The song of the hour dates back to 1981 and was number one on the national hit parade in two countries. Both states, Norway and Finland, were neighbors of the Soviet Union. SS-20 nuclear missiles lurked behind the border. Western Europe was waiting for weapons from America, for cruise missiles and Pershing 2, as NATO had decided two years earlier.
And two brothers from the Netherlands sang what it would be like to go to war: "A vacation in a foreign land/ Uncle Sam does the best he can/ You're in the army now/ Oh-oo-oh, you' re in the army now.” Vacation in a foreign country, thanks to Sam, the uncle from America. There the rockets and grenades fly low.
Worldwide and in Germany, however, "In the Army Now" only really took off in 1986, when the legendary London rock band Status Quo took up the cause. As well-deserved veterans, they had the more impressive video shot: The recruits were so exhausted by the training with running, hanging ropes, mud seals and jumping over barbed wire that they ended up looking more exhausted than their grandfathers in the trenches on the Somme. Status Quo made the more militant music. The drums whirled like bullets, the modulation sounded martial, the command of the sergeant, “Stand up and fight!” was not a command, but the roar of a mercenary leader gone mad.
Status Quo's "In the Army Now" spawned countless versions. Laibach from Slovenia played it during the Balkan War, the Leningrad Cowboys from Finland played the Russian Kalinka version, and the Neue Deutsche Welle group FEE from Braunschweig sang “Du muss zum Bundeswehr”.
In 2010 it was status quo again with a revision of the anthem in view of the foreign missions in the Gulf or the Hindu Kush. The anti-war song was rewritten as a war song. Tragic young men became heroes. "Your finger's on the trigger/ But it don't seem right" became "Your finger's on the trigger/ Now it's time to fight". The finger on the trigger didn't feel wrong anymore, it was time to fight.
The version of "In the Army Now" by Status Quo that is still valid today is all the more up-to-date 13 years later - when even older German celebrities like punk rocker Campino are publicly ashamed of their military service in the 1980s and declare that they would rather have served and would rather be prepared for the war that Russia is now waging against the rest of the world and thus against you personally. Armies of pacifists become bellicists overnight.
But these are merely avowals of a struggle that the holdouts of yore are fighting with themselves as remorseful civilians. Just like "In the Army Now" is always just a song in the end, whether against or for the war.