The UK Number Ones Blog Favorite Single: Atomic (Blondie) 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 wood work.”
‘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
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.
Hans 2021 Song Draft: Round Two-Pick Two-Cathy’s Clown-Everly Brothers (1960)
Hanspostcard has a song draft challenge. This is my Round Two pick.
I grew up around lots of music. My dad had his tastes, my mom had hers and I got some exposure to my grandparents music, too. There was plenty of Elvis, Buddy Holly, Everly Brothers, Ricky Nelson, Gene Pitney, Chuck Berry, Johnny Cash, Johnny Horton, The Ventures, The Beach Boys, instrumental music (think Hugo Montenegro or Paul Mauriat), funny stuff like Ben Colder/Sheb Wooley, Ray Stevens or David Seville (my dad’s stuff), The Four Seasons, Motown, soul music, beach music (my mom’s stuff), big band music (my paternal grandparents) and, bluegrass, country and Latin/jazz (maternal grandparents). One song, in particular, that reminds me of my dad the most is Cathy’s Clown. When I was a kid, my dad liked to just get in the car, drive around and listen to the radio. It was, literally, No Particular Place To Go. When I became an adult, we’d still get in the car and cruise. He and I would sing Cathy’s Clown, together, with me taking Phil’s harmony. I still own my dad’s original 45. ~Vic
Written by Don, it was recorded in March and released in April 1960. It was recorded live, in a single take, with both brothers sharing a microphone. Floyd Cramer was on piano, Floyd Chance on bass and Buddy Harman on drums. An odd song, it has a chorus and bridges but, no verses. It was their first single for Warner Bros. It spent five weeks at #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, one week on the Billboard’s R&B chart and seven weeks at #1 on UK’s Singles chart. It was their biggest selling single and their last #1 after Wake Up Little Susie and All I Have to Do Is Dream.
The song is ranked at #150 Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and it was added to the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress in 2013. Covers have been done by Reba McEntire and Neil Sedaka (1983) with McEntire’s version reaching #1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart and Canada’s RPM Country Tracks chart in 1989. There is even a Jan and Dean version on Filet Of Soul Redux: The Rejected Master Recordings (2017).
“We owe those guys everything. They started it all.” ~Bob Dylan
Additional Reading & References:
The Everly Brothers: That Sibling Sound (BBC News/2014)
Cathy’s Clown ~ The Everly Brothers (Library of Congress/PDF)
Recording Cathy’s Clown (Steve Hoffman Music Forum)
Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show 1960
30-Day Song Challenge: Day 17
A song you’d sing a duet with someone on karaoke…
With a woman, this one (these two are SO badass).
With a guy, this one.
Just for the sake of the beautiful harmony (male or female), this one.