Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (album)

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Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark album cover.jpg
LP sleeve by Peter Saville and Ben Kelly
Studio album by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
Released 22 February 1980 (1980-02-22)[1]
Recorded The Gramophone Suite, Liverpool, 1978–79
Genre Synthpop
Length 37:42
Label Dindisc
Producer Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and Chester Valentino
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark chronology
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
Singles from Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
  1. "Electricity"
    Released: 21 May 1979
  2. "Red Frame/White Light"
    Released: 1 February 1980
  3. "Messages"
    Released: 2 May 1980

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark is the self-titled debut album by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, released in 1980.[1] It peaked at number 27 in the UK Albums Chart.[2] "Electricity" and "Red Frame/White Light" were low charting singles taken from the record. A re-recorded version of "Messages" provided OMD with their first hit in the UK, reaching number 13.[3] The album was remastered and re-released in 2003, with six bonus tracks.

The record has received generally favourable reviews, although later releases by the group were more warmly received. It has nonetheless been named as one of the best electronic albums of the 1980s, and has been championed by major artists such as ZZ Top and Vince Clarke of Erasure (formerly chief songwriter of Depeche Mode, Yazoo and The Assembly).[4]

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark is also the title of a 1981 compilation album of tracks from this release and Organisation, issued only in the United States.


Rather than hire studio time for the album, OMD used their advance from Dindisc to build their own Liverpool recording studio, The Gramophone Suite. The band predicted that they would be dropped by the label due to disappointing sales, but would at least own a recording studio. Still generally a duo performing alongside a TEAC 4-track tape recorder christened "Winston", OMD enlisted Malcolm Holmes and Martin Cooper during the recording of the album. They performed on "Julia's Song" and would become full-time band members in 1981; Dave Fairbairn played guitar on "Messages" and "Julia's Song"[5]

The included tracks were composed during the previous four years, and included OMD's first ever composition, "Electricity", and the last song written for the album, "Pretending to See the Future". According to keyboardist Paul Humphreys, the primary influences on the record were Brian Eno, Neu! and Kraftwerk.[5]


The sleeve was designed by graphic designer Peter Saville and interior designer Ben Kelly, based on a door designed by Kelly.[6] It featured a die-cut grid through which the orange inner sleeve was visible. Saville and Kelly won a Designers and Art Directors Award for their work on the album.[6]

Frontman Andy McCluskey has stated that OMD did not fully understand the royalty system at the time, and that the band "had a sleeve that cost us so much to manufacture that for every record we sold we were barely earning pennies",[5] although Carol Wilson of Dindisc disputed this, saying the cost to the band for the sleeve was contractually fixed and Virgin took the expense.[6]

Reception and legacy[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3.5/5 stars[7]
Colin Larkin 4/5 stars[8]
International Musician (favourable)[9]
Melody Maker (favourable)[10]
NME (favourable)[11]
Pitchfork Media (7.3/10)[12]
Q 4/5 stars[13]
Smash Hits 7½/10[14]
Sounds (favourable)[15]

Paul Morley in the New Musical Express wrote: "How fine and different their melodies can be, how detailed and distinctive their song-structure...there is a constant change in emphasis and dynamics. It's definitely dance music. Orch Man's debut LP is one of the best of the year."[11] In his review for Sounds, Des Moines declared the album as "a debut musical statement to be proud of."[15] Melody Maker journalist Ian Birch called the record "Unpretentious, tuneful and unceasingly pleasant."[10]

Retrospective appraisals have also been favourable. In his review for Pitchfork Media, Scott Plagenhoef opined: "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark's original release was highlighted by the exquisite 'Electricity' and the brooding 'The Messerschmit Twins'...the elegant 'Messages' stands out next to the record's often sparse, minimalist soundscapes."[12] Ned Raggett in AllMusic said: "OMD's first full album won as much attention for its brilliant die-cut cover -- another example of Peter Saville's cutting-edge way around design -- as for its music, and its music is wonderful...Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark is just like the band that made it -- perfectly of its time and easily transcending it."[7]

Although it did not evoke the critical fervour later albums did, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark became a seminal record within popular music. Musician Vince Clarke has cited the album as one of his primary influences,[16] with "Electricity" being the track that moved him to pursue a career in electronic music.[17] Rock group ZZ Top, with whom OMD shared a studio on a 1980 edition of BBC2 show The Old Grey Whistle Test while promoting Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, became loyal fans upon hearing the material and would play the record over their PA system prior to concerts. ZZ Top's fondness of the album also led to the band borrowing McCluskey's distinctive on-stage routine[18] – dubbed by the BBC's Stuart Maconie the "Trainee Teacher Dance".[19]

It was listed in Slicing Up Eyeballs' "Best of the '80s" in March 2013, being ranked as one of the top 30 albums of 1980 based on 3,360 reader votes.[20]

Track listing[edit]

All songs were written by Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys, except where noted.

Original release[edit]

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Bunker Soldiers"     2:50
2. "Almost"     3:40
3. "Mystereality"     2:42
4. "Electricity"     3:32
5. "The Messerschmitt Twins"     5:38
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
6. "Messages"     4:06
7. "Julia's Song"   McCluskey, Humphreys, Julia Kneale 4:39
8. "Red Frame/White Light"     3:10
9. "Dancing (Instrumental)"     2:58
10. "Pretending To See The Future"     3:45

US release (O.M.D.)[edit]

The US version, released in 1981, collects material from the first two OMD albums, but retains the sleeve-art of the debut LP.

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Enola Gay"   McCluskey 3:31
2. "2nd Thought"   McCluskey 4:12
3. "Bunker Soldiers"     2:51
4. "Almost"     3:46
5. "Electricity"     3:32
6. "Statues"     4:08
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
7. "The Misunderstanding"     4:45
8. "Julia's Song"   McCluskey, Humphreys, Julia Kneale 4:32
9. "Motion And Heart"     3:13
10. "Messages"     3:59
11. "Stanlow"     6:30

Remastered CD release with bonus tracks[edit]

Virgin / DIDCDR2

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Bunker Soldiers"     2:54
2. "Almost"     3:44
3. "Mystereality"     2:45
4. "Electricity"     3:39
5. "The Messerschmitt Twins"     5:41
6. "Messages"     4:12
7. "Julia's Song"   McCluskey, Humphreys, Julia Kneale 4:41
8. "Red Frame/White Light"     3:12
9. "Dancing (Instrumental)"     2:59
10. "Pretending to See the Future"     3:48
Bonus tracks
No. Title Writer(s) Length
11. "Messages (Single version)"     4:46
12. "I Betray My Friends"     3:53
13. "Taking Sides Again (Instrumental)"     4:23
14. "Waiting for the Man"   Lou Reed 3:00
15. "Electricity (Hannett/Cargo Studios Version)"     3:37
16. "Almost (Hannett/Cargo Studios Version)"     3:51


  • There are many different versions of debut single "Electricity" and its B-side "Almost". On the remastered album two versions of both songs are present.
  • The band chose to perform "Dancing" on The Old Grey Whistle Test in 1980, despite the fact that the song was never released as a single.
  • "I Betray My Friends", "Taking Sides Again", and "Waiting for the Man" were B-sides to "Red Frame/White Light" and "Messages", and can also be found on the 2001 Navigation: The OMD B-Sides compilation. "Taking Sides Again" is an instrumental dub version of "Messages". "Waiting for the Man" is a cover of a Velvet Underground song, originally titled "I'm Waiting for the Man".
  • A live version of "Pretending to See the Future" was released on a blue flexi disc included with the 19 March – 1 April 1981 issue of Smash Hits magazine.


  1. ^ a b "OMD – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – discography". Retrieved 11 March 2012. 
  2. ^ "Chart Stats – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark". Archived from the original on 22 July 2012. Retrieved 20 February 2009. 
  3. ^ "Chart Stats – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Messages". Retrieved 20 February 2009. 
  4. ^ See: Reception and legacy.
  5. ^ a b c Browne, Paul. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (2003 remaster). Sleeve notes. Virgin Records.
  6. ^ a b c Nice, James (2011) [2010]. Shadowplayers: The Rise and Fall of Factory Records (paperback ed.). London: Aurum Press. p. 99. ISBN 978 1 84513 634 5. 
  7. ^ a b Raggett, Ned. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (album) at AllMusic. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
  8. ^ Larkin, Colin. The Virgin Encyclopedia of Eighties Music. Virgin Books. 1997. ISBN 0753501597. p. 350.
  9. ^ Feasey, Mike. International Musician (June 1980).  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. ^ a b Birch, Ian. Melody Maker (15 February 1980).  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  11. ^ a b Morley, Paul. NME (1 March 1980).  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  12. ^ a b Plagenhoef, Scott (18 July 2003). "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark / Organisation / Architecture & Morality | Album Reviews". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 20 February 2012. 
  13. ^ Q (May 2003).  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  14. ^ Starr, Red. "Albums". Smash Hits (March 6–19): 30–31. 
  15. ^ a b Moines, Des. Sounds (1 March 1980).  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  16. ^ "Synth Britannia (Part Two: Construction Time Again)". Britannia. 16 October 2009. 4 minutes in. BBC Four. British Broadcasting Corporation. When I first started playing synthesizers it [my inspiration] would have been people like The Human League; Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, their very first album; I was a big fan of Daniel Miller's work, as the Silicon Teens and as The Normal; and also of Fad Gadget, who was on Mute Records. 
  17. ^ "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. 
  18. ^ Waller, Johnny; Humphreys, Mike. Messages. Sidgwick & Jackson. 1987. ISBN 0-283-99234-4. p. 70.
  19. ^ Fulton, Rick (12 May 2013). "Manoeuvring back on scene". Sunday Mail. The Free Library. Retrieved 29 November 2013. Fans love your distinctive dancing, which Stuart Maconie called the 'Trainee Teacher Dance'. 
  20. ^ "Top 100 Albums of 1980: Slicing Up Eyeballs’ Best of the ’80s — Part 1". Slicing Up Eyeballs. 8 March 2013. Retrieved 12 November 2013. 

External links[edit]