Radioactivity (song)

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"Radioactivity"
Kraftwerk-Radio-Activity-183495.jpg
Single by Kraftwerk
from the album Radio-Activity
B-side"Antenna"
ReleasedMay 1976 (1976-05)
Format7-inch single
RecordedKling Klang Studio
Genre
Length3:18 (radio edit)
6:42 (album version)
Label
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
  • Ralf Hütter
  • Florian Schneider
Kraftwerk singles chronology
"Autobahn"
(1975)
"Radioactivity"
(1976)
"Trans-Europe Express"
(1977)

"Radioactivity" (German: "Radioaktivität") is a song by the German electronic music band Kraftwerk, featuring Emil Schult. It was released in May 1976 as the lead and only single from their fifth studio album, Radio-Activity (1975).

The song was a commercial success in France, but was not as successful in other countries as Kraftwerk's previous hit single "Autobahn".

Composition[edit]

The original recording features an insistent Minimoog bass line (playing eighth notes), with chords played on the distinctive "choir" disc of the Vako Orchestron. Morse code signals spelling out "R-A-D-I-O-A-C-T-I-V-I-T-Y" are also present, near the beginning of the track and again near the end. The second time it is followed by "I-S I-N T-H-E A-I-R F-O-R Y-O-U A-N-D M-E".

Lyrically, the 1975 version of the song plays upon the meaning of its title, with the line "Discovered by Madame Curie". In fact, natural radioactivity was discovered by Henri Becquerel (and independently by Silvanus Thompson), while induced radioactivity by Irène Joliot-Curie, Marie Curie's daughter. Curie only coined the term.

The song was re-recorded as a radically different version for The Mix album in 1991 and was issued as a single in an edited form with remixes by François Kevorkian and William Orbit. While the original does not offer a value judgement on the safety of radioactivity, the 1991 version drops all references to radio and incorporates additional lyrics with a pointed anti-nuclear theme, remaking the central lyrical hook as "stop radioactivity" and also referring to "contaminated population" and mentioning by name Chernobyl, Harrisburg (Three Mile Island), Sellafield and Hiroshima.

Live performances[edit]

"Radioactivity" has remained a regular part of Kraftwerk's live sets over the years. On its original performances in 1976, the band tried out an experimental light-beam operated "percussion cage", where Wolfgang Flür attempted to trigger electronic drum sounds by interrupting light beams using arm gestures. This system was environmentally unstable and frequently failed.

The band performed the Mix version at the "Stop Sellafield" concert in 1992. The song was performed during Kraftwerk's set at Coachella to commemorate the anniversary of the Chernobyl incident on April 26 (the date of the band's performance). Live versions of "Radioactivity" feature on both English and German versions of the band's 2005 live album Minimum-Maximum.

In 2012, Kraftwerk performed the new remix of "Radioactivity" during No Nukes 2012, held in Japan. To commemorate the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, Hütter sang alternate lyrics to the song in Japanese. The new lyrics were translated into Japanese language by Ryuichi Sakamoto [1], and make direct reference to Fukushima. This version of the song also has notable lyric changes such as "Chernobyl, Harrisburg, Sellafield, Fukushima".[2] This altered version of the song is also the version Kraftwerk performs live to this day, albeit with the second chorus switching back to the English or German lyrics sung on the Mix version, depending on where they perform. This version also appears on the band's 2017 live album 3-D The Catalogue.

Appearances in other media[edit]

The song appeared in Rainer Werner Fassbinder's films Chinese Roulette and Berlin Alexanderplatz, Michael Jupp's animated film Alice in Galaxy and the 2010 documentary Into Eternity.

The song, as did other songs from Radio-Activity, appeared in the Brazilian telenovela Saramandaia.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider and Emil Schult.

No.TitleLength
1."Radioactivity" ("Radioaktivität")3:18
2."Antenna" ("Antenne")3:03

Charts[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1976) Peak
position
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[3] 21
France (SNEP)[4] 7
Italy (FIMI)[5] 31

Certifications and sales[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
France (SNEP)[6] Gold 500,000*

^shipments figures based on certification alone

1991 Re-issue[edit]

"Radioactivity"
Single by Kraftwerk
from the album The Mix
ReleasedOctober 1991 (1991-10)
Format
GenreSynthpop
Label
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
  • Ralf Hütter
  • Florian Schneider
Kraftwerk singles chronology
"The robots (1991)"
(1991)
"Radioactivity"
(1991)
"Expo 2000"
(1999)

"Radioactivity" was re-issued 1991 as a single from Kraftwerk's remix album The Mix. Featuring remixes by François Kevorkian and William Orbit.

Track listing[edit]

7-inch single[edit]

Side one
No.TitleLength
1."Radioactivity (François Kevorkian 7" Remix)"4:08
Side two
No.TitleLength
2."Radioactivity (William Orbit 7" Remix)"3:49

12-inch single[edit]

Side one
No.TitleLength
1."Radioactivity (François Kevorkian 12" Remix)"7:26
2."Radioactivity (François Kevorkian 7" Remix)"4:08
Side two
No.TitleLength
3."Radioactivity (William Orbit 12" Remix)"7:23

CD single[edit]

No.TitleLength
1."Radioactivity (François Kevorkian 7" Remix)"4:09
2."Radioactivity (François Kevorkian 12" Remix)"7:27
3."Radioactivity (William Orbit 12" Remix)"7:24

Cassette single[edit]

Side one
No.TitleLength
1."Radioactivity (François Kevorkian 7" Remix)" 
2."Radioactivity (William Orbit 7" Remix)" 
Side two
No.TitleLength
3."Radioactivity (François Kevorkian 7" Remix)" 
4."Radioactivity (William Orbit 7" Remix)" 

Charts[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1991) Peak
position
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[7] 8
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[8] 43
US Dance Club Songs (Billboard)[9] 21

Fatboy Slim version[edit]

"Radioactivity"
Fatboy Slim Radioactivity.jpg
Single by Fatboy Slim
from the album Late Night Tales: Fatboy Slim
B-side"Everything Is Everything"
ReleasedOctober 8, 2007 (2007-10-08)
Format7-inch single
Length3:37
LabelLateNightTales
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
Fatboy Slim singles chronology
"Champion Sound"
(2006)
"Radioactivity"
(2007)
"Please Don't"
(2010)

Fatboy Slim covered "Radioactivity" on his compilation album Late Night Tales: Fatboy Slim. The song was released as a limited edition 7-inch single.[10]

Track listing[edit]

7-inch single[edit]

Side one
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
1."Radioactivity"Norman Cook3:37
Side two
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
2."Everything Is Everything"Bootsy Collins3:43

References[edit]

  1. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Z_sqOrEBcM&t=5m30s
  2. ^ "No_Nukes_Video". Kraftwerk.com. Retrieved 2016-10-11.
  3. ^ "Ultratop.be – Kraftwerk – Radioactivity" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved February 4, 2017.
  4. ^ http://www.infodisc.fr/Tubes_Artiste_Choisi.php%7Caccessdate=February 4, 2017
  5. ^ "Hit Parade Italia - Indice per Interprete: K". Hitparadeitalia.it. Retrieved February 4, 2017.
  6. ^ "French single certifications – Kraftwerk – Radioactivity" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique.
  7. ^ Lähettänyt Timo. "Sisältää hitin: Levyt ja esittäjät Suomen musiikkilistoilla vuodesta 1961: KON - KUL". Suomenlistalevyt.blogspot.se. Retrieved 2016-10-11.
  8. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
  9. ^ "Kraftwerk Chart History (Dance Club Songs)". Billboard.
  10. ^ "Fatboy Slim cover of Kraftwerk's 'Radioactivity'". WhoSampled.com. Retrieved 2016-10-11.