Nuclear War

The following is from Jacob Dillon’s class presentation:

Nuclear War, by the Sun Ra Arkestra and Neutron Bomb Shuffle, by Tom Varner

“I have many names; some call me Mr. Ra, others call me Mr. Re.  You can call me Mr. Mystery.” – Sun Ra

  • Born May 22th, 1914, died May 30th, 1993
  • Pianist and bandleader for The Arkestra
    • Known as Sun Ra Arkestra after Sun Ra’s death
  • Known for his avant-garde and experimental compositions and his personality
    • Claimed he was born on Saturn

Nuclear War

    • Released 1982
    • Considered one of the rarest albums by Sun Ra
    • Tracks:
      • Nuclear War
      • Retrospect
      • Drop Me Off In Harlem
      • Sometimes I’m Happy
      • Celestial Love
      • Blue Intensity
      • Nameless One No. 2
      • Smile


  • Alto Sax, Flute – Marshall Allen
  • Baritone Sax, Flute – Danny Ray Thompson
  • Bass – Hayes Burnett
  • Bassoon – James Jacson
  • Congas – Atakatune
  • Drums – Samarai Celestial
  • French Horn – Vincent Chancey
  • Piano – Sun Ra

A Smooth Soundtrack To The Apocalypse


Nuclear War (Title Track)

  • Considered one of Sun Ra’s more accessible songs (save the vulgarity)
  • Call and response between Ra and the band
  • Comedic vocals help to soften subject matter

Nuclear War
They talkin’ about
Nuclear War
It’s a motherfucker
Don’t you know
If they push the button
Your ass gotta go
Gonna blast you
So high in the sky
You can kiss yo’ ass goodbye


  • After the fallout of Nuclear War
  • Droning, creeping horns all throughout song
  • Saxophone and trumpet solos speckled
    • Some solos are calmer than others, giving a contemplative feeling

Drop Me Off In Harlem

  • Cover of Duke Ellington song of the same name
  • More relaxed, casual tune than other songs on the album
  • Trumpet is main voice (in place of lyrics on other versions)

Drop me off in Harlem
Any place in Harlem
There’s someone waiting there
Who makes it seem like
Heaven up in Harlem
I don’t want your Dixie
You can keep your Dixie
There’s no one down in Dixie who can take me
‘Way from my hot Harlem

Neutron Bomb Shuffle

by Tom Varner

  • 4th song on Motion / Stillness (1982)
  • “The skeletons and cockroaches dancing in a chorus line after the bomb hits”
  • Winding horn with backing saxophone
  • Credits:
    • French Horn – Tom Varner
    • Alto Sax – Ed Jackson
    • Bass – Fred Hopkins
    • Drums – Billy Hart

PowerPoint Presentation:

Nuclear War – Sun Ra

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