“Atomic” is a song by American rock band Blondie from their fourth studio album, Eat to the Beat (1979). Written by Debbie Harry and Jimmy Destri and produced by Mike Chapman, the song was released as the album’s third single.
“Atomic” was composed by Jimmy Destri and Debbie Harry, who (in the book “1000 UK #1 Hits” by Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh) stated, “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 scatting along with them and I would just start going, ‘Ooooooh, your hair is beautiful.'” The word atomic in the song carries no fixed meaning and functions as a signifier of power and futurism. The bridge to, and the break in the melody before “Atomic” is spoken, is heavily influenced by the bridge in the song “I’m on my way” by Dean Parish.
The song was produced as a mixture of new wave, rock and disco which had proven to be so successful in their number-one single from earlier in 1979, “Heart of Glass”. It is written in E natural minor (“Call Me” is written in D natural minor).
The 1980 single version of “Atomic” was a remix. The original 4:35 version as featured on the albums Eat to the Beat and 1981’s The Best of Blondie opens with an intro inspired by the nursery rhyme “Three Blind Mice” and includes an instrumental break with a bass guitar solo. The 7″ version mixed by Mike Chapman omits the “Three Blind Mice” intro and replaces the instrumental break with a repeat of the verse.
The song became the band’s third number one in the UK Singles Chart, where it held the top spot for two weeks. It reached the Top 40 in the US in Spring 1980. In review made after single release, Billboard editors praised the laidback vocal of Debbie Harry and musical woodwork.
The B-side was “Die Young, Stay Pretty”, also from the album Eat to the Beat, a reggae-influenced track, a style the band would perform again in their global chart-topper “The Tide Is High”. The UK 12″ single contained a live cover version of Bowie’s “Heroes” featuring Robert Fripp on guitar recorded at London’s Hammersmith Odeon just a month before. The track was included on 1993’s rarities compilation Blonde and Beyond.
“Atomic” was remixed and re-released in the UK in September 1994 where it peaked at #19 on the UK Top 40 singles chart. The subsequent April 1995 US release reached #1 on the Billboard Dance/Club Play Charts. The 1994 remix was included on the compilations The Platinum Collection, Beautiful – The Remix Album and Remixed Remade Remodeled – The Remix Project. The track was remixed again four years later for the UK compilation Atomic – The Very Best of Blondie and the ’98 Xenomania mix was later included on the first Queer as Folk soundtrack album.
The music video depicts the band performing on stage at what looks like a post-apocalyptic nightclub in which Debbie Harry is wearing a garbage bag as a punkish futuristic costume. The audience at the club are also dressed in suitably futuristic costumes, and footage of a horseman with the “Blondie: in the disco” new year’s concert advertisement. and an atomic explosion are also intercut. Model Gia Carangi (a strong supporter of the band) made a guest appearance in the music video and can be seen in various shots.