Let's go back to the Eighties. The mid-Eighties. The Cold War's not yet over, and we don't really trust those Russians, but we also don't want to go to war with them because what would follow would be a Very Bad Thing for the entire world. This dread of brinksmanship and the possibletipping point into nuclear oblivion is seeded throughout a lot of creative works from this era - even music. Even here in little old, Nuclear Free (tm) New Zealand.
Soviet Snow hails from Shona Laing's big comeback album South (1987); this version is a revamp of the earlier one on South's predecessor, Genre. In the time between albums the Cold War has lingered, perhaps a little less worryingly than the early 80s, but other, equally worrying events have unfolded.
At the time of its release I took the song's title literally, being aware of panic across Europe of fallout drifting with weather currents across Europe and as far as Ireland following the catastrophe at Chernobyl. Laing's song of course was composed before the reactor meltdown, but the incident allows a second reading of the song's chorus and, if I might be so bold, grounds it a little:
Now we're wide awake, the world's aware
Radiation over Red Square
Creeping off to cross Roman roads
Fear of freezing in the Soviet snow
One eye on the winter - oh, just a hint of Soviet snow.
So there's that, at least.
The video is pure Eighties - all big caps CG text buzz words and video montages. And of course, there's the Soviet and Russian imagery and iconography,
none of it demystifying the Soviet Union of the Eighties, but anchoring
it in a jumble of popular associations, a visual word association game. Laing is a far cry from her long-haired, freckled teenaged Seventies self with spiky, cropped hair (the infamous 'femullet' is, as far as I can remember, only a feature of the video of her bigger hit (Glad I'm Not a) Kennedy), her face intruding from angles, like Rodchenko's Lilya Brik. One more single, Drive Baby Drive and Laing's career would shift again, back out of centre stage; but this song at least freezes a moment of Southern Hemisphere pre-Glasnost anxiety, two years before the Wall would fall and the thaw would begin.