Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (often abbreviated to OMD) are a synthpop group whose founding members are originally from the Wirral Peninsula, England. OMD record for Virgin Records (originally for Virgin's DinDisc subsidiary).
The group was founded by Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys, and they formed the core of the outfit until 1989, when the group split. McCluskey then retained the name and continued to record and tour as OMD with a new line-up.
In late December 2005, OMD's official website announced a 2006 reformation, for both live performances and a new album, with rehearsals beginning in summer 2006. The tour began in 2007, featuring the classic line up of McCluskey, Humphreys, Holmes and Cooper. Spring 2008 saw a further tour announced for October that year.
By 1978, McCluskey & Humphreys put together seven-piece (three singers, two guitarists, bassist, drummer, and keyboard player) Wirral 'supergroup' The Id, whose line-up included drummer Malcolm Holmes and McCluskey's girlfriend Julia Kneale on vocals. The group began to gig regularly in the Merseyside area, performing original material (largely written by McCluskey and Humphreys). They had quite a following on the scene, and one of their tracks ("Julia's Song") was included on a compilation record of local bands called Street to Street. Meanwhile, Humphreys & McCluskey collaborated on a side-project called VCL XI (named after a misreading of a valve from the diagram on the back cover of Kraftwerk's Radio-Activity album; the name of valve is actually written with Arabic numbers, VCL 11, and not roman numbers). This side-project allowed them to pursue their more bizarre electronic experiments, often working with tape collages, home-made kit-built synthesisers, and circuit-bent radios.
In 1978, The Id split due to the traditional musical differences. McCluskey briefly sang with electronic Wirral quartet Dalek I Love You. However, he eventually rejoined Humphreys, and their VCL XI project was renamed Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. They began to gig regularly as a duo, performing to backing tracks played from a Revox tape-recorder they christened "Winston" (after the antihero of George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-four). Finding themselves on the cusp of an electronic new wave in British pop-music, they released a one-off single, "Electricity", with celebrated independent label Factory Records (the single sleeve was designed by Peter Saville, whose distinctive graphics provided OMD's public image well into the mid-80s), and were then quickly snapped up by Virgin subsidiary DinDisc. The unusual graphics that feature on the sleeve were partially inspired by Andy and Paul's original musical notation style. Unable to read or write music, they adapted a series of symbols, each one representing different instruments
In 1979 they were asked to and supported Gary Numan on his first major British tour. Afterwards they were very tight-lipped about where their big break came from. The rift was settled when they asked Numan to support them on their arena tour in the mid 90s.
A tour followed, Winston the tape recorder being ditched for good, and replaced with live drums from Mal Holmes, and Dalek I Love You's Dave Hughes on synths. Hughes then left OMD in November 1980, replaced by Martin Cooper.
The second album Organisation (perhaps a reference to the band which preceded Kraftwerk, founded by Kraftwerk's original members Florian Schneider-Esleben and Ralf Hütter) followed later that year, recorded as a 3 piece with Humphreys, McCluskey and Holmes. It was again produced by Howlett, and saw a rather moodier, dark feel. The album spawned the huge hit single "Enola Gay", named after the plane that dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The tour for this album saw a 4-piece band line-up, with saxophonist Martin Cooper (another Dalek I Love You alum) recruited for keyboard duties. Howlett then presided over the recording of a further hit single, "Souvenir", co-written by Cooper & Humphreys. It ushered in a striking lush choral electronic sound. The song also became OMD's biggest hit to date.
1981 would see the release of what many consider OMD's magnum opus (and it was also the peak of their commercial success in the UK and Europe) - the Architecture & Morality album. The 4-piece went into the studio with Richard Mainwaring producing. Cooper then temporarily dropped out and was replaced by Mike Douglas, but this change was reversed by the time the album was released and a tour embarked upon. The album's striking sound saw OMD's original synth-pop sound augmented by the Mellotron, an instrument previously associated with prog rock bands. They used it to add very atmospheric swatches of string, choir and other sounds to their palette. Hit singles "Joan of Arc" and "Maid of Orleans" (which became the most successful single of 1982 in Germany) were taken from the album. A somewhat interesting footnote is that "Joan of Arc" and "Maid of Orleans" were originally both titled "Joan of Arc"; the name of the latter single was only changed after publishers forced OMD to re-title it "Joan of Arc (Maid of Orleans)" and later simply "Maid of Orleans".
1983 saw the band lose commercial momentum somewhat, with the release of their more experimental Dazzle Ships album, which mixed melancholy synth ballads and uptempo synthpop with musique concrete and short wave radio tape collages. It was recorded by the 4-piece Humphreys/Holmes/Cooper/McCluskey line-up, and produced by Rhett Davies.
Later in 1985, the band wrote the song "If You Leave" for the John Hughes movie Pretty in Pink. The song was featured on the soundtrack and was a large hit, notably in the US and Canada where it reached the Top 5. The same six piece line-up also released The Pacific Age in 1986, but the band began to see their critical and public popularity wane in the UK while they struggled to break into the US market.
Liberator's 5th track - Dream Of Me contains a sample from "Love's Theme" from Love Unlimited Orchestra (song written by Barry White). The fact is also sung in this song.
Though Humphreys left the band after The Best Of OMD, he collaborated with McCluskey on the songwriting for Universal, the band's 1996 swan song. McCluskey decided to focus on management and songwriting for such Liverpool based acts as Atomic Kitten and The Genie Queen. With McCluskey focusing his talents elsewhere, Humphreys decided to play many revival shows using the OMD banner, whilst also recording with Claudia Brücken, of the ZTT bands Propaganda and Act, as Onetwo.
In May 2007, the Architecture and Morality remastered CD was re-released together with a DVD featuring the Drury Lane concert from 1981 that had previously been available on VHS.
Through May and June, the band toured with the "classic" line up of McCluskey, Humphreys, Holmes and Cooper. They began their set with a re-ordered but otherwise complete restaging of the Architecture and Morality album. The second half of each concert featured a selection of their best known hits, and audience reaction was sometimes so positive (Bristol's Colston Hall, an all-seated venue, saw the crowd on its feet for the entire show) that the band seemed surprised and delighted by their applause.
Spring 2008 saw the release of a live CD and DVD of the summer 2007 tour, recorded at the London Apollo Hammersmith, along with a 25th anniversary re-release of Dazzle Ships, including six bonus tracks. At the same time, a brief October 2008 tour was announced, partly to tie-in with the Dazzle Ships album's 25th anniversary. China Crisis will be supporting OMD on this tour