Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

O.M.D. at The Summer Pops at Aintree Pavillion, Liverpool
Background information
Also known as OMD
Orchestral Manoeuvres
Origin Wirral Peninsula, England, U.K.
Genres New Wave, synthpop, post-punk
Years active 1978–present
Labels Virgin, Dindisc, Factory, Bright Antenna
Associated acts VCL XI, The Id, Dalek I Love You, Godot, Games, The Listening Pool, Onetwo
Website omd.uk.com
Andy McCluskey
Paul Humphreys
Malcolm Holmes
Martin Cooper
Past members
Dave Hughes
Michael Douglas
Neil Weir
Graham Weir
Abe Jukes
Lloyd Massett
Nigel Ipinson
Phil Coxon
Stuart Kershaw
Matthew Vaughan
Jimmy Taylor
Chuck Sabo
Notable instruments
Fairlight CMI
E-mu Emulator
Sequential Circuits Prophet-5
Korg Micro-Preset

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (often abbreviated to OMD or O.M.D. ) are a synthpop group whose founding members are originally from the Wirral Peninsula, England. OMD were originally assimilated in the greater new wave batch of synthesiser-based acts of the later 1970s–early 1980s.[1]

The group was founded in 1978 by Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys who remained, and were perceived as, the core members. Adding sidemen Malcolm Holmes and Martin Cooper by the end of 1980, this quartet (with occasional line-up fluctuations) was the live concert line-up until 1989, when Humphreys, Cooper and Holmes all left OMD to found The Listening Pool. McCluskey then retained the OMD name and continued to record and tour as OMD with new line-ups through 1996.

Although McCluskey essentially retired the OMD name in 1996, shortly thereafter Humphreys began playing live shows as OMD with other musicians on an as-needed basis, but without McCluskey. Then in late December 2005, OMD's official website announced a forthcoming reformation of the "classic" 1980's line-up (Humpheys/McCluskey/Cooper/Holmes), both for live performances and for a new studio album. This reformed quartet began touring in 2007, and further successful sold-out tours took place in 2008 and 2009. OMD's most recent studio album History of Modern was released on 20 September 2010.



Early roots

Founders Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys met at primary school in Meols on the Wirral Peninsula, in the early 1960s, and in the mid-1970s, as teenagers, they were involved in different local groups.[2]

By the mid-1970s McCluskey had formed Equinox, as bassist and vocalist, alongside schoolmate Malcolm Holmes on drums, while Humphreys was their roadie. During that time McCluskey and Humphreys discovered their electronic style influenced by Kraftwerk.[3] After Equinox, McCluskey joined Pegasus,[4][5] and, later, the short-lived Hitlerz Underpantz, alongside Humphreys.[6][7] McCluskey would usually sing and play bass guitar, whilst electronics enthusiast Humphreys initially began as a roadie, graduating to keyboards. The pair shared a love of electronic music, particularly Brian Eno and Kraftwerk.

The Id

In September 1977,[8] McCluskey and Humphreys put together the seven-piece (three singers, two guitarists, bassist, drummer, and keyboard player) Wirral 'supergroup' The Id, whose line-up included drummer Malcolm Holmes and McCluskey's girlfriend Julia Kneale on vocals. The group began to gig regularly in the Merseyside area, performing original material (largely written by McCluskey and Humphreys). They had quite a following on the scene, and one of their tracks ("Julia's Song") was included on a compilation record of local bands called Street to Street. Meanwhile, Humphreys & McCluskey collaborated on a side-project called VCL XI (named after a misreading of a valve from the diagram on the back cover of Kraftwerk's Radio-Activity album; the name of valve is actually written with Arabic numbers, VCL 11, and not roman numerals). This side-project allowed them to pursue their more bizarre electronic experiments, often working with tape collages, home-made kit-built synthesisers, and circuit-bent radios.

In August 1978, The Id split due to the traditional musical differences. The same month, McCluskey joined the electronic Wirral quartet Dalek I Love You as lead singer, but quit in September.[8]

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark's formation and first releases

In September 1978, the same month he left Dalek I Love You, McCluskey rejoined Humphreys and their VCL XI project was renamed Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. They began to gig regularly as a duo, performing to backing tracks played from a Teac 4 track tape-recorder christened "Winston" (after the antihero of George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-four). Their debut performance was in October 1978 at Eric's Club in Liverpool.[9] Finding themselves on the cusp of an electronic new wave in British pop-music, they released a one-off single, "Electricity", with celebrated independent label Factory Records. The track was supposed to be produced by the legendary Factory Records producer Martin Hannett, in fact, the A-side was the bands original demo produced by their friend, owner of Winston and soon to be manager, Paul Collister under the pseudonym Chester Valentino, taken from a nightclub called Valentino's in the nearby city of Chester. The single's sleeve was designed by Peter Saville, whose distinctive graphics provided OMD's public image well into the mid-80s. The unusual graphics that feature on the sleeve were partially inspired by Andy and Paul's original musical notation style. Unable to read or write music, they adapted a series of symbols, each one representing different instruments.[10]

In 1979 they were asked to support Gary Numan on his first major British tour. They were always grateful to Numan for his help and support.[11] He let them travel on his bus and use his trucks to transport their gear. They returned the favour some 13 years later when they asked Numan to support them on their arena tour in the mid-1990s.

Classic line-up

The eponymous first album (1980) showcased the band's live set at the time, and was basically recorded by the Humphreys/McCluskey duo, although included some guest drums from Id drummer Malcolm Holmes, and saxophone from Wirral musician Martin Cooper. It had a simple, raw, poppy, melodic synthpop sound. Dindisc arranged for the song "Messages" to be re-recorded (produced by Gong bassist Mike Howlett) and released as a single (right) – this gave the band their first hit. Dave Hughes, a founder member of Dalek I Love You who joined OMD in early 1980, is featured in the "Messages" video.

A tour followed, Winston the tape recorder was augmented with live drums from Malcolm Holmes, and Dalek I Love You's Dave Hughes on synths. Hughes then left OMD in November 1980, replaced by Martin Cooper.

The second album Organisation (perhaps a reference to the band which preceded Kraftwerk, founded by Kraftwerk's original members Florian Schneider-Esleben and Ralf Hütter) followed later that year, recorded as a 3 piece with Humphreys, McCluskey and Holmes. It was again produced by Howlett, and saw a rather moodier, dark feel. The album spawned the hit single "Enola Gay", named after the plane that dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The song was originally intended to be included on the debut album, but was left out at the final selection, which may explain why the song is somewhat at odds with the darker feel of the second album. The tour for this album saw a 4-piece band line-up, with saxophonist Martin Cooper (another Dalek I Love You alumnus) recruited for keyboard duties. Howlett then presided over the recording of a further hit single, "Souvenir", co-written by Cooper & Humphreys. It ushered in a lush choral electronic sound. The song also became OMD's biggest hit to date.

November 1981 saw the release of their most commercially successful album in the UK and Europe – Architecture & Morality. The group went into the studio with Richard Mainwaring producing. Cooper then temporarily dropped out and was replaced by Mike Douglas, but this change was reversed by the time the album was released and a tour embarked upon. The album's sound saw OMD's original synth-pop sound augmented by the Mellotron, an instrument previously associated with prog rock bands. They used it to add very atmospheric swatches of string, choir and other sounds to their palette. Two more hit singles "Joan of Arc" and "Maid of Orleans" (which became the most successful single of 1982 in Germany) were taken from the album, which eventually sold more than 3 million copies. A somewhat interesting footnote is that "Joan of Arc" and "Maid of Orleans" were originally both titled "Joan of Arc"; the name of the latter single was changed at the insistence of the publishers and to avoid confusion. It became "Joan of Arc (Maid of Orleans)" and later simply "Maid of Orleans".

1983 saw the band lose commercial momentum somewhat, with the release of their more experimental Dazzle Ships album, which mixed melancholy synth ballads and uptempo synthpop with musique concrete and short wave radio tape collages. It was recorded by the 4-piece Humphreys/Holmes/Cooper/McCluskey line-up, and produced by Rhett Davies. Its relative commercial failure caused a crisis of confidence for Humphreys and McCluskey and brought about a deliberate move towards the mainstream.

American chart success

1984's Junk Culture was a return to a poppier sound and saw the band using digital sampling keyboards such as the Fairlight CMI and the E-mu Emulator. The album was a success, reassuring the group about their new direction. The "Locomotion" single returned the group to the top five in the UK and was a good indicator of the group's new found sound, notably the adoption of a classic verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure, which is something the group had often previously avoided. In 1985, the band expanded to a sextet, featuring new band members Graham Weir (guitar, keyboards, trombone) and Neil Weir (trumpet, bass guitar), and released Crush, produced by Stephen Hague in Paris and New York. The success of the single "So in Love" in the US Hot 100 also led to some success for the LP which entered the American Top 40, establishing the group in the US as well as making Stephen Hague a sought-after producer.

Later in 1985, the band wrote the song "If You Leave" for the John Hughes film Pretty in Pink. The song was featured on the soundtrack and became a huge hit in the US and Canada where it reached the Top 5. The same six piece line-up also released The Pacific Age in 1986, but the band began to see their critical and public popularity wane in the UK while they failed to capitalise upon their breakthrough in the US market.

The Pacific Age contained the UK #11 hit single, "(Forever) Live & Die" and other notable single releases, "Shame" and "We Love You". However, the band's increasingly commercial direction was causing growing dissatisfaction among the band's long-term fans, as well as within the band itself.

Classic line-up split – OMD in the 90s

During 1988 the band appeared poised to consolidate their US success, with a support slot for Depeche Mode's 101 tour at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California on 28 June 1988, a top 20 US hit with "Dreaming" and a successful "Best of" album. However, it was at this point when OMD broke in two. Graham and Neil Weir left at the end of the 1989 US tour and co-founder Paul Humphreys subsequently called it a day, unhappy with the band's commercial orientation. Finally, Cooper, and Holmes left OMD by 1990 to join Humphreys in founding a new band called The Listening Pool.

This left only McCluskey to carry on, essentially becoming a solo artist working under the OMD banner. McCluskey's first album from the new OMD was the critically acclaimed Sugar Tax LP in 1991, which charted admirably at #3 in the UK. McCluskey recruited Liverpool musicians Lloyd Massett and Stuart Kershaw as collaborators on Sugar Tax, though not as full-fledged group members — writing credits carefully distinguished between songs written by OMD (i.e. McCluskey) and songs written by OMD/Kershaw/Massett. This iteration of the group was initially successful with hits like "Sailing on the Seven Seas" and "Pandora's Box", with lesser success on fellow chart entries, "Call My Name" and "Then You Turn Away".

McCluskey would then work with keyboardists Nigel Ippinson and Phil Coxon for the album Liberator (1993). Liberator's 5th track "Dream Of Me" was built around a sample from "Love's Theme" by Love Unlimited Orchestra, a track which was written and produced by Barry White.[12] In order to release the "Dream of Me" track as an OMD single, however, McCluskey had to agree that the single release of the track would remove the actual "Love's Theme" sample, but still be officially titled "Dream of Me (Based on Love's Theme)", and furthermore would still give sole writing credit to White.

McCluskey returned with a rotating cast of musicians for the 1996 album Universal. For this last album, Humphreys returned as a co-writer of a few songs, though not as a performer or group member.

Though both Liberator and Universal produced minor hits and the latter also spawned their first Top 20 hit in five years with "Walking On The Milky Way", McCluskey retired the OMD name in late 1996, due to waning public interest in an 80's synth band at the height of the guitar-based Britpop era. A second singles album was released in 1998, and an EP of remixed material by such acts as Sash! and Moby.

Post-1996, McCluskey decided to focus on songwriting for such Liverpool based acts as Atomic Kitten and The Genie Queen, and trying to develop new Merseyside artists from his Motor Museum recording studio. With Andy focusing his talents elsewhere, Humphreys decided to work with his new musical partner Claudia Brücken, of the ZTT bands Propaganda and Act, as Onetwo. Paul also undertook a US live tour under the banner Paul Humphreys from OMD. Unfortunately, several unscrupulous promoters advertised the gigs as "OMD" and this caused some tension between the two original founders.


On 1 January 2006, Andy McCluskey announced plans to reform OMD with the McCluskey, Humphreys, Holmes and Cooper line up. The original plan was to tour the album Architecture & Morality and other pre-1983 material, then record a new album set for release in 2007.[13]

In May 2007, the Architecture & Morality remastered CD was re-released together with a DVD featuring the Drury Lane concert from 1981 that had previously been available on VHS.

Through May and June, the band toured with the "classic" line up of McCluskey, Humphreys, Holmes and Cooper. They began their set with a re-ordered but otherwise complete restaging of the Architecture & Morality album. The second half of each concert featured a selection of their best known hits, and audience reaction was consistently so positive that the all-seated venues saw the crowds on their feet for the entire show. The band seemed surprised and delighted by their applause.[citation needed]

Spring 2008 saw the release of a live CD and DVD of the 2007 tour, OMD Live: Architecture & Morality & More, recorded at the London Apollo Hammersmith, along with a 25th anniversary re-release of Dazzle Ships, including six bonus tracks. At the same time, a brief October 2008 tour was announced, partly to tie-in with the Dazzle Ships album's 25th anniversary. China Crisis supported OMD on this tour.

In June 2009 an orchestral concert with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic was given in Liverpool. A recording of this concert was released on DVD in December 2009.[14] November and December also saw a return to arena touring as support for Simple Minds.

OMD performed with Night of the Proms already in Dec. 2006 in Germany and later again in Belgium and Holland in Oct., Nov. 2009.

OMD were also the headline act at Britain's first Vintage Computer Festival at The National Museum of Computing, Bletchley Park, in June 2010.

On 9 July 2010, OMD were invited by the German designer Michael Michalsky to perform at his StyleNite event during Berlin Fashion Week.

Trevor Horn announced on 9 Sep 2010, that OMD will perform as a special guest at the "first live gig"[15] of The Buggles.[16]

OMD's 11th studio album, History of Modern, was released on 20. September 2010 to positive critical acclaim, reaching #28 in the UK album charts, and has sold well over 100,000 in Europe. A European tour to promote the album followed in November 2010.[17]

In March 2011, OMD played their first North American tour as the original line up since 1988. The shows were hugely popular with unanimously positive reviews reflecting a general acknowledgement of the bands influential place in musical history combined with their ability to still deliver an incredibly powerful live show.[citation needed]

In September 2011, OMD appeared at the Electric Picnic 2011 festival in Stradbally, Co Laois, Ireland.


Current line-up

Former members

  • Dave Hughes – keyboards (1979–1980)
  • Michael Douglas – keyboards (1980–1981) (keyboards in enola gay and some concerts)
  • Neil Weir – brass, keyboards, bass guitar (1984–1989)
  • Graham Weir – guitar, brass, keyboards, writer (1984–1989)
  • Abe Juckes – drums (1991–1992)
  • Lloyd Massett – keyboards (1991)
  • Nigel Ippinson – keyboards (1991–1993)
  • Phil Coxon – keyboards (1991–1993)
  • Stuart Kershaw – drums (1993),piano,writer (2010)
  • Matthew Vaughan - bass,keyboards,guitar,piano (1996)
  • Jimmy Taylor - guitar (1996)
  • Chuck Sabo - drums and percussions (1996)

Discography and writing



  • There were several fanzines about the band, including Winston and the successful Telegraph, (which McCluskey was heavily involved in) that were active during the post-split period. Telegraph designed by Paul Browne in partnership with Phillip Marsh folded in 1994 after 5 issues. Browne went on to run the band's website and an official magazine called Messages which is still running. Marsh recently started to run the bands Myspace site.
  • The book Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, an unauthorised biography by Mike West, published in 1982.
  • The book Messages, written by Johnny Waller and Paul Humphreys' brother Mike Humphreys, details the career of the band up to the time of The Best of OMD.

In popular culture

  • OMD was featured several times in the BBC television programme Ashes To Ashes:
  • "Enola Gay" was used for the 2008 Israeli film Waltz with Bashir
  • OMD wrote the theme tune for the BBC drama series For The Greater Good, which ran for 3 episodes and was released in March 1991
  • Fellow Wirral band Half Man Half Biscuit recorded a track called "Architecture and Morality and Ted and Alice" on their Trumpton Riots EP in 1986.
  • OMD were referenced in the song "New Wave Girl" by Nerf Herder.
  • In the episode "Great Expectations" of the hit ABC show Modern Family, Phil corrects Claire (his wife), informing her that their "song" is "If You Leave" by OMD rather than "True" by Spandau Ballet.
  • Hewlett Packard will be using several OMD songs in their upcoming campaign for several new products.

See also


  1. ^ "New York Times". Movies.nytimes.com. http://movies.nytimes.com/person/561847/Orchestral-Manoeuvres-in-the-Dark-OMD-. Retrieved 2011-07-18. 
  2. ^ Taylor, Paul. Popular Music Since 1955. Mansell Pub., 1985. ISBN 0720117275, 9780720117271
  3. ^ Link2Wales.
  4. ^ "Page Title". Angelfire.com. http://www.angelfire.com/bc3/pirates1/pegasus/. Retrieved 14 November 2010. 
  5. ^ Link2Wales: PQ.
  6. ^ "Liverpool: H". link2wales.co.uk. http://link2wales.co.uk/liverpool/liverpool-a/liverpool-h/. Retrieved 14 November 2010. 
  7. ^ "OMD | Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark | home". Omd.uk.com. http://www.omd.uk.com/html/faq_2.html#OLDBANDS. Retrieved 14 November 2010. 
  8. ^ a b Pete Frame's Rock Family Tree
  9. ^ http://www.ericsclub.co.uk
  10. ^ "OMD | Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark | discography". Omd.uk.com. http://www.omd.uk.com/discography/singles/html/s_1.html#notes. Retrieved 14 November 2010. 
  11. ^ "Q&A: OMD's Paul Humphreys Talks Reformation, The Return of Intelligent Music and Being in Hitler's Underpants". http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/dc9/2011/03/qa_omds_paul_humphreys_talks_r.php. Retrieved 2011-03-24. 
  12. ^ Dream of me vs. Love's Theme.
  13. ^ [1][dead link]
  14. ^ "OMD NEWS : NOVEMBER 2009". 25 November 2009 (2009-11-25). http://www.omd.uk.com/html/news.html. Retrieved 25 November 2009 (2009-11-25). 
  15. ^ "Trevor Horn • The Buggles – The Lost Gig – 28.09.10 •". Trevorhorn.com. 28 September 2010. http://www.trevorhorn.com/news/buggles_the_lost_gig_280910.html. Retrieved 14 November 2010. 
  16. ^ "Trevor Horn • OMD to support The Buggles on 28.09.10 •". Trevorhorn.com. 28 September 2010. http://www.trevorhorn.com/news/omd_to_support_the_buggles_on.html. Retrieved 14 November 2010. 
  17. ^ "OMD NEWS: AUGUST 2009". http://www.omd.uk.com/html/news.html. Retrieved 21 August 2009 (2009-08-21). 

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