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"Enola Gay" is an anti-war song by British synthpop band Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD), released as the only single from their 1980 album, Organisation. Written by frontmanAndy McCluskey, it addresses the atomic bombing of Hiroshima during the final stages of World War II and references Enola Gay and "Little Boy", the Boeing B-29 Superfortress and nuclear weapon used in the bombing, respectively. McCluskey has stated that the song is "not a celebration" of the event, but hopes that it conveys "an ambivalence about whether it was the right or the wrong thing to do."[3] Released as a single, "Enola Gay" was an enormous success, going on to sell more than 5 million copies internationally.[4] The song was a sleeper hit in the UK: it entered the UK Singles Chart at number 35,[5] but proved popular with audiences and 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.[6] It topped the charts in France, Italy and Portugal.[7]

Recognisable by its distinctive lead synthesizer hook[8] and ambiguous lyrics,[3] "Enola Gay" has come to be regarded as one of the greatest pop songs of the 1980s. Critic Ned Raggett inAllmusic retrospectively described the track as "astounding...a flat-out pop classic – clever, heartfelt, thrilling, and confident, not to mention catchy and arranged brilliantly."[9] It featured inMusicRadar's "The 40 Greatest Synth Tracks Ever" in 2009, who noted that the song "includes some of the biggest synth hooks of all time."[10] In 2012, NME listed the track among the "100 Best Songs of the 1980s" and wrote that it "married Andy McClusky's brilliantly quizzical vocal and placed OMD's unstoppable mesh of synths and programmed beats front and centre to create a pop classic."[11] The song was selected by the BBC for use during the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.[12]

The song's title is frequently misprinted on the internet as "Enola Gaye".

Arrangement[edit source | editbeta][]

In a 2012 interview, the band mentioned that most of the melodic parts were recorded on a Korg Micro-Preset, and that the drum machine sound was "about the last thing to go on" the recording.[14] The song is based on the 50s progression, which repeats throughout the entire song.

Title[edit source | editbeta][]

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 ofHiroshima on 6 August 1945, killing more than 100,000 of its citizens. The name of the bomber itself was chosen by its commanding pilot, (then) Col Paul Tibbets who named it after his mother, Enola Gay Tibbets (1893–1983), who herself had been named for the heroine of the novel Enola; or, Her fatal mistake.[N 1] The name "Enola" is the word "alone" spelled backward.

Lyrics[edit source | editbeta][]

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").[16]

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 precise time of detonation over Hiroshima at 8:15am JST; as many timepieces were 'frozen' at this exact moment by the effects of the blast, it becomes 'the time that it's always been'.

The song was also released during a major controversy surrounding then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's decision to allow US nuclear missiles to be stationed in Britain.[17]

Music video[edit source | editbeta][]

The music video begins by showing sped-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.

Track listing[edit source | editbeta][]

1980 original release[edit source | editbeta][]

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Enola Gay"   3:33
Side two
No. Title Length
1. "Annex"   4:33

The 12" single contained the same tracks as on the 7".

2003 remix 12"[edit source | editbeta][]

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Enola Gay (Dancefloor Killa Remix)"   9:02
Side two
No. Title Length
1. "Enola Gay (Dub Remix)"   6:57
2. "Enola Gay (Radio Edit)"   3:05

Charts and certifications[edit source | editbeta][]

Chart positions[edit source | editbeta][]

Chart (1980-1981) Peak


Australia (Kent Music Report)[18] 47
France (SNEP)[7] 1
Ireland (IRMA)[19] 14
Italy (FIMI)[20] 1
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[21] 31
Portuguese Singles Chart[7] 1
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[22] 2
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[23] 8
US BillboardHot Dance Club Play[24] 34

Certifications[edit source | editbeta][]

Chart Certifications

(sales thresholds)

UK (Official Charts Company)[25] BPI: Silver
Preceded by

"Amoureux solitaires" by Lio


Italian Singles Chart number-one single

4 July 1981 – 8 August 1981 [20][27][28][29][30][31]

Succeeded by

"(Out Here) On My Own" by Nikka Costa


Alternate versions[edit source | editbeta][]

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.[33] The Guetta and Garraud remixes were released on a limited 12" to promote the compilation album.[34]

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.[35]

Cover versions[edit source | editbeta][]

Spanish pop-rock group Los Petersellers included in their second LP Contra la amenaza del Dr. Thedio (1997) a cover (many of their songs are covers) with the music of "Enola Gay" and self-penned Spanish lyrics, with the title "Manolo es Gay" (Manolo Is Gay). Serbian punk rock band KBO! recorded a version on their 2001 cover album (Ne) Menjajte Stanicu ((Do Not) Change The Station).[36] Also in 2001, the indie synthpop band The Faint covered the song onMessages: Modern Synthpop Artists Cover Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.[37]

The song was covered several times in 2007. Swedish artist Sommarkillen made a cover of the song called "Sommartjej" with new Swedish lyrics; the Danish electropop trio, Oliver North Boy Choir (formerly called Pierre) also recorded it. This track was posted on many MP3 blogs. In June 2007, José Galisteo released his cover of it on his debut album, Remember.[38] German techno group Scooter also covered the song on their 2007 album Jumping All Over the World.[39] There was also a 2007 dance version (with multiple remixes) of the single recorded by a French band Digital Air.

Home Computer Influence[edit source | editbeta][]

The song is popular with early home computer enthusiasts being used in popular computer demos such as Swinth (Commodore 64).[40] Another 8-Bit rendition of the tune can be found here. Hackers also enjoy Enola Gay; it can be found as the "music bed" for numerous mega-demos and "cracktro" found on pirated software by groups like The Beastie Boys).[41]

16-Bit computers brought with them the popular music tracker format where no fewer than a dozen versions exist.[42]

Mash ups[edit source | editbeta][]

In 2010, pop diva Katy Perry's hit song Teenage Dream was "mashed up" with Enola Gay by the group DJs From Mars under the title Teenage Gay.[43]

Waltz with Bashir[edit source | editbeta][]

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 theMax Richter soundtrack of the film.