Jedd’s Manifesto

Launie and I were talking late into the night recently, listening to music and somehow the term “Cold War Rock” popped up. I can’t remember where it came from – maybe we were listening to David Bowie, I don’t know. But when the phrase left our lips (again, I can’t remember who said it first – can you tell we’d had a few cocktails?) we both looked at each and our eyes lit up. Suddenly something we hadn’t thought about before made sense.

We probably both had different ideas about what the phrase really meant (we can hash that out here on the site), but we both knew almost without talking about it that we wanted to write about music from our youth and further back that we loved, and that the context of the Cold War was a perfect frame to put it in.

What Cold War Rock means to me:


1) This is not a pet project to fetishize the past. Whether as a listener or a musician, I don’t dismiss recent music out of hand. Some of my favorite music came out long before the Cold War started or long after it ended. I would go nuts without brand new albums to listen to. But this is not about brand new music.

2) Sometimes we’ll write about music that we hated, sometimes we’ll talk about music we’re still embarrassed that we like/liked. It might be pure recollection and gut impressions. It might be a more objective look at a particular moment when political and musical history collided.

3) The atmosphere of our youth was defined in many ways by the tensions of the Cold War and that in turn affected the way we heard music and often influenced the music that was available in the first place.

The dates of the Cold War’s beginning and end differ depending on who you ask. Some will point to the fall of the Berlin Wall as the end point. Others will tell you it was the fall of the Soviet Union. Some even argue that it started before World War 2. But whatever dates you ascribe to the Cold War, we can all agree it lasted for more than 40 years and if you lived through those years, it affected you in both obvious and unconscious ways. Maybe you ducked and covered under school desks and your dad built and stocked a fallout shelter in the 1950s. Maybe watching “War Games,” “Red Dawn” or “Mad Max” in a movie theater fed your fear of a man-made apocalypse. Either way the Cold War was ever-present. Even if you weren’t politically minded, it was hard to ignore the fact that the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal finally overtook that of the United States by 1978 and the world’s stockpile had ballooned to more than 65,000 warheads by 1986. US/USSR Nuclear Stockpiles GraphIf you hadn’t learned to love the bomb by then, chances are you were still worried. “Enough to destroy the world hundreds of times over” was a phrase many of us grew up with. That kind of atmosphere can”t help but directly and indirectly affect the music that artists make, and the music that listeners want to hear. You might want someone to voice your frustration or feeling of desolation, or you might want to hide from that dark cloud by listening to a bubbly pop song. Either way, it affected your music.

4) More than 40 years of music and it’s not all rock. ‘Rock’ is just a label and I – and hopefully others – will be using it very loosely. My list of artists and genres that are fair game will be broad: Brian Eno; The Replacements; Charles Mingus; REM; Marvin Gaye; David Bowie, and many more, all fall comfortably into my idea of what Cold War Rock is. Some fit overtly into the political context, some fit in only personally. Some are rock, some are not. Not all music from the Cold War period necessarily fits, but this blog will be one way to sort out just what the distinction is, at least for me.

— Jedd Kettler, March, 2011

About the Author

Jedd is a musician, writer, graphic designer and woodworker. He is a member of Vermont band farm and recently released several EPs under the name Dashboard Hibachi.