Games Without Frontiers (4:06)

Cover of Shaking the Tree

From Shaking the Tree and 57 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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