Red Frame/White Light

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"Red Frame/White Light"
Single by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
from the album Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
B-side"I Betray My Friends"
Released1 February 1980 (1980-02-01)
Format7", 12"
RecordedThe Gramophone Suite, Liverpool, 1979
GenreSynthpop, new wave
Songwriter(s)Paul Humphreys, Andy McCluskey
Producer(s)Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and Chester Valentino
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark singles chronology
"Red Frame/White Light"

"Red Frame/White Light" is the second single of the synthpop group Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. The song is about a red telephone box in Meols, on the Wirral peninsula in Cheshire, that was used by the band to make calls to organise their gigs in the late 1970s.[1][2] The track is composed of two alternating major/minor sections, each built around a synthesizer hook. Lyrical content is minimal, comprising mostly brief, spoken word utterances. It was the band's first single to chart.

The song had previously never been included in any of the group's compilation albums (except for the promo video being included on the DVD of Messages - OMD Greatest Hits in 2008) until 2019, when it appeared as part of Souvenir: The Singles Collection 1979-2019[3].


A Melody Maker reviewer called the song "synth-pop of the new sensibility, which incorporates humour, emotion and a healthy awareness of disposability." Other appraisals were mixed, making unfavourable comparisons to Gary Numan, or suggesting that it was not the best album track to be chosen as a single.[4]

Retrospectively, AllMusic critic Ned Raggett praised the song's "mysterious chimes and spy-movie dramatics",[5] while John Doran in The Quietus described the track as "awesome".[6]

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Red Frame/White Light" – 3:15
  2. "I Betray My Friends" – 3:50

Sleeve design[edit]

The sleeve was designed by Ben Kelly and Peter Saville.

Telephone box[edit]

The telephone box just after repainting

The telephone box that inspired "Red Frame/White Light" is located at the junction of Birkenhead Road and Greenwood Road in Meols.

In the nearby pub "The Railway Inn" the band would meet and used the telephone box to organise their gigs and transportation. In the songs lyrics the phone number is mentioned: 6323003.[7]

Fans would ring the number expecting to get one of the band members, but got a confused home owner in their own area code. Over the years it has become a kind of sacred place for OMD fans. In 2004 OMD fan Stephen Cork started a successful campaign to get the telephone box repainted in time for a fan tour on 10 April 2005 (2005-04-10).[2]

On the evening of 18 August 2017 the phone box was removed by BT Group. It has subsequently been restored and returned to its original location as of October 2017.

Chart positions[edit]

Chart (1980) Peak
UK Singles Chart 67
U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play 67

Alternative versions[edit]

Contrary to identical timings being printed on the 7" and 12" labels, the 12" version is slightly longer as the coda comes to a sudden stop, as opposed to the 7" version which fades out.

The group recorded a version of "Red Frame/White Light" for a John Peel radio session in 1979. This version was made available on the Peel Sessions 1979–1983 album release (2000).

A Remastered Version appeared on the 2019 compilation album and box-set, Souvenir: The Singles Collection 1979-2019.

Live performances[edit]

After being included in many early live sets, the song was not performed live by the band after 1980.[8]

A live performance was recorded at the Theatre Royal, Nottingham on 28 July 1980 for Rockstage TV broadcast. It was not given official release until 2015 on the Access All Areas CD and DVD release.[9]


  1. ^ "Official OMD website discography entry for 7"". Archived from the original on 8 October 2009. Retrieved 22 December 2007.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  2. ^ a b Powney, Louise (22 March 2005). "A musical landmark". Wirral News.
  3. ^ UMe/Virgin OMD To Release Special 40th Anniversary Digital Box Set 'Souvenir,' 2CD Digital Singles Collection & 3LP Greatest Hits Out October 4th On Ume / Virgin August 20, 2019
  4. ^ Waller, Johnny; Humphreys, Mike. Messages. Sidgwick & Jackson. 1987. ISBN 0-283-99234-4. p. 65–66.
  5. ^ Raggett, Ned. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark review. AllMusic. Retrieved 12 September 2013.
  6. ^ Doran, John (25 September 2008). "Messages - Greatest Hits". The Quietus. Retrieved 3 July 2013.
  7. ^ "Lyrics for "Red Frame/White Light"". Retrieved 23 December 2007.
  8. ^ "Red Frame/White Light by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark". Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  9. ^ "Access All Areas - Release by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark". Retrieved 18 May 2016.