May 20 – New Wave Supergroup Were Getting Away With It

Yesterday we looked at the breakup of The Smiths, and noted singer Morrissey was quick out of the gates with a solo record not long after. Today we look at one of the first things the Smiths guitar ace, Johnny Marr did after their end. Marr had also played with the idea of a solo record, but he had a lot of friends in music, so he soon paired up with Bernard Sumner, multi-talented singer of New Order to form a band called Electronic. They were about as hot as they’d be this day in 1990, with their first single, “Getting Away With It” making it into the U.S. top 40.

Sumner had been thinking of doing a solo record as well at the time. He was still in New Order and they were doing well, but he was feeling a bit crowded or under-appreciated; that his song ideas weren’t given as much consideration as those of the others. So he started working on one, but found he got bored quickly. So he turned to Marr and they collaborated, bringing in some other big name new wave talent as well – drummer David Palmer of ABC and Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys, who actually co-wrote this one.

Marr was a little bitter at Morrissey and how the Smiths ended, so this song was clearly a parody of “Moz” lyrics… the opening line of “I’ve been walking in the rain just to get wet on purpose” gives you a clue to that; Tennant called the idea “miserablism.” Musically though, the sound probably owed more to New Order, with Sumner doing the lead vocals and playing keyboards. Yet another Brit 80s star, Anne Dudley of Art of Noise was called in and arranged and added in the string section. It was somehow reminiscent of The Smiths as well in as much as it had a lively, breezily upbeat feel despite the deliberately morose-leaning lyrics. The NME hit the mark describing it as “A lovely airy melody” with “obtuse lovelorn one-liners” that end up making “the record be much more than the sum of its parts.”

It came out on New Order’s Factory Records, and they gave it a good push, releasing it as a single on 7” and 12” vinyl as well as a cassette single and CD one; with various mixes of the song ranging from about 4:23” in length to 7:30”. It would later be included on their debut, self-titled album.

The song never reached the heights, sonically or commercially of the best of the works of Marr and Sumner’s previous bands, but was a good start to a career – particularly as both of them made a point of Electronic being a side-project, not their life’s main work. “Getting Away With It” hit #12 in their UK (they’d actually have a couple of bigger hits there, including “Get the Message” which hit #8 about a year later) but hit #38 in the States, their only noteworthy success there. On alt rock charts, it reached #4. The album itself went gold in Britain.

Electronic recorded sporadically through the ’90s, at times involving members of Kraftwerk as well, but failed to have a major breakthrough beyond the first record…which is probably OK with them. A gold record and international hit from essentially a weekend side project? That’s “getting away with it”!

12 thoughts on “May 20 – New Wave Supergroup Were Getting Away With It

  1. Badfinger (Max)

    The songs sound pretty good… it’s cool that they had that outlet to go to… especially Sumner who probably needed it…I was hoping to hear more Marr influence with that guitar but they are good.

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    1. It was a rarity… a Brit new wave tune that did worse in Canada than States. I vaguely remember hearing it back then but didn’t pay much attention. It is quite a good single though…don’t hear much of Johnny Marr on it though. Funny actually that they wrote the lyrics mocking Morrissey & his writing.

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  2. There is more than a touch of Pet Shop Boys in the delivery of ‘Getting Away With It, for sure. And a real nice intro to ‘Get The Message’ which is new to me.
    ‘Miserabllsm’- that deserves, ironically, a LOL.

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  3. I love Getting Away With It – it’s like a little time capsule of how the 1980s kept on going until Nirvana made music darker. I don’t think the whole album is as good as the best stuff from New Order and The Smiths in the 1980s, but that song is spectacular.

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    1. it’s an album I might check out, I really only know that song and even that one almost went by unnoticed (despite me being a New Order fan and that band doing very well in Toronto at that time). It’s one song that sounds a bit better now than I remembered it as

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      1. I think Electronic misses that organic sound – there are a couple of tracks with prominent guitar but it’s mainly just synths, so it hasn’t dated as well. I love ‘Feel Every Beat’ though, even with Sumner rapping.

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      2. haven’t heard that one… and sumner rapping makes me think I may not need to…Definitely seemed like it was mainly Bernard’s band and Johnny was the auxiliary member

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    1. he is definitely! I think he was backing Bryan Ferry in one tour in the 80s I had tickets to but circumstances kept me from getting to. Thanks for reading and taking time to comment

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