Enola Gay (song)

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"Enola Gay"
Enola Gay - OMD - CD Single.jpg
Cover of the original 7" single, designed by Peter Saville.
Single by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
from the album Organisation
Released26 September 1980 (1980-09-26)
RecordedRidge Farm Studio, Dorking
Songwriter(s)Andy McCluskey
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark singles chronology
"Enola Gay"
Alternative cover
Cover of the 12" remix single released in 2003.
Cover of the 12" remix single released in 2003.

"Enola Gay" is an anti-war song by the British synth-pop group Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) and the only single from the band's 1980 album Organisation. The track addresses the atomic bombing of Hiroshima by the aircraft Enola Gay on 6 August 1945, toward the conclusion of World War II. It was written by vocalist/bass guitarist Andy McCluskey.

"Enola Gay" has been described—along with 1986's "If You Leave"—as OMD's signature song. The single was an international success, selling more than 5 million copies, while the track became an enduring hit.



Typical of early OMD compositions, the track does not feature a vocal chorus,[3] and is recognisable by its strong,[4] distinctive[5] lead synthesizer hook and ambiguous lyrical content.[6] Most of the melodic parts were recorded on a Korg Micro-Preset, and the drum machine sound was "about the last thing to go on" the recording.[6] The song is based on the 50s progression, which repeats throughout the entire song.

Keyboardist Paul Humphreys and OMD manager Paul Collister were not fans of "Enola Gay" (the latter originally threatened to resign if it were released as a single). Collister did, however, believe it was a surefire hit – a view that drummer Malcolm Holmes did not share. Initially proud of the song, McCluskey's confidence wavered: he re-recorded his vocal, but was dissatisfied with the final mix of the track.[7]


The song is named after the Enola Gay, the USAAF B-29 Superfortress bomber that carried Little Boy, the first atomic bomb to be used in an act of war, dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945, killing more than 100,000 of its citizens. The name of the bomber itself was chosen by its pilot, Colonel Paul Tibbets, who named it after his mother, Enola Gay Tibbets (1893–1983), who had been named after the heroine of the novel Enola; or, Her fatal mistake.[N 1]


The lyric to the song reflects on the decision to use the bomb and asks the listener to consider whether the bombings were necessary ("It shouldn't ever have to end this way").[9] The phrase "Is mother proud of Little Boy today?", is an allusion to both the nickname of the uranium bomb and pilot Paul Tibbets naming the aircraft after his mother. The phrase, "It's 8:15, and that's the time that it's always been", refers to the time of detonation over Hiroshima at 8:15 am JST; as many timepieces were "frozen" by the effects of the blast, it becomes "the time that it's always been". The song was also released during controversy surrounding Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's decision to allow US nuclear missiles to be stationed in Britain.[10] McCluskey stated he "wasn't really politically motivated to write the song", which was informed by a fascination with World War II bombers. He hoped the track "conveyed an ambivalence about whether it was the right or the wrong thing to do".[11]

Reception and legacy[edit]

"Enola Gay" met with enthusiastic reviews on release.[7] Lynden Barber of Melody Maker called it "the perfect follow-up to 'Messages'."[7] Canberra Times critic Jonathan Green described it as "super", with "a lovely melody that makes for an utterly infectious song".[12] Daniela Soave of Record Mirror called it "infinitely danceable, joyous and jumpy", while noting the music's juxtaposition with sombre lyrics.[13] The track was misperceived by some as a homosexual love song; as such, it was banned from being played on popular BBC1 children's programme Swap Shop.[7][14]

The BBC noted that despite its dark subject matter, the single was released at "a time of passionate anti-nuclear feeling", and became an "unlikely", "long-lasting" hit.[11] A sleeper success, the track entered the UK Singles Chart at number 59,[15] but climbed 51 places over the next four weeks to reach a peak of number 8,[16] thus becoming the group's first Top 10 hit in their home country. It topped the charts in Italy and in Spain.[17][18] Worldwide sales reached 5 million.[19]

In a retrospective review, Dave Thompson of AllMusic called "Enola Gay" a "perfect synth-dance-pop extravaganza".[10] Colleague Ned Raggett lauded the track as "astounding... a flat-out pop classic – clever, heartfelt, thrilling, and confident, not to mention catchy and arranged brilliantly".[20]

It featured in a 2009 list of "The 40 Greatest Synth Tracks Ever" by MusicRadar, who noted that the song "includes some of the biggest synth hooks of all time".[21] In 2012, NME listed the track among the "100 Best Songs of the 1980s", describing McCluskey's vocal as "brilliantly quizzical" and the song as a "pop classic".[22] It appeared in a 2014 Classic Pop list of the "Top 100 Singles of the 80s".[23] The song became a Celtic F.C. anthem in the mid-to-late 2010s, with fans changing the lyrics to revolve around player Stuart Armstrong.[24]

"Enola Gay" has been described – along with 1986's "If You Leave"[25] – as OMD's signature song.[19][26] The track was selected by Danny Boyle for use during the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.[27]

Music video[edit]

The music video begins by showing speeded-up footage of clouds passing through the sky. After the opening riff, which is shown as just the keyboardist's hands playing it whilst being animated using digital rotoscoping, it shows a transparent video image of McCluskey vocalising and playing a bass guitar. The still photo from the Organisation album cover is taken from the video.


The B-side on the UK release of "Enola Gay" was a track entitled "Annex". The song was not included on the ensuing Organisation album and remained unique to this release until being included in the 2001 compilation album Navigation: The OMD B-Sides and the 2003 remastered edition of Organisation. Although the track was basically an improvisation "made up on the spot", Paul Humphreys described it in a 1980 interview as "the best thing we've done all year";[28] AllMusic critic Aaron Badgley called it a "brilliant" song.[29]

Track listing[edit]

1980 original release[edit]

Side one
1."Enola Gay"3:33
Side two

The 12" single contained the same tracks as on the 7".

2003 remix 12"[edit]

Side one
1."Enola Gay" (Dancefloor Killa Remix)9:02
Side two
1."Enola Gay" (dub remix)6:57
2."Enola Gay" (radio edit)3:05

Charts and certifications[edit]

Alternate versions[edit]

In 1998, David Guetta & Joachim Garraud and Sash! made remixed versions of the song for the intended second disc of The OMD Singles. The second disc was dropped, and eventually only the Sash! remix appeared on The OMD Remixes EPs. In 2003 the double disc version was released in France only, which included the remixed versions by Guetta and Garraud as well.[37] The Guetta and Garraud remixes were released on a limited 12" to promote the compilation album.[38]

An early version of the song with a slightly different arrangement appears on the group's Peel Sessions 1979–1983 album. A live performance, recorded at the Guildhall in Portsmouth, England on 19 September 1980, is featured in the film Urgh! A Music War.[39]

Cover versions[edit]

Serbian punk rock band KBO! recorded a version on their 2001 cover album (Ne) Menjajte Stanicu ((Do Not) Change The Station).[40] Also in 2001, American band The Faint covered the song on Messages: Modern Synthpop Artists Cover Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.[41] In June 2007, José Galisteo released a cover on his debut album, Remember.[42] German techno group Scooter also covered the song on their 2007 album Jumping All Over the World.[43] Musician Howard Jones covered the track during early live performances.[44]

Home computer influence[edit]

The song is popular with early home computer enthusiasts being used in popular computer demos such as Swinth (Commodore 64).[45] Hackers also enjoy Enola Gay; it can be found as the "music bed" for numerous mega-demos and "cracktro" found on releases by warez groups like the Beastie Boys).[46]

16-Bit computers brought with them the popular music tracker format where no fewer than a dozen versions exist.[47]

Mash ups[edit]

In 2010, Katy Perry's hit song "Teenage Dream" was "mashed up" with Enola Gay by the group DJs From Mars under the title "Teenage Gay".[48]

Use in movies[edit]

The song was featured in the critically acclaimed 2008 Israeli film Waltz with Bashir, directed by Ari Folman, which documented the experiences of Folman as a young soldier in the 1982 Lebanon War. The track also features on the Max Richter soundtrack of the film.

It was also used in the films Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa and Ex Machina.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Enola; or, Her fatal mistake(sic) (1886), by Mary Young Ridenbaugh is the only novel of the period to use "Enola".[8]


  1. ^ Houghtaling, Adam Brent (2012). This Will End in Tears: The Miserabilist Guide to Music. HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-0617-1967-7. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) made the haunting shadows left behind by the flashburnt victims of the first atomic bombs into the synthpop hit "Enola Gay," which imagines an eternal kiss that is "never gonna fade away"
  2. ^ Pirnia, Garin (12 June 2012). "Enola Gay". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  3. ^ "Interview: Andy McCluskey, OMD". PRS for Music. 19 March 2013. Retrieved 1 October 2013. [PRS:] 'They are best known for their trademark synth-led choruses and abstract lyrics' (...) [McCluskey:] 'Many of our songs use the synth melody as the chorus. There are verses but generally the melody is the chorus. If you think of 'Electricity', 'Enola Gay', 'Souvenir' – in a lot of our songs the melody was the chorus'.
  4. ^ Lindgren, Hugo (10 May 2013). "The 'OMG, Who Is O.M.D.?' Playlist". The 6th Floor Blog. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 23 July 2013. ...a dance song with a great keyboard hook.
  5. ^ Mansfield, Brian (4 April 2013). "On the Road Again: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark". USA Today. Retrieved 5 October 2013. It's that Korg [Micro-Preset] that plays the distinctive keyboard hook in the band's early hit 'Enola Gay'.
  6. ^ a b Watkins, Jack (7 January 2013). "How we made: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark on Enola Gay". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 11 October 2013.
  7. ^ a b c d Waller, Johnny (1987). Messages. Sidgwick & Jackson. pp. 79–80. ISBN 0-283-99234-4.
  8. ^ Ridenbaugh, Mary Young (1886). Enola; or, Her fatal mistake. For the Author.
  9. ^ "Songwords – Enola Gay". Archived from the original on 18 July 2009..
  10. ^ a b Thompson, Dave. "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Enola Gay". AllMusic. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  11. ^ a b "Enola Gay". The One Show. BBC One. 26 January 2010.
  12. ^ Green, Jonathan (26 November 1980). "Singles". The Canberra Times.
  13. ^ Soave, Danela (25 October 1980). "OMITD Get Organised". Record Mirror. p. 22.
  14. ^ Ryan, Gary (14 October 2019). "Does Rock 'n' Roll Kill Braincells?! – Andy McCluskey". NME. Retrieved 22 November 2020.
  15. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 75 – 28 September 1980 - 04 October 1980". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  16. ^ a b "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  17. ^ a b "Singoli – I numeri uno (1959–2006) (parte 3: 1980–1990)". It-charts.150m.com (in Italian). Archived from the original on 3 March 2016.
  18. ^ a b Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (in Spanish) (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2.
  19. ^ a b Eames, Tom (11 September 2018). "The top 25 greatest 1980s synthpop songs". Smooth Radio. Retrieved 31 January 2019.
  20. ^ Raggett, Ned. "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Organisation". AllMusic. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  21. ^ "The 40 greatest synth tracks ever: pt 1, 1974-1986". MusicRadar. 27 October 2009. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  22. ^ "100 Best Songs of the 1980s". NME. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  23. ^ "Top 100 Singles of the 80s: 15-11". Classic Pop. March 2014. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  24. ^ "In this week's 63-game record-breaking Invincible Celtic View". The Celtic View. 10 November 2017. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  25. ^ "'Now I'm bored and old': 27 deliberately confounding follow-ups to popular successes". The A.V. Club. 17 August 2009. Retrieved 26 December 2016.
  26. ^ O'Brien, Jon. "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Live in Berlin". AllMusic. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  27. ^ "Ceremony's throbbing soundtrack adds aural excitement to a visual spectacular". The Guardian. Press Association. 27 July 2012. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  28. ^ PaulB (5 August 2015). "Club 66 : Annex". Omd-messages.co.uk. Retrieved 17 May 2016.
  29. ^ Badgley, Aaron. "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Navigation: The OMD B-Sides". AllMusic. Retrieved 17 May 2016.
  30. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970-1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 224. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  31. ^ "Le Détail par Artiste" (in French). InfoDisc. Select "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark" from the artist drop-down menu. Retrieved 15 May 2016.
  32. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Enola Gay". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  33. ^ "Charts.nz – OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark) – Enola Gay". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  34. ^ "Swisscharts.com – OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark) – Enola Gay". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  35. ^ "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  36. ^ "British single certifications – OMD – Enola Gay". British Phonographic Industry. Select singles in the Format field. Select Silver in the Certification field. Type Enola Gay in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  37. ^ "Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – The OMD Singles (CD)". Discogs. Retrieved 9 June 2010.
  38. ^ "Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Enola Gay (Vinyl)". Discogs. Retrieved 9 June 2010.
  39. ^ "Various – URGH! A Music War (Vinyl, LP)". Discogs. Retrieved 9 June 2010.
  40. ^ "KBO! – (Ne) Menjajte Stanicu (CD, Album)". Discogs. Retrieved 9 June 2010.
  41. ^ "Various – Messages: Modern Synthpop Artists Cover Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark (CD)". Discogs. Retrieved 9 June 2010.
  42. ^ "Jose Galisteo – Remember (CD, Album)". Discogs. Retrieved 9 June 2010.
  43. ^ "Scooter – Jumping All Over The World (CD, Album)". Retrieved 9 June 2010.
  44. ^ Murphy, Tom (12 October 2011). "Howard Jones on performing Human Lib and Dream Into Action in their entirety on this tour". Westword. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  45. ^ Swinth Demo (Commodore 64) Enola Gay. YouTube. 8 August 2009. Retrieved 25 July 2013.
  46. ^ "Terramex by Beastie Boys". Pouet.net. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  47. ^ "Browsing by Filename (E)". The Mod Archive. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  48. ^ Katy Perry VS OMD - Teenage Dream vs Enola Gay (Djs From Mars Bootleg Remix) – YouTube. 21 October 2010. Retrieved 23 July 2013.

External links[edit]