Games Without Frontiers (4:06)

Cover of Shaking the Tree

From Shaking the Tree and 55 other releases

“Games Without Frontiers” is a hit 1980 single by Peter Gabriel, released on his third self-titled solo album. It features Kate Bush on backing vocals and became his first UK Top 10 hit, peaking at #4. The song also peaked at #48 in the U.S. It ties with 1986’s Sledgehammer as his highest-charting song in the UK. The B-side to the single was two tracks combined into one: “Start” and “I Don’t Remember”.

Title and lyrics

The song’s title comes from a European game show, Jeux Sans Frontières, that featured teams competing for prizes while dressed in bizarre costumes. The British version of the show was called It’s a Knockout, a phrase that also appears in the song. The teams represented towns and cities from each country, so the games had an inevitable element of nationalism. While some games were simple races, others allowed one team to obstruct another.

The lyrics are seen as a critique of nationalism and war, which the song portrays as essentially childish. The tag line of the song, “Games without frontiers, war without tears” is a comment on the sublimation of the rivalries within Europe, caused by centuries of war, in a meaningless game.

The name Lin Tai Yu, which appears in the song, belongs to a character from the classic Chinese novel Dream of the Red Chamber.

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  • Wotsthedeal

    "She's so fuck you"

    29 Aug 5:24pm Reply
  • gotgore101

    I like your translation ericshep. Love this track, and the live on stage performance is awesome.

    27 Aug 3:21am Reply
  • ericshep

    .in french ... listen and repeat games without borders.

    22 Aug 3:13am Reply
  • rubick3

    .en francais ...ecouter et repeter jeux sans frontières.. 3 guesses what that translates to in English.

    6 Aug 9:44pm Reply
  • ericshep

    she's so frontier

    18 May 3:54am Reply
  • ericshep

    she's so frontier

    18 May 3:53am Reply
  • lukasz_pulawski

    Kate Bush's backing vocals. <3 [2]

    6 Apr 8:53pm Reply
  • WordsComeBack

    Games without frontiers - war without tears

    1 Apr 9:41pm Reply
  • shellbyrne

    my bf thought he said "she is a funky lay"

    28 Feb 7:33pm Reply
  • gabystarlight

    Kate Bush's backing vocals. <3

    20 Jan 3:22am Reply
  • RainTheLady

    ...Did he just say "Adolf builds a bonfire"? Okay... It's a good song, though. I love it.

    29 Dec 2013 Reply
  • sickdex

    The Americans brought me here.

    1 Dec 2013 Reply
  • garynotrashcoug

    v Yes, it is Kate Bush. Really freakin' weird video for this. They used to play it on Classic MTV WAAAAAAYYYYYY back in the day.

    12 Oct 2013 Reply
  • P05TW4R

    Is this Kate Bush on backing vocals?

    24 Sep 2013 Reply
  • radio_face

    Je ne sais pas?

    9 Aug 2013 Reply
  • lizardking66j

    who's playing with me

    6 Aug 2013 Reply
  • PmF

    Shaking The Tree was like my first album I remember listening to when I was 3 ... and this song really caught my attention. But for the next 20 years I thought the hook says SHE'S SO FUNKY not 'Jeux sans fronterie' and that cracks me up. You stole my childhood.

    16 Jul 2013 Reply
  • joecubbie

    If looks could kill they probably will...my fave Gabriel song

    8 Feb 2013 Reply
  • CaptnTightpants

    I'm back in high school again

    6 Sep 2012 Reply
  • prominence_la

    @TOMHINKLE57 - "Jeux sans frontiére" - the French translation of the title. I don't blame you, though, dude - I always thought it was "She's so funk-eay".

    20 Aug 2012 Reply
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