April 30 – OMD Pop Dazzled Mid-’80s Set

It was a big day for the band with one of the longest names in the business in 1984. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (or “OMD” for short) put out their fifth album, Junk Culture. It was the second for them on Virgin Records, after the rather forgettable and commercially-panned Dazzle Ships.

OMD have always consisted primarily of the duo of writers, lead singers and keyboardists, Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys. At this point in their career though, they were a quartet with drummer Malcolm Holmes and sax & synth player Martin Cooper in as well.

With Dazzle Ships being rather experimental, cold and almost industrial in design – and not well-received – they decided to make an album that was more accessible and pop-py, and succeeded. To change things up a little, they bought some new Fairlight synthesizers to add to their already substantial array of electronics, and recorded outside of England, in sunny Monserrat as well as Belgium and the Netherlands. And they got David Bowie’s favorite producer, Tony Visconti, to assist producer Brian Tench in the studio some. The result was 10 songs designed for easy musical digestion and maybe a little dancing thrown in.

Critics were of mixed feelings about it. The general gist though was that those in Britain (where electropop and new wave were already very well-established) were more indifferent to their homeland boys than were ones overseas, where the record seemed to get very good reviews…if it got noticed. In the UK, the NME thought it sounded “never fresh…all too predictable” and Smash Hits gave it a decent 7 out of 10 but noted while it was “more accessible than Dazzle Ships…but moments that turn excellence into brilliance are fewer and further between.” Elsewhere, Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald liked it and figured “nearly every song has ‘single’ stamped on it” while in Canada, the Ottawa Citizen offered that “of the countless bands that make up the synth-pop invasion, OMD have shown a greater ability to progress than most.” Down the highway from there, Toronto’s CFNY-FM listed it as the 20th best album of the year…although that was behind Echo & the Bunnymen’s Ocean Rain, which was ranked as fifth-best. That’s worth noting because the two bands both hale from Liverpool and released albums the same week, with an implied rivalry between them.

The public liked the record well-enough too. The lead single, “Locomotion” (not the Giffen and King song of Little Eva fame) got to #5 at home, making it their fifth top 10 hit of the decade in Britain. It rose to #4 across the strait in Ireland. “Tesla Girls” (which seemed to get the most play on this side of the ocean) and “Taking Loud and Clear” were both chart hits for them in the UK as well, helping push the album to #9 there and selling to gold status. At that point, all of their albums had gone gold or platinum at home. In North America, the album didn’t sell in any major quantities but it did help build their name some more, preparing the public for the reasonable success they’d have with their next album, Crush and its single “So In Love” and then the major hit they’d score from Pretty in Pink, “If You Leave.”

The band not only has one of the longest names in the pop business, it’s also getting to have one of the longest careers. They’re still active, over 40 years after their beginnings, with McCluskey and Humphreys, as well as Cooper still and a new drummer. Their last album, 2017’s The Punishment of Luxury, was the first to get as high as #4 in the UK since 1991, and they promise a new album this summer. In the meantime, a major British tour earned them Classic Pop‘s designation of “Group of the Year” in 2019. 

10 thoughts on “April 30 – OMD Pop Dazzled Mid-’80s Set

      1. Yep, they are what I consider part of the overall pattern in modern musics tapestry, more a minor detail than a main illustration. Part of the weave.
        PS; See, here I’m up at some ungodly hour? I have to do something to stop Max making my every word second best!

        Liked by 2 people

    1. it is indeed, and funny thing is I think I remember reading they only had a day to come up with it to meet the soundtrack deadline, and it became probably their biggest international hit.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. they weren’t for everyone. I liked most of their stuff but didn’t go ga-ga over it. You and Max both make the point ‘If You Leave’ was really a high point for them, which it was.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s