OMD on manoeuvres…
Since the band’s reformation, it seems as if OMD have been packing in more and more every year since. It was also a year of particularly special landmarks. Here’s the Messages review of 2018…
2018 kicked off with an anniversary right off the starting blocks. January marked the month that OMD released their single ‘Dreaming’ 30 years previously. It was initially released to promote the band’s first compilation album, The Best Of OMD. ‘Dreaming’ was a top 20 hit in the USA but peaked at a disappointing No.50 in the UK.
As January wound down, the band also announced the first of the 40th Anniversary projects in the form of the first official OMD book since 1987’s Messages. Pretending To See The Future was promoted as an all-inclusive publication that promised to “…tell the story of OMD from the band’s beginnings all the way up to The Punishment of Luxury Tour. Featuring memories from Andy and Paul and some of the many people they have worked with over the years, we also want to hear your memories. Tell us how and when you discovered the band’s music and your live concert memories…”
The 27th February saw a birthday celebration for Mr Paul Humphreys, who reached the impressive age of 58. A few days earlier, on the 23rd, legendary pre-OMD figure Julia Kneale celebrated her own birthday.
February also saw the release of Fotonovela’s version of ‘One More Time’, which originally featured on The Punishment of Luxury album.
There were also two other notable anniversaries in February for OMD. Classic Dazzle Ships single ‘Genetic Engineering’ was released this month in 1983. Meanwhile, ‘lost’ classic ‘Red Frame/White Light’ was released the same month back in 1980.
February also saw OMD embark on a European tour, performing in Madrid, Paris and Warsaw. They also staged their first concert on the Isle of Man.
In March, our sister site The Electricity Club published a long-form article on the Universal album. Barry Page spoke to some of the personnel involved in the genesis of the 1996 album, This in-depth feature includes some exclusive new reminiscences from Andy McCluskey, ex-OMD member – and ‘Walking On The Milky Way’ co-writer – Nigel Ipinson-Fleming, producers David Nicholas and Matthew Vaughan, plus session musicians Phil Spalding and Chuck Sabo.
“I had never worked before in the way that I did on Universal” commented Andy, “Using session musicians and just sitting at the back on the sofa reading the paper and smoking small cigars (which totally stank the place out) whilst the programmer and production engineer did all the work trying to translate my demos into a new recording. In hindsight it was very alienating. Even though I recognise that Matt and Chipper were doing a great job in their way – and in the way that they knew – I had decided to shake things up and work with others as I was losing my self-confidence.”
There were also a few record anniversaries taking place this month, including the release of ‘Metroland’, ‘Sailing On The Seven Seas’ and The Best Of OMD album. It also marked the release of Dazzle Ships, which was originally released in all its fractured glory on 4th March 1983.
There was also some controversy after the band’s Facebook account drew attention to the issue of gun sales in the US. A pointed cartoon in USA Today had been inspired by Florida’s decision not to ban AR-15 sales in the wake of an outcry from more mass shootings. While the responses drew support for what appeared to be an anti-gun stance, it also resulted in some fiery invective fired at the band from the pro-gun lobby.
In April, Messages turned its attention to the grassroots creatives and activists of the OMD community. We looked at The Friends Of 632 3003 and their continued efforts to look after the iconic telephone box on The Wirral.
The 632 3003 group had previously organised a successful 80s Disco and Auction event last November as part of their bid to raise awareness and funds (an event that both Messages and its sister site The Electricity Club contributed prizes to). For April, they staged a Beer And Cheese event on the Wirral to raise funds awareness dedicated to the upkeep and improvement of the telephone box.
We also drew attention to a special event celebrating the music of OMD. Final Song featured the Kidderminster College Year 1 Music Performance group (including Messages-own Imogen Bebb) presenting a selection of covers and unusual arrangements of OMD songs. Andy McCluskey himself attended the event to give the students some encouragement.
April also marked the anniversary of OMD’s 1984 album Junk Culture. Back in 2015, when the album was reissued, Andy McCluskey spoke to The Huffington Post about the making of OMD’s fifth studio album. “‘Talking Loud And Clear’ actually is one of those songs where in hindsight you go, ‘Oh yeah, that’s a very pretty, beautiful, bright pop song’, but if you sit down and analyse it, it’s quite a dysfunctional song. It’s made out of all sorts of weird bits of acoustic bass samples and backwards sleigh bells.”
The 25th April marked the day that the film Pretty In Pink was released in the UK back in 1986. The soundtrack included OMD’s ‘If You Leave’, which was written especially for the film, plus classic tracks from the likes of New Order, The Smiths, Echo and the Bunnymen and The Psychedelic Furs.
Meanwhile, OMD were enjoying a US tour throughout the months of March/April, with sterling support from GGOOLLDD. OMD also took part in the Chamonix Festival.
May brought a few more anniversary moments, including the release of OMD’s debut single ‘Electricity’ back in 1979. ‘Messages’ arrived in May 1980, The Stephen Hague-produced single ‘So In Love’ back in 1985 and it was 25 years since ‘Stand Above Me’ from the Liberator album was released in 1993.
Meanwhile, classic album Sugar Tax was released back on 7th May 1991. It spawned 4 singles, including the classic hits ‘Sailing On The Seven Seas’ and ‘Pandora’s Box’.
Celebrations were in order for Stuart Kershaw as well as the OMD composer/drummer celebrated his birthday this month.
While performing at Let’s Rock Norwich, there was a significant meeting of synth-pop legends when Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys met The Human League’s Phil Oakey. Surprisingly, this marked the first time that the Andy and the League founder-member had met.
The 18th May saw a special OMD-themed art event staged in Liverpool. Andy & Paul played a secret show at dot-art as part of Liverpool LightNight with special guest John Petch. The striking sleeve artwork for The Punishment Of Luxury. Petch created the wonderful paintings that formed the album and single artwork for the album The Punishment Of Luxury. Limited edition prints and (in some cases) the original paintings are available for purchase from the dot-art site.
OMD took a trip to Köln to record an edition of The Ultimate Chart show, which celebrated pop’s biggest hits since 1978.
The 16th June saw the release of a special vinyl edition of OMD’s reformation album History Of Modern. As part of HMV’s Vinyl Week, the album was pressed on double orange vinyl, strictly limited to 500 copies.
The 4th June marked the day that ‘Talking Loud And Clear’ was released back in 1984, backed with a new version of ‘Julia’s Song’. The second single to be lifted from the album Junk Culture, it peaked at no.11. Duran Duran’s John Taylor reviewed the single in Smash Hits, saying: “This is very strange. I heard it on Radio 1 recently and it took me aback. It’s very charming. It has a nursery rhyme quality. I keep expecting Andy McCluskey to say, ‘settle down children, Andy Pandy is coming to play’. This is a good record.”
Andy McCluskey also celebrated his 59th birthday on 24th June.
Our sister site, The Electricity Club, produced a write-up of the opening night of A-ha’s ‘Electric Summer’ tour. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’s support slot was very well received by a sun-baked Canterbury crowd, and Barry Page took the opportunity to sum up OMD’s career so far: “It’s now almost 40 years since Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark formed… and this rapturously received set certainly consolidated their reputation as one of the finest live acts around at the moment.”
Meanwhile, OMD enjoyed a special performance in Jastrzębie-Zdrój, Poland. Although an intense thunderstorm arrived pre-gig, 12,000 people came out to the GKS stadium to see the band in action.
July saw a very special birthday as Mal Holmes celebrated his 58th birthday on the 28th.
The Guardian explored Atomic Kitten’s football legacy, with some input from Andy McCluskey: “The Kittens are really chuffed and are actually considering remaking the single with the England lyrics.”
As the summer moved on, August saw a clutch of anniversaries for OMD releases. ‘Tesla Girls’, the third single to be lifted from Junk Culture, was released this month in 1984. ‘(Forever) Live And Die’ was released back in 1986. The first single to be lifted from The Pacific Age, it peaked at No.11 in the UK.
Meanwhile, ‘Walking On The Milky Way’ was also released this month in 1996 while classic OMD single ‘Souvenir’ was released on 4th August in 1981.
The 6th August is also memorable for the day in 1945 when a B-29 Superfortress piloted by Colonel Paul Tibbets dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, causing utter devastation. The plane, which was named after the pilot’s mother, Enola Gay Tibbets, later provided the inspiration for OMD’s first UK Top 10 hit.
August also saw a very special occasion when Paul Humphreys celebrated his marriage to girlfriend Rüta.
OMD zipped over to Glasgow on 3rd August to play the Summer Nights event at the Kelvingrove Park Bandstand. For Rewind North, they performed to an event that saw a 25,000 attendance. The band saw out their UK festival season with a performance at Rewind Henley. Later this month, OMD also performed at the Zeltfestival Ruhr in Bochum, Germany.
OMD were one of the acts included on ‘Mersey Paradise’, a 15-track compilation CD attached to copies of the August issue of MOJO magazine.
The Guardian published a feature on famous pre-set sounds in pop music, including the classic Roland CR-78 drum machine. “A humble pre-set on Roland’s primitive drum machine produced one of the most recognisable grooves in pop history. The CR-78 came with such wonderfully futuristic and sexy sounding factory-supplied beats as waltz and bossa nova. Darryl Hall used the unpromising “rock 1” to write Hall & Oates’ 1981 classic, I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do). Michael Jackson subsequently used that song’s groove in Billie Jean, and CompuRhythm grooves are rife in pop hits of the period, from Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’s Enola Gay to Phil Collins’ In the Air Tonight and Blondie’s Heart of Glass”.
September saw an amazing transformation of the ‘Red Frame/White Light’ telephone box by Punishment Of Luxury artist John Petch. There was a special TV segment featuring the phone box, which also included a special appearance by Andy McCluskey himself.
The month’s anniversaries included OMD’s 11th studio album, History Of Modern, which was released in the UK on 20th September in 2010. The Pacific Age was released this month back in 1986. The Stephen Hague-produced album spawned the singles ‘(Forever) Live & Die’, ‘We Love You’ and ‘Shame’. Iconic OMD single ‘Enola Gay’ was also released this month in 1980.
Universal was released on 2nd September back in 1996 (again, Barry Page’s extensive article on the OMD album is essential reading). The 24th October saw the release of Organisation back in 1980. Meanwhile, OMD’s 13th studio album, The Punishment Of Luxury, was also released a year ago on 1st September.
In other unexpected (and welcome) news, OMD announced the debut of a brand-new composition. ‘The Daughter Of The Minotaur’ had been written exclusively for a new film Female Human Animal. Paul Browne reviewed the film for sister site Wavegirl (which also featured a Q&A with the film’s Chloe Aridjis who talked about OMD’s contribution). Meanwhile, he summed up the new composition succinctly: “The slow build of the song and its dominant use of strings seems at odds with OMD’s electronic roots, but the end result is a primal, at times unsettling piece.”
The month of October proved to be a particularly busy time for OMD. It was the month where they saw in exactly 40 years since Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’s first live show at Eric’s Club in Mathew Street, Liverpool.
“It is strange, very, very strange to have been in a band for forty years…” Commented Andy McCluskey in an interview with CrypticRock.com, “All we cared about was letting people know that we were a bit different, weird, and not what you would expect from a normal band in a New Wave club in Liverpool. We never expected to be stuck with that ridiculous name for forty years – it’s the most pretentious, crazy name on the planet!”
It provided an opportunity for Messages to revisit an article by Barry Page on OMD’s return to the site of Eric’s in 2011 for a special performance.
October also saw some more OMD anniversaries, including the 60th birthday of Martin Cooper. ‘Joan Of Arc’ was also released on 9th October in 1981.
The 18th October also marked one year ago that The Friends of 632 3003 campaigned to save the ‘Red Frame/White Light’ telephone box. Imogen Bebb penned a feature for Messages last year charting the campaign.
But perhaps the most significant event was their concert in collaboration with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, which marked the second time that they had worked together since 2009.
The concert was remarkable for the choice of songs to receive an orchestral arrangement, which including a stunning ‘Stanlow’, a haunting ‘Ghost Star’ and even some surprising B-side selections, including an esoteric ‘The New Dark Age’ and an impressive live rendition of ‘The Avenue’.
Using the opportunity to reflect on OMD’s 40th Anniversary, reviewer Paul Browne concluded: “It’s staggering to consider that an experimental electronic outfit from The Wirral could go on to score so many hits – let alone still be active some 40 years later. But OMD’s position as a pioneering electropop band is a worthy one and this weekend’s performances in Liverpool seem to be a fitting way of celebrating that anniversary.”
In October, we reviewed the then-forthcoming OMD book Pretending To See The Future. The book was an impressive size and featured a lot of rare and previously unseen photos from the band’s extensive career. It also included contributions from the likes of Professor Brian Cox, Gary Numan, Phil Oakey, Howard Jones, Peter Saville and Karl Bartos.
Early orders also shipped with a flexi-disc featuring a previously unheard demo of ‘Message’s from the summer of 1978 before Andy and Paul actually formed Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.
“Pretending To See The Future offers a comprehensive window on OMD’s 40-year history. Along the way, it pulls in commentary from band members, assorted colleagues from their past (and present), guest writers and also the fans themselves. As a result, the book is a hybrid affair that presents an oral history of the band combined with a fascinating visual archive of OMD’s extensive musical history…”
While reviewer Paul Browne was impressed with the wealth of content, the book’s rapid evolution had also brought shortcomings. “The Liberator and Universal periods oddly don’t get the same coverage as other OMD albums. Also, the fan community of the 1990s – and the genesis of the Official OMD Website – are also completely absent.” Although in conclusion, the review summed the book up: “Despite these issues, the pros easily outweigh the cons.”
October saw OMD sail across the ocean for a performance on a cruise ship sailing to Belgium. Throwback: The ’80s Festival at Sea saw the band joined by the likes of The Human League and Andy Bell.
November saw the reissue of the first four OMD albums on vinyl. The albums were half-speed mastered by Miles Showell at Abbey Road Studios for audiophile sound quality, and stunningly presented in their original packaging designed by Peter Saville. “When people heard Dazzle Ships, they obviously preferred our music with the sweet wrapper on, not a song about someone’s hand being cut off by a totalitarian regime.”
In anniversaries, ‘Call My Name’, the fourth single to be lifted from the Sugar Tax album, was released this month in 1991. Atomic Kitten Official released their debut single, ‘Right Now’ (penned by Andy McCluskey and Stuart Kershaw) on the 29th November. ‘We Love You’, the second single to be lifted from The Pacific Age, was released in 1986.
Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys made an appearance at the Louder Than Words event in Manchester to promote the Pretending To See The Future book and discuss the band’s 40th anniversary.
Meanwhile, our sister site, The Electricity Club, penned its own review of the book.
Andy McCluskey announced plans to join a campaign featuring The Undertones and TV presenter Chris Packham to save an ancient woodland in Derry. “I find it truly shocking that the Derry City and Strabane District Council could vote to allow the destruction of the last ancient woodland in the City of Derry” commented Andy, “In our frenzied technology-driven modern world, trees take on a vital role. Multiple studies confirm something that we already inherently know: “that which grows around us is good for us.” Prehen woods is a green oasis for the people of Derry. Don’t let that wondrous facility be slowly eroded.”
North Sea Sounds, the musical mini cruise to Amsterdam, featured OMD as headliners as they chose a setlist from over 40 years of hits.
December saw another book signing event, this time taking place at The Cavern Live Lounge, Mathew Street in Liverpool.
OMD’s RLPO concert also spawned a new album Live with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, which was released this month. The album was recorded over two nights. The album was available as a 2CD set, a 3LP set on limited edition clear vinyl and digitally.
Special thanks to Barry Page for his contributions in 2018. Thanks also to Imogen Bebb and Jane Rachel.
Official OMD Website: http://www.omd.uk.com/
Publications that have featured his contributions include Electronic Sound, Metro, Japan Update Weekly, J-Pop Go, Wavegirl and The Electricity Club.