Friday, October 24, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for October 24, 2014

[Orchestral Manoeuvres in the US] -- Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys, who had known each other since primary school in Wirral, England, played together in various bands in the mid-70s. Out of the ashes of two of those bands -- the seven-piece ensemble known as The Id and the electronic quartet called Dalek I Love You -- they founded Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) in 1978. Initially a duo, OMD played live gigs with backup help from a Teac 4-track tape-recorder (named "Winston" after a character in Orwell's 1984). In February 1980, OMD released their self-titled debut album in the UK. This record was pretty much the work of the core duo and Winston, but it also included some drumming by Malcolm Holmes (from The Id) and a bit of saxophone from local (i.e., Wirral) musician Martin Cooper. After a tour supporting the debut, OMD went back into the studio and recorded their second album, Organisation, which was released in October 1980.

With two hits ("Electricity" from Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and "Enola Gay" from Organisation), OMD's record label must have thought it was time to conquer the US. There was no truly new material for OMD's first eponymous US release. It is a morphing of the UK debut and the second LP. The five tracks from the debut are "Bunker Soldiers," "Almost," "Electricity," "Julia’s Song," and "Messages." Organisation contributed six songs: "Enola Gay," "2nd Thought," "Statues
The Misunderstanding," "Motion And Heart," and "Stanlow." So, which tracks made it into this week's playlist? Read and hear more after the break. 

Flashback #1"Our one source of energy | The ultimate discovery | Electric blue for me | Never more to be free."

"Electricity" was OMD's 1979 debut single and it was also featured on their eponymous debut album. The core duo, McCluskey and Humphreys, share lead singing duties but leave the backing vocals and chorus to machines. Although the song didn't chart, New Musical Express (NME) rated it as one of the best singles of the year and it appeared on their end-of-year list for 1979. There are multiple versions and releases of "Electricity," but the Martin Hannett produced one is probably the best.

Flashback #2"Memories are uncertain friends | When recalled by messages."

"Messages" was the third single from OMD's debut album. Its arrangement is densely atmospheric, with another use of synth melody as chorus, and its lyrics are sad and fragile. The UK fans, however, must have wanted the message that was delivered, because "Messages" was OMD's first Top 40 hit single in the UK, peaking at #13. It was re-recorded as a 7” mix to be included on the debut US LP.

Flashback #3"We got your message on the radio | Conditions normal and you're coming home."

"Enola Gay" was the only single from OMD's 1980 album, Organisation. (It also appeared on the US eponymous debut). Written by Andy McCluskey, it is an anti-war song addressing the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. It was an instant classic with a huge synth hook, and it still reverberates all these years later. In fact, NME included it among the "100 Best Songs of the 1980s" at #96 (NME, IPC Media, 2012). Although "Enola Gay" was banned from BBC1 (somehow the story of the bombing was perceived as a veiled homosexual message), it was still very successful. It became a hit in many countries, and even reached #8 in the UK.   

Once again, I remind you that the rule of three applies when doing Flashbacks. As I've made my three offerings, that's all till next week. Dedicated 80s-philes can find more flashbacks in the archives. As always, your comments are welcome on today's, or any other, flashback post. And if you like what I'm doing here, please share the link with your friends. If, however, you don't like the flashback, feel free to share it with your enemies.

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I'll see you in seven!

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