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, 1980|
|Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark singles chronology|
"Enola Gay" is an anti-war song by the British synthpop group Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD), and the only single from the band's 1980 album, Organisation. Along with 1986's "If You Leave", it has been described as the band's signature song.
Written by frontman Andy McCluskey, it addresses the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945, during the final stages of World War II, and directly mentions three components of the attack: the Boeing B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay, which dropped the nuclear weapon Little Boy on Hiroshima at "8.15". The single was an international success, selling more than 5 million copies and topping the charts in Italy and in Spain. It was a sleeper hit in OMD's native UK: the track entered the UK Singles Chart at number 35, but climbed 27 places over the next 3 weeks to reach a peak of number 8, thus becoming the group's first Top 10 hit in their home country.
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 lyrics to the song reflect on the decision to use the bomb and ask 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, as well as the fact that pilot Paul Tibbets named 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 8.15am 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 the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's decision to allow US nuclear missiles to be stationed in Britain.
Reception and legacyEdit
"Enola Gay" met with enthusiastic reviews on release; Lynden Barber in Melody Maker called it "the perfect follow-up to 'Messages'." It was, however, misperceived by some as a homosexual love song. As such, the track was banned from being played on popular BBC1 children's programme Swap Shop.
"Enola Gay" has nevertheless come to be regarded as one of the great pop songs. Critic Ned Raggett in AllMusic lauded the track as "astounding... a flat-out pop classic – clever, heartfelt, thrilling, and confident, not to mention catchy and arranged brilliantly"; colleague Dave Thompson called it a "perfect synth-dance-pop extravaganza." It featured in MusicRadar's "The 40 Greatest Synth Tracks Ever" in 2009, 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".
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 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 releaseEdit
The 12" single contained the same tracks as on the 7".
2003 remix 12"Edit
|1.||"Enola Gay" (Dancefloor Killa Remix)||9:02|
|1.||"Enola Gay" (dub remix)||6:57|
|2.||"Enola Gay" (radio edit)||3:05|
Charts and certificationsEdit
Certifications and salesEdit
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 influenceEdit
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 moviesEdit
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.
- Enola; or, Her fatal mistake(sic) (1886), by Mary Young Ridenbaugh is the only novel of the period to use "Enola".
- 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."
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[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'.
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...a dance song with a great keyboard hook.
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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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