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
StudioRidge Farm Studio, Dorking
Songwriter(s)Andy McCluskey
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark singles chronology
"Enola Gay"

"Enola Gay" is an anti-war song by the British synth-pop band Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD), and the only single taken from their 1980 album Organisation. Written by vocalist/bass guitarist Andy McCluskey, it addresses the atomic bombing of Hiroshima by the aircraft Enola Gay on 6 August 1945, toward the conclusion of World War II. As is typical of early OMD singles, the song features a melodic synthesizer break instead of sung chorus.

"Enola Gay" met with largely positive reviews but was seen as unlikely to impact the charts; aside from its subject matter, the song faced some resistance due to its being perceived as a gay anthem. It eventually reached no. 8 on the UK Singles Chart, becoming the band's first top 10 entry in their home country. It was also a hit throughout continental Europe, topping the charts in Italy and Spain. The track went on to enjoy lasting popularity, including within the LGBT community, and achieved sales in excess of 5 million copies. It has been named as one of the best songs of its era and genre, and, along with 1986's "If You Leave", is regarded as OMD's signature song.

The song is currently used as of 2021 in advertising Britbox Streaming Channel.



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.[a][9]


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").[10] 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". It has been characterised as an "anti-war" track,[11][12] although 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 it "conveyed an ambivalence about whether it was the right or the wrong thing to do".[13]


"Enola Gay" met with largely positive 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".[14] Daniela Soave of Record Mirror called it "infinitely danceable, joyous and jumpy", while noting the music's uneasy juxtaposition with sombre lyrics.[15] NME said the song has "considerable plusses" including a "glorious melody", but expressed reservations about its commercial prospects, feeling it was destined for "chartless oblivion".[16] The track was perceived by some as a gay anthem; as such, it was banned from being played on popular BBC1 children's programme Swap Shop.[17][18]

Despite its subject matter, the single was released at a time of strong anti-nuclear sentiment in Britain.[13][19] This, according to the BBC, helped it become an "unlikely hit".[13] The track entered the UK Singles Chart at number 59,[20] but climbed 51 places over the next four weeks to reach a peak of number 8,[21] becoming the group's first top 10 entry in their home country and one of the 50 best-selling singles in the UK in 1980.[22] It was also a hit throughout continental Europe, topping the charts in Italy and Spain.[23][24]

In a retrospective assessment, AllMusic's Ned Raggett lauded the song as "astounding... a flat-out pop classic – clever, heartfelt, thrilling, and confident, not to mention catchy and arranged brilliantly".[25] Critic Dave Thompson called it a "perfect synth-dance-pop extravaganza".[19] John Bergstrom of PopMatters wrote, "'80s synthpop takes a lot of flack, much of it deserved. But 'Enola Gay' is a resounding refutation of the notion nothing substantial, beautiful, or timeless could ever come from skinny English guys with synths... Everything a classic should be."[26]


Readers of NME, Record Mirror and Smash Hits voted "Enola Gay" one of the 10 best singles of 1980;[27] it later placed eighth in a Slicing Up Eyeballs reader poll of the year's best songs.[28] The track has featured in critics' lists such as NME's "100 Best Songs of the 1980s",[29] Classic Pop's "Top 100 Singles of the 80s",[30] PopMatters' "100 Best Alternative Singles of the 1980s",[31] MusicRadar's "40 Greatest Synth Tracks Ever"[32] and Smooth Radio's "25 Greatest 1980s Synthpop Songs".[33] It was selected by Danny Boyle for use during the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.[34] 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.[35]

The BBC described "Enola Gay" as a "long-lasting hit";[13] the song's cumulative sales have exceeded 5 million copies.[33][36][37] It has been described – along with 1986's "If You Leave"[38] – as OMD's signature song.[33][39] The track continues to be associated with LGBT culture;[40][41] Rolling Stone critic Rob Sheffield wrote in 2020 that it is "about both coming out and nuclear destruction".[40] Gigwise writer Josh Williams named "Enola Gay" as one of the most impactful songs to be featured in TV drama series It's a Sin (2021), which focuses on a group of gay men living during the HIV/AIDS crisis in the UK. Williams said, "It's clear to see why a young gay or bisexual male can place a different meaning on a lyric about dropping the nuclear bomb through coming out to their own families."[41] OMD, aware of the song's perceived links to homosexuality, have embraced their large following within the LGBT community.[7][42]

The track has garnered praise from other artists. In a 1981 interview with BBC Radio 1, Godley & Creme named OMD's "Enola Gay" and "Souvenir" as two of their favourite singles.[43] "Enola Gay" was the only cover version included in the early live sets of English musician Howard Jones, who "loved the simplicity of it and the electronicness of it".[44][45] German DJ/production team Sash! commended the song's production as "so genuinely strong".[46] The track has also been lauded by Al Doyle of Hot Chip,[47] Rudi Esch of Die Krupps,[44] and solo artist Moby, who called it a "beautiful song" that he has "loved for decades".[44]

Home computer influence[edit]

"Enola Gay" is popular with early home computer enthusiasts, being used in demos such as Swinth (Commodore 64).[48] Hackers have also enjoyed the song; it can be found as the "music bed" for numerous mega-demos and "cracktro" found on releases by warez groups like the Beastie Boys.[49]

16-bit computers brought with them the popular music tracker format where no fewer than a dozen versions exist.[50]

Music video[edit]

The music video begins by showing sped-up footage of clouds passing through the sky. After the opening riff, which is shown as the keyboardist's hands playing whilst being animated using digital rotoscoping, it shows a transparent video image of McCluskey vocalising and playing 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";[51] AllMusic critic Aaron Badgley later called it a "brilliant" song.[52]

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

2020 re-release 12"[edit]

Side one
1."Enola Gay" (extended mix)4:49
Side two
1."Enola Gay" (slow mix)4:05

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. Hot Chip remixed the song to coincide with its 40th anniversary re-release.[47]

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.

Musician Howard Jones covered the song during early live performances.[45] In 2010, Katy Perry's song "Teenage Dream" was "mashed up" with "Enola Gay" by the group DJs from Mars, under the title "Teenage Gay".[62]

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. Archived from the original on 21 September 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; Humphreys, Mike (1987). Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark: 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. ^ Nathan, Richard (6 August 2021). "Literary Fallout: The legacies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki". Red Circle Authors. Retrieved 22 August 2021.
  10. ^ "Songwords – Enola Gay". Archived from the original on 18 July 2009.
  11. ^ Wuench, Kevin (4 November 2016). "Even in the '80s sometimes you pray history doesn't repeat itself". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  12. ^ Meagher, John (15 October 2017). "80s hitmakers OMD – Coming out of the dark". Irish Independent. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  13. ^ a b c d "Enola Gay". The One Show. BBC One. 26 January 2010.
  14. ^ Green, Jonathan (26 November 1980). "Singles". The Canberra Times.
  15. ^ Soave, Daniela (25 October 1980). "OMITD Get Organised". Record Mirror. p. 22.
  16. ^ "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark: Enola Gay". The History of Rock. No. 16 (1980). Time Inc. 6 October 2016. p. 117.
  17. ^ Power, Ed (7 August 2020). "Enola Gay: how OMD made poignant pop from the ashes of Hiroshima". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 29 March 2021.
  18. ^ Ryan, Gary (14 October 2019). "Does Rock 'n' Roll Kill Braincells?! – Andy McCluskey". NME. Retrieved 22 November 2020.
  19. ^ a b Thompson, Dave. "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Enola Gay". AllMusic. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  20. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 75 – 28 September 1980 - 04 October 1980". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  21. ^ a b "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  22. ^ Copsey, Rob (26 February 2021). "The Official Top 50 best-selling songs of 1980". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 22 August 2021.
  23. ^ 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.
  24. ^ 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.
  25. ^ Raggett, Ned. "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Organisation". AllMusic. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  26. ^ Bergstrom, John (25 May 2016). "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – 'Enola Gay' (1980) (Singles Going Steady Classic)". PopMatters. Retrieved 19 July 2021.
  27. ^ No. 8 in NME singles poll:
    • "Pop Poll Results". NME. 24 January 1981.
    No. 5 in Record Mirror singles poll:
    • "1980 Poll Results". Record Mirror. 10 January 1981. pp. 16–17.
    No. 9 in Smash Hits singles poll:
    • "The Smash Hits Readers' Poll Results". Smash Hits. Vol. 3 no. 5. 5–18 March 1981. p. 20.
  28. ^ "Top 100 Songs of 1980: Slicing Up Eyeballs' Best of the '80s Redux – Part 1". Slicing Up Eyeballs. 10 February 2015. Retrieved 12 June 2021.
  29. ^ "100 Best Songs of the 1980s". NME. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  30. ^ "Top 100 Singles of the 80s: 15-11". Classic Pop. March 2014. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  31. ^ Gerard, Chris (5 April 2021). "The 100 Best Alternative Singles of the 1980s". PopMatters. Retrieved 24 November 2021.
  32. ^ "The 40 greatest synth tracks ever: pt 1, 1974-1986". MusicRadar. 27 October 2009. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  33. ^ a b c Eames, Tom (11 September 2018). "The top 25 greatest 1980s synthpop songs". Smooth Radio. Retrieved 31 January 2019.
  34. ^ "Ceremony's throbbing soundtrack adds aural excitement to a visual spectacular". The Guardian. Press Association. 27 July 2012. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  35. ^ "In this week's 63-game record-breaking Invincible Celtic View". The Celtic View. 10 November 2017. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  36. ^ Male, Andrew (July 2019). "Days of Future Passed". Mojo. No. 308. pp. 38–43.
  37. ^ Sandbrook, Dominic (2019). Who Dares Wins: Britain, 1979–1982. Penguin Books. pp. 398–399. ISBN 978-1846147371.
  38. ^ "'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.
  39. ^ O'Brien, Jon. "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Live in Berlin". AllMusic. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  40. ^ a b "The 80 Greatest Albums of 1980". Rolling Stone. 11 November 2020. Retrieved 29 March 2021.
  41. ^ a b Williams, Josh (8 February 2021). "10 of the most impactful 80s tracks on the It's a Sin soundtrack". Gigwise. Retrieved 29 March 2021.
  42. ^ Pratt, Paul E. (22 September 2011). "OMD Plays the Warfield October 3". San Francisco Bay Times. p. 10.
  43. ^ West, Mike (1982). Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. Omnibus Press. p. 43. ISBN 0-7119-0149-X.
  44. ^ a b c Houghton, Richard (2019). OMD: Pretending to See the Future (expanded paperback ed.). This Day in Music Books. pp. 178 (Jones), 370–371 (Moby), 387–388 (Esch). ISBN 978-1916115620. [Esch:] ...'Enola Gay', propelled by that growling bass tone. It's a song I always loved and was part of my soundtrack to the summer of '81.
  45. ^ a b 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.
  46. ^ Browne, Paul (7 August 2015). "Sash! Q&A". Messages. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  47. ^ a b "27 New Songs Out Today". BrooklynVegan. 25 September 2020. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  48. ^ Swinth Demo (Commodore 64) Enola Gay. YouTube. 8 August 2009. Archived from the original on 15 December 2021. Retrieved 25 July 2013.
  49. ^ "Terramex by Beastie Boys". Pouet.net. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  50. ^ "Browsing by Filename (E)". The Mod Archive. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  51. ^ PaulB (5 August 2015). "Club 66 : Annex". Omd-messages.co.uk. Retrieved 17 May 2016.
  52. ^ Badgley, Aaron. "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Navigation: The OMD B-Sides". AllMusic. Retrieved 17 May 2016.
  53. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970-1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 224. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  54. ^ "Le Détail par Artiste". InfoDisc (in French). Select "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark" from the artist drop-down menu. Retrieved 15 May 2016.
  55. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Enola Gay". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  56. ^ "OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark) – Enola Gay". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  57. ^ "OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark) – Enola Gay". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  58. ^ "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  59. ^ Lloyd, Jack (28 February 1982). "Pop/Rock". The Philadelphia Inquirer. p. 142 (10-I).
  60. ^ West, Mike (1982). Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. Omnibus Press. p. 34. ISBN 0-7119-0149-X.
  61. ^ "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.
  62. ^ "PopWrap's fave five mashups". Page Six. 12 November 2010. Retrieved 29 March 2021.

External links[edit]