UPDATE: More fine examples added – see below

Unless you have really been paying attention for a very long time, you will have missed my various attempts to share examples of diplomatic themes appearing in great rock lyrics.

And the time has come for a former senior diplomatic practitioner (ie me) to draw the planet’s attention once again to some of the finer examples – and to urge you to buy them through Amazon so I earn a few groats.

Let’s start. If it is tense Cold War confrontation you want, try the Clash’s Ivan Meets G.I. Joe:

He wiped the earth – clean as a plate

What does it take to make a Ruskie break?

But the crowd are bored and off they go

Over the road to watch China blow!

If you are a close follower of variations in US Embassy opening hours round the world, try Donald Fagen’s The Goodbye Look:

Now the Americans are gone except for two

The Embassy’s been hard to reach

There’s been talk and lately a bit of action after dark

Behind the big casino on the beach

And for those who support the application of the EU’s odious Working Time Directive even to American diplomats, here is So it Goes by Nick Lowe:

Now up jumped the U.S. representative

He’s the one with the tired eyes

747 for the midnight condition

Flyin’ back from a peace keepin’ mission

This album, by the way, also has the finest ever song about being eaten by one’s own dogs.

Usually I look for some sort of reference to actual diplomatic practice, not a passing word such as in Cheap Trick’s I Love you Honey but I Hate your Friends:

That limp wristed two-fisted diplomat

Better draw a map, to see where he’s at

Or Elvis Costello’s Green Shirt:

Never said I was a stool pigeon

I never said I was a diplomat

Everybody is under suspicion

But you don’t want to hear about that

Or even Blinded by the Light by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band:

Madman drummers bummers indians in the summer with a teenage diplomat,

In the dumps with the mumps as the adolescent pumps his way in to his


Try instead the rarified atmosphere of high-level international relations as in Frank Zappa’s Rhymin’ Man:

A few years later, legend says,

Rhymin’ man made a run for Prez

Farrakhan made him a clown,

Over there near Hymie-Town

Said he was a diplomat —

Hobbin’ an-a-knobbin’ with Arafat

Castro was simpatico,

But the U.S. voters, they said: “No!”

And Michelle Shocked’s impressive reference to diplomatic immunity:

Oh Streetcorner Ambassador

It seems so clear to me

The more you are ignored

It’s called diplomatic immunity

Not to forget immigration policy – George Harrison’s magnificent Awaiting on You All:

You don’t need no passport

And you don’t need no visas

You don’t need to designate or to emigrate

Before you can see Jesus

Finally, super lyrics from Pink Floyd as they got into their stride, with one nice metaphorical diplomatic line:

Overhead the albatross hangs motionless upon the air

And deep beneath the rolling waves in labyrinths of coral caves

The echo of a distant tide

Comes willowing across the sand

And everything is green and submarine …

And through the window in the wall

Comes streamin in on sunlight wings

A million bright ambassadors of morning

And no one sings me lullabies

And no one makes me close my eyes

So I throw the windows wide

And call to you across the sky.

Ah. When we were young.

Any more examples out there?


This post has prompted an avalanche of new suggestions from several people (including Bruce Springsteen fans keen to keep the record accurate – see comments) whose elderly collection of LPs is very different to mine.

Many complain that I missed the best of all – Bob Dylan‘s Like a Rolling Stone:

You used to ride on the chrome horse with your diplomat

Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat

Ain’t it hard when you discover that

He really wasn’t where it’s at

After he took from you everything he could steal.

Not to ignore Joni Mitchell and her look at certain big-power rivalries in Blue Motel Room:

You and me, we’re like America and Russia

We’re always keeping score

We’re always balancing the power

And that can get to be a cold cold war

We’re going to have to hold ourselves a peace talk

In some neutral cafe

You lay down your sneaking round the town, honey

And I’ll lay down the highway

Thanks to Twitter too for prompting yet more.

This one has a general IR theme but is utterly new to me – sent in by @tonyveitchUK: Clang of the Yankee Reaper by Van Dyke Parks:

Out in the rude wild abandon

The Shah of Iran bought the plan

Seen with the Queen he was all smiles

He just bailed out the British Isles

It’s time to drink tea from fine china

Just think of him, when your light starts to dim

 @OdessaBlogger draws our attention to The Clash‘s prescient analysis of ‘Climate Change’ (and the likely failure of the Thames Barrier) in London Calling:

The ice age is coming, the sun’s zooming in

Engines stop running, the wheat is growing thin

A nuclear error but I have no fear’

Cause London is drowning and I, I live by the river

Mind you, my own favourite Clash song is London’s Burning with these timeless words about road conditions near Hammersmith:

I’m up and down the Westway, in an’ out the lights

What a great traffic system – it’s so bright

I can’t think of a better way to spend the night

Then speeding around underneath the yellow lights

And this one submitted by @NickJonesCOI, who is paying attention all the way from No 10 = Bonzo Goes to Bitberg by the Ramones:

Bonzo goes to bitburg then goes out for a cup of tea

As I watched it on TV somehow it really bothered me

Drank in all the bars in town for an extended foreign policy

Pick up the pieces

What causes havoc in international relations? @CiesseJay suggests that the Rolling StonesSympathy for the Devil has the answer:

I stuck around St. Petersburg, when I saw it was a time for a change

Killed the czar and his ministers – Anastasia screamed in vain

I rode a tank, held a generals rank

When the blitzkrieg raged and the bodies stank

Pleased to meet you

Hope you guess my name, oh yeah

I am not sure what to make of this proposition from @DianaProbst, namely that “the Russian chorus of The Hippopotamus Song was translated ‘Down to the hollow, there to improve our cultural relations”.

She also reminds us of Tom Lehrer and Send the Marines:

When someone makes a move

Of which we don’t approve

Who is it that always intervenes?

UN and OAS

They have their place, I guess

But first send the Marines

Anyway, Diana is an artist based in Cambridge who does fine deft-touch work – and it’s for sale! Check out her website.

A reader gives this obvious and excellent example by Peter Sarstedt:

You go to the embassy parties

Where you talk in Russian and Greek

And the young men who move in your circles

They hang on every word you speak, yes they do

Finally, @whitefinger rightly draws attention to Warren Zevon‘s The Envoy, perhaps the best of all diplomatic rock songs in that it takes and personalises numerous diplomatic themes to good effect:

Things got hot in El Salvador

C-I-A got caught and couldn’t do no more

He’s got diplomatic immunity

He’s got a lethal weapon that nobody sees

Looks like another threat to world peace

For the envoy

Send the envoy

Send the envoy


Whenever there’s a crisis

The President sends his envoy in

Guns in Damascus

Oh, Jerusalem


Nuclear arms in the Middle East

Israel is attacking the Iraqis

The Syrians are mad at the Lebanese

And Baghdad do whatever she please

Looks like another threat to world peace

For the envoy

Send the envoy, send for me

Mission accomplished?