused trouble, and then the war destoryed it all. In the end, she only had one left, but let it go because she had given up.
    thewildjakeon November 29, 2017   Link

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