Electricity (OMD song)
|Single by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark|
|from the album Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark|
|Released||21 May 1979
(see release history)
|Recorded||Cargo Studios, Rochdale
Henry's Studio, Liverpool
|Genre||New wave, synthpop|
|Label||Factory - FAC 6 (1st release)
DinDisc (2nd & 3rd releases)
|Writer(s)||Paul Humphreys, Andy McCluskey|
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and Chester Valentino
|Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark singles chronology|
"Electricity" is the 1979 debut single of the new wave and synthpop group Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, featured on their eponymous debut album the following year. Inspired by Kraftwerk's "Radioactivity", the song addresses society's wasteful usage of energy sources. Frontman Andy McCluskey shares lead vocals with Paul Humphreys, who ordinarily functions as keyboard player and backing vocalist. As with single "Messages", from the same album, the band embraced the concept of machines singing the song's chorus. It was on the strength of "Electricity" that the band were offered a recording contract with Dindisc Records.
"Electricity" has been acclaimed as a landmark single of the then-fledgling synthpop movement, and has been cited by musician Vince Clarke of Erasure (formerly chief songwriter of Depeche Mode, Yazoo and The Assembly) as his primary inspiration to pursue a career in electronic music.
After OMD's first concert, opening for Joy Division in a 1978 appearance at Eric's Club in Liverpool, McCluskey was inspired to send a demo of the song to Factory Records founder Tony Wilson. They later heard that while he was not impressed with it, his wife was, so he bought it from them and released it as a single. Its ensuing success led to them receiving a seven-album record deal worth £250,000.
Reception and legacy
"Electricity" was a hit with veteran DJ John Peel, who gave the song regular play on his late-night radio show; as a result, the British music press quickly picked up on the song. Adrian Thrills in the New Musical Express cited it as "the best example of Factory Records to date – excellent, melodic, synthesiser pop." He also lauded B-side "Almost", calling it "a doleful, heartsick slab of electronic angst." Conversely, Garry Bushell gave a negative review in Sounds, in which he remarked: "If Mike Oldfield was ten years younger and a Tubeway Army fan, this is what he'd sound like – who wants to listen to a bunch of Scousers whining about electricity anyway?" However, David Hepworth, who re-appraised the track in the same publication, opined that OMD's sound "commands your attention" and lauded the single for being "packaged with as much taste as it's played."
Three attempts at scoring a hit achieved the peak of #99 in 1979. The New Musical Express named "Electricity" as one of the best singles of the year, placing it on the magazine's end-of-year list for 1979.
Critic Dave Thompson, in a retrospective review for AllMusic, described the song as the "perfect electro-pop number", concluding: "Far from a celebration of the power of our power sources, the lyrics drive home the need for a renewable energy source, some alternative to the fossil fuels we're permanently expending by the second, and a future of abundant electricity free from environmental depletion." Colleague Ned Raggett called it "pure zeitgeist, a celebration of synth pop's incipient reign with fast beats and even faster singing."
Vince Clarke has cited "Electricity" as the track that sparked his interest in electronic music. In a 1995 BBC interview he said: "When I was 18 or 19 I heard a single called 'Electricity' by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. It sounded so different from anything I'd heard; that really made me want to make electronic music, 'cause it was so unique."
"Electricity" and "Almost" versions
Multiple versions of "Electricity" exist; the earliest are recordings by McCluskey and Humphreys' previous group The Id.
There are many different versions of the two songs that were present on OMD's debut single. After the band left Factory Records, DinDisc attempted twice to score a hit with "Electricity". Consequently, four versions of "Electricity" and three of "Almost" exist.
Version II: The band felt Hannett had overproduced their songs somewhat, so they recorded new versions at Henry's Studio, Liverpool. These versions were produced by themselves and band manager Paul Collister under the moniker Chester Valentino.
A compromise was reached for the versions used on the single. This first Factory single contains the band's version of "Electricity" and the Hannett version of "Almost".
Version II of "Almost" remained unreleased until appearing on the 2001 Navigation compilation.
Version III: The album versions of "Electricity" and "Almost" differ from the previous versions, and were used for the third and final release of the single. "Electricity" was remixed from the original Hannett version. It's also the version used on the 1988 Best Of and the 1998 Singles collections and is the best known version of the song. The album version of "Almost" is similarly a remix of Hannett's version.
Version IV ("Electricity" only): A fourth mix of "Electricity" was produced by Mike Howlett. This version of "Electricity" was recorded during the Organisation sessions when the band fancied extending the instrumental section in the middle of the song. It was initially released on the Dindisc 1980 compilation album in 1980. In 2003 it was released on CD as a bonus track on the re-issue of Organisation.
The following singles were released:
|21 May 1979||Factory FAC6||Version II||Version I||Special 'black on black' sleeve, limited to 5000 copies.||OMD's first single.|
|28 September 1979||DinDisc DIN2||Version I||Version I||Standard white on black printing, with studio details on back of sleeve.||The single is re-released to coincide with the band signing to DinDisc.|
|31 March 1980||DinDisc DIN2||Version III||Version III||Standard white on black printing, without studio details on back of sleeve.||Third attempt at achieving a hit, which finally resulted in reaching the charts.|
"Electricity" and "Almost" were released on the following OMD albums:
|22 February 1980||Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark||"Electricity"||Version III|
|12 March 1988||The Best of OMD||"Electricity"||Version III|
|"Electricity"||music video||on the VHS version of the album|
|28 September 1998||The OMD Singles||"Electricity"||Version III|
|24 April 2000||Peel Sessions 1979–1983||"Electricity"||Version II||Bonus track, subtitled "Factory Version 1979"|
|14 May 2001||Navigation: The OMD B-Sides||"Almost"||Version II|
|December 2002||The Id||"Electricity"||A 1978 recording by The Id, the pre-OMD band.|
|10 March 2003||Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark reissue||"Electricity"||Version III|
|"Electricity"||Version I||Bonus track, subtitled "Hannett/Cargo Studios Version"|
|"Almost"||Version I||Bonus track, subtitled "Hannett/Cargo Studios Version"|
|10 March 2003||Organisation reissue||"Electricity"||Version IV||Bonus track, subtitled "Dindisc 1980 Version"|
|10 March 2003||Messages: Greatest Hits||"Electricity"||Version III|
The sleeve was designed by Factory's designer Peter Saville. The band and Saville met in a Rochdale pub and exchanged ideas. Saville told them about a book of avant-garde musical scores which he'd come across. Andy McCluskey said that he sometimes wrote down the tunes he composed in a similar shorthand. This led to the unusual graphics that feature on the sleeve. Saville suggested to use shiny black ink on black paper. Both OMD and Tony Wilson didn't believe it could be done, but Saville persuaded a printer to do the job. The thermographic printing was a success, but the place set on fire three times, so eventually only 5,000 sleeves were printed. The reissue sleeves were standard white on black printed sleeves.
Cover versions of "Electricity"
|2002||NOFX||45 or 46 Songs That Weren't Good Enough to Go on Our Other Records|
|2004||Popvert||Drive Thru Happiness EP|
- Lyrics for "Electricity".
- Lyrics for "Almost".
- Download section of official OMD website with The Id version of "Electricity" and version II of "Almost".
- Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. Douban.com. Retrieved 23 June 2013. "this is the first album by Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, first released on Virgin in 1980. 10 tracks, including the new wave hits 'Messages' and 'Electricity'."
- Ned Raggett. "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark review at Allmusic". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 23 June 2013. "the re-recorded and arguably better version of "Electricity" is pure zeitgeist, a celebration of synth pop's incipient reign with fast beats and even faster singing."
- "Electricity by OMD Songfacts". Songfacts. ToneMedia. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
- "Interview: Andy McCluskey, OMD". PRS for Music Online Magazine. 19 March 2013. Retrieved 1 October 2013. "Many of our songs use the synth melody as the chorus. There are verses but generally the melody is the chorus."
- Synth Britannia. BBC Four. 16 October 2009.
- See: Reception and legacy.
- Hugo Lindgren (19 May 2013). "O.M.D.'s Plot Against Rock". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
- Waller, Johnny; Humphreys, Mike. Messages. Sidgwick & Jackson. 1987. ISBN 0-283-99234-4. p. 49.
- "Official OMD website discography entry for third issue.". Retrieved 18 December 2007.
- "Rocklist.net...NME End Of Year Lists 1979...". NME. Rocklistmusic.co.uk. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
- Dave Thompson. "Electricity review at Allmusic". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
- "Erasure". The O-Zone. 29 November 1995. 8 minutes in. BBC 2. British Broadcasting Corporation.
- "lescharts.com - OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark) - Electricity". SNEP. Hung Medien. Retrieved 23 June 2013.
- "Official OMD website discography entry for first issue.". Retrieved 22 December 2007.
- "Official OMD website discography - Compilations: DINDISC 1980". Retrieved 17 April 2010.
- "Official OMD website discography entry for second issue". Retrieved 22 December 2007.
- Steve Taylor, Industrial manoeuvres in the art, The Face, no. 10, February 1981, pp. 50-53