An Electronic ICA

An abridged potted history.

Johnny Marr and Bernard Sumner first worked together when the man from The Smiths/The The contributed guitar to Atom Rock/Triangle, a single on Factory Records by Quando Quango which the man from New Order was co-producing.

Five years on and the increasing tensions within New Order led to Bernard contemplating a solo record but instead he called on Johnny and they came up with the idea of Electronic, thinking of issuing instrumental house music for clubs via white labels only. Next thing you know, they’re talking to Neil Tennant and found that he was interested in helping out…but with his distinctive vocal delivery, there was no chance of anonymity.

First single Getting Away With It was released in 1989, going to #12 in the UK charts but more importantly in terms of the developement of the band, it was a hit in the USA and led to them being invited to support Depeche Mode on a stadium tour in 1990.

By the following year, the initial ideas had crystalized into a self-titled debut LP which really showcased their talents and abilities, with a largely upbeat package, from which two more chart singles – Get The Message and Feel Every Beat were lifted. It was an album filled with catchy melodies and choruses, with plenty for fans of the old bands to acknowledge and love.

They then went off and did things with their bands, getting back together in 1992 for Disappointed, a single which again utilised Neil Tennant.

The next burst of activity was in 1996/97 with the album Raise the Pressure (which spawned three hit singles) and then 1999 saw the release of Twisted Tenderness, an album which they made as a more conventional 4-piece band thanks to contributions from Jimi Goodwin of Doves and Ged Lynch of Black Grape on bass and drums respectively.

Three albums worth of top-class material has made for a few tough choices for this ICA….it’s packed with singles but that’s because the boys and their record labels (Factory for album #1 and Parlophone thereafter) knew what would sound huge blasting out of the radio.


1. Getting Away With It

The debut. One reviewer said “It’s nothing shocking, nothing that surprising, it’s just that every time you think you’re tired of it you can’t help flipping back the stylus to catch that chorus”. And that’s what makes it such a work of genius and a timeless piece of art.

2. Tighten Up

The third track on the debut album. One reviewer said “..the devastating marriage of Smiths guitars and New Order technology that nervously excited fans the globe over were anticipating from Electronic. Imagine a sublime splicing of ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’ and ‘Dream Attack’, then multiply by 12” Indeed.

3. Forbidden City

The comeback 45 in 1996…quite different in sound to what had come before with Johnny very much recreating the guitar sounds of his first band at a time when his old mucker’s solo career was in a bit of disarray after the panning given to Southpaw Grammar. It felt like a two-fingered salute in many ways…and it sounded sublime.

4. Lucky Bag

The b-side to the debut single….and the only time that they came close to realising the initial idea of Italian house music. It’s unlike any other Electronic track, and while I won’t make any claims about it being among their ten best, it just seems to fit into the ICA at this stage quite perfectly. Little-known fact…Lucky Bag was used, for a couple of years, as the theme tune for a weekly showing of Scottish football highlights on the BBC.

5. Get The Message

From the debut album and the long-awaited follow-up single to Getting Away With It. It’s been said that Johnny was reluctant to layer multiple guitar parts as he was really unsure of recreating old stuff when he was so keen to move on, but persuaded otherwise by Bernard for which we should all be hugely grateful. Backing vocals are courtesy of Denise Johnson, probably best known for her work with Primal Scream


1. Disappointed (7″ mix)

The involvement of Neil Tennant in the early days led to the inevitable christening of Electronic as a super-group, which was used in a derogatory way by those who didn’t like them. This was the stand alone single from 1996 and in reaching #6, gave them their biggest UK hit. I’m thinking most casual listeners just thought it was a Pet Shop Boys effort.

2. Vivid (radio edit)

If, more than occasionally, the songs were reminiscent of the other bands they were all involved in, then there’s little doubt that the lead-off single from Twisted Tenderness is more than a nod to The The, with Jonny hitting the harmonica early doors. Again, not necessarily one of their best ten songs, but important to have it in an ICA to demonstrate what it was all about.

3. Idiot Country two

The original Idiot Country provided an adrenalin-filled rush to open the debut album….a couple of years later, it was given the remix treatment with some added dialogue and backing vocals as well as an extra 80-odd seconds. It was provided as the b-side to Disappointed and went some way to lessening the pain of paying £4 for a CD single!

4. Gangster

Track six on the debut album and the one which provides a reminder of Technique, the last truly indispensable album ever released by New Order, complete with a lyric in which Bernard makes a number of torturous rhymes.

5. Feel Every Beat (7″ mix)

A five-minute version of this closes the debut album and tempting as it was to use that here, I have to bow to the remixing skills of Stephen Hague who chops about a minute off the original and helps deliver something which captures perfectly what Jonny and Bernard wanted Electronic to sound like and what they wanted a band to be….’we don’t need to argue, we just need each other’




  1. I’m gonna get bashed here – and rightly so, I’m sure, but I don’t know if I can come up with 10 Electronic songs I hold beyond scrutiny. Their was just something standing in the way of me enjoying much of their output. Having said that there were some moments of brilliance, many which included Mr. Tennant…so here’s as far as I would get…

    1. Idiot Country – Barney’s wrapping is wonderfully bad..
    2. Getting Away With It
    3. Disappointed
    4. Soviet
    5. Second To None
    6. Feel Every Beat
    7. Get The Message – DNA remix – Electronic do Primal Scream doing New Order
    8. Patience Of A Saint
    9. Lucky Bag
    10. Idiot Country 2 – yes that is a very cynical way to end my 10 songs…

  2. I still love the first album and the Disappointed single, then I lost them – but that first album in many ways took the best pieces of the three and merged. Including “wrapping”… 😉

  3. Great ICA. Interestingly, Getting Away With It and Get The Message have become staples of Johnny’s solo live set. Getting Away With It in particular sounds huge with Johnny and his band.

  4. Totally agree with Martin. When Johnny Marr came to Bath a couple of months back Getting away with it trumped The Smiths back catalogue – a real tour de force live.

  5. I’d probably go Reality instead of Gangster and the album version of Feel every Beta I saw them play Cities in the Park, 1991, PSBs joined them on the stage. It was rather wonderful.

  6. Really glad Tighten Up is on the list! Have to agree with previous posters about Getting Away with It by Johnny Marr live – it was the otherworldly high point of an outstanding set.

  7. “Some Distant Memory” was the best song they ever did – the best New Order song never released by New Order

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