OMD: More Than “If You Leave”

Posted: September 11, 2014 in Band Profiles, Electronic, New Wave, Synthpop
Tags: , , , , ,

There were some bands I unjustly dismissed in the eighties. One of those bands was Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD). This was mostly due to the fact that I had little affection for the song “If You Leave” from the 1986 Pretty in Pink soundtrack. The whining vocals and the slow melody just didn’t resonate with me. After doing some research, I discovered that this was not the original song OMD picked for the John Hughes flick. After receiving negative feedback from test audiences on the ending of the movie (which had Andie choosing Duckie over Blane) and the song (“Goddess of Love”), they were asked to come up with a song for the new ending landing Andie with Blane. The new ending explains the bad wig Andrew McCarthy sported in the prom scene. They came up with “If You Leave” within 24 hours. The song reached No. 4 on the U.S. charts, their greatest U.S. success, and was pretty much all I knew of OMD until I came across their earlier material in a late night internet search for best synth-pop songs of the eighties.

In my quest for the ultimate synth-pop songs, I kept coming across OMD and their highly lauded first album. Surely this couldn’t be the same band I so easily rejected in the mid-eighties. I decided to give the album a listen and was glad I did. The self-titled album, released in 1980, was not what I expected and made me understand why they were hailed as synth-pop pioneers, influencing artists such as Erasure, Howard Jones, the Pet Shop Boys, Nine Inch Nails, and more recently bands such as Radiohead, The Killers, Glasvegas, and LCD Soundsystem. OMD formed in England in 1978 and founding members Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys were referred to as the Lennon-McCartney of synth-pop. They were considered experimental and intellectual, which didn’t fare well in the mainstream. Retrospectively, the band has received critical praise for their melodic and innovative sound.

“Electricity” was the first single off of the self-titled album released in 1980. It was originally recorded in 1979 but was included on the 1980 release. It’s a frantic swirl of synth-pop inspiration, and led one critic to call it the “perfect electro-pop number.”

 

My favorite song off the debut album is “Messages.” It features a prominent rhythm, emotional lyrics, and a great melody. This is the song that really grabbed my attention and made me eager to explore the rest of their catalog.

 

I’m also a fan of their later work, especially the single “(Forever) Live and Die.” It was the first single released from their 1986 album, The Pacific Age, and peaked at #19 on the U.S. charts. It’s a slower-paced song with a notable bassline, and harmonies that mesh so well with the lovely synth backdrop.

 

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