Conelrad’s fascinating cold war culture jukebox, Atomic Platters, offers lyrics and historical context spanning several decades of popular atomic-themed music. Many of the songs unsurprisingly convey a sense of unprecedented, un-romanticized astonishment and awe. Consider the following gem:
Jesus is God’s atomic bomb
Proudest papa that ever was
Jesus is God’s, His atomic bomb
Shook the grave, causing death to rise
Yes, God shook the grave, child
Put old death on a rock
Through trials and tribulation
Lord when it was done
That’s why I know Jesus
Yes, is my God, His atomic bomb
Yikes! Did anyone actually sing this in church?
Other songs depict now-forgotten aspects of the nuclear revolution like uranium prospecting, or the tension of US-Soviet relations. And, like all else in pop music, the atom bomb is a sexual metaphor: Sheldon Allman’s “Radioactive Mama” promises “we’ll reach critical mass tonight”; the Five Stars’ Atom Bomb Baby is “just the way I want her to be / A million times hotter than TNT.”
In most of these songs, tongue-in-cheek or not, the nuclear imagery feels a little naive or dated. Decades later, Fluke’s 1996 single “Atom Bomb” (one of my favorite workout songs) would capture the new, no-longer-unique place of the atom bomb in popular music: the object of affection’s 22-megaton atom bomb is simply one in a long litany of scientific, political, and supernatural weapons including poison gas, submarines, monorails, a president, and a shopping mall.
I’d love to see a sequel to Conelrad’s list representing atomic music through the present day – is there such a list out there? Let me know if so. In the meantime, consider browsing away your Friday afternoon with the Atomic Platters. If only the now-scarce collection of recordings didn’t cost almost as much as uranium!