Electricity (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark song)

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"Electricity"
Electricity.gif
Single by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
from the album Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
B-side "Almost"
Released 21 May 1979
Format 7" vinyl
Recorded
Genre
Length 3:32
Label
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
  • Martin Zero
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
  • Chester Valentino
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark singles chronology
"Electricity"
(1979)
"Red Frame/White Light"
(1980)
"Electricity"
(1979)
"Red Frame/White Light"
(1980)

"Electricity" is the 1979 debut single of the English group Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, featured on their eponymous debut album the following year. Inspired by Kraftwerk's "Radioactivity",[3] the song addresses society's wasteful usage of energy sources. Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys share lead vocals on the track. As with single "Messages", from the same album, the band embraced the concept of machines singing the song's chorus.[4]

It was on the strength of "Electricity" that the band were offered a recording contract with Dindisc,[5] who twice re-issued the single. In 2012, "Electricity" peaked at no. 126 in the French charts.[6]

Vince Clarke of Erasure (and formerly chief songwriter of Depeche Mode, Yazoo and The Assembly) has cited "Electricity" as his primary inspiration to pursue a career in electronic music,[7] while BBC Radio's Steve Lamacq has named it as the track that made him want to become a DJ.[8]

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Electricity"
  2. "Almost"

History[edit]

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.[9]

Reception[edit]

"Electricity" was a hit with veteran DJ John Peel, who gave the song regular play on his late-night radio show;[8][10] as a result, the British music press quickly picked up on the song.[10] 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."[10]

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?"[10] 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."[10] "Electricity" featured on the NME end-of-year list for 1979.[11]

Retrospectively, AllMusic critic Ned Raggett described the song as "pure zeitgeist, a celebration of synth pop's incipient reign".[2] Colleague Dave Thompson called it a "perfect electro-pop number".[12]

Vince Clarke cited "Electricity" as the track that sparked his interest in electronic music. In a 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."[7] Simple Minds frontman Jim Kerr admitted to being "downright jealous" of the song.[13]

"Electricity" and "Almost" versions[edit]

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 I
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" (3:44) and the Hannett version of "Almost" (3:50).[14]
  • Version II of "Almost" (3:43) remained unreleased until appearing on the 2001 compilation; Navigation: The OMD B-Sides.
Version III
  • The album versions of "Electricity" (3:39) and "Almost" (3:44) 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" (3:43) 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.[15] In 2003, it was released on CD as a bonus track on the re-issue of Organisation.
The Micronauts Remix

Cover versions[edit]

"Electricity" has been covered by the bands NOFX[16] and MGMT.[17]

Release history[edit]

Singles[edit]

The following singles were released:

Date Catalogue "Electricity" "Almost" Sleeve Notes
21 May 1979 Factory FAC6 Version II Version I Special 'black on black' sleeve, limited to 5000 copies. OMD's first single.[14]
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.[18]
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.

Albums[edit]

"Electricity" and "Almost" were released on the following OMD albums:

Date Album Song Version Notes
22 February 1980 Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark "Electricity" Version III
"Almost" 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
"Almost" 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
"Electricity" music video

Sleeve design[edit]

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.[19] The reissue sleeves were standard white on black printed sleeves.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark". Douban. 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'. 
  2. ^ a b Raggett, Ned. "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 23 June 2013. 
  3. ^ "Electricity by OMD". Songfacts. Retrieved 23 July 2013. 
  4. ^ "Interview: Andy McCluskey, OMD". PRS for Music. 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. 
  5. ^ Synth Britannia. BBC Four. 16 October 2009.
  6. ^ "lescharts.com – OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark) – Electricity". Lescharts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved 23 June 2013. 
  7. ^ a b "Erasure". The O-Zone. 29 November 1995. 8 minutes in. BBC 2. British Broadcasting Corporation. 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. 
  8. ^ a b Lamacq, Steve (1 March 2014). "Soundtrack of My Life". NME. p. 25. 
  9. ^ Lindgren, Hugo (19 May 2013). "O.M.D.'s Plot Against Rock". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 May 2013. 
  10. ^ a b c d e Waller, Johnny; Humphreys, Mike (1987). Messages. Sidgwick & Jackson. p. 49. ISBN 0-283-99234-4. 
  11. ^ "NME End of Year Lists 1979". NME. Rocklist.net. Retrieved 23 July 2013. 
  12. ^ Thompson, Dave. "Electricity – Song Review". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 23 July 2013. 
  13. ^ Coleman, Andy (27 November 2009). "A Simple concept". Birmingham Mail. The Free Library. Retrieved 4 May 2016. 
  14. ^ a b "Official OMD website discography entry for first issue.". Retrieved 22 December 2007. 
  15. ^ "Official OMD website discography - Compilations: DINDISC 1980". Retrieved 17 April 2010. 
  16. ^ Greene, Jo-Ann. "NOFX – 45 or 46 Songs That Weren't Good Enough to Go on Our Other Records". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 14 November 2016. 
  17. ^ Hogan, Marc (2 April 2012). "See MGMT Play 'Alien' New Song, Cover OMD Live in Bogota". Spin. Retrieved 14 November 2016. 
  18. ^ "Official OMD website discography entry for second issue". Retrieved 22 December 2007. 
  19. ^ Taylor, Steve (February 1981). "Industrial Manoeuvres in the Art". The Face (10): 50–53. ISSN 0263-1210. 

External links[edit]