Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
Andy McClusky joined Paul Humphrey's high school band Equinox. After seeing Kraftwerk at the Liverpool Empire (5/10/75) Andy inspired Paul into creating various noise experiments under the name of VCL XI (named after VCL 11 - the valve number off the back of Kraftwerk's Radioactivity album). With primitive electronics they wrote the songs Electricity and The Beginning and the End. Meanwhile the two joined a band called Id who regularly played early versions of the duo's songs Red Frame, White Light, Radio Waves, Yugoslavia, Berlin, Nepal, The Misunderstanding and Julia's Song. The rest of the band rejected Electricity becsuse it was too weird.
After the split of Id and a short stint by Andy on vocals in Dalek I, the two heard the new electronic scene by the pioneering bands The Normal, Cabaret Voltaire and The Human League and were inspired. They decided to play VCL XI material at Eric's and quickly came up with the name Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (indicative of the fact that they didn't know what they were doing). After playing subsequent gigs there with other Liverpool bands such as Teardrop Explodes, they played at The Factory in Manchester, at this point they were still borrowing synthesizers from Dalek I. More gigs at The Factory saw them play with the likes of Cabaret Voltaire.
They recorded Electricity and Almost for a Liverpool Battle of the Bands competition and sent the tape to a local TV studio, after re-recording the songs it became the first single released by Facory Records FAC6 - the first things released by Factory were 3 posters and a double E.P.). The 5000 copies sold out within 2 weeks due to airplay by John Peel (Radio One). N.M.E. in it's issue 9/6/79 said "the best example of Factory Records to date - excellent, melodic, synthesizer pop. Even better though, is the Martin Zero-produced B-side "Almost", a doleful, heartstick slab of electronic angst". On the other side of the critical coin, Sounds remarked "if Mike Oldfield was ten years younger and a Tubeway Amy fan, this is what he'd sound like - who wants to listen to a bunch of Scousers whining about electricity anyway?" A later review in te same paper was a little kinder.
OMD spent the next few months touring with other Factory bands. DinDisc (the independant arm of Virgin Records) got a copy of the single and went about securing a contract with the band after hearing a four track demo tape featuring Bunker Soldiers, Red Frame, White Light, Messages and Julia's Song (financed by Factory instead of royalty payments). They played gigs with bands like Public Image, Echo and the Bunneymen, Joy Division and Cabaret Voltaire before supporting Gary Numan on his UK tour of '79. It was while on this tour that they signed the deal with DinDisc and decided to use the advances to build their own recording studio - The Gramophone Suite.
The version of Electricity on DinDisc was not a commercial success but the band got to support Talking Heads in London (U2 appeared bottom of the bill). The duo cut things very fine, after appearing live and building the stuio themselves, it left only 3 weeks to make the album for the February 1980 release date. It ended up being a brilliant debut which they preceeded with a club tour. The first night was reviewed by Melody Maker: "OM are going to be big. It's the opening night of an important tour...". N.M.E. reviwed the album as one of the best of the year saying: "how fine and different their melodies can be, how detailed and distinctive their song-structure...". Red Flame, White Light only reached the lower part of the top 100 and a re-release of Electricity didn't do much. At this point they needed a hit to keep everyone interested. They re-recorded Messages and went on a European tour. An two appearances on Top of the Pops pushed the single to 13 and they did an exploration of the east coast of the States with 4 low key gigs. A second Peel Session showcases Enola Gay for the first time along with Motion and Heart, Dancing and Pretending to see the Future. Now time for a follow up album.
- Electricity/Almost FAC6 6/79
- Electricity/Almost DIN2 28/9/79
- Red Frame, White Light/I Betray My Friends DIN6 1/2/80 (67)
- Messages/Taking Sodes Again DIN15 2/5/90 (13)
- Enola Gay/Annex DIN22 26/9/90 (8)
- Souveneir/Notion and Heart DIN24 4/8/81 (3)
- Joan of Arc/Romance of the Telescope DIN36 9/10/81
- Maid of Orleans/Navigation DIN40 15/1/82
- Genetic Engineering/4 New VS527 11/2/92
- Telegraph/66 and Fading VS580 1/4/83
- Locomotion/Her Body in My Soul VS660 2/4/84
- Talking Loud and Clear/Julia's Song VS685 4/8/84
- Tesla Girls/Garden City VS705 28/8/84
- Never Turn Away/Wrappup VS727 28/10/84
- So In Love/Concrete Hands VS766 13/5/85
- Secret/Drift VS796 8/7/85
- La Femme Accident/Firegun VS811 12/10/85
- If You Leave/88 Seconds in Greenboro VS483 28/4/86
- (Forever) Live and Die/This Town VS888 26/8/86
- We Love You/We Love You (Dub) VS911 10/11/86
- Shame/Goddess on Love VS938 13/4/87
- Walking on the Milky Way Virgin 7/96 (17)
- If You Want It (6/9/2010)
- Sister Marie Says (19/11/2010)
- History of Modern (Part I) (28/2/2011)
- Metroland (11/2/2013)
- Dresden (17/5/2013)
- Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark DID2 22/2/80 (27)
- Organisation DID6 24/10/80 (3)
- Architecture and Morality DID12 6/11/81
- Dazzle Ships V2261 4/3/83
- Junk Culture V2310 30/4/84
- Crush V2349 17/6/85
- The Pacific Age V2398 29/9/86
- Sugar Tax 1991
- Liberator 1993
- Universal 2/9/96
- History of Modern 2010
- English Electric 2013
Much of this page is heavily gleaned from "Messages" - the OMD biography.