Radioactivity (song)

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"Radioactivity"
Kraftwerk-Radio-Activity-183495.jpg
Single by Kraftwerk
from the album Radio-Activity
B-side "Antenna"
Released May 1976 (1976-05)
Format 7-inch single
Recorded Kling Klang Studio
Genre Synthpop, electronic
Length 3:18 (radio edit)
6:42 (album version)
Label
Writer(s)
Certification Gold (SNEP)
Kraftwerk chronology
"Autobahn"
(1975)
"Radioactivity"
(1976)
"Trans-Europe Express"
(1977)

"Radioactivity" (German: "Radioaktivität") is a song written by Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider and Emil Schult, and recorded by electronic band Kraftwerk as the title track of its 1975 album Radio-Activity.

The song peaked at number one in France, becoming Kraftwerk's first song to reach a number-one spot.

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); induced radioactivity by Irène Joliot-Curie, Marie Curie's daughter. Curie coined the term "radioactivity").

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 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. The band performed it 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).

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, at one point even name checking Fukushima. This version of the song also has notable lyric changes such as "Chernobyl, Harrisburg, Sellafield, Fukushima".[1] 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.

Appearances in other media[edit]

The song appeared in Rainer Werner Fassbinder's films Chinese Roulette and Berlin Alexanderplatz, and the 2010 documentary Into Eternity.

Track listing[edit]

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

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

Charts[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1976) Peak
position
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[2] 21
France (SNEP)[3] 1
Italy (FIMI)[4] 31

Certifications and sales[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
France (SNEP)[5] 1× Gold 500,000*

^shipments figures based on certification alone

1991 Re-issue[edit]

"Radioactivity"
Single by Kraftwerk
from the album The Mix
Format
Genre Synthpop
Label
Writer(s)
Kraftwerk chronology
"The robots (1991)"
(1991)
"Radioactivity (1991)"
(1991)
"Expo 2000"
(1999)

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

Track listing[edit]

7-inch single[edit]

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

12-inch single[edit]

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

CD single[edit]

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

Cassette single[edit]

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Radioactivity (Francois Kevorkian 7" Remix)"    
2. "Radioactivity (William Orbit 7" Remix)"    
Side two
No. Title Length
3. "Radioactivity (Francois Kevorkian 7" Remix)"    
4. "Radioactivity (William Orbit 7" Remix)"    

Charts[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1991) Peak
position
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[6] 8
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[7] 43
US Dance Club Songs (Billboard)[8] 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"
Released October 8, 2007 (2007-10-08)
Format 7-inch single
Length 3:37
Label LateNightTales
Writer(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.[9]

Track listing[edit]

7-inch single[edit]

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Radioactivity"   Norman Cook 3:37
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
2. "Everything Is Everything"   Bootsy Collins 3:43

References[edit]

  1. ^ "No_Nukes_Video". Kraftwerk.com. Retrieved 2016-10-11. 
  2. ^ "Ultratop.be – Kraftwerk – {{{song}}}" (in French). Ultratop 50.
  3. ^ David Buckley (2015-07-13). Kraftwerk: Publikation. Books.google.se. p. 279. Retrieved 2016-10-11. 
  4. ^ "Hit Parade Italia - Indice per Interprete: K". Hitparadeitalia.it. Retrieved 2016-10-11. 
  5. ^ "French single certifications – Kraftwerk – Radioactivity" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique. 
  6. ^ Lähettänyt Timo. "Sisältää hitin: Levyt ja esittäjät Suomen musiikkilistoilla vuodesta 1961: KON - KUL". Suomenlistalevyt.blogspot.se. Retrieved 2016-10-11. 
  7. ^ "Archive Chart: 1991-10-27" UK Singles Chart.
  8. ^ "Kraftwerk – Chart history" Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs for Kraftwerk.
  9. ^ "Fatboy Slim cover of Kraftwerk's 'Radioactivity'". WhoSampled.com. Retrieved 2016-10-11.