Enola Gay (song)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"Enola Gay"
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)[1]
StudioRidge Farm Studio (Dorking)
Songwriter(s)Andy McCluskey
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark singles chronology
"Enola Gay"
Music video
"Enola Gay" on YouTube

"Enola Gay" is an anti-war song by the English electronic band Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD), and the only single taken from their second studio album Organisation (1980). Written by lead vocalist and bassist 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 a 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, Portugal and Spain. The track 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.



Typical of early OMD compositions, the track does not feature a vocal chorus,[5] and is recognisable by its distinctive lead synthesizer hook and ambiguous lyrical content.[6][7] 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.[7] The song is based on the '50s progression, which repeats throughout the entire song. Speaking to Songwriting Magazine, McCluskey stated, "It's a typical linear OMD song, it is the same four chords all the way through and it never varies. The verse, the melody, the middle eight, it's all the same."[8]

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.[9]


Enola Gay, a B-29 Superfortress, pictured in 1945

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][11]


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").[12] 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 is identified as an "anti-war" track,[b] 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".[20]

Critical reception[edit]

The song met with largely positive reviews.[9] Greg Reibman of Boston Rock wrote, "With 'Enola Gay', Orchestral Manoeuvres drop another devastating warhead on the world of inferior pop music... these guys are right on target."[21] Canberra Times critic Jonathan Green described the track as "super", with "a lovely melody that makes for an utterly infectious song".[22] Daniela Soave of Record Mirror called it "infinitely danceable, joyous and jumpy", while noting an uneasy juxtaposition between the musical content and sombre lyrics.[23] NME said the track has "considerable plusses" including a "glorious melody", but expressed reservations about its commercial prospects, feeling it was destined for "chartless oblivion".[24] The song was banned from being played on popular BBC1 children's programme Swap Shop, because it was thought to promote homosexuality.[25][26][27]

Despite its subject matter, the single was released at a time of strong anti-nuclear sentiment in Britain.[20][28] This, according to the BBC, helped it become an "unlikely hit".[20] The track entered the UK Singles Chart at number 59,[29] but climbed 51 places over the next four weeks to reach a peak of number 8,[30] 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.[31] It was also a hit throughout continental Europe, topping the charts in Italy, Portugal and Spain.[32][33][34]

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".[35] Critic Dave Thompson called it a "perfect synth-dance-pop extravaganza".[28] 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."[36]


Readers of NME, Record Mirror and Smash Hits voted "Enola Gay" one of the 10 best singles of 1980;[37] it later placed eighth in a Slicing Up Eyeballs reader poll of the year's best songs.[38] 88.5 XPN listeners positioned the track at no. 508 in the "885 All Time Greatest Songs".[39] It has featured in critics' lists such as NME's "100 Best Songs of the 1980s",[40] Classic Pop's "Top 100 Singles of the 80s",[41] PopMatters' "100 Best Alternative Singles of the 1980s",[42] MusicRadar's "40 Greatest Synth Tracks Ever"[43] and Smooth Radio's "25 Greatest 1980s Synthpop Songs".[44] "Enola Gay" was selected by Danny Boyle for use during the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.[45] The track became a Celtic F.C. anthem in the mid-to-late 2010s, with fans changing its lyrics to revolve around player Stuart Armstrong.[46] It also became popular with Burnley F.C. supporters.[47]

The BBC described "Enola Gay" as a "long-lasting hit";[20] the song's cumulative sales have exceeded 5 million copies.[27][44][48] It has been described – along with 1986's "If You Leave"[49] – as OMD's signature song.[44][50] The track continues to be associated with LGBT culture;[51][52] Rolling Stone critic Rob Sheffield wrote in 2020 that it is "about both coming out and nuclear destruction".[51] 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."[52] OMD, aware of the song's perceived links to homosexuality, have embraced their large following within the LGBT community.[9][53]

The track has been endorsed by 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.[54] Musicians Howard Jones and Toyah Willcox have listed "Enola Gay" among their favourite records of the 1980s;[55][56] Jones included the "fantastic" song as the only cover version in his early live sets.[55][57] The track has also been lauded by Al Doyle of Hot Chip,[58] Rudi Esch of Die Krupps,[57] and solo artist Moby, who called it a "beautiful song" that he has "loved for decades".[57] No Doubt bassist Tony Kanal noted that he and lead singer Gwen Stefani were heavily influenced by the track.[59]

Home computer influence[edit]

"Enola Gay" is popular with early home computer enthusiasts, being used in demos such as Swinth (Commodore 64).[60] 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.[61] The song was featured in the 2015 film Ex Machina, a sci-fi thriller about the implications of artificial intelligence.[62]

16-bit computers brought with them the popular music tracker format where no fewer than a dozen versions exist.[63]

Music video[edit]

The music video was shot at the ITN studios in three hours one afternoon.[64] It 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 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";[65] AllMusic critic Aaron Badgley later called it a "brilliant" song.[66]

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


Chart (1980–1981) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[67] 47
France (IFOP)[68] 6
Ireland (IRMA)[69] 14
Italy (Musica e dischi)[70] 2
Italy (RAI Hit Parade)[71] 1
Italy (TV Sorrisi e Canzoni)[72] 1
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[1] 31
Portugal (Música & Som)[33] 1
Spain (AFE)[34] 1
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[73] 2
UK Singles (OCC)[30] 8
US Hot Dance Club Play (Billboard)[74] 34

Certifications and sales[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
France 700,000[75]
Italy (FIMI)[77] Gold 300,000[76]
United Kingdom (BPI)[78] Gold 400,000

Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Alternative 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.[58]

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 (1982).

Musician Howard Jones covered the song during early live performances.[79]

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".[10]
  2. ^ "Enola Gay" has been identified as an "anti-war" song by multiple outlets.[13][14][15][16][17][18] It was also described as such in an official press statement regarding its 40th anniversary re-release.[19]


  1. ^ a b "OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark) – Enola Gay". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  2. ^ 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'.
  3. ^ Pirnia, Garin (12 June 2012). "Enola Gay". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 6 October 2018. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  4. ^ QUINN, COLE. "Songs so good, they make the album look bad". The Daily Evergreen.
  5. ^ "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'.
  6. ^ 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'.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ "How I Wrote Enola Gay". Songwriting Magazine. 27 February 2020. Retrieved 15 May 2023.
  9. ^ a b c Waller, Johnny; Humphreys, Mike (1987). Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark: Messages. Sidgwick & Jackson. pp. 79–80. ISBN 0-283-99234-4.
  10. ^ Ridenbaugh, Mary Young (1886). Enola; Or, Her Fatal Mistake. Kentucky: For the author. Retrieved 8 August 2023. Volume 3 of Wright American fictionFree access icon
  11. ^ Nathan, Richard (6 August 2021). "Literary Fallout: The legacies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki". Red Circle Authors. Retrieved 22 August 2021.
  12. ^ "Songwords – Enola Gay". Archived from the original on 18 July 2009.
  13. ^ Wuench, Kevin (4 November 2016). "Even in the '80s sometimes you pray history doesn't repeat itself". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  14. ^ Meagher, John (15 October 2017). "80s hitmakers OMD – Coming out of the dark". Irish Independent. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  15. ^ Christie, Niall (22 July 2018). "Rewind and party like it's 1989". The Herald. Retrieved 18 February 2022.
  16. ^ Rudden, Liam (11 June 2021). "10 great things not to miss as Edinburgh reopens". Edinburgh Evening News. Retrieved 18 February 2022.
  17. ^ Casagrande, Tim (21 March 2018). "Three Acts to See This Week: OMD, SSION, and Moon Hooch". SF Weekly. Archived from the original on 22 March 2018. Retrieved 18 February 2022.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  18. ^ Hulton, Anna Sky (30 November 2021). "OMD's 2021 'Architecture & More' tour: Everything you need to know". Greatest Hits Radio. Retrieved 18 February 2022.
  19. ^ "OMD Celebrate 40 Years of Legendary Hit 'Enola Gay' with Limited-Edition 12" Colored Vinyl Out December 4th on UMe". Universal Music Enterprises. 25 September 2020. Retrieved 8 August 2023 – via PR Newswire.
  20. ^ a b c d "Enola Gay". The One Show. BBC One. 26 January 2010.
  21. ^ Reibman, Greg (November 1980). "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark: Enola Gay". Boston Rock. p. 58.
  22. ^ Green, Jonathan (26 November 1980). "Singles". The Canberra Times.
  23. ^ Soave, Daniela (25 October 1980). "OMITD Get Organised". Record Mirror. p. 22.
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  25. ^ Power, Ed (7 August 2020). "Enola Gay: how OMD made poignant pop from the ashes of Hiroshima". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 29 March 2021.
  26. ^ Ryan, Gary (14 October 2019). "Does Rock 'n' Roll Kill Braincells?! – Andy McCluskey". NME. Retrieved 22 November 2020.
  27. ^ a b Sandbrook, Dominic (2019). Who Dares Wins: Britain, 1979–1982. Penguin Books. pp. 398–399. ISBN 978-1846147371.
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  32. ^ Caroli, Daniele (21 November 1981). "Italian Talent Scene Wears International Face". Billboard. Archived from the original on 4 June 2022. Retrieved 4 June 2022.
  33. ^ a b "VENDAS DE DISCOS EM PORTUGAL: Top Música & Som 1980-1984". VENDAS DE DISCOS EM PORTUGAL. 15 December 2016. Retrieved 4 June 2022.
  34. ^ 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.
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  36. ^ Bergstrom, John (25 May 2016). "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – 'Enola Gay' (1980) (Singles Going Steady Classic)". PopMatters. Retrieved 19 July 2021.
  37. ^ 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.
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  41. ^ "Top 100 Singles of the 80s: 15-11". Classic Pop. March 2014. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  42. ^ Gerard, Chris (5 April 2021). "The 100 Best Alternative Singles of the 1980s". PopMatters. Retrieved 24 November 2021.
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  54. ^ West, Mike (1982). Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. Omnibus Press. p. 43. ISBN 0-7119-0149-X.
  55. ^ a b "My 80s Playlist: Howard Jones chooses his favourite 80s tracks from Grace Jones to Japan". Virgin Radio UK. 6 April 2023. Retrieved 7 April 2023.
  56. ^ "My 80s Playlist: Toyah Willcox picks her favourite 80s tunes from Bowie to Kate Bush". Virgin Radio UK. 5 May 2023. Retrieved 6 May 2023.
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  58. ^ a b "27 New Songs Out Today". BrooklynVegan. 25 September 2020. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
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External links[edit]