Sun Ra: Nuclear War


Nuclear War


Sun Ra (keyboards, vocals)


Nuclear War (Atavistic Unheard Music Series UMS/ALP222CD)

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Sun Ra (keyboards, vocals), Samarai Celestial (drums),

June Tyson (vocals), Tyrone Hill (vocals)


Recorded: New York, September 1982


Rating: 80/100 (learn more)

Did Sun Ra really think he could get this song played on the radio? The same two bars and two chords repeated over and over for nearly eight minutes? Ra and his backup singers reciting FCC-unfriendly lyrics that contain a 12-word noun commonly heard in the R-rated films of Quentin Tarantino? The record is credited to the whole Arkestra, but only Sun Ra’s unadorned keyboard playing and Samarai Celestial’s slow-groove, disco-flavored drumming can be detected on this tune. The story goes that Sun Ra was dismayed that Columbia Records declined to issue the single. Yes, OK, “Nuclear War” is a tongue-in- cheek novelty record for grownups, but it’s also oddly infectious music. Hey, Yo La Tengo thought so. The indie-rock band recorded a long EP featuring four completely different versions of the song that are also worth checking out.

Reviewer: Steve Greenlee


  • 1 mrG // Jan 09, 2008 at 02:16 AM
    It is worse than that -- not simply Yo La Tengo, but if you do your Google research you'll find this song covered over and over and over and over by young bands in genres from jazz to rap to techno to noise, thereby proving once again that Sun Ra was, what, at least 28 years ahead of his time? Also do keep in mind that like any Force of Nature, Sun Ra never repeated himself, so this version you hear on this disk is unlike the versions he played in the clubs at the time, like the Deadly Fire he unleashed live in Toronto that year, and its my bet that the broadcast network of the club-fans (and tape traders) vastly outweighed anything Columbia could have offered in terms of any 'mass media' distribution of the important message of this song (which was, after all, the whole point) but I still wonder if that Columbia rep today appreciates being in the same class of forward-thinkers as the Decca rep that passed on the Beatles demo ;)