Stepping through the door into the world of OMD… and never looking back!
When I was asked to write a piece about how I got turned onto OMD as a young American, I thought “that’ll be easy!” But now as I sit here starting off, I realize there’s so much to say. I could go on and on which is dangerous but, since it seems most of you are covered in snow, why not make a cup of tea (a big one) and settle on in…
It was 1982 and I was over at a good friend of mines house. She had a younger brother who, in her eyes, was often a nuisance and this particular day she was annoyed at him for buying her a “Cheap, bargain bin birthday gift”. The gift… a compilation record called The Beat with a track list consisting almost entirely of bands we’d never heard of before (hence her thinking it was a cheapo gift). Some of these included Thompson Twins, Haircut 100, Sparks, and Kim Wilde. My mom was a huge music buff and because of that, so were my sister and I so I asked my friend to pop it on for a listen. Side one came and went, 7 songs that were fun and I enjoyed what I was hearing but it wasn’t until side two that things got interesting. About half way through, there was a gap… well we thought it was a gap. But as it turned out, it was the start of a song that was so quiet that unless turned up, a good portion of the intro was done before it became audible. When we finally heard something it was, well for a lack of a better term, music to the ears. What the heck was THIS song? I grabbed the LP cover, looked up the track and found it was a song called ‘Joan Of Arc’ by a band called Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. OMG, this song was awesome! (And to make things even better, it was followed by a song called ‘Dreaming Of Me’ by Depeche Mode). I MUST have this!
My friend still wasn’t too impressed but I was hooked. I ran home, found my sister and told her I wanted this compilation for Christmas. Unfortunately, that was a few months off so I had to tide myself over by having my friend play hers when I was over… or at least as many visits as I could convince her! I can still remember opening up the box Christmas day to find a cassette version of The Beat and dying to put it on. I played that thing incessantly and though there were a lot of good songs (I liked 12 of the 14) it was the double hitter of OMD/DM that I listened to the most… OMD and DM, OMD and DM. I seriously couldn’t get enough of it! (Sadly, the tape eventually broke, not surprising, during that segment… wonder why, LOL).
Fast forward about 6 months and my sister and I were starting to watch a video show on our free TV channels (believe it or not, it was actually prior to MTV’s arrival!) It was a show called MV3 and was hosted by Richard Blade, a fairly cute, blonde brit that had amazingly great taste in music. One day while watching, a song came on that grabbed my attention; I’m thinking the fact that it contained Speak and Spell had something to do with it! ;o) I remember getting up and walking over to the TV to sit down right in front and watch. I was in awe… this song was like nothing I’d heard before and the video, though I didn’t understand it at all, told some kind of story with children playing with the big boys so to speak. Again, like with Joan Of Arc, I fell in love with this song, announced at the end as ‘Genetic Engineering’ by OMD.
Well by golly, I just HAD to have that one too! But this time, unlike earlier, I couldn’t just ask my sister for it because I didn’t know where it came from. Back in 1983 we didn’t have internet or Google. If we wanted a particular LP/cassette, we had to either find it in the store or special order it. Special orders consisted of finding the product in a book that was HUGE (I pretty much needed to throw my entire body weight to one side just to get to the “Os”) But I was determined to find this ‘Genetic Engineering’ song so I looked up Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark and found they had two cassettes for order. Luckily, many stores books would list the songs found on each cassette but as I looked over the choices, neither had my song. The store clerk checked it up in another special area but nothing. Shoot!
Ok, I thought, I’ll just wait for it to come on again and have my tape recorder ready to grab it. (again, before computers so in place of “downloading” my sister and I used to record songs off the TV by holding our tape player/recorder so that the mic was right up against the TV’s speaker. Of course we had to be very quiet, hope no one came into the room and if someone did, wave at them crazily to shut up, all awhile not having the recorder move away from the TV speaker. Thank God for modern technology!!!) I waited… and waited… and waited but it NEVER came back on!
So my sister, who was 4.5 years older than me, decided to buy some cassettes with her babysitting money and since she liked the two songs we knew by OMD, bought what she could find; Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark and Organisation. She then made copies for me to listen to so that I didn’t have to wait around or ask her to listen to hers. (my sis was/is cool!). I remember thinking that this band, OMD, wasn’t like anything else out there on the radio. We were being handed people like Michael Jackson, Hall and Oates, The Pretenders; and though some bands from ‘across the pond’ such as Duran Duran, Eurythmics and ABC were showing up, they just weren’t OMD! (I’m telling ya, you all don’t know how lucky you were to have had the access and ability to buy and hear OMD all around you. It definitely wasn’t like that here! Though I should mention that earlier tunes such as ‘Enola Gay’ were played on “college” and “underground” radio as I’ve had a few older friends say they remember it but since I was much too young when I got into them, that wasn’t an option nor was it for any of my friends or even my sister for that matter)
I stayed a ‘rarity’ fan for a few more years with my friends all looking at the collage of bands I followed and asking “is there really a band called Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark or are you just making that up?”. My sister found Junk Culture and added that to our collection. A bit different I remember as there were horns now but I still loved it. But what of my beloved ‘GE’? I was still hoping to find it!
1985 brought us Crush … and the first time I EVER heard OMD on the radio. I was absolutely thrilled when ‘So In Love’ started getting played! Finally they were getting exposure (and I could turn to my friends with a huge grin on my face as if to say “see, told ya they were real… and good!”) ‘So In Love’ came with a video that, unlike ‘GE’, got played on a somewhat regular basis (by now MV3 was gone and MTV was in, though in my humble opinion, not as good). ‘Secret’ came after that and I remember thinking “Oh, the other guy is singing. Two cuties in the band!” And I still remember the day my sister walked in and said “Hey Lori, guess what I found for you” and pulled out a used LP of Crush. I plunked our record player down and played it multiple times while my sister opted to watch some movie. My very first OMD LP… not a copy but an original and it was MINE! I didn’t care that it skipped on the first songs of each side; I listened to it like I had The Beat (so much so that I learned ‘So In Love’ and ’88 Seconds In Greensboro’ WITH the skips. When I finally heard a CD version of ’88’ … ah, that’s what he’s saying! ;o)
This new success also brought with it exposure in magazines and I was finally able to add them to the barrage that was my school locker and bedroom walls… yeah, I was 14 by now, all us girls did it! ;o) But if this commercial success wasn’t exciting enough, a movie called Pretty In Pink by a writer who could do no wrong in all our eyes, John Hughes, came out. And always having great soundtracks, this movie was no exception. ‘If You Leave’ became the first single off the soundtrack and everyone just ate it up, myself included! It got played on the radio all the time (much to my joy!) and even went into the top 10, peaking at #4!!! It was suddenly cool to like them, many of my school friends jumped on the band wagon and I thought how wonderful for them to have made it over after some of the other bands had come (and in the case of a few, gone).
It wasn’t long before OMD put out another full length album that carried its own hit of ‘(Forever) Live And Die’ which did quite well too. They seemed to be on a roll here in the states now! By 1987, I too was making some money and I opted to buy the cassette of Pacific Age. WOW, I was blown away by this one (and it remains tied for favorite to this day!) This was also the year I decided OMD were the #1 band out there (and they’ve yet to be bumped out of that spot.. don’t think they ever will be!!!)
1988 brought about a lot of OMD related events. The Best Of collection came out and consisted of one new song, ‘Dreaming’, that too got pretty high in the USA charts (#16). There was also a major tour as the opening act for DM. But unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to concerts until I was 18 so I (VERY) sadly missed the show. I did, however, find ‘GE’…
About this time, an “import” store called The Turntable came into a town about 30 minutes from home. My sister and I went in one day while our parents were shopping and I got the idea of asking about ‘Genetic Engineering’ as I had NEVER stopped wanting it. (kind of crazy when I think about it as I had only heard it once but it made THAT big an impression on me!). The guy behind the counter took down the information, along with our phone number and said he’d do some searching. About a week later, I got a call saying he had found it but it was only a 7″ picture disc, not a full album with the song on it. I didn’t care, I SO wanted that song that I got my parents to take me and I proudly slapped the money down for the exchange of the single, a colorful design on the front (that I later found out was the inside of the atomic bomb). Whoo hoo! Finally after literally searching for FIVE years, I had my song!!! Have I mentioned how lucky all you Uk’ins were yet ;o) I brought it home, copied it onto 3 different cassettes, and then put it away, afraid repeated listenings would ruin the picture.
So all was complete right? Wrong! One day, I was reading an article in our local paper about OMD and their upcoming tour date (because like I said, they were “popular” now here in the states) and they got asked what their favorite song was. Both of them stated ‘Romance Of The Telescope’ off of Dazzle Ships … Dazzle Ships? That’s a new one! Never heard of it. I went back to the music store, checked the monstrous book again but no Dazzle Ships. So a few months later, when in the area of The Turntable I went in and asked him about it. (the guy was probably getting used to my sister and I…) It took months but one day, surprisingly, my sister showed up with it… he had found our treasure!
Well, I can’t tell you how excited I was when I first sat down to listen to it. 6 years in the making and I was finally getting to listen to the album that carried my favorite OMD song to this day!!! Ok, here we go… .um, wait, what’s this? That’s strange, and what language is that? NO idea what I just heard but ok… Genetic Engineering came next and all was good again. Then “A… B… C… A… B… C.” What the ????? Ooo but wait, one speaker has Mr. M. and one has Mr. H. and now they’re computerized and flipped, COOL!!!
This amazed confusion continued on through the entire album. Just when things would get “normal” again, I’d then be introduced to something totally off the wall… but I LOVED it! I have very vivid memories of sitting in my kitchen listening and thinking “oOK, this is NOTHING like what I’m used to! Didn’t expect this but oh my gosh, it’s so cool! They’re doing things no one has done. I mean really, who in the world would think of using Speak and Spell or call up different parts of the world and use the recordings for a song? SO imaginative and creative! What do they lie awake at night thinking up things to do?” And I sang these exact praises to any of my friends who would listen (though they stayed “Top 40 OMD fans”… their loss!) The album that Pacific Age is tied with for my favorite… yep, Dazzle Ships!
Despite the imminent break up after the 1988 DM tour and Best Of Album (which broke my heart!! My favorite band gone… SO not fair!!!) I continued to search out anything OMD. This continued to be difficult (heck, I didn’t even know about the Liberator tour stop until after the fact! And don’t get me started on the lack of Architecture And Morality!) but always well worth it. It’s strange to think that a body of water could separate countries and bands but sad to say, it does, even now. But I will forever be grateful to Dougy, my friends brother, for buying her that LP of The Beat, and MV3 because without them, who knows if I would have ever found this amazingly talented and without a doubt, groundbreaking band. And I wouldn’t trade in a single searching moment either. Makes it all the more a treasure!
Follow Lori’s Tour Diary of OMD’s 2011 American tour below: