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”!