Electricity (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark song)

"Electricity" is the 1979 debut single by English electronic band Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD), featured on their eponymous debut album the following year. Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys sing the lead vocals on the track together in unison. Recognised as one of the most influential singles of its era, "Electricity" was integral to the rise of the UK's synth-pop movement. It has garnered praise from music journalists and other recording artists.

Single by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
from the album Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
Released21 May 1979
  • Martin Zero
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
  • Chester Valentino
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark singles chronology
"Red Frame/White Light"
Alternative cover
Cover of the 2019 re-issue.

The track is a holdover from defunct Wirral group the Id (who were led by McCluskey and Humphreys), and features a melodic synthesizer break as opposed to a sung chorus. Following OMD's release of "Electricity" on Factory Records, the band were offered a recording contract with Dindisc, who twice re-issued the single. It achieved limited success on the UK Singles Chart, peaking at no. 99 in early 1980, but found popularity in nightclubs. A 2019 re-release, through Virgin EMI, topped the UK Vinyl Singles Chart.

Background edit

"Electricity" was the first song that Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys wrote together at the age of 16.[3] It addresses society's wasteful usage of energy resources.[4] Inspired by Kraftwerk's "Radioactivity", the track was described by McCluskey as "a faster, punkier version of 'Radioactivity' with a chorus".[5] As with single "Messages" from the same album, a sung chorus is substituted for a melodic synthesizer break.[6]

McCluskey and Humphreys originally recorded "Electricity" as members of OMD precursor group the Id, in early 1978.[7] After OMD's first concert, opening for Joy Division in a 1978 appearance at Eric's Club in Liverpool, McCluskey was inspired to send a demo of the song to Factory Records founder Tony Wilson. They later heard that while he was not impressed with it, his wife was, so he bought it from them and released it as a single. Its ensuing success led to them receiving a seven-album record deal with Dindisc, worth over £250,000.[8][9]

Reception edit

"Electricity" was a hit with veteran DJ John Peel, who gave the song regular play on his late-night radio show;[10][11] as a result, the British music press quickly picked up on the song.[11] Adrian Thrills of NME cited it as "the best example of Factory Records to date – excellent, melodic, synthesiser pop". He also lauded B-side "Almost", calling it "a doleful, heartsick slab of electronic angst".[11] In a review of 1980 single "Enola Gay", Jonathan Green of The Canberra Times described both it and "Electricity" as a "super pop song".[12]

Conversely, Garry Bushell gave a negative review in Sounds, in which he remarked: "If Mike Oldfield was ten years younger and a Tubeway Army fan, this is what he'd sound like... who wants to listen to a bunch of Scousers whining about electricity anyway?"[11] (Bushell later called his "less than generous" appraisal a "mistake".[13]) David Hepworth, who re-assessed the track in the same publication, wrote that OMD's sound "commands your attention" and lauded the single for being "packaged with as much taste as it's played".[11] "Electricity" reached no. 2 on the Sounds Alternative Chart in the summer of 1979[14] and became popular in nightclubs.[15][16]

In a retrospective article, Ned Raggett of AllMusic described the song as "pure zeitgeist, a celebration of synth pop's incipient reign".[2] Critic Dave Thompson called it a "perfect electro-pop number".[4]

Legacy edit

Andrew Trendell of NME recognised "Electricity" as a "classic" and "one of the most influential singles of the post-punk era".[17] The Guardian's Mary Harron wrote that the song "pioneered a new electronic pop",[18] while Mike Mettler of Digital Trends said it "is generally acknowledged as being the pioneering inspirational synth-pop track for many early electronic artists".[19] Author and musician Rudi Esch described "Electricity" as "a song that started a new movement"; Esch borrowed its title for his book, Electri_City: The Düsseldorf School of Electronic Music (2016).[14] John Earls of Classic Pop called the track "groundbreaking".[20]

Erasure bandleader Vince Clarke (formerly chief songwriter of Depeche Mode and Yazoo) told the BBC, "When I was 18 or 19 I heard a single called 'Electricity' by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. It sounded so different from anything I'd heard; that really made me want to make electronic music, 'cause it was so unique."[21] The song was a fixture in the DJ sets of Duran Duran's Nick Rhodes; bandmate John Taylor cited it as an early influence on the group.[22] The track was also important to artists such as Alphaville,[23] No Doubt,[24] Take That's Gary Barlow,[19] and Nation of Language, whose formation it directly inspired.[25] "Electricity" and its cover art were highly influential on the parallel music and graphic design careers of Brett Wickens (co-founder of the groups Spoons and Ceramic Hello).[26] BBC Radio's Steve Lamacq has named the "wonderful" song as his inspiration to become a radio DJ, noting that he wanted to afford air time to similar, "curious" music.[10][14]

"Electricity" has been praised by other musicians. Ted Ottaviano of Book of Love, a band heavily influenced by OMD, said, "I've never heard anything so simple and sophisticated all at the same time... [It's] one of my all-time faves."[27] Mute Records founder Daniel Miller wrote, "I remember thinking, 'My God, that's an amazing pop song'."[14] Philip Oakey of the Human League called it a "brilliant single",[28] while Simple Minds frontman Jim Kerr commented, "I bought it and played it nonstop... I was downright jealous to be honest."[29] David Balfe of The Teardrop Explodes also mentioned his admiration for "Electricity".[14]

The track has been covered by artists including NOFX,[30] Apoptygma Berzerk[31] and MGMT.[32] Q argued that "The Kids Aren't Alright", by punk rock band the Offspring, "borrows heavily" from the song; the magazine pointed to NOFX's punk cover of "Electricity" as evidence.[33] In its various releases, the track has been ranked among the best of 1979, 1980 and 1981.[34][35][36] In May 1980, ZigZag readers voted it one of the top 20 singles of the past year.[37] It has since appeared in lists such as Classic Pop's "Top 40 New Romantic Songs" and Radio X's "20 Best Singles Released on Factory Records".[38][39]

"Electricity" and "Almost" versions edit

There are many different versions of the two songs that were present on OMD's debut single. After the band left Factory Records, DinDisc attempted twice to score a hit with "Electricity". Consequently, four versions of "Electricity" and three of "Almost" exist.

Version I
Version II
  • The band felt Hannett had overproduced their songs somewhat, so they recorded new versions at Henry's Studio, Liverpool. These versions were produced by themselves and band manager Paul Collister under the moniker Chester Valentino.
  • A compromise was reached for the versions used on the single. This first Factory single contains the band's version of "Electricity" (3:44) and the Hannett version of "Almost" (3:50).[40]
  • Version II of "Almost" (3:43) remained unreleased until appearing on the 2001 compilation; Navigation: The OMD B-Sides.
Version III
  • The album versions of "Electricity" (3:39) and "Almost" (3:44) differ from the previous versions, and were used for the third and final release of the single. "Electricity" was remixed from the original Hannett version. It is also the version used on the 1988 Best Of and the 1998 Singles collections and is the best-known version of the song. The album version of "Almost" is similarly a remix of Hannett's version.
Version IV ("Electricity" only)
  • A fourth mix of "Electricity" (3:43) was produced by Mike Howlett. This version of "Electricity" was recorded during the Organisation sessions when the band decided to extend the instrumental section in the middle of the song. It was initially released on the Dindisc 1980 compilation album in 1980.[41] In 2003, it was released on CD as a bonus track on the re-issue of Organisation.
The Micronauts Remix

Release history edit

Singles edit

The following singles have been released:

Date Catalogue "Electricity" "Almost" Sleeve Notes
21 May 1979 Factory FAC6 Version II Version I Special 'black on black' sleeve, limited to 5000 copies. OMD's first single.[40]
28 September 1979 DinDisc DIN2 Version I Version I Standard white on black printing, with studio details on back of sleeve. The single is re-released to coincide with the band signing to DinDisc.[42]
31 March 1980 DinDisc DIN2 Version III Version III Standard white on black printing, without studio details on back of sleeve. Third attempt at achieving a hit. Peaked at no. 99 on the UK Singles Chart.[43]
27 September 2019 7748190 Version I Vince Clarke remix Red on white adaptation of the original Peter Saville design. 40th anniversary 7" clear vinyl re-issue. Debuted at no. 1 on the UK Vinyl Singles Chart.[44][45]

Albums edit

"Electricity" and "Almost" have been released on the following OMD albums:

Date Album Song Version Notes
22 February 1980 Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark "Electricity" Version III
"Almost" Version III
12 March 1988 The Best of OMD "Electricity" Version III
"Electricity" music video on the VHS version of the album
28 September 1998 The OMD Singles "Electricity" Version III
24 April 2000 Peel Sessions 1979–1983 "Electricity" Version II Bonus track, subtitled "Factory Version 1979"
14 May 2001 Navigation: The OMD B-Sides "Almost" Version II Subtitled "Alternate Version"
December 2002 The Id "Electricity" A 1978 recording by The Id, the pre-OMD band.
10 March 2003 Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark reissue "Electricity" Version III
"Almost" Version III
"Electricity" Version I Bonus track, subtitled "Hannett/Cargo Studios Version"
"Almost" Version I Bonus track, subtitled "Hannett/Cargo Studios Version"
10 March 2003 Organisation reissue "Electricity" Version IV Bonus track, subtitled "Dindisc 1980 Version"
10 March 2003 Messages: Greatest Hits "Electricity" Version III
"Electricity" music video

Sleeve design edit

The sleeve was designed by Factory's designer Peter Saville. The band and Saville met in a Rochdale pub and exchanged ideas. Saville told them about a book of avant-garde musical scores which he'd come across. Andy McCluskey said that he sometimes wrote down the tunes he composed in a similar shorthand. This led to the unusual graphics that feature on the sleeve. Saville suggested to use shiny black ink on black paper. Neither OMD nor Tony Wilson believed it could be done, but Saville persuaded a printer to do the job. The thermographic printing was a success, but the place set on fire three times, so eventually only 5,000 sleeves were printed.[46] The reissue sleeves were standard white on black printed sleeves.

2019 re-release edit

A special edition of the single was released on 27 September 2019 by Virgin EMI, as part of the group's 40th anniversary celebrations. The A-side features the Hannett/Cargo Studios version of "Electricity", incorrectly listed as the Factory Records version, while the B-side has a new remix of "Almost" by Vince Clarke. The limited edition release is pressed on clear vinyl and the sleeve is an adaptation of the original Peter Saville design.[44] This version debuted on the UK Vinyl Singles Chart at no. 1.[45]

Track listing edit

1979 original release edit

Side one
Side two

2019 re-issue edit

Side one
1."Electricity (Hannett/Cargo Studios Version)[n 1]"3:34
Side two
1."Almost (Vince Clarke remix)"4.46

Notes edit

  1. ^ This is falsely listed as the Factory Records version.

References edit

  1. ^ "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark". Douban. Retrieved 23 June 2013. this is the first album by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, first released on Virgin in 1980. 10 tracks, including the new wave hits 'Messages' and 'Electricity'.
  2. ^ a b Raggett, Ned. "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark". AllMusic. Retrieved 23 June 2013.
  3. ^ Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (CD booklet sleeve notes). Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. Virgin Records. 2003.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  4. ^ a b Thompson, Dave. "Electricity – Song Review". AllMusic. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  5. ^ Gourlay, Dom (25 April 2012). "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Interview: Interview with Andy McCluskey from OMD". Contactmusic.com. Retrieved 4 July 2020.
  6. ^ "Interview: Andy McCluskey, OMD". PRS for Music. 19 March 2013. Retrieved 1 October 2013. Many of our songs use the synth melody as the chorus. There are verses but generally the melody is the chorus.
  7. ^ The Id (2002). The Id (liner notes). Engine Records. ENG 001.
  8. ^ Lindgren, Hugo (19 May 2013). "O.M.D.'s Plot Against Rock". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
  9. ^ Wilson, Lois (30 September 2019). "OMD". Record Collector. No. 498. Retrieved 6 July 2021.
  10. ^ a b Lamacq, Steve (1 March 2014). "Soundtrack of My Life". NME. p. 25.
  11. ^ a b c d e Waller, Johnny; Humphreys, Mike (1987). Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark: Messages. Sidgwick & Jackson. p. 49. ISBN 0-283-99234-4.
  12. ^ Green, Jonathan (26 November 1980). "Singles". The Canberra Times.
  13. ^ Bushell, Garry (13 October 2019). "The Electricity That's Powered Us for 40 Years". Sunday Express. pp. 36–37.
  14. ^ a b c d e Houghton, Richard (2019). OMD: Pretending to See the Future (expanded paperback ed.). This Day in Music Books. pp. 25–28 (Balfe), 50–52 (Miller), 69–72 (Lamacq), 73 (Sounds Alternative Chart), 387–388 (Esch). ISBN 978-1916115620.
  15. ^ Newall, Phil (7 November 2022). "Music For New Romantics: Various Artists". Louder Than War. Retrieved 3 February 2023.
  16. ^ Guzman, Richard (12 May 2022). "Synth-pop legends OMD talk early days ahead of 40th anniversary tour stop at the Greek". Orange County Register. Archived from the original on 12 May 2022. Retrieved 14 September 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  17. ^ Trendell, Andrew (27 September 2019). "Listen to Vince Clarke of Erasure's remix of OMD's 'Almost'". NME. Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  18. ^ Harron, Mary (6 November 1981). "Rock". The Guardian. p. 11.
  19. ^ a b Mettler, Mike (17 June 2016). "Gary Barlow didn't just meet his '80s heroes, he made a retro album with them". Digital Trends. Retrieved 16 January 2023.
  20. ^ Earls, John (February 2020). "OMD Interview: 'Stockhausen or ABBA? Can't We Be Both?'". Classic Pop. Archived from the original on 28 July 2020. Retrieved 29 July 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  21. ^ "Erasure". The O-Zone. 29 November 1995. 8 minutes in. BBC 2. British Broadcasting Corporation.
  22. ^ Taylor, John (2012). In the Pleasure Groove: Love, Death and Duran Duran. Dutton. pp. 104–105. ISBN 978-0525958000.
  23. ^ Hopper, David (1 September 2022). "Alphaville's Marian Gold Talks New Symphonic Double LP". 360°Sound. Retrieved 9 September 2023.
  24. ^ Marchese, David (24 September 2012). "No Doubt Explain OMD, EDM, and Peter Hook Basslines on 'Push and Shove'". Spin. Retrieved 28 March 2023.
  25. ^ Bullock, Paul (22 May 2020). "Nation of Language: Introduction, Presence". Under the Radar. Retrieved 22 November 2020.
  26. ^ Browne, Paul (15 February 2014). "Brett Wickens Interview". Messages. Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  27. ^ PF Wilson (21 April 2013). "PF's Tape Recorder Podcast Episode 092 – Ted Ottaviano Interview". PodBean.com (Podcast). 19–20 minutes in. Retrieved 1 April 2021.
  28. ^ Simpson, Dave (28 November 2008). "Riot in Steel City". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 June 2020.
  29. ^ Coleman, Andy (27 November 2009). "A Simple concept". Birmingham Mail. The Free Library. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  30. ^ Greene, Jo-Ann. "NOFX – 45 or 46 Songs That Weren't Good Enough to Go on Our Other Records". AllMusic. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  31. ^ Raggett, Ned. "Apoptygma Berzerk – 7". AllMusic. Retrieved 29 March 2021.
  32. ^ Hogan, Marc (2 April 2012). "See MGMT Play 'Alien' New Song, Cover OMD Live in Bogota". Spin. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  33. ^ Roden, Al (May 2009). "Now Tip Your Hat (supplement)". Q. Bauer Media Group.
  34. ^ "NME End of Year Lists 1979". NME. Retrieved 23 July 2013 – via Rocklist.net.
  35. ^ "Top 100 Songs of 1980: Slicing Up Eyeballs' Best of the '80s Redux – Part 1". Slicing Up Eyeballs. 10 February 2015. Retrieved 12 June 2021.
  36. ^ "Top 106.7 Songs of 1981". KROQ-FM. 31 December 1981. Retrieved 20 July 2022 – via RadioHitList.com.
  37. ^ "The 1980 ZigZag Readers' Poll!". ZigZag. No. 101. May 1980. 15. 'Electricity' - Orchestral Manoeuvres.
  38. ^ "Top 40 New Romantic Songs". Classic Pop. 13 December 2021. Retrieved 25 January 2023.
  39. ^ "The 20 Best Singles Released on Factory Records". Radio X. 22 November 2022. Retrieved 17 January 2023.
  40. ^ a b "Official OMD website discography entry for first issue". Archived from the original on 15 June 2002. Retrieved 22 December 2007.
  41. ^ "Official OMD website discography - Compilations: DINDISC 1980". Archived from the original on 5 March 2012. Retrieved 17 April 2010.
  42. ^ "Official OMD website discography entry for second issue". Archived from the original on 27 February 2008. Retrieved 22 December 2007.
  43. ^ Wuench, Kevin (28 January 2014). "Tuesday lost and found: OMD's 'Electricity'". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 15 July 2021.
  44. ^ a b Peacock, Tim (29 August 2019). "OMD to Release Special Limited Edition Version of Their Classic Single, 'Electricity'". uDiscover Music. Retrieved 30 August 2019.
  45. ^ a b "Official Vinyl Singles Chart Top 40: 04 October 2019–10 October 2019". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 7 October 2019.
  46. ^ Taylor, Steve (February 1981). "Industrial Manoeuvres in the Art". The Face. No. 10. pp. 50–53. ISSN 0263-1210.

External links edit