(Silke Wünsch’s article appeared in DW, 1/23/23; Photo: Singer Nena in the 1980sImage: United Archives/kpa/picture alliance.)
Despite the recording company’s initial doubts about the song’s potential, “99 Red Balloons” topped charts worldwide.
In January 1983, shallow pop music dominated the international charts. Phil Collins was No. 1 in the United Kingdom with “You Can’t Hurry Love.” In the USA, Hall & Oates’ “Maneater” and Men at Work’s “Down Under” topped the Billboard charts. In Germany, Culture Club’s “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” was making waves.
But the German music scene back then featured more than the standard Anglophone superstar pop.
There was a new genre of dance-worthy German-language songs with funny, colorful and imaginative lyrics, which also featured synthesizers and electronic drums.
Groups such as Spliff, Fräulein Menke, Peter Schilling, Trio and Hubert Kah all belonged to this genre called Neue Deutsche Welle (or New German Wave) and made their mark in the German charts alongside international stars like Supertramp, Eddie Grant, Dionne Warwick and Phil Collins.
The genre comprised mainly West German rock music originally derived from post-punk and new wave music, with electronic influences.