Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark — also known by the acronym OMD — are an English electronic band that released seven albums between 1980 and 1986 on DinDisc and Virgin. Singer–bassist Andy McCluskey and keyboardist–singer Paul Humphreys are the mainstays of the band; joined on successive releases by drummer Malcolm Holmes and saxophonist–keyboardist Martin Cooper.

OMD emerged from the post-punk Liverpool scene with the 1979 Factory single “Electricity,” a pioneering electro-pop number that appears on their 1980 self-titled debut album along with “Messages,” their first UK hit.

OMD conquered Europe and Oceania with the albums Organisation and Architecture and Morality and the hits “Enola Gay,” “Souvenirs,” and “Maid of Orleans,” which made OMD one of the first bands to score mainstream commercial success with an electronic pop sound.

After the experimental 1983 album Dazzle Ships, OMD embraced a dance-friendly sound on the 1984–85 albums Junk Culture and Crush and the singles “Locomotion,” “Tesla Girls,” “Secret,” and “So In Love,” their breakthrough US hit.

In 1986, OMD scored a Billboard Top 5 hit with “If You Leave,” a ballad for the teen dramedy Pretty In Pink. They consolidated their US popularity with The Pacific Age and its hit lead single “(Forever) Live and Die.”

Members: Andy McCluskey (vocals, synthesizer, bass), Paul Humphreys (synthesizer, vocals, 1978-88), David Hughes (keyboards, 1980), Martin Cooper (keyboards, saxophone, 1980-88, 2006-present), Malcolm Holmes (drums, 1980-88), Michael Douglas (keyboards, 1981), Graham Weir (trombone, guitar, 1985-88), Neil Weir (trumpet, bass, 1985-88)


Background

OMD stemmed from the Wirral, Merseyside, five-piece The Id, formed in 1977 by bassist–singer Andy McCluskey, keyboardist Paul Humphreys, and drummer Malcolm Holmes. McCluskey and Humphreys had interacted since 1975 in a sequence of local bands (Equinox, Hitlerz Underpantz). The two were early converts to the electro sounds pioneered by Kraftwerk (Radio-Activity) and Brian Eno (Another Green World).

The Id was active for a year and demoed several songs (“Electricity,” “Julia’s Song,” “The Misunderstanding”) that later appeared on the first OMD album. During this time, McCluskey and Humphreys formed VCL XI, a side-project for their tape-collage experiments (named after a valve titled VCL 11 on the lower-right of the Radio-Activity back cover). After The Id split in mid-1978, McCluskey briefly fronted another new local act, Dalek I Love You. One month later, he reteamed with Humphreys in VCL XI and they changed their name to Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.

OMD sent a demo of “Electricity” to Factory Records co-founder Tony Wilson, who agreed to release it as a limited-run single on his fledgling label.


“Electricity”

On May 21, 1979, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark released their debut single “Electricity” backed with “Almost” on Factory.

A. “Electricity” (3:45) Co-produce by OMD and manager Paul Collister under the alias Chester Valentino.

B. “Almost” (3:48) Produced by Manchester soundman Martin Hannett (John Cooper Clark, Joy Division) under the alias Martin Zero. Engineered by John Brierley (Tractor) and mixed by John Brierley (Barclay James Harvest, Mandalaband).

OMD recorded recorded the single at Brierley’s Cargo Studios in Rochdale, Greater Manchester. Brierley mixed the single at Strawberry Studios, a 16-track facility in Stockport long cultivated by 10cc. OMD found Hannett’s production lackluster and re-recorded both songs with their manager at Henry’s Studio in Liverpool. The Factory single uses the Henry’s “Electricity” and the Cargo “Almost.”

“Electricity” is the third Factory vinyl release (FAC 6) after A Factory Sample (FAC-2, a double-7″ with Cabaret Voltaire, Joy Division, Durutti Column, and John Dowie) and the debut single by A Certain Ratio “All Night Party” / “The Thin Boys” (FAC 5). (Catalog numbers FAC 1, FAC 3, and FAC 4 were assigned to event posters.)

OMD played multi-bills with Dowie, Joy Division, and A Certain Ratio in Manchester (May 11: 1979 Russell Club: Factory Records Party) and London (May 17: Acklam Hall). On August 11, OMD headlined over A Certain Ratio at Eric’s Club in Liverpool.

The Factory release of “Electricity” appeared in a thermographic matte off-black sleeve with black-ink letters. Factory pressed 5000 copies of the single, which sold out by the time Virgin Records picked up the single for broader release on the label’s new DinDisc imprint. 

On August 27, OMD played the Leigh Rock and Music Festival; arranged by Zoo Records and Factory at Plank Lane, Leigh, equidistant from the label bases of Liverpool (Zoo) and Manchester (Factory). Leigh Rock featured sets by OMD’s Factory road-mates A Certain Ratio and Joy Division plus fellow label-mates The Distractions X-O-Dus, and Crawling Chaos. Zoo acts included Echo & The Bunnymen, Lori & The Chameleons, and The Teardrop Explodes. Tony Wilson co-organized the event with Zoo founder Bill Drummond. The odd location may explain the poor attendance (300–350 people).>

The re-released “Electricity” appeared on September 28, 1979, on DinDisc in a pitch black sleevewith white letters. This was the second DinDisc release (DIN 2) after “Where’s The Boy For Me?” (DIN 1), the debut single by The Revillos, the follow-through to Scottish punk-popsters The Rezillos.

Based on the single’s popularity on the Manchester–Liverpool underground, DinDisc signed OMD to a seven-album deal. The duo used their advance to set up Gramophone Suite, a Liverpool studio for self-produced OMD recordings.


1980–1981


Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

OMD released their debut album, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, on February 22, 1980, on DinDisc. It features ten originals by Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys, including the singles “Red Frame/White Light” and “Messages,” their breakthrough hit.

Side One contains remixed versions of the 1979 single sides “Electricity” and “Almost,” plus a rearranged version of the ID-era song “Mystereality.” Side Two contains “Julia’s Song,” an ID song with lyrics by McCluskey’s onetime girlfriend Julia Kneale.

For this album, OMD are the duo of singer–bassist McCluskey and keyboardist–singer Humphreys, who both handle synthesizers and programmed percussion. Select tracks feature appearances by ID drummer Malcolm Holmes (percussion on “Julia’s Song”) and saxist–keyboardist Martin Cooper (saxophone on “Mystereality”). Both musicians completed OMD’s four-piece lineup in concerts, videos, and subsequent studio recordings.

1. “Bunker Soldiers” (2:51)
2. “Almost” (3:40) is a remix of the version that appears on the 1979 Factory–Dindisc single.
3. “Mystereality” (2:42)
4. “Electricity” (3:32) is a remix of the Martin Hannett-produced version that OMD vetoed for the 1979 single.
5. “The Messerschmitt Twins” (5:38)

6. “Messages” (4:06)
7. “Julia’s Song” (4:40)
8. “Red Frame/White Light” (3:10)
9. “Dancing (Instrumental)” (3:00)
10. “Pretending To See The Future” (3:48)

OMD self-produced the album within three weeks in late 1979 under the supervision of their manager, Chester Valentino. “Messages” and “Julia’s Song” feature guitar by one Dave Fairbairn. McCluskey and Humphreys created “Pretending to See the Future” and “The Messerschmitt Twins” late in the sessions.

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark is housed in a die-cut sleeve blue sleeve with grid holes that reveal an orange inner-sleeve. Factory Record graphic designer Peter Saville based the cover on a door conceived by interior designer Ben Kelly.

On February 1, OMD lifted “Red Frame/White Light” as their second single, backed with the non-album track “I Betray My Friends.”

B. “I Betray My Friends” (3:50)

The video for “Red Frame/White Light” is an early clip by Australian film director Russell Mulcahy, who also did 1979–80 videos for The Buggles (“Living in the Plastic Age”), The Human League (“Circus of Death”), and The Stranglers (“Duchess”) and gained subsequent renown for his 1981 work with Classix Nouveaux, Elton John, Icehouse, Kim Carnes, The Tubes, and Ultravox. In the “Red Frame” clip, OMD perform in a dark bulb-lit studio, as seen through fish-eye zoom-ins. McCluskey’s profile appears beside a TV screen tuned to a red phone booth.

“Red Frame/White Light” reached No. 67 on the UK Singles Chart.

On March 31, Dindisc re-released “Electricity” (b/w “Almost”) to capitalize on OMD’s new momentum. This third release of the single dented the UK Singles Chart at No. 99. In the video, OMD perform in a dark warehouse space with flashing fluorescent light columns.

On May 2, OMD lifted “Messages” as their third single, backed with the non-album b-side “Taking Sides Again.” Dindisc also issued the single on 10″ with an extended “Messages” (4:41) and a second exclusive track: the Velvet Underground cover “Waiting for the Man.”

B1. “Waiting for the Man” (2:54) is a song by Lou Reed that first appeared on the 1967 debut VU album The Velvet Underground & Nico.

B2. “Taking Sides Again” (4:19)

In the “Messages” video, OMD perform in a derelict warehouse space, where a suited McCluskey paces the puddled floor with sunroof facial highlights.

“Messages” reached No. 13 on the UK Singles Chart. OMD twice-mimed the song on the May 8 and May 29 broadcasts of the BBC music program Top of the Pops, which placed them in the company of spring hitmakers the Crown Heights Affair (“You Gave Me Love”), Dexys Midnight Runners (“Geno”), Hot Chocolate (“No Doubt About It”), Michael Jackson (“She’s Out of My Life”), Mystic Merlin (“Just Can’t Give You Up”), Roxy Music (“Over You”), The Ruts (“Staring at the Rude Boys”), and Thin Lizzy (“Chinatown”). The Human League made their TotP debut on the 5/8 episode with a cover of the Gary Glitter sports anthem “Rock and Roll.”

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark reached No. 27 on the UK Albums Chart.


Organisation

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark released their second album, Organisation, on October 24, 1980, on DinDisc. It contains four songs co-credited to singer–bassist Andy McCluskey and keyboardist–singer Paul Humphreys: “VCL XI,” “Motion and Heart,” “Stanlow,” and “The Misunderstanding,” a radically rearranged version of the 1978 ID number.

McCluskey lone-wrote three-fifths of Side One: “2nd Thought,” “Statues,” and “Enola Gay,” OMD’s first international hit and Top 10 UK placement. Side Two contains an electro-pop arrangement of the 1966 Chris Montez hit “The More I See You.” Humphreys submits “Promise,” the album’s ethereal penultimate track.

Organisation presents OMD as a trio with drummer Malcolm Holmes as an official third member. This is the first of two OMD albums co-produced by onetime Gong bassist Mike Howlett. McCluskey and Humphreys take shared roles on organ, piano, synthesizers, and rhythm programming.

1. “Enola Gay” (3:33) is named after the USAAF B-29 Superfortress bomber that carried out the August 6, 1945, bombing of Hiroshima that killed more than 100,000 people. The lyrics concern the throughts of its pilot, Colonel Paul Tibbets, who named the bomber after his mother Enola Gay Tibbets (1893–1983), herself named after the 1886 novel Enola; or, Her fatal mistake by American writer Mary Young Ridenbaugh.
2. “2nd Thought” (4:15)
3. “VCL XI” (3:50) is named after the 1978 McCluskey–Humphreys ID side-project that evolved into OMD (itself named after the VCL 11 valve on the back cover of Kraftwerk’s Radio-Activity).
4. “Motion and Heart” (3:16)
5. “Statues” (4:30) partly concerns Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis, who died by suicide weeks before sessions commenced on Organisation.

6. “The Misunderstanding” (4:55) originated as one of three 1978 ID demos (along with “Electricity” and “Julia’s Song”). The Organisation version is a slowed rearrangement of the song (originally the most punk-inspired ID number).
7. “The More I See You” (4:11) is a song by Tin Pan Alley composer Harry Warren and lyricist Mack Gordon; introduced in the 1945 20th Century Fox musical film Diamond Horseshoe starring Betty Grable and singer Dick Haymes. Latin American pop singer Chris Montez cut a 1966 Billboard hit version that inspired late-sixties covers by Nancy Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald.
8. “Promise” (4:51) marks composer Humphrey’s first lead vocal.
9. “Stanlow” (6:30) concerns the workplace of McCluskey’s father and sister: the Stanlow Refinery in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire.

Sessions took place in June–July 1980 at four studios. McCluskey and Humphreys recorded the backing tracks at their self-constructed Gramophone Suite in Liverpool. They added vocals and overdubs at Rusper’s Ridge Farm with co-producer Mike Howlett, a bassist on the 1974–75 Gong albums You and Shamal who entered production on the 1977-78 Penetration titles “Don’t Dictate” and Moving Targets. Howlett’s 1979–80 production credits include albums by Fischer-Z (Word Salad), Punishment of Luxury, Martha & The Muffins, and ex-Kush singer Duffo. Additional work on Organisation occurred at Advison Studios, London, and The Manor, a converted mansion facility in Shipton-on-Cherwell owned by Virgin co-founder Richard Branson.

Ongoing OMD graphic illustrator Peter Saville designed the Organisation cover: a gray-surround layout with inclement mountain-valley imagery (front) and a shadowy monochrome duo pic (back) by Virgin in-house photographer Trevor Key. The first 10,000 copies contained a bonus 7″ of the three 1978 ID demos.

On September 26, 1980, OMD lifted “Enola Gay” as their fourth single, backed with the non-album “Annex.” This was the only single lifted from Organisation.

B. “Annex” (4:33)

In the “Enola Gay” video, Humphreys and Holmes perform as rotoscoped outlines while McCluskey (gray vest and tie) appears in the flesh with a gray Fender bass against a high-speed cloudy green screen.

“Enola Gay” reached No. 1 in Spain, Portugal, and Italy, where OMD mimed it on the Canale 5 music program Popcorn. It peaked at No. 2 in Switzerland, No. 6 in France, and No. 8 on the UK Singles Chart.

OMD mimed “Enola Gay” on the October 9 broadcast of TotP, which aired the song six times amid autumn hits by Adam & The Ants (“Dog Eat Dog”), Bad Manners (“Special Brew”), Blondie (“The Tide Is High”), David Bowie (“Fashion”), Diana Ross (“My Old Piano”), Madness (“Baggy Trousers”), Motorhead (“Ace of Spades”), Odyssey (“If You’re Looking for a Way Out”), The Specials (“International Jet Set”), Status Quo (“What You’re Proposing”), Stevie Wonder (“Masterblaster”), and UB40 (“The Earth Dies Screaming”). In the OMD segment, McCluskey (same outfit as the video) sways side-to-side at the mic while the band mimes against a curvlinear backdrop.

Organisation reached No. 6 on the UK Albums Chart and went Top 20 in Spain (No. 15) and New Zealand (No. 18).


Architecture & Morality

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark released their third album, Architecture & Morality, on November 6, 1981, on DinDisc. It contains five co-writes by singer–bassist Andy McCluskey and keyboardist–singer Paul Humphreys, including the layered, upbeat “Georgia” and the lucid epic “Sealand.”

McCluskey submitted the fractious album-opener “The New Stone Age” and two successive singles on the same historical subject: “Joan of Arc” and “Joan of Arc (Maid of Orleans)” (the latter re-titled “Maid of Orleans (The Waltz Joan of Arc)” on its single release). Humphreys co-wrote the advance single “Souvenir” with OMD touring saxophonist Martin Cooper, who officially joined as a fourth member. All three singles reached the UK Top 5 and broke OMD across Europe.

Architecture & Morality is the second of two OMD albums with Mike Howlett, who co-produced “Souvenirs.” OMD are a quintet on this release with Cooper, drummer Malcolm Holmes (also synth-bass), and additional keyboardist Michael Douglas (synthesizers, piano, organ).

McCluskey and Humphreys share standard OMD instrumentation (synthesizers, organ, electronic programming) and introduce the Mellotron, an analog string–brass sample-tape keyboard popular in seventies symphonic rock. McCluskey adds guitar and French horn to the mix while Humphreys makes select use of radios and melodica.

1. “The New Stone Age” (3:22)
2. “She’s Leaving” (3:28)
3. “Souvenir” (3:39)
4. “Sealand” (7:47) concerns an oil refinery but takes its name from the Royal Air Force Sealand base in Wirral (with nods to the 1975 Neu! track “Seeland”).

5. “Joan of Arc” (3:48)
6. “Joan of Arc (Maid of Orleans)” (4:12)
7. “Architecture and Morality” (3:43)
8. “Georgia” (3:24) inherited the title of an Architecture outtake that later surfaced as “Gravity Never Failed.”
9. “The Beginning and the End” (3:48)

OMD recorded Architecture & Morality across two months in the spring–summer of 1981 at The Manor; first with Mike Howlett, who co-produced the advance single “Souvenirs” and then handed the project to Manor staffer Richard Manwaring, a veteran seventies soundman (Budgie, Stray, Status Quo, J.A.L.N. Band), who produced 1980–81 titles by Fischer-Z, The Human League, Scars, and ex-Cowboys International frontman Ken Lockie.

Howlett also produced 1981 releases by A Flock of Seagulls, Bruce Woolley, Original Mirrors, and Thompson Twins. (His onetime Gong bandmate Steve Hillage — whose 1975 solo debut Fish Rising features Howlett’s basswork — produced the 1981 paired record set Sons and Fascination / Sister Feelings Call by Simple Minds.)

OMD added the finishing Architecture touches at their Gramophone Suite in Liverpool. Between the completion of “Souvenir” and the final sessions, Cooper stepped over to the Liverpool synthpop combo Godot, whose keyboardist David Hughes plays choral tapes on “Souvenir.”

Manwaring co-engineered Architecture & Morality with Howard Gray, a soundman on 1981–82 titles by ABC (The Lexicon of Love), April Wine (The Nature of the Beast), Judie Tzuke, Kate Bush (The Dreaming), Midnight Oil (10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1), Rip Rig + Panic, Split Enz (Time and Tide), and XTC (English Settlement).

Peter Saville designed the Architecture & Morality cover with Brett Wickens, a lyricist for the Canadian minimal wave combo Ceramic Hello. The cover shows a slanted architectural snapshot in red-lined yellow framework with angled sans serif letters. The Robin Roddey photograph reappears on the inner-sleeve. Saville’s girlfriend Martha Ladly (one of two Martha’s in Martha & The Muffins) suggested the title based on Morality and Architecture, a 1977 book by British architectural historian David Watkin.

The Architecture credits identify OMD’s management as Worldchief Ltd., composed of Susan Pippet and Gordian Troeller, the son of photojournalist Charles Troeller and former manager of Peter Hammill and Van Der Graaf Generator.

“Souvenir” appeared on August 4 (three months ahead of the album) as an advance single, backed with two non-album McCluskey–Humphreys numbers: “Sacred Heart” and a remade version of the Organisation track “Motion and Heart,” recorded at Amazon Studios, Kirkby, as a planned follow-up single to “Enola Gay.” DinDisc also issued the single on 10″ with an extended “Souvenir” (4:16).

B. “Sacred Heart” (3:30)

The “Souvenir” video opens on the zoomed red valves of a Volkswagen Karmann Ghia, driven along Blenheim Palace Park by McCluskey, who passes the Palladian Bridge at Stowe House where an emotive Humphreys looks over the water.

“Souvenir” reached No. 3 on the UK Singles Chart and became OMD’s second No. 1 in Spain and Portugal. The song also went Top 20 in Ireland (No. 9), Belgium (No. 16), and Italy (No. 20).

OMD mimed “Souvenir” on the September 3 broadcast of TotP, which twice aired the song amid late-summer hits by Adam & The Ants (“Prince Charming”), Funkapolitan (As Time Goes By”), Gary Numan (“She’s Got Claws”), Godley & Creme (“Under Your Thumb”), Hi-Gloss (“You’ll Never Know”), John Foxx (“Europe (After the Rain)”), The Pointer Sisters (“Slow Hand”), Soft Cell (“Tainted Love”), The Teardrop Explodes (“Passionate Friend”), and UB40 (“One In Ten”). In the “Souvenir” segment, OMD perform on a foggy lavender-lit stage, where Paul lip syncs and Malcom ‘drums’ while the others (irrespective of the song’s arrangement) ‘play’ standup bass (Andy), saxophone (Martin), xylophone (Michael).

OMD released “Joan of Arc” on October 9 as a second advance single, backed with “The Romance of the Telescope (Unfinished),” a partial session outtake.

B. “The Romance of the Telescope (Unfinished)” (3:24)

“Joan of Arc” reached No. 5 on the UK Singles Chart and No. 13 in Ireland. OMD mimed it on the October 29 broadcast of TotP, which twice aired the song amid autumn hits by Altered Images (“Happy Birthday”), Earth, Wind & Fire (“Let’s Groove”), Foreigner (“Waiting for a Girl Like You”), Haircut One Hundred (“Favourite Shirts”), Hall & Oates (“Private Eyes”), Kool & The Gang (“Steppin’ Out”), Olivia Newton-John (“Physical”), The Police (“Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”), Rod Stewart (“Tonight I’m Yours”), Squeeze (“Labelled With Love”), Ultravox (“The Voice”), and Dave Stewart & Barbara Gaskin (“It’s My Party”).

In the TotP “Joan of Arc” segment, McCluskey wears an up-sleeve leather trench coat with a yellow sweater and burgundy scarf as the band mime in an icy blue-lit setting. TotP also aired a choreographed “Joan of Arc” clip by the program troupe Legs & Co, who dance in slow motion in a stage-castle setting clad in blue Medieval robes and head pieces.

On January 15, 1982, OMD lifted “Joan of Arc (Maid of Orleans)” as the third Architecture single, backed with the non-album McCluskey–Humphreys number “Navigation.” To distinguished this single from “Joan of Arc,” they re-titled the a-side “Maid of Orleans (The Waltz Joan of Arc).” DinDisc also issued a 12″ version with “Of All the Things We’ve Made,” a second exclusive McCluskey–Humphreys original.

B1. “Of All the Things We’ve Made” (3:31)

B2. “Navigation” (3:26)

The “Maid of Orleans” video opens with snow-laden footage of Brimham Rocks and Fountains Abbey, filmed during the 1981–82 cold wave (daily minimum −2.7 °C, one of the coldest winters in UK history). The indoor scenes take place inside the Manor, where Humphreys plays chess with Medieval war figurines and McCluskey reads about Joan of Arc (1412–1431), the patron saint of France who defended Orléans during the Hundred Years’ War. Joan (actress Julia Tobin) appears on horseback and sits across the chess table from Paul, who defeats her in a metaphorical replay of her actual demise. The camera pans to the nearby fireplace: a reference to her execution by burning.

British filmmaker Steve Barron directed the “Maid of Orleans” clip in sequence with 1981–82 videos for songs by Eddie Grant (“Electric Avenue”), Fun Boy Three (“It Ain’t What You Do….”), Heaven 17 (“Let Me Go”), The Human League (“Don’t You Want Me”), Joe Jackson (“Steppin’ Out”), Sheena Easton (“For Your Eyes Only”), Skids (“Iona”), and Simple Minds (“Promised You a Miracle”).

“Maid of Orleans” became OMD’s third straight Top 5 hit in the UK, where it reached No. 4 (one slot higher than “Joan of Arc”). “Maid” also outperformed “Joan” in Ireland (No. 5) and Europe, where it reached No. 1 in Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, and West Germany. It also went Top 10 in Austria (No. 2), Switzerland (No. 4), and New Zealand (No. 7).

Architecture & Morality reached No. 1 in the Netherlands and No. 3 on the Spanish and UK album charts. It peaked at No. 8 in Germany and went Top 20 in Australia (No. 16) and Canada (No. 18). Epic released the album in the US with a rearranged deep-yellow cover (enlarged image, straight text).


1982–1983

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark mimed “Maid of Orleans” on the January 21, 1982, broadcast of TotP, which thrice aired the song amid winter hits by ABC (“Poison Arrow”), Christopher Cross (“Arthur’s Theme”), ELO (“Ticket to the Moon”), George Benson (“Never Give Up On a Good Thing”), Gillan (“Restless”), The Jam (“Town Called Malice”), Jon & Vangelis (“I’ll Find My Way Home”), Meat Loaf (“Dead Ringer For Love”), The Mobiles (“Drowning In Berlin”), Robert Palmer (“Some Guys Have All the Luck”), Soft Cell (“Say Hello Wave Goodbye”), The Stranglers (“Golden Brown”), XTC (“Senses Working Overtime”), and OMD idols Kraftwerk, who charted with a re-release of their 1978 song “Das Model” (aka “The Model”).

Virgin Records — which acquired OMD after the collapse of DinDisc — issued “She’s Leaving” in June 1982 as a fourth Architecture & Morality single in the Benelux market.


Dazzle Ships

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark released their fourth album, Dazzle Ships, on March 4, 1983, on Virgin–Telegraph.

Dazzle Ships features eight numbers by singer–multi-instrumentalist Andy McCluskey and keyboardist–singer Paul Humphreys, including two singles (“Genetic Engineering,” “Telegraph”), two sampled-voice experiments (“ABC Auto-Industry,” “This Is Helena”), and two remixed Architecture & Morality b-sides: “The Romance of the Telescope” (now without the “unfinished” caveat) and “Of All the Things We’ve Made.”

Each side contains a radio-sample miniature (“Radio Prague,” “Time Zones”) and a song from outside the partnership: the Andy-solo ballad  “International” and the excavated pre-OMD track “Radio Waves,” credited to ID vocalist John Floyd.

Dazzle Ships is the first of three albums with an official four-piece OMD lineup of McCluskey, Humphreys, and longtime live members Martin Cooper (keyboards, synthesizers) and Malcolm Holmes (drums, percussion), who both appear on the prior album with a fifth member. However, the hi-tech nature of Dazzle precluded Holmes’ involvement on select tracks.

1. “Radio Prague” (1:18) samples the station identification by the Czechoslovak Radio foreign service.
2. “Genetic Engineering” (3:37)
3. “ABC Auto-Industry” (2:06)
4. “Telegraph” (2:57)
5. “This Is Helena” (1:58)
6. “International” (4:25)

7. “Dazzle Ships (Parts II, III & VII)” (2:21)
8. “The Romance of the Telescope” (3:27)
9. “Silent Running” (3:34)
10. “Radio Waves” (3:45)
11. “Time Zones” (1:49)
12. “Of All the Things We’ve Made” (3:27)

McCluskey and Humphreys began work on Dazzle Ships in mid-1982 in Liverpool at their self-built Gramophone Suite, which they equipped with a E-mu Emulator, a just-released digital sampling synthesizer introduced on 1982 recordings by Michael Jackson (Thriller), The Residents (The Tunes of Two Cities), and Vangelis (Bladerunner OST). Sessions occurred piecemeal and continued that fall at the White House, a Chertsey studio owned by Phil Manzanera.

OMD co-produced Dazzle Ships with Rhett Davies, a longtime Manzanera soundman who also produced 1982–83 albums by Industry, King Crimson (Beat), Roxy Music (Avalon), and Wang Chung (Huang Chung). Davies co-engineered Dazzle with Ian Little and Keith Richard Nixon, also credited on concurrent titles by Endgames (Building Beauty), Gil Scott-Heron, Johnny Warman, Simple Minds (New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)), and UK Players. The final mix-down took place at The Manor with Brian Tench.

Dazzle Ships is housed in a die-cut gatefold sleeve designed by Peter Saville Associates. The geometric cover scheme (black, white, gray, green, orange) has four holes that cut to a computerized world map on the inner-gate, which has twelve wave-pattern dots that cut to the inner sleeve: a yellow concave pentagon with pink space (inverted on the flipside). The album’s title comes from Dazzle-ships in Drydock at Liverpool, a 1919 vorticist painting by English artist Edward Wadsworth (1889–1949).

OMD released “Genetic Engineering” on February 1 as an advance single backed with the non-album “4-NEU.”

B. “4-NEU” (3:33)

The “Genetic Engineering” video opens with McCluskey and Humphreys in a work loft where Paul reads and Andy struggles with writer’s block. They cut to a nearby room where a formally attired boy and girl play cards. As the men leave the building, the kids invade their workspace and play with ransom text. Outside, Andy and Paul trade briefcases with two underworld figures. They return to the loft, where the kids quarrel over a book on genetics. The kids inspect the briefcase and find it stuffed with wads of cash. They take it back down to the underworld figures as Andy and Paul look on. The final seconds return to the writer’s block intro, suggesting it was all a bad story idea.

“Genetic Engineering” reached No. 5 in Spain and No. 11 in Ireland. It peaked at No. 18 in Belgium and No. 20 on the West German and UK singles charts. In the US, the song climbed to No. 32 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart.

On April 1, OMD lifted “Telegraph” as the second single, backed with the non-album McCluskey–Humphreys song “66 and Fading.” Virgin issued the single on 12″ with an extended version of “Telegraph” (5:53).

B. “66 and Fading” (6:31)

In the “Telegraph” video, Humphreys mans a call center while McCluskey mimes against assorted backdrops (clouds, space, Saville’s die-cut); intercut with scenes of a choreographed dance trio in assorted guises (GI girls, scooter pinups, Independence Day cheerleaders).

Dazzle Ships reached No. 5 on the UK Albums Chart and No. 7 in Spain. It peaked at No. 10 in New Zealand, No. 11 in Germany, and No. 19 in the Netherlands.


1984–1985


Junk Culture

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark released their fifth album, Junk Culture, on April 30, 1984, on Virgin.

Junk Culture features nine co-compositions by singer–multi-instrumentalist Andy McCluskey and keyboardist–singer Paul Humphreys, including the singles “Junk Culture,” “Tesla Girls,” and “Never Turn Away” — all contained on Side One with the McCluskey lone-write “Apollo” and the advance single “Locomotion,” co-credited to the pair and OMD manager Gordian Troeller.

Junk Culture is the second OMD album recorded as a quartet with drummer Malcolm Holmes and multi-instrumentalist Martin Cooper. The album makes heavy use of the E-mu Emulator, the digital sampling synthesizer first used on Dazzle Ships. McCluskey and Humphreys co-handle the E-mu with Cooper, who helped them write the closing numbers “White Trash” and “Talking Loud and Clear.”

1. “Junk Culture” (4:06)
2. “Tesla Girls” (3:51) Paul’s wife Maureen provides the female voice.
3. “Locomotion” (3:53)
4. “Apollo” (3:39)
5. “Never Turn Away” (3:57)

6. “Love and Violence” (4:40)
7. “Hard Day” (5:59)
8. “All Wrapped Up” (4:25)
9. “White Trash” (4:35)
10. “Talking Loud and Clear” (4:20)

McCluskey and Humphreys started work on Junk Culture in August 1983 at Highland Studios in Inverness, Scotland. They previewed new songs on a September club tour with newcomer Howard Jones and teamed with soundman Brian Tench, who mixed the prior two albums.

Tench produced the new sessions in Lincolnshire (Chapel Studios) and London (Mayfair Studios). Work then moved to the second AIR Studios on Montserrat in the Lesser Antilles, where the duo made use of AIR’s newly installed Fairlight CMI sampler keyboard. After two months, sessions moved to Brussels’ ICP Studios.

OMD finished Junk Culture at Wisseloord Studios in Hilversum, Netherlands, where Bowie soundman Tony Visconti arranged brass on “Locomotion” and “All Wrapped Up,” played by three veteran Dutch sessionists: trumpeter Jan Faas, trombonist Bart van Lier (of the Peter Herbolzheimer Rhythm Combination & Brass), and tenor saxophonist Jan Vennik (ex-Spin). Band manager Troeller plays piano on “Locomotion” and Roland Jupiter-8 on “White Trash.”

Peter Saville Associates (PSA) designed the Junk Culture sleeve, which features luminous flowers afloat on a black background with white serif type. Initial copies included a bonus one-sided 7″ with an eleventh track:

11. “(The Angels Keep Turning) The Wheels of the Universe” (4:54)

On April 2, 1984, OMD released “Locomotion” as an advance single backed with the exclusive “Her Body in My Soul.” The 12″ contains an extended “Locomotion” (5:22) and a third track: “The Avenue.”

B1. “Her Body in My Soul” (4:44)

B2. “The Avenue” (4:14)

“Locomotion” reached No. 4 in Belgium and Ireland and peaked at No 5 on the Dutch and UK singles charts. The video finds OMD in an early 1920s setting where Andy and Paul travel by train and later ship with assorted revelries. The whole time, a shady man-suited woman trails Andy with a light-emitting briefcase that wields certain power on the passengers.

OMD lifted “Talking Loud and Clear” on June 4 as the second single, backed with a reworked version of their 1980 song “Julia’s Song.” The 12″ contains extended versions of “Talking Loud and Clear” (8:50) and “Julia’s Song” (8:33).

B. “Julia’s Song” (4:17)

“Talking Loud and Clear” reached No. 5 in Netherlands and No. 6 in Belgium. The single peaked at No. 9 in Ireland and No. 11 in the UK. In the “Talking Loud and Clear” video, Andy and Paul play dual roles as scarecrows that animate whenever people are away; and carefree blokes on a nearby picnic double-date with their girlfriends. Later, in the snowy wintertime, Andy returns to the scene with a different girlfriend.

“Tesla Girls” became the third Junk Culture single on August 28, backed with a live version of the Dazzle single “Telegraph.” The 12″ contains an extended “Tesla Girls” (4:35) and the non-album b-side “Garden City.”

B. “Garden City” (4:05)

“Tesla Girls” reached No. 8 in the Netherlands and peaked at No. 21 in the UK and Ireland. The video features models with wind-blown long hair who pretty themselves for a dancing gig in an OMD video shoot.

On October 29, 1984, “Never Turn Away” became the fourth and final Junk Culture single. The b-side, “Wrappup,” is a dub version of the album track “All Wrapped Up.” The 12″ features an extended “Never Turn Away” (6:31) and a third track: a live version of the VU cover “Waiting for the Man,” an early OMD staple.

“Never Turn Away” is the second OMD a-side after “Souvenir” with Humphreys on lead vocals. In the video, Paul reflects on a lost love and their final moments at a villa draped in red. The drapery forms a path across the water where she rendezvous with her new love, Andy.

Junk Culture reached No. 9 on the UK Albums Chart and No. 12 on the Dutch Top 100 Albums chart.


Crush

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark released their sixth album, Crush, on June 17, 1985, on Virgin. It features ten originals by singer–multi-instrumentalist Andy McCluskey and keyboardist–singer Paul Humphreys, including the singles “So In Love,” “La Femme Accident,” and “Secret.”

Crush is the third and final OMD album with the quartet lineup confined to McCluskey, Humphreys, drummer–percussionist Malcolm Holmes, and saxist–keyboardist Martin Cooper. This is their first of two albums with American producer Stephen Hague, who made writing contributions to “So in Love,” the band’s US breakthrough hit. Paul’s wife Maureen sings the distinct vocal hook on “Secret,” the album’s second most-recognized song.

1. “So in Love” (3:29)
2. “Secret” (3:56)
3. “Bloc Bloc Bloc” (3:28)
4. “Women III” (4:26)
5. “Crush” (4:27)

6. “88 Seconds in Greensboro” (4:15)
7. “The Native Daughters of the Golden West” (3:58)
8. “La Femme Accident” (2:50)
9. “Hold You” (4:00)
10. “The Lights Are Going Out” (3:57)

McCluskey and Humphreys commenced work on Crush in the winter of 1984–85 at Liverpool’s Amazon Studios, where they averaged a new song every 48 hours. Holmes and Cooper played a more active role in the two-month sessions, which emphasized standard instrumentation in emulation of OMD’s live sound.

Sessions moved in the spring of 1985 to The Manor, where OMD worked nineteen-hour days with producer Stephen Hague, who polished the sound and added guitar and keyboards on select passages.

Hague hailed from Jules & The Polar Bears and entered production with 1981–82 titles by the new wave duos Slow Children and Gleaming Spires (aka Bates Motel), the latter composed of Sparks backing musicians. He recently worked with ex-rock manager Malcolm McLaren (Sex Pistols, Bow Wow Wow) on the 1984 dance single “Madam Butterfly (Un Bel Di Vedremo).” Hague produced Crush in sequence with the 1985 Elektra release Change No Change, the debut solo album by Cars lead guitarist Elliot Easton.

Veteran Manor soundman Alan Douglas co-engineered Crush with Pete Coleman; both involved in recent recordings by The Room and China Crisis. Crush featues brass by brothers Neil Weir (trumpet) and Graham Weir (trombone plus electric guitar), both auxiliary players for the Scottish synthpop band Fiction Factory, a Coleman client.

Crush features sleeve graphics by XL Design (Belouis Some, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Kim Wilde, Pet Shop Boys, Propaganda, The Quick) with a ‘fifties cruise’ illustration by British artist Paul Slater.

OMD released “So in Love” on May 13 as an advance single backed with the non-album “Concrete Hands.” Concurrently, it appeared as a limited-edition (50,000 copies) double-7″ with second exclusive track (“Maria Gallante”) and a live version of the Junk Culture track “White Trash.”

B1. “Concrete Hands” (3:46)
B2. “Maria Gallante” (2:53)

Virgin issued the single on 12″ with extended versions of “So in Love” (5:35) and “Concrete Hands” (4:15). The XL Design sleeve takes inspiration from the Mexican Day of the Dead celebration. In the video, Paul drives through Spain’s Tabernas Desert while Andy takes the nearby city of Almería by foot. A mystery woman appears, vanishes, and reappears with somber stares at each man. Filmmaker Andy Morahan directed the video, which places frequent focus on Andy’s translucent profile amid the activity of the storyline. Morahan also directed 1984–86 videos for Wham (“Last Christmas”), Pet Shop Boys (“West End Girls”), and The Blow Monkeys (“Wicked Ways”).

“So in Love” reached No. 4 in Belgium and No. 7 in the Netherlands. The single peaked at No. 13 in Ireland and No. 18 in West Germany. Despite its modest UK chart placement (No. 27), “So in Love” became the breakthrough OMD hit in the US, where it reached No. 26 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the Cashbox Top 100.

OMD lifted “Secret” on July 8 as the second single with the non-album “Drift” (“Firegun” in the US). The 12″ version contains an extended mix of “Secret” (6:14).

B. “Drift” (4:14)

The Morahan-directed “Secret” video portrays a love triangle in which Paul ruminates in the seaside town of Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex, where his earstwhile love walks the nearby beach arm-in-arm with Andy. Amid flashing b&w reel footage (WWII, Beatlemania, Vietnam riots) Paul thinks back to their younger years: portrayed in sixties home movies of the three (played by young lookalikes). The video ends with the woman back in Paul’s arms as Andy accepts the situation and walks off in the sand.

OMD lifted “La Femme Accident” on October 12 as the third and final Crush single backed with the non-album b-side “Firegun.” The 12″ version contains an extended “La Femme Accident” (6:15).

B. “Firegun

In the “La Femme Accident” video, Paul portrays a photographer who falls for his muse: a Jane Birkin-like model. Andy plays the suited head of an advertising firm that want to use her as their new face. Midway, the camera zooms on the hands of string players who mime the bowed and pizzicato sounds (synthesized on the recording). She eventually boards a car with Andy and gives a sober stare to a lone-standing Paul.

Crush reached No. 13 on the UK Albums Chart and No. 15 in the Netherlands. It peaked at No. 23 in New Zealand and Germany and went Top 40 in Canada and the US, where it reached No. 38 on the Billboard 200.


1986–1988


“If You Leave”

In April 1986, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark released “If You Leave,” a ballad written for the closing scene in the John Hughes teen dramedy Pretty In Pink starring Molly Ringwald and Jon Cryer.

“If You Leave” (4:25) conjures the end of teenage innocence (high school graduation) with analogies to fading romance. Andy portrays a boy on the brink of adulthood who’s grown from childhood in tandem with a close female classmate (“We’ve always had time on our sides”). After untold memories since middle school (“Seven years went under the bridge”), their paths are set to diverge as each embarks on adulthood. Though they met pre-puberty, the young male has since developed feelings for the soon-to-depart female. On some level, it feels to him like the end of a seven-year romance. (When removed from the context of the film, “If You Leave” functions as a breakup lament.)

OMD wrote and recorded the song in 24 hours after Hughes requested a somber ballad to match the re-written final scene. In the original draft of Pretty In Pink, Andie (Ringwald) leaves the prom with Duckie (Cryer). After test audiences rejected this ending, Hughes wrote a new prom scene in which Andie leaves with Blane (Andrew McCarthy), the affluent classmate who pursued her throughout the film. Hughes asked OMD two write a song matched to the tempo of the Simple Minds hit “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” which the actors danced to during the prom-scene shoot. Before the re-write, OMD submitted the happy uptempo number “Goddess of Love,” which appears on their subsequent studio album.

“If You Leave” features a three-man OMD lineup of Andy McCluskey (lead and backing vocals), Paul Humphreys (E-mu Emulator II, Yamaha DX7, Roland Jupiter-8, backing vocals), and Martin Cooper (saxophone). All three play the Fairlight CMI. In the video, OMD perform in a black studio space lined with bricks, fencing mesh, and pink-lit cutout fixtures. Andy lip syncs with impassioned expressions amid flashing scenes of the movie and its characters. Paul dons a tuxedo with a gray paisley silk lapel.

“If You Leave” reached No. 5 in Canada and New Zealand and No. 15 in Australia. Though it stalled at No. 48 in the band’s waning UK market, “If You Leave” became the signature OMD song in the US, where it reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in May 1986. OMD’s stateside success with this Hughes-tied song mirrored the US breakthrough of Simple Minds, who scored their first Billboard hit with the aforementioned “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” the theme to Hughes’ 1985 teen dramedy The Breakfast Club, which also stars Molly Ringwald (among a larger ensemble cast of young actors dubbed ‘The Brat Pack’).

The single appeared as a standard 7″ backed with the Crush deep cut “88 Seconds in Greensboro.” A UK Virgin 12″ version features an extended “If You Leave” (5:59) backed with “Greensboro” and a live version of the Junk Culture track “Locomotion.”

The Pretty In Pink soundtrack also gave stateside boosts to The Psychedelic Furs and Echo & The Bunnymen, two fellow UK Class of 1980 bands whose European fame went long-unmirrored in the US. The Furs re-recorded their 1981 Talk Talk Talk song “Pretty In Pink” as the movie’s title-track (despite its lyrical dissimilarity to the plot). Hughs commissioned the Bunnymen’s “Bring on the Dancing Horses” for his 1986 film, though it first appeared months beforehand on their 1985 best-of Songs to Learn & Sing.


The Pacific Age

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark released their seventh album, The Pacific Age, on September 29, 1986, on Virgin and A&M.

The Pacific Age features nine songs by the partnership of singer–multi-instrumentalist Andy McCluskey and keyboardist–singer Paul Humphreys, including two (“Shame,” “Southern”) with additional input by brothers Neil Weir (trumpet, bass) and Graham Weir (trombone, keyboards, guitar), both integrated into the band for this album after their role as auxiliary players on Crush. Humphreys collaborated with the brothers on “(Forever) Live and Die,” the album’s lead single.

The Pacific Age is the second OMD album with American producer Stephen Hague, who made writing contributions to the final two song: “We Love You” (the second single) and “Watch Us Fall.” This is their only album as a six-piece comprised of McCluskey, Humphreys, the Weir brothers, and longtime members Malcolm Holmes (drums) and Martin Cooper (keyboards, saxophone).

1. “Stay (The Black Rose and the Universal Wheel)” (4:22)
2. “(Forever) Live and Die” (3:38)
3. “The Pacific Age” (3:59)
4. “The Dead Girls” (4:48)
5. “Shame” (4:15)

6. “Southern” (3:41) stems from the Crush sessions. It samples Martin Luther King Jr.’s final speech.
7. “Flame of Hope” (2:40)
8. “Goddess of Love” (4:30) was first intended for the Pretty In Pink soundtrack before a rewrite of the film’s climax rendered the song inappropriate, hence OMD’s submission of the somber “If You Leave.”
9. “We Love You” (4:10)
10. “Watch Us Fall” (4:11)

McCluskey and Humphreys commenced work on the backing tracks in late 1985 at Liverpool’s Amazon Studio. After the transatlantic success of “If You Leave,” A&M put time constraints on a new album to capitalize on OMD’s newfound stateside popularity.

OMD recorded the album in France at Studio de la Grande Armée, where Stephen Hague produced The Pacific Age in sequence with albums by the Pet Shop Boys, The Communards, and ex-Buzzcocks singer Pete Shelley. The engineer, Tom Lord-Alge, also worked on 1986 albums by Chaka Khan, Steve Winwood, and ex-Champaign singer Pauli Carman.

The Pacific Age features auxiliary musicianship by French guitarist Kamil Rustam and backing vocals by Carole Fredericks, Aliss Terrell, and Yvonne Jones, all heard on numerous French pop recordings.

English illustrator Mick Haggerty created The Pacific Age cover art based on woodblock prints that he made on a recent stay in Mexico. To achieve the rough effect, original copies have the illustration printed on course sleeve cardboard.

OMD released “(Forever) Live and Die” on August 26 as an advance single, backed with the non-album “This Town.” The 12″ contains an extended mix of the a-side (5:45).

B. “This Town” (3:44)

The video to “(Forever) Live and Die” inter-cuts grainy footage of the six-piece OMD with scenes of Andy and Paul walking separately along a cloudy beach with flashes of a female subject.

“(Forever) Live and Die” reached No. 3 in the Netherlands and No. 5 in Austria. It also went Top 10 in Belgium (No. 6), West Germany (No. 8), Switzerland (No. 9), and Canada (No. 10). In the UK, “(Forever) Live and Die” peaked at No. 11 and reached the Top 20 in Ireland (No. 13), New Zealand (No. 14), and Australia (No. 19). In the US, “(Forever) Live and Die” became OMD’s second Top 20 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 (No. 19).

OMD lifted “We Love You” on November 10 as the second single backed with an extended dub version of the song (6:20). McCluskey, Humphreys, and Hague intended this song for the soundtrack of the 1986 American comedy film Playing for Keeps about a New York teenager who inherits a derelict hotel and raises money with his friends to convert the property into a modern, trendy place for kids. The soundtrack appeared on Atlantic with songs by Pete Townshend, Peter Frampton, Phil Collins, Sister Sledge, the Duran Duran spin-off Arcadia, and former Manfred Mann’s Earth Band singer Chris Thompson.

In the “We Love You” video, the six-piece OMD perform before an invited audience with a pink–blue gradient polygonal backdrop. “We Love You” reached No. 16 on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart and No. 18 on the Australian Kent Music Report.

In April 1987, Virgin lifted “Shame” as the third Pacific Age single backed with “Goddess of Love.” The 12″ contains an extended re-recorded version of “Shame” (6:59).

The “Shame” video employs tinted saturation and pixelated zoom-ins on Andy and Paul through shifting scenes where they mime and separately walk and reflect on a mutual love interest (in the arms of a third suitor).

The Pacific Age reached No. 14 in New Zealand and No. 15 in the UK and Germany. The album also went Top 20 in the Netherlands (No. 17), Canada (No. 18), and Switzerland (No. 20).

Two songs intended for inclusion, “Cajun Moon” and “Cut Me Down,” went unreleased until the 2019 OMD fortieth anniversary box set Souvenir.


“Dreaming”

On January 28, 1988, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark released “Dreaming,” a new McCluskey–Humphreys song recorded for their Virgin–A&M compilation The Best of OMD.

A. “Dreaming” (3:54)

B. “Satellite” (5:10)

“Dreaming” appeared as a standard 7″ backed with the exclusive “Satellite.” Virgin also issued a 12″ version with a “Dreaming” dub mix (4:29) and club mix (7:13) and “Gravity Never Failed.” In the US, A&M issued a mini-CD version of the single with a 12″ mix of “Secret” (6:15) and the unearthed “Gravity Never Failed,” a 1981 outtake from the Architecture and Morality sessions.

B. “Gravity Never Failed” (3:27)

“Dreaming” appears as the final track on The Best of OMD, a fourteen-track overview of the band’s most popular songs.


Discography (1980–91):


Sources:

1 thought on “Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

  1. Original drafter intro (2018): “Comprising the tech-minded duo of Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys with assorted backing players, the band were among the first to achieve mainstream pop success with a primarily electronic sound.”

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