4 classic rock songs reflecting on the realities and impact of technology

When it comes to the topic of technology, it can be difficult to discuss. In a way, technology rules our world. It drives commerce, helps the sick, allows us to communicate and even travel to the farthest corners of the planet. However, it consumes in another way. Perhaps one day (soon?) human beings will be all but replaced by mechanical creations.

But just because it’s hard to talk about and analyze doesn’t mean many haven’t tried—even in music. Here below, we wanted to dive into four amazing classic rock songs that highlight the impact of technology on people’s lives. Four songs from four well-known musical acts that can inform as much as entertain. Let’s dive in.

[RELATED: Behind the Meaning of the Song that Reinvented Elvis Presley’s Career, “If I Can Dream”]

1. “Computer Love”, Kraftwerk

The very essence of the German-born group Kraftwek deals with technology, as the group was one of the first to connect the possibilities of electronic music with traditional songwriting. This song from the band’s 1981 album Computer world, talks about loneliness and the need for human connection, and just exudes a general sense of vague despair. Is the computer a good connection wire or is it tearing us apart into every 0 and 1? Here the band offers these lyrics,

Another lonely night
Another lonely night
Stare at the TV screen
Stare at the TV screen
I do not know what to do
I do not know what to do
I need a meeting
I need a meeting

2. “Mr. Roboto, “Styx

This iconic song comes from the rock band Styx’s concept album. This entry is about what might happen if rock music were banned. The song is sung from the perspective of someone who is part human and part machine. The song, from some four decades ago, highlights the problems that can arise with creativity and expression if we continue to associate technology with flesh and blood. Lead singer Dennis DeJong sings,

You wonder who I am (secret, secret, I got a secret)
Machine or dummy? (Secret, secret, I got a secret)
With parts made in Japan (secret, secret, I have a secret)
I am your modern man

I have a secret that I have hidden under my skin
My heart is human, my blood boils, my brain IBM
So if you see me acting strange, don’t be surprised
I’m just a guy who needed someone and somewhere to hide to stay alive
Just keep me alive, somewhere to hide to keep me alive

3. “Computer Age”, Neil Young

From the 1983 Neil Young album. trans, this song is about the possible dangers of committing your life to technology. In a 1988 interview A rolling stoneYoung said, “If you listen trans, if you listen to the words of . using computer voices and things like that. It’s a subtle thing, but it’s right there. Indeed, in the song Young sings,

Cars and trucks
He flew past me on the corner
But I’m fine
I stand proudly in front of the signal
When I saw the light
I know I’m more than just a number.
And I stand before you
Or we just don’t see the other
Computer era computer era
Computer age

4. “(Nothing But) Flowers,” Talking Heads

This song by the cerebral rock band Talking Heads is from the band’s 1988 album, bare. Basically, the song is about a post-apocalyptic world where there is no more modern technology. But is that a good thing? Singer David Byrne wonders if life without mechanical assistance is good, if natural beauty is all we need. He sings,

Here we stand
Like Adam and Eve
Waterfalls
The Garden of Eden
Two fools in love
So beautiful and strong
The birds in the trees
They smile at them
From the age of the dinosaurs
The cars ran on gasoline
Where, where did they go?
Now it’s nothing but flowers

There was a factory
Now there are mountains and rivers
You got it, you got it

We caught a rattlesnake
Now we have something for dinner
We understand, we understand

Photo by Echoes/Redferns

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