Weekly Retrospective

W- 2020/02/17-23

Compiling the essential records released on the past times that match to corresponding dates of the present week.

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark: Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys

The Synth Pop reigned 1980

On February 22, 1980, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark released the eponymous debut album through Dindisc, the Virgin Records sub-label.

The album “Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark” came out preceded by ‘Electricity‘ single, which hit the stores in May 1979 as the Factory Records sixth reference (Fact6.) The duo from Wirral (Liverpool) had two months of life when Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys took the song for challenging sessions with producer Martin Hannett (as Martin Zero) at Cargo Studios.

They disappointed with his overproduced work. So, they re-recorded it at Strawberry Studios in Stockport (Greater Manchester) and dealt with Factory to release their version as A-Side with Hannett‘s production of ‘Almost‘ on the reverse. With regular plays on John Peel’s late-night show, B.B.C. Radio 1, added to the music media excellent response and the visual endorsement by Peter Saville‘s 7″ sleeve, the O.M.D. debut single was more a claim to follow than instant hit for the charts. This potential made sign the band for Dindisc in September 1979, with Factory‘s blessing and support. The agreement included Saville as an in-house designer.

The first album recreated material from duo’s previous band; an eight-piece called The Id, formed in 1977 by the school and college friends with shared tastes on the new-wave/synth-pop-oriented music. They used to gig on the Merseyside area, where popularized ‘Julia’s Song.’ By the way, McCluskey and Humphreys involved in a side-project, VCL XI (named after changing into Roman numerals the VCL 11 valve’s diagram represented on Kraftwerk‘s “Radioactivity” album back cover). It allowed them to experiment in more intricate electronic possibilities. The Id finally disbanded. With the experience acknowledged and the musical influences of Kraftwerk, Brian Eno, and Neu!, O.M.D. was in the works to sign the sound of hooky, percolating synth-pop. They used Dindisc‘s advance to build their recording studio in Liverpool, The Gramophone Suite, and to hire Malcolm Holmes and Martin Cooper, who became full-time band members. They delivered the album to Dindisc by December 1979.

O.M.D: “Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark” original sleeve by Martin Saville and Ben Kelly

The re-recorded version of ‘Messages‘ was the first U.K. top 20 for the band. The album reached the Top 30 in the U.K. Albums Chart. The Neuesque ‘Mystereality,’ the hypnotic ‘The Messerschmitt Twins‘, and the inflected Brazilian bossa nova, ‘Dancing, ‘ stand as brilliant gems for musical posterity. The art-cover by Peter Saville and Ben Kelly is an iconic design for the record industry, featuring multiple colour versions of a die-cut grid over orange inner sleeve.

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark” was the beginning of a quick succession of two albums throughout the year. “Organisation” appeared by the end of October 1980, which included ‘Enola Gay,’ the song providing the band’s international recognition. The U.S. release titled the album “O.M.D.,” collecting of the most relevant tracks from both, including the hit related to the plane carrying ‘Big Boy,’ the first nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The Virgin remastered release in 2012 added few bonus tracks to the original, with a cover version of ‘Waiting For The Man‘ taken form of Lou Reed‘s composition ‘Waiting For My Man,’ included initially on The Velvet Underground‘s discography.

The late ’70s had sparse examples of music based on technology, a significant change of aesthetics. Shaking and radical proposals went from The Normal and D.A.F. to the early Human League, looking for the acceptance of the unbeatable post-punk and new-wave. Joy Division‘s ‘She’s Lost Control‘ redirected to some composite output while Ultravox was growing to reach its ‘Vienna‘ pop panacea. Gary Numan‘s Tubeway Army proved synth-pop could be number one with ‘Are “Friends” Electric?‘ Time for the sound of analog synthesizers had arrived to raid into the charts. Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark was ready to introduce the melody on it and be a significant act for the genre with a row of catchy singles until the mid-eighties. “Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark” is one of the records that sustained the so-called new sound of the eighties decade.

Creating drum’n’bass from jungle

Fresh forever

W- 2020/02/17-23


Gerald Simpson, a Manchester Moss-side born who was working in MacDonald’s, created the defining vinyl for the UK Acid House in 1988: ‘Voodoo Ray.’ That piece of musical art made out of a simple sampler, a 303 bass synth, and a rudimentary drum machine gave him the status of technical genius. It also cursed his entire musical career.

Miscarried through the savage industry, he tried to replicate the success with “Hot Lemonade (1989),” but he suffered under-production. As a central figure of the Manchester dance scene, he worked for 808 State on ‘Pacific State‘ and remixed Stone Roses‘ ‘Fools Gold.’ Being signed by CBS, he released “Automannik” in 1990, a minimalistic work treated in the significant company standards which didn’t reach the appropriate audience, far from the taste of his developing futuristic dark sounds. Infructuous “High Life Low Profile” took Simpson back to the Hardcore, to the basics of drum programming, to create two landmarks for the irruption of drum’n’bass as a genre: “28 Gun Bad Boy” in 1992 and the definitive “Black Secret Technology.”

A Guy Called Gerald: “Black Secret Technology” (Juice Box, 1995)

Released in February 1995, this quarter of a century seems not affecting it at all, keeps it inalterable, as fresh as the primary proposal: To capture the time for the foundation of a new musical paradigm, ready to grow and evolve. Nothing to add to but his own words.