Number 1s Blog 5th Anniversary Special – Readers’ Favourite #1s – ‘Atomic’

I hope you’ve enjoyed our week of guest writers. I’ll try not to wait another five years before inviting everyone back! Last up, we’re scooting forward to the early 1980s, and a new-wave classic. Of the four featured #1s this week, this is probably my personal favourite. But this isn’t about me! Vic, AKA the Hinoeuma, has been a long time follower and commentor of this blog, and she’s wrapping up our 5th Anniversary in style…

Discogs Blondie Atomic Image One
Image Credit: Discogs

‘Atomic’, by Blondie – #1 for 2 weeks in 1980

Stewart at UK#1s Blog asked his followers which UK #1 song was their favorite. There were so many to choose from but, I am a kid/young teen of the late 70s, early 80s and this was a no-brainer for me. This is, hands down, my favorite Blondie song. Just as a side note, my second choice was Cathy’s Clown by The Everly Brothers.

Released on February 23, 1980, Atomic was the ninth track on side two of the album Eat to the Beat, Blondie’s fourth album, produced by Mike Chapman. Written by Debbie Harry and Jimmy Destri, it was the third single released and the band’s third #1 in the UK Singles Chart. A rock, disco and new wave fusion, Atomic is described as “a cool, electronic enhanced dance number (PDF). Debbie Harry’s laidback vocals blend into the musical woodwork.”

Atomic‘, which featured King Crimson‘s Robert Fripp on guitar and Ellie Greenwich on backing vocals, was lyrically meaningless and was described in Record Mirror as ‘vapid and irritating…the best thing about this single is the live [cover] version of David Bowie‘s ‘Heroes‘ on the B-side (12″ UK single).’ “Jimmy Destri wrote this song…” Debbie claimed. “He was trying to do something like ‘Heart of Glass‘ and, then, somehow or another, we gave it the spaghetti western treatment. Before that, it was just lying there like a lox. The lyrics, well, a lot of the time, I would write while the band were just playing the song and trying to figure it out. I would just be kind of scatting along with them and I would start going ‘Oooooooh, your hair is beautiful‘.”

1000 UK #1 Hits
Jon Kutner & Spencer Leigh
May 26, 2010
Page 452

Atomic didn’t do as well in the US. It only made it to #39 on Billboard’s Hot 100, debuting on May 17, 1980 and peaking on July 5, 1980. It may be ‘lyrically meaningless’ but, it is certainly not vapid and irritating. It has a great beat and an energy that is hard to deny. Debbie’s vocals do, indeed, blend well with the ‘musical wood work.’ The single Call Me from American Gigolo had an instrumental version on the B-side and Debbie did some vocal blending with that, too.

The late Gia Carangi was dancing in the video.


13 thoughts on “Number 1s Blog 5th Anniversary Special – Readers’ Favourite #1s – ‘Atomic’

  1. I love Blondie. I just wish they would have continued through the 80s… this is one blonde I would support lol. They had the best drummer in the business…Debbie is basically wearing a garbage bag in this video and makes it look good.
    They had a short window but they made the best out of it. I don’t know why this didn’t chart higher on Billboard. Great song great band…great post and pick Vic!

  2. I always liked this too, but felt the record company did the band a disservice in editing it for the 7″ version – luckily this video gives us that interesting little curveball where the drums and bass carry on as the main instruments. The intro was a masterstroke with that dance-style drumming and the ‘Born to Run’-ish guitar lick. Great write-up.

      • Of course – I’d forgotten the Three Blind Mice intro. I know it was done so often in the interests of getting more airplay and therefore bigger hits, but I find it mildly irritating when a single comes along that I really like, and then find that the record company have edited it, removed interesting intros, faded it early and so on. There are numerous examples where, when I’ve heard the edit and later on the full album version in all its unbutchered glory (‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ at the top of the list), I never want to hear the 45 again. ‘Hey Jude’, ‘Hot Love’ and years later ‘I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)’ are good cases in point where a song that seemed to stretch out and almost go on for ever could still get to No. 1.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s