Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (album)

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark is the self-titled debut studio album by English band Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, released on 22 February 1980.[1] It peaked at number 27 on the UK Albums Chart.[2] "Electricity" and "Red Frame/White Light" were released as singles; a re-recorded version of "Messages" provided OMD with their first hit in the UK, reaching number 13.[3]

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark album cover.jpg
LP sleeve by Peter Saville and Ben Kelly
Studio album by
Released22 February 1980 (1980-02-22)
StudioThe Gramophone Suite (Liverpool, England)
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
  • Chester Valentino
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark chronology
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
Singles from Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
  1. "Electricity"
    Released: 21 May 1979
  2. "Red Frame/White Light"
    Released: 1 February 1980
  3. "Messages"
    Released: 2 May 1980

The album received favourable reviews, and has been championed by musicians ZZ Top and Vince Clarke of Erasure (formerly chief songwriter of Depeche Mode and Yazoo). The album was remastered and re-released in 2003 with six bonus tracks, including the single version of "Messages".

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark is also the title of a 1981 compilation album of tracks from this release and OMD's second album, Organisation, issued only in the United States.


Rather than hire studio time for the album, OMD members Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys used their advance from Dindisc to build their own Liverpool recording studio, The Gramophone Suite. They predicted that they would be dropped by the label due to disappointing sales, but would at least own a recording studio. Still generally a duo performing alongside a TEAC 4-track tape recorder christened "Winston", OMD enlisted Martin Cooper and Malcolm Holmes, the latter of whom had performed with McCluskey and Humphreys in OMD precursor outfit The Id (both musicians would become full-time band members the following year). Cooper played saxophone on "Mystereality", while Holmes supplied percussion on "Julia's Song"; Dave Fairbairn played guitar on this track, as well as on "Messages".[4] "Julia's Song", "Electricity" and "The Misunderstanding" were holdovers from the Id.

The included tracks were composed during the previous four years, and included OMD's first ever composition, "Electricity", and the last song written for the album, "Pretending to See the Future". According to keyboardist Paul Humphreys, the primary influences on the record were Brian Eno, Neu! and Kraftwerk.[4]


The sleeve was designed by graphic designer Peter Saville and interior designer Ben Kelly, based on a door designed by Kelly.[5] It featured a die-cut grid through which the orange inner sleeve was visible. Saville and Kelly won a Designers and Art Directors Award for their work on the album.[5]

Frontman Andy McCluskey has stated that OMD did not fully understand the royalty system at the time, and that the band "had a sleeve that cost us so much to manufacture that for every record we sold we were barely earning pennies",[4] although Carol Wilson of Dindisc disputed this, saying the cost to the band for the sleeve was contractually fixed and Virgin took the expense.[5]

Reception and legacyEdit

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [6]
Encyclopedia of Eighties Music     [7]
Q     [9]
Record Mirror     [10]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [11]
Smash Hits7½/10[12]

Reviews of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark were positive.[13] Paul Morley in the New Musical Express wrote: "How fine and different their melodies can be, how detailed and distinctive their song-structure... there is a constant change in emphasis and dynamics. It's definitely dance music. Orch Man's debut LP is one of the best of the year."[14] Melody Maker journalist Ian Birch called the record "Unpretentious, tuneful and unceasingly pleasant".[15] Sounds[16] and International Musician[17] also offered positive reviews.

In a retrospective appraisal for Pitchfork, Scott Plagenhoef opined: "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark's original release was highlighted by the exquisite 'Electricity' and the brooding 'The Messerschmit Twins'... the elegant 'Messages' stands out next to the record's often sparse, minimalist soundscapes."[8] Ned Raggett in AllMusic said: "OMD's first full album won as much attention for its brilliant die-cut cover -- another example of Peter Saville's cutting-edge way around design -- as for its music, and its music is wonderful... Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark is just like the band that made it -- perfectly of its time and easily transcending it."[6] Trouser Press called the record "a demonstration of stylish electro-pop" with "a knack for melodies and hooks".[18]

Musician Vince Clarke has cited the album as one of his primary influences,[19] with "Electricity" being the track that moved him to pursue a career in electronic music.[20] Rock group ZZ Top, with whom OMD shared a studio on a 1980 edition of BBC2 show The Old Grey Whistle Test while promoting Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, became fans upon hearing the material and would play the record over their PA system prior to concerts. ZZ Top's fondness of the album also led to the band borrowing McCluskey's distinctive on-stage routine[21] – dubbed by the BBC's Stuart Maconie the "Trainee Teacher Dance".[22]

It was listed in Slicing Up Eyeballs' "Best of the '80s" in March 2013, being ranked as one of the top 30 albums of 1980 based on 3,360 reader votes.[23] In 2016, Dave Segal in The Stranger wrote that the record "remains a masterpiece of enchanting melodies, fascinating rhythms, and cherubic vocals".[24]

Track listingEdit

All songs were written by Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys, except where noted.

Original releaseEdit

Released on LP and compact cassette, the album was well-balanced for playback time, 18:23 on side A and 18:44 on side B. A 1980 French cassette release, offered as part of Collection Chrome high performance line, is notable for using more expensive chromium dioxide tape instead of standard ferric oxide tape. This release quotes slightly different running times, 17:36 and 18:23 respectively.

Side one
1."Bunker Soldiers"2:51
5."The Messerschmitt Twins"5:38
Side two
6."Messages" 4:06
7."Julia's Song"McCluskey, Humphreys, Julia Kneale4:40
8."Red Frame/White Light" 3:10
9."Dancing (Instrumental)" 3:00
10."Pretending To See The Future" 3:48

US release (O.M.D.)Edit

A 1981 US compilation, also using the band's name as the title of the release, collects material from the first two OMD albums, and uses a differently coloured, non-die cut version of the sleeve-art from the debut LP.

Side one
1."Enola Gay"McCluskey3:31
2."2nd Thought"McCluskey4:12
3."Bunker Soldiers" 2:51
4."Almost" 3:46
5."Electricity" 3:32
6."Statues" 4:08
Side two
7."The Misunderstanding" 4:45
8."Julia's Song"McCluskey, Humphreys, Julia Kneale4:32
9."Motion And Heart" 3:13
10."Messages" 3:59
11."Stanlow" 6:30

Remastered CD release with bonus tracksEdit

Virgin / DIDCDR2

1."Bunker Soldiers" 2:54
2."Almost" 3:44
3."Mystereality" 2:45
4."Electricity" 3:39
5."The Messerschmitt Twins" 5:41
6."Messages" 4:12
7."Julia's Song"McCluskey, Humphreys, Julia Kneale4:41
8."Red Frame/White Light" 3:12
9."Dancing (Instrumental)" 2:59
10."Pretending to See the Future" 3:48
Bonus tracks
11."Messages (Single version)" 4:46
12."I Betray My Friends" 3:53
13."Taking Sides Again (Instrumental)" 4:23
14."Waiting for the Man"Lou Reed3:00
15."Electricity (Hannett/Cargo Studios Version)" 3:37
16."Almost (Hannett/Cargo Studios Version)" 3:51


  • There are many different versions of debut single "Electricity" and its B-side "Almost". On the remastered album two versions of both songs are present.
  • The band chose to perform "Dancing" on The Old Grey Whistle Test in 1980, despite the fact that the song was never released as a single.
  • "I Betray My Friends", "Taking Sides Again", and "Waiting for the Man" were B-sides to "Red Frame/White Light" and "Messages", and can also be found on the 2001 Navigation: The OMD B-Sides compilation. "Taking Sides Again" is an instrumental dub version of "Messages". "Waiting for the Man" is a cover of a Velvet Underground song, originally titled "I'm Waiting for the Man".
  • A live version of "Pretending to See the Future" was released on a blue flexi disc included with the 19 March – 1 April 1981 issue of Smash Hits magazine.


  • Andy McCluskey – voice, bass, keyboards, electronic drums, drum programming.
  • Paul Humphreys – keyboards, voice, percussion, electronic drums, drum programming.

Additional musiciansEdit

  • Malcolm Holmes - percussion on "Julia's Song"
  • Martin Cooper - saxophone on "Mystereality"
  • Dave Fairbairn - guitar on "Messages" and "Julia's Song"


Chart (1980) Peak
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[25] 49
UK Albums (OCC)[2] 27


  1. ^ "OMD – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – discography". Retrieved 11 March 2012.
  2. ^ a b "Official Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 26 December 2020.
  3. ^ "The Official Charts Company – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Messages". Retrieved 20 February 2009.
  4. ^ a b c Browne, Paul. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (2003 remaster). Sleeve notes. Virgin Records.
  5. ^ a b c Nice, James (2011) [2010]. Shadowplayers: The Rise and Fall of Factory Records (paperback ed.). London: Aurum Press. p. 99. ISBN 978 1 84513 634 5.
  6. ^ a b Raggett, Ned. "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark". AllMusic. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
  7. ^ Larkin, Colin (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Eighties Music. Virgin Books. p. 350. ISBN 0753501597.
  8. ^ a b Plagenhoef, Scott (18 July 2003). "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark / Organisation / Architecture & Morality". Pitchfork. Retrieved 20 February 2012.
  9. ^ Eddy, Todd (May 2003). "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark". Q. No. 202.
  10. ^ Ludgate, Simon (1 March 1980). "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark: OMD". Record Mirror. p. 15.
  11. ^ Evans, Paul (2004). "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. p. 607. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  12. ^ Starr, Red (6–19 March 1980). "Albums". Smash Hits. Vol. 2 no. 5. pp. 30–31.
  13. ^ Waller, Johnny; Humphreys, Mike (1987). Messages. Sidgwick & Jackson. p. 68. ISBN 0-283-99234-4.
  14. ^ Morley, Paul (1 March 1980). "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark". NME.
  15. ^ Birch, Ian (15 February 1980). "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark". Melody Maker.
  16. ^ Moines, Des (1 March 1980). "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark". Sounds.
  17. ^ Feasey, Mike (June 1980). "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark". International Musician.
  18. ^ Grant, Steven; Robbins, Ira; Reno, Brad. "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark". Trouser Press. Retrieved 2 January 2017.
  19. ^ "Synth Britannia (Part Two: Construction Time Again)". Britannia. 16 October 2009. 4 minutes in. BBC Four. British Broadcasting Corporation. When I first started playing synthesizers it [my inspiration] would have been people like The Human League; Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, their very first album; I was a big fan of Daniel Miller's work, as the Silicon Teens and as The Normal; and also of Fad Gadget, who was on Mute Records. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  20. ^ "Erasure". The O-Zone. 29 November 1995. 8 minutes in. BBC 2. British Broadcasting Corporation. 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. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  21. ^ Waller, Johnny; Humphreys, Mike (1987). Messages. Sidgwick & Jackson. p. 70. ISBN 0-283-99234-4.
  22. ^ Fulton, Rick (12 May 2013). "Manoeuvring back on scene". Sunday Mail. Retrieved 29 November 2013 – via The Free Library. Fans love your distinctive dancing, which Stuart Maconie called the 'Trainee Teacher Dance'.
  23. ^ "Top 100 Albums of 1980: Slicing Up Eyeballs' Best of the '80s — Part 1". Slicing Up Eyeballs. 8 March 2013. Retrieved 12 November 2013.
  24. ^ Segal, Dave. "Barenaked Ladies, OMD, Howard Jones". The Stranger. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  25. ^ "Charts.nz – OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark) – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark". Hung Medien. Retrieved 26 December 2020.

External linksEdit