Giorgio Morodor meets surf instrumental in this epic hit. For once in Blondie’s career the song is almost non-existent – it’s all about Clem Burke’s hissing hi-hat, Nigel Harrison’s burbling bass breakdown, the thrill of the signature guitar lick, and Blondie’s transformation from post-modern classicists to video-led fusion futurists.
(The 500 Greatest Singles since Punk and Disco – Gary Mulholland (2002)
Atomic is an absolute blinder of a single, but it’s worth remembering that it was the third and final 45 to be lifted from Eat To The Beat, the album released in September 1979 to a general reception of ‘it’s OK, but it’s not in the class of Plastic Letters’.
Rather unusually, the third single outperformed the previous two – Dreaming had reached #2 while Union City Blue had stalled at #13. Atomic entered the charts at #3 at the end of February 1980, before spending two weeks at the top, giving Blondie their third, in what eventually would prove to be six, #1 hits.
In an era when the fashion was to seek sales by extending the music on the 12″ from what was already available on the album, producer Mike Chapman chose to cut the best part of a minute by removing what has been described as the ‘three blind mice’ intro along with a later bass solo:-
This version was also the one put onto the 7″, with the b-sides being another track lifted from Eat To The Beat
A reggae-influenced number, the positive reaction from fans to the songs was a big influence on the band deciding to cover The Tide Is High in a similar style when they next went back into the studio and to have it as the lead-off single for the next album, Autoamerican.
The bonus on the 12″ was a live track that had been recorded at the band’s gig at the Hammersmith Odeon in London on 12 January 1980, the second-last night of what had been a triumphant 16-night tour of the UK that had begun on 26 December 1979 and included a show on New Year’s Eve at the Glasgow Apollo that was broadcast live simultaneously on the telly via BBC 2 and on the transistor via BBC Radio 1. Your humble scribe was in the audience….
I reckon the recording of the track included on Atomic was played as a one-off in London:-
Yup, a cover of the Bowie classic, made a bit more special for all concerned by the fact that Robert Fripp, who had contributed to the original recording, came on stage to play lead guitar.