New wave had a big impact on me back when I was in junior high and high school. There were a lot of great synth pop bands in the eighties and this pick may not be my favorite band from that genre but remains a band I pop in the disc player occasionally. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark formed in the Wirral Peninsula of North West England back in 1978 and released a string of very successful albums in the U.K. during the eighties. Four of the first five albums the band released reached the Top Ten of the U.K. albums chart.
OMD first had significant success in the U.S. in 1985 with the release of the Crush album and the single “So in Love” which peaked at #26 on the Billboard Hot 100. I had an introduction to the band back in 1982 when I first saw the music film Urgh! A Music War and the band’s live performance of “Enola Gay” from OMD’s second album Organisation. I became a fan with the release of “So in Love”, an absolutely gorgeous song that in essence is a ballad but that engaging beat and the sweeping synths keep the track in line with previous efforts from the band.
U.S. fans of course remember the track from the 1986 film Pretty in Pink “If You Leave”. Typical with how I felt about music back then the fact this was the “trendy” Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark song made me ignore it for the most part. Years later I can admit that it is a great pop tune but long-time fans of OMD tended to dismiss this track, “So in Love” and much of the material the band released in the mid-eighties. OMD had been applauded for the experimental synth work created on the first five albums. The fact OMD was incorporating a more pop-oriented sound into their work during the latter period led the band to be dismissed by some fans and music critics. Unfortunately the change in sound also led to tensions within the band and by 1990 the classic line-up of Andy McCluskey, Paul Humphreys, Malcolm Holmes and Martin Cooper had splintered, leaving only McCluskey using the OMD name as a solo performer.
OMD reformed with all four original members in 2006 and have released two albums since the reunion. Many popular artists cite Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark as an important influence and they continue to release relevant work and remain popular, especially in the U.K.. I don’t make a point of listening to the band often but when I do I have fond memories of parties at Berdine’s house. Check out this clip of “Enola Gay” from Urgh! A Music War.
Album Inspiration: The Best of OMD (1988)