Many movies rely on songs to set the mood, and there are some that are relied upon a lot – what we like to call ‘Soundtrack Staples’. This time around we’re checking out OMD’s poptastic Enola Gay.
You wouldn’t normally expect a perfect synthpop experience to centre around the plane that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, but then Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark never did things by the book. Their name is enough of an indication of that!
Written by the duo’s Andy McCluskey, his core band partner Paul Humphreys didn’t like it much. Regardless, Enola Gay was so irresistible that it became the lead – and only – single to be taken from OMD’s second album, Organisation.
McCluskey has claimed that he was a “geeky kid” into airplanes, and that this led to a fascination with the horrors of war. The lyrics of Enola Gay are in no way celebratory, highlighting the dichotomy of dropping the bomb being an unthinkably horrific thing to do, but that it did end World War II, meaning many more atrocities were possibly avoided. The line “It’s 8:15, and that’s the time that it’s always been” being quite chilling when you realise that, with this being the time the bomb detonated, clocks were frozen with their hands at eight and three.
Enola Gay has gone on to arguably become OMD’s signature tune, instantly recognisable from its drum machine opening and, like many of their best songs, featuring super-catchy, instrumental-only chorus.
Chart-wise, despite having sold over five million copies worldwide, a lack of local support saw Enola Gay only make it to 49 on the Australian charts. It became a guilty pleasure for many Aussies, and introduced them to the many joys of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark to come.
As for featuring in movies, Enola Gay is one of many of the band’s songs to appear on soundtracks, and also the most frequently used – even though If You Leave is usually the first that comes to mind, being written for – and pivotal to – the John Hughes classic Pretty in Pink.
Here’s the original video for Enola Gay:
Here are film appearances of the original Enola Gay…
Party Party (1983)
A British take on the house party sleaze-comedy genre, at least this one had a top soundtrack, also featuring the likes of Elvis Costello, Bananarama, Altered Images, Modern Romance and Madness.
Waltz with Bashir (2008)
From one war to another… A Golden Globe-winning (Best Foreign Language Film) animated documentary in which director Ari Folman interviews fellow veterans of the 1982 invasion of Lebanon.
OMD shared soundtrack duties with Vanilla Ice in this French film that we’ll let IMDB describe for us: “Ugly geek becomes a hunk thanks to a deodorant.”
The Year I Became a Liar (2009)
This was a French-Canadian autobiographical tale from director Ricardo Trogi, which centres around his family moving to a new neighbourhood back in 1981 – the year of Enola Gay’s release.
Stars 80 (2012)
More French love for Enola Gay, this time in a musical comedy about two guys who love the ‘80s, and have the look-a-likes of famed French ‘80s performers to prove it!
Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2013)
Steve Coogan’s Alan Partridge goes big screen in a wild siege flick… with a top soundtrack.
Ex Machina (2014)
Love the movie or think it’s piffle, it’s pretty obvious that Enola Gay featuring on the soundtrack early in Alex Garland’s tale of technological advancement via AI was no accident.
Rock’n Roll (2017)
Let’s finish things off with another French thing, a dramedy starring real-life couple Guillaume Canet and Marion Cotillard playing themselves, with an eclectic soundtrack that saw OMD, Dead or Alive, Franz Ferdinand and Crowded House bumping up against the likes of Céline Dion and Demis Roussos. Oh yeah, LANGUAGE WARNING for this one.