Enola Gay (song)
Cover of the original 7" single, designed by Peter Saville.
|Single by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark|
|from the album Organisation|
|Released||26 September 1980|
|Recorded||Ridge Farm Studio, Dorking|
|Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark singles chronology|
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, and is recognisable by its strong, distinctive lead synthesizer hook and ambiguous lyrical content. 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. 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.
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"). 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. 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".
Reception and legacy
"Enola Gay" met with enthusiastic reviews on release. Lynden Barber of Melody Maker called it "the perfect follow-up to 'Messages'." Canberra Times critic Jonathan Green described it as "super", with "a lovely melody that makes for an utterly infectious song". Daniela Soave of Record Mirror called it "infinitely danceable, joyous and jumpy", while noting the music's juxtaposition with sombre lyrics. 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.
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. A sleeper success, the track entered the UK Singles Chart at number 59, but climbed 51 places over the next four weeks to reach a peak of number 8, thus becoming the group's first Top 10 hit in their home country. It topped the charts in Italy and in Spain. Worldwide sales reached 5 million.
In a retrospective review, Dave Thompson of AllMusic called "Enola Gay" a "perfect synth-dance-pop extravaganza". 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".
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". 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". It appeared in a 2014 Classic Pop list of the "Top 100 Singles of the 80s". 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.
"Enola Gay" has been described – along with 1986's "If You Leave" – as OMD's signature song. The track was selected by Danny Boyle for use during the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
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"; AllMusic critic Aaron Badgley called it a "brilliant" song.
1980 original release
The 12" single contained the same tracks as on the 7".
2003 remix 12"
|1.||"Enola Gay" (Dancefloor Killa Remix)||9:02|
|1.||"Enola Gay" (dub remix)||6:57|
|2.||"Enola Gay" (radio edit)||3:05|
Charts and certifications
Certifications and sales
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. The Guetta and Garraud remixes were released on a limited 12" to promote the compilation album.
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.
Serbian punk rock band KBO! recorded a version on their 2001 cover album (Ne) Menjajte Stanicu ((Do Not) Change The Station). Also in 2001, American band The Faint covered the song on Messages: Modern Synthpop Artists Cover Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. In June 2007, José Galisteo released a cover on his debut album, Remember. German techno group Scooter also covered the song on their 2007 album Jumping All Over the World. Musician Howard Jones covered the track during early live performances.
Home computer influence
The song is popular with early home computer enthusiasts being used in popular computer demos such as Swinth (Commodore 64). 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).
Use in movies
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.
- List of anti-war songs
- List of number-one hits of 1981 (Italy)
- List of number-one singles of 1981 (Spain)
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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"
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It's that Korg [Micro-Preset] that plays the distinctive keyboard hook in the band's early hit 'Enola Gay'.
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