"Seconds" by U2

Claudia Oster

Basic Information

  • Artists: U2 (a band from England)
  • Date it was released: February 28th 1983
  • Was written during the height of the nuclear arms race, when the concept of a deliberating nuclear war was circulating (1900-present time period)

The Nuclear Arms Race

  • The nuclear arms race took place during the cold war, and was a battle for supremacy between the Soviet Union and the United states, with the belief that the country with the most nuclear weapons was the most powerful
  • The arms race began roughly around the time of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombings in 1945, and ended around 1990 with the end of the cold war and the signing of the conventional forces in Europe
  • Mutual Assured Destruction "MAD"- restraint from using nuclear weaponry on either side against each other, because it was made aware that any use of these weapons would be devastating

U2's interpretation

  • The song portrays the eminent possibility, that total destruction using nuclear warfare is possible, and that it could only be "seconds" away
  • The artists wrote the song as a "wake up call" to all of those who are engaged in the cold war/ nuclear arms race, and are hoping to bring awareness to the fact that this behavior could be really dangerous (point of view)
  • Suggests the possibility that if either side uses their nuclear weapons, that they could easily destroy the world along with them
  • " It takes a second to say goodbye/say goodbye/oh oh oh Push the button and pull the plug/say goodbye/oh oh oh "
  • The song could be tied into many of the themes that we have studied this year, but when analyzing U2's point of view behind the meaning of the song, it applies most the the them of "Human environment interaction", because of the fact that the song is portraying the possibility of complete destruction of all life on earth as a result of the rivalries between the USSR and the United States

England's "Historic Anthem"

"Seconds" by U2 would make a "historic anthem" for England, because it represents the threat that the nuclear arms race had not only on the two major countries that were involved, but also with the rest of the world, including England. During the height of the nuclear arms race, many other major countries also developed their own nuclear weapons, including The United Kingdom, China, and France, showing that everyone was now involved in this dangerous behavior. This is portrayed in U2's song, that highlights the fact that if this behavior doesn't stop soon, it has the capability of ending the world in just "seconds"


"Nuclear Arms Race." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 18 May 2016. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_arms_race>.

"Rockoldies - Seite 2 Von 294 -." Rockoldies RSS. Web. 17 May 2016. <http://rockoldies.net/page/2/>.

"The Soviet-American Arms Race." History Today. Web. 18 May 2016. <http://www.historytoday.com/john-swift/soviet-american-arms-race>.

"U2 Lists: Top 10 Political U2 Songs." U2 News Consolidated. Web. 17 May 2016. <http://www.atu2.com/news/u2-lists-top-10-political-u2-songs.html>.

U2-Seconds (Lyrics)