Punk music is very much about going against the mainstream and disrupting life as we know it, and while the Sex Pistols sang vengefully about destroying the government in "Anarchy In The U.K.
," "Life During Wartime" has a similar sentiment with a different tone. Here, David Byrne sings from the point of view of an insurgent who is a bit paranoid and has a problem giving up the creature comforts you lose when you enter into guerilla warfare, not the least of which is music.
The song is remarkably prescient in its theme of technology leading to a society where information is exploited. Corporations and governments were using computers in 1979, and hackers found the flaws. David Byrne drew inspiration from a book he read about computer crimes, which included a story about a guy who forged deposit slips with his bank account number and got patrons to inadvertently put money into his account. Another story was about someone who used a touch-tone phone to break into the General Electric computer network and steal supplies. With the big boys owning this technology but having trouble controlling it, Byrne saw a bleak future. He told NME
in 1979: "There will
be chronic food shortages and gas shortages and people will live in hovels. Paradoxically, they'll be surrounded by computers the size of wrist watches. Calculators will be cheap. It'll be as easy to hook up your computer with a central television bank as it is to get the week's groceries. I think we'll be cushioned by amazing technological development and sitting on Salvation Army furniture. Everything else will be crumbling. Government surveillance becomes inevitable because there's this dilemma when you have an increase in information storage. A lot of it is for your convenience - but as more information gets on file it's bound to be misused."