In 1978, Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys – two strait-laced kids from the Wirral – hosted an evening they considered to be a self-indulgent experiment in anti-music at a club in Liverpool, England.
They called the session ‘Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark’ and it was such a success they decided to “do this sort of thing on a more permanent basis”.
Originally combining in school band Equinox they moved on through VCL XI and Hitlerz Underpantz, and finally, The Id.
When that band broke up in 1978, McCluskey spent a short time with Dalek I Love You (where did they get these names?) before he and Humphreys, together with Paul Collister, performed live in October 1978 under their full title Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark.
Tony Wilson of Factory Records became interested in the band, releasing their debut, Electricity. It was quickly re-released when Virgin Records subsidiary DinDisc signed them. Its success subsequently allowed the band the chance to build their own studio.
They replaced their four-track recorder (which they called “Winston”) with real personnel Malcolm Holmes (ex-Equinox and The Id) and Dave Hughes (ex-Dalek I Love You). Red Frame/White Light (1980) was released as a single to preface the band’s first, self-titled album.
Their breakthrough, however, came with the re-recorded Messages and was followed by the UK Top 10 hit Enola Gay, and its familiar nuclear war sentiments.
Organisation followed, with Martin Cooper replacing Dave Hughes shortly afterwards.
The more sophisticated album Architecture & Morality (1981) showed a new romanticism, particularly in the UK Top 5 singles Souvenir, Joan Of Arc and Maid Of Orleans.
Dazzle Ships (1983) was a flawed attempt at progression, highlighting dilemmas forced on them by popularity and DinDisc’s collapse (the band transferred to Virgin). Junk Culture faced similar critical disdain, despite boasting the presence of the Top 5 single, Locomotion.
Crush was a less orchestrated and more commercial affair, featuring the return of political commentary alongside the permanent insertion of Graham and Neil Weir into the line-up. The band enjoyed a surprise US Top 5 hit in 1986 with If You Leave, taken from the soundtrack of the movie Pretty In Pink (1986).
The Pacific Age was premiered on another of the band’s frequent worldwide touring endeavours, but it was obvious from its chart position that their domestic popularity was slipping. The six-piece line-up was proving too cumbersome and the Weir brothers departed shortly afterwards.
The rift was compounded when Holmes and Cooper and – more importantly – Humphreys, joined the list of departures.
McCluskey retained the name and, after a long restorative period, resurfaced in 1991 with the UK #3 hit Sailing On The Seven Seas and the Top 10 follow-up Pandora’s Box.
The resultant album harked back to the era of Architecture & Morality with the use of choral effects. Meanwhile, Humphreys, Holmes and Cooper formed a new band under the name The Listening Pool.
McCluskey continued to release records under the OMD moniker into the 1990s, though failing to match the commercial success he enjoyed with Humphreys during the mid-80s. He enjoyed more reward in the new millennium as the musical mastermind behind girl group, Atomic Kitten.
A touring rapprochement in 2005 led to History Of Modern (Part 1) – their first album together in 24 years.
Guitar, brass, keyboards
Brass, keyboards, bass guitar