Radioactivity (song)

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Single by Kraftwerk
from the album Radio-Activity
B-side "Antenne" (Germany)
"Antenna" (UK)
Released 1976
Format 7" single
Genre Electronic, krautrock
Length 3:18 (single edit)
6:44 (album version)
Label Kling Klang/EMI 1C 006 82119 (Germany)
Capitol CL15853 (UK)
Writer(s) Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider, Emil Schult
Producer(s) Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider
Kraftwerk singles chronology
"Trans-Europe Express"
A 22-second sample of the original recording of "Radioactivity" featuring the Morse code signal and one iteration of the main theme of the song.

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"Radioactivity" (original German language title: "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 was released as a single in most European territories and the US, and was a number one hit in France.

"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 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"[1] juxtaposed with "Tune in to the melody".

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".[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.

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


Chart (1976) Peak
French SNEP Singles Chart 1
Chart (1991) Peak
UK Singles Chart 43
U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play 21

Fatboy Slim cover[edit]

Single by Fatboy Slim
from the album It's As Working and Late Night Tales: Fatboy Slim
A-side "Radioactivity"
B-side "Everything Is Everything"
Released October 8, 2007
Format 7" Single
Genre Big beat, electro house
Length 3:01
Label Azuli
Writer(s) Kraftwerk
Producer(s) Fatboy Slim and Simon Thornton
Fatboy Slim singles chronology
"Champion Sound"
"Please Don't"

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

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Radioactivity" - Fatboy Slim
  2. "Everything Is Everything" - Bootsy Collins


  1. ^ Not strictly true. Natural radioactivity was discovered by Henri Becquerel (and independently by Silvanus Thompson); induced radioactivity by Irène Joliot-Curie, Madame Curie's daughter. Marie Curie coined the term "radioactivity".
  2. ^