Rock GPA: Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark [part 12]

In 1983 OMD were a shoo-in for the cover of Smash Hits… but not for much longer

[…continued from this post]

So… we return to the OMD Rock G.P.A.® thread, abandoned over a month ago for a seemingly endless series of concert reviews, some travel, some illness, lunch hours cut to the bone to make up time spent off of the job, and lots of missed postings. It was not my intention to let the OMD thread languish this long, but it happened… and I’m none to proud of that, considering the place that OMD hold in my core collection. Which is to say, one of considerable importance. As 1982 continued, the band found themselves to have the top selling single in Germany with “Joan Of Arc [Maid Of Orleans].” No new material was released this year, but with 1981 being the most active year yet for the band, they were allowed some time to think out their next move.

By early 1983, I was fully into OMD and kept n eye open for imports and tidbits of information. I had bought “Architecture + Morality” on import as soon as it had been released, but I had not picked up any activity on a new album. It was a shock when friend and fellow OMD fan Tom came by my home one day with… a new OMD album he had picked up at Crunchy Armadillo Records, which at this time was our number one store. This floored me since it had completely come from out of the blue. After all, I had not gotten wind of any import releases, and typically, their US label [Epic Records] tended to drag their feet on releasing any OMD album; usually several months after the UK got a release.

By this time, a new OMD album was an event for us, with Tom puzzling me since he seemed to be  a little ambivalent about it. He said that quite different from their typical fare. I looked at the cover. It looked stunning, as befit it being a rare joint design effort from the studios of Malcolm Garrett as well as Peter Saville, their usual designer.

Hmm, That was unexpected… I saw that two of the B-sides from the “Joan Of Arc” singles added to the playlist of a dozen tracks. “Of All The Things We Made” from “Joan Of Arc [Maid Of Orleans]” was the last track and “The Romance Of The Telescope” from “Joan Of Arc” was the second song on side two. Why would the band include previously released B-sides on their new album? Of course, by that time, I was buying all of OMD’s singles on 12″ format, to get any B-sides [and remixes] in the best possible sound of the time. I had already heard these songs. Making B-sides into album tracks kind of seemed like cheating to me. That’s just now how the game was played back then. If you bought an import single, you got a non-LP B-side. It’s the law!

Looking more closely, I saw that there was song called “Genetic Engineering” and could hardly believe a band would write a song about such an exotic topic, but the group had already proven their science-geek credentials by this time, so I should have not been that surprised. Looking more closely,, the labels revealed that all of the songs had been written with a person called “J. Floyd?” Wha…?? Clearly, there were some big changes under the hood for this one, but I could not have known the full extent of them at the time.

OMD had been told by an ecstatic Virgin Records, “make ‘Architecture + Morality 2’ and you’ll be the next Pink Floyd!” Their Dindisc sub-label had folded in 1982 and they had been absorbed into the parent label, Virgin Records. Needless to say, this was probably exactly what Virgin Records should not have told their young, headstrong charges. Having pursued their muse with no regard to commercial concern to see their popularity peaking at geometric levels of growth, they resolved to take a least likely path from the summit of their success. And they resolved to get “political” which in 1983 was quickly becoming a lost motive in the nascent post-New Pop environment of the time.

Take another look at that Smash Hits cover with our heroes on it from March of 1983. OMD were the cover stars, but look at the upper left hand corner. Wham! were bursting forth from their cocoon and ready to infect pre-teen brains like nothing seen since the pre-punk era. And they had the OMDs of the world, artistic Post-Punk pioneers who had managed to sell a surprising amount of vinyl, in their sights.

Next: …Eno vs Kraftwerk

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | media design • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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7 Responses to Rock GPA: Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark [part 12]

  1. Gavin says:

    I think only Radio Waves was written by John Floyd,as it was an old song from The Id days.
    I remember being a little shocked as well that there were two old b-sides on there,but I think they fitted in really well.
    Still my go-to album by OMD.

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  2. Echorich says:

    Hurrah for those money grubbing A&R directors at Virgin! If their opinion had any influence on the decided direction of OMD, then I own them a good deal of gratitude as a fan. What would come next is, to this day, my favorite OMD album and one which I believe is the DNA behind their most recent recordings.

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  3. SimonH says:

    I remember buying that copy of Smash Hits , how could my parents have thrown my collection away?? Sacrilege:)

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  4. SimonH says:

    I’m jealous, have parted with A LOT of music papers and magazines over the years, for space reasons!

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      SimonH – I never had that much music ephemera. My priority was always to buy actual music with my scant dollar so apart from the odd Flexipop [which had music with it!] and a subscription to Trouser Press, I gave music rags a pass. Later on, I did buy several early years of Q magazine, and foolishly threw them out in the pre-ebay years where one of those issues would eventually sell for for 2-4 times what I paid for them. Ouch. I stopped buying Q when the US cover price headed north of $5 an issue. I still have every New Sounds New Style I ever bought, though these were purchased in the early 90s, a decade after the fact. In 1981-1982 I would not have had the money to spare for such an indulgence. Much cooler than The Face, don’t you think?

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  5. SimonH says:

    New Sounds, New Styles, yes, loved that at the time, bought a few issues. As a very uncool teen it was like looking at another world!

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