A GREAT, OFTEN NEGLECTED, SYNTH-POP CLASSIC

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This would have been one of the first synth-pop singles I’d have ever bought.  I heard it on the radio and the keyboards reminded me of Magazine and Simple Minds.  I also loved the sleeve which remains one or my favourite designs of Peter Saville and one of the few of his that wasn’t on Factory Records although Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark had previously been associated with that label.

The band would enjoy a golden period from 1981-84 with nine Top 20 hits in the UK, the best-known of which was Enola Gay, a song which arguably did as much as any boring history books to raise awareness of what had happened when the Americans dropped atomic bombs on two cities in Japan four decades previously – particularly in an era when many feared that the foreign and defence policies of US President Reagan and UK. Prime Minister Thatcher were taking us to the bring of the most catastrophic world war imaginable.

Messages was the single which preceded Enola Gay and on its release in May 1980 enjoyed a lengthy stay in the charts, climbing eventually to #13.  The version I have in the cupboard is on 10″ vinyl:-

mp3 : OMD – Messages

mp3 : OMD – Taking Sides Again

mp3 : OMD – Waiting For The Man

The first of the b-sides is a rather decent and occasionally experimental sounding re-working version of the a-side while the other track is a tremendous cover of one of the best known tracks written and recorded by The Velvet Underground.

Messages was one of the first wave of synthpop/electronic hit records and that was because OMD became one of the first to take the music that was being written and recorded for these new instruments and machines and adapt it in  a way that made it conducive for daytime radio.  For proof, have a listen to how the song was recorded for a John Peel Session some six months before the single version was released:-

mp3 : OMD – Messages (Peel Session)

The session version is much slower in tempo….dare I suggest it has the feel of a Joy Division song?….and there’s just no way it being issued sounding akin to that would have brought a hit single.  Full credit to all concerned.

6 thoughts on “A GREAT, OFTEN NEGLECTED, SYNTH-POP CLASSIC

  1. You know that Care 12″ you’re after? That’s how I feel about this 10″. Sure, you have the songs already, but there is something about that vinyl, that cover… and the search continues…

  2. Yes, this is very very good. As is the first album, that rather sparse production, very atmospheric. Like the b-side too.

  3. The band credit producer Mike Howlett for his help in honing the arrangement to being the classic popsong that the single version became. It is a vibrant bit of work, and was a breakthrough for this core collection group of mine.

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